Tuesday, September 19, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Sept. 19

Guests: Michael Harrison, Robert Greenwald, Jonathan Turley, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Colin Powell elaborates. Day six of the fallout from his letter against torture. "Whether we believe it or not," he now says, "people are now starting to question whether we're following our own high stance."

And one of his predecessors agrees. George Schultz, Mr. Reagan's secretary of state, says you can get a compromise that, quote, "leaves the Geneva Convention alone."

Richard Wolffe on the continuing political struggle, Professor Jonathan Turley on the continuing legal struggle.

Back to the United Nations for the president. At the end, there was applause. In the middle, there were only straight lines.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is clear that the world is engaged in a straight ideological struggle between extremists who use terror as a weapon to create fear, and moderate people who work for peace.


OLBERMANN: And you would be a Worst Person's follow-up. The Halliburton subsidiary that offered a government Defense of Freedom medal to one of its truckers nearly killed in Iraq, provided the trucker waived his right to sue Halliburton.

The producer of "Iraq for Sale," Robert Greenwald, joins us.

Faint echoes of shuttle "Columbia." Something may have fallen out or off of the cargo bay. Landing for the current shuttle delayed until at least Thursday.

And Howard Stern, landing back on terrestrial radio? Don't bet on it, the shock subscription jock saying rumors his Sirius show is losing orbit is untrue. Is the ball now in his court?


HOWARD STERN: When management now holds you by the balls and says there's no place for you, now there's a place to come.



All that and more, now on Countdown.


STERN: Oh, Keith, way to go.


OLBERMANN: Good evening.

This is Tuesday, September 19, 49 days until the 2006 midterm elections, day six of the fallout over General Colin Powell's break with the White House over its proposed rules for the treatment of terror suspects, day 1,322 of the fallout over the false intelligence the Bush administration used to justify war in Iraq.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, Mr. Bush versus General Powell, Mr. Bush versus the world at large. Thirteen hundred and twenty-two days after then-Secretary of State Powell addressed the U.N. Security Council, making the Bush administration case for disarming Iraq, and his former boss, the president, back before the General Assembly of the international body, offering an explanation for everything his administration has done in the three and a half years since, Mr. Powell, meantime, telling "The Washington Post" that he now regrets that the invasion of Iraq was launched on the false intelligence that he vouched for before the U.N.

As for the administration's current proposal for how it interrogates and prosecutes terror suspects, the former secretary, expanding on his letter to Senator McCain last week, that the plan to rewrite a key section of the Geneva Conventions is not only unnecessary but would also add to growing doubts about the Bush administration's moral force.

Quoting General Powell, "To say that we want to modify, clarify, or redefine Common Article Three, which has not been modified for the 57 years of its history, I think adds to the doubt about U.S. morality. Plus, I believe that the legitimate concerns that the administration has can be dealt with in other ways," a stance now shared by another former Republican secretary of state, George Schultz, who served under Ronald Reagan and who says a compromise can be achieved that leaves the Geneva Convention alone.

No word yet on whether the current president feels it is unacceptable for Mr. Schultz to think that, Mr. Bush's harshest words today directed instead at the government of Iran. At the U.N., he divided the world at large into two groups, us and them, more specifically, moderates and extremists. You may be surprised which side he thinks he's on.


BUSH: My country desires peace. Extremists in your midsts spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false. And its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror.

To the people of Iran, despite what the regime tells you, we have no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program. We're working toward a diplomatic solution of this crisis.

Freedom by its nature cannot be imposed. It must be chosen. And the nations gathered in this chamber must make a choice as well. Will we support the moderates and reformers who are working for change across the Middle East? Or will we yield the future to the terrorists and extremists?

America's made its choice. We will stand with the moderates and reformers.


OLBERMANN: Let's call in our own Richard Wolffe, also the senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Good evening, Richard.


OLBERMANN: As far as how Mr. Bush was received by the members of the General Assembly, does the silence that seemed to prevail throughout pretty much answer that question?

WOLFFE: Well, if you were being kind, you'd say that the audience was following United Nations protocol. They're told not to get too rowdy out there. And they gave him some polite applause. And if you were being unkind, you'd say that the guy who spoke a couple of minutes before him, Kofi Annan, got a standing ovation, and you just have to compare the two.

So, look, you know, this is a tough audience for him. They were relatively quiet when he spoke after 9/11. They were even quieter today.

OLBERMANN: How damaging is it, would it have been, generalized knowledge there, that as this president, who's once again defending himself before the U.N., the former secretary of state who vouched for his administration and its prewar intelligence about Iraq before the U.N., has become, in the last couple of days, a public opponent of all this?

WOLFFE: Well, it's damaging politically, obviously. Colin Powell is a respected figure. He's a popular figure. And he also channels a lot of opinions from the military folks at the Pentagon. So, you know, he represents something, not just Colin Powell, but a whole body of opinion out there inside Washington and beyond.

But more than that, on the international stage, you know, Colin Powell liked to tell stories about how he was an officer during the cold war, and he stood for principle. He really felt there was a difference between the way he conducted himself, and the way his opposite numbers in the Soviet army conducted themselves.

And that's why, in his words, people - more people wanted to join our club than wanted to join their club. And I think this question of principle and moral authority he feels very personally, both because of his conduct in the military, but also, obviously, because he was a diplomat, and he was hearing all this stuff about Guantanamo Bay as it was unfolding.

OLBERMANN: It's not as if Mr. Powell's hosting a telethon, broadcasting his concerns about torture and the Geneva Conventions. He did not start a radio program about his regrets about the Iraq intelligence. The letter was brief. "The Washington Post" interview was brief today. But he's not backing down either, obviously. It's obviously already a problem for the president. Could it mushroom? Could this get really big on the domestic political front?

WOLFFE: Powell hasn't given many interviews, and the fact that he's even speaking out now is pretty remarkable. Then again, what the president said in response to his comments in the Rose Garden last week was also remarkable. I mean, Colin Powell never said that America's behavior was somehow comparable to what the terrorists are doing. He was talking about moral leadership.

And, in fact, that's also what the president was talking about today. The problem is, the president is not the best messenger for this message. When he goes out there and cites the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, a lot of the audience says, Yes, we support that. But, you know, when it comes to human rights, you're having a debate right now in Washington about cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, what the Geneva Conventions constitutes.

So, you know, there's a conflict there, and people are aware of that around the world. They're obviously aware of it at home.

OLBERMANN: The president's treatment of General Powell, as we described, not exactly the high road. Now he has former secretary of state Schultz, who is an elder statesman of this party, saying you can leave the Geneva Conventions alone and still would do what you want to do. Is there a White House strategy for what dealing with what looks to be something of a rebellion within the ranks of the people who are supposed to be leading that party, at least symbolically?

WOLFFE: Well, Schultz is an important figure, of course. Schultz actually was the guy who really collected Bush's foreign policy team around him in 2000, put Condi Rice at the top of it, and sort of set him up with his first foreign policy briefings as Texas governor.

And, you know, in a word, that strategy is compromise. I think we're going to see a compromise pretty quickly here. They're working on it behind the scenes. And, you know, I would expect that to come pretty quickly.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and, of course, MSNBC. As always, sir, our great thanks.

WOLFFE: Anytime.

OLBERMANN: And as for those proposed new rules for the treatment of terror suspects, congressional opposition continues, as does talk of a compromise, as does, just tonight, talk of a filibuster. While Senators McCain, Warner, and Graham are still firmly opposed to redefining those standards within Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions, they're talking about compromises that would protect interrogators from legal sanctions and permit the use of classified material and coerced testimony in trials of terror suspects.

Now, Senate majority leader Bill Frist says McCain and company do not have a filibuster-proof majority to pass their version of a detainee bill through the entire Senate. You heard it, the lead Republican in the Senate threatening to block or filibuster a bill about torture of prisoners sponsored by one senator who was a tortured prisoner and another who is still a reserve judge in the military justice system.

Let's check the latest on the legal end of all this with Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University.

Jonathan, good evening again.


OLBERMANN: Secretary Powell, in defending his recent criticism of the administration, also said, in "The Washington Post," "If you look, just look at how we are perceived in the world, and the kind of criticism we have taken over Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and renditions, whether we believe it or not, people are now starting to question whether we're following our own high standards."

Do you think that on this issue, did Powell just raise the stakes again?

TURLEY: Well, I think the most important thing is how uncharacteristic this is for Powell. I mean, he is the ultimate conservative player, the team player. This is so much not like him.

And I think that what motivates someone like Powell to come out like this is when he believes there's a real clear and present danger to the country. I mean, people don't realize that whatever benefits this administration may think it gets from torture, the costs are enormous.

This is a very dangerous neighborhood to walk alone. And I think what Powell is saying is that we need these people. We need allies if we're going to win this war. And we've become the greatest recruitment tool for terrorist organizations.

OLBERMANN: And we never - we haven't even addressed. and we won't for time's sake now, that study after study that indicates that torture presents falsely positive information. People will say anything they, they, they think the torturer wants to hear.

But about, again, the layout between Bush and McCain. One question being asked a lot that I have not heard definitively answered anywhere, is there really a different between what the president has proposed on this, and the McCain-Warner-Graham version? Are they - aren't they both torture? Aren't they both redefining the Geneva Conventions, to some degree?

TURLEY: Well, you've really hit, I think, the most salient aspect of this, that is, whatever comes out of a compromise, it does seem to be an effort to redefine Geneva Convention, because otherwise, why are you doing this? You don't need to redefine the Geneva Convention. You don't have to do anything with it. It's a treaty. We're a signatory. We've never had to do this before. We've gotten along just fine, as has the world, with the language of the Geneva Convention.

If we make any effort at all to try to redefine it or to tweak it or to amplify it, the world will see that as our effort to lawyer the Geneva Convention to try to create some type of loophole or excuse for our conduct.

OLBERMANN: You'll remember Mr. Gonzales's description of this five years ago as "quaint," the Geneva Conventions, or portions of it (INAUDIBLE) to some degree.

Last Friday here, you were telling us that some of the detainees from the secret CIA cells, when moved to Guantanamo, might have the opportunity in the immediate future to talk to the Red Cross about their own interrogations. Is there anything more on the possibility that, that, that's going to happen and that which might explain the president's anger and his rush over this as having more to do with what his administration has already sanctioned, and not about what is yet to come?

TURLEY: It has all the indications is that is exactly what is happening. The administration for years has conspicuously attempted to get things like waterboarding approved as nontorture. Waterboarding, when you convince someone they're going to drown by drowning them, and at least to the point of death. And waterboarding is defined as torture around the world.

Now, obviously, the administration has not gotten that thus far. But there is a strong suspicion that we have indeed been engaging in torture. Remember, some of these people were captured when the White House had signed a memo that defined nontorture as anything short of organ failure, that they believed that as long as they didn't cause organ failure or death, they were not engaged in torture.

That shocked the world.

So what has happened in the past, in our name, has many of us wondering. But there is a feeling, and I am one of those people that has it, that we are about to hear some accounts coming out that our president may have ordered American personnel to become torturers. And that is so serious, it is almost beyond definition.

OLBERMANN: How serious would that be for the president? Are there elements of the Constitution that refer to international treaties that make an American president violating international agreements like that liable to or subject to criminal action within this country, let alone internationally?

TURLEY: It is a violation of both domestic and international law. But more importantly, torture is immoral under every major religion, that you cannot fight a moral war with immoral means. And if we're ready to embrace immoral means, if that's how we're going to fight this war, then we have lost. And no one will come to our aid. We will be alone.

And that's what happens when you become, in the view of many, an enemy to the rule of law. And we cannot afford that to happen.

OLBERMANN: Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley, also providing some philosophical wisdom, I think, tonight, seriously. Many thanks for your time, sir.

TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: We'll go back to the United Nations. The president of the United States did not take the opportunity to talk to the president of Iran, even though they were in the same building today.

But Brian Williams did. An NBC News exclusive interview next.

And we told you last night that Halliburton offered one of its truck drivers injured in Iraq a government medal on the proviso that he would not sue Halliburton. That may be just the start of another nauseating series of stories.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: What did not happen at the United Nations today as important as what did, the leader of the free world and the leader of Iran finding themselves in the very same building, addressing the very same audience, yet never even saying hello, let alone discussing what the Bush administration believes is Tehran's plan to build a nuclear weapon.

But in our fourth story on the Countdown, what President Bush did not get a chance to discuss, our own Brian Williams did, finding out, in an NBC News exclusive, what President Ahmadinejad thinks about WMD, war, and his American counterpart.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Mr. President, you're here as a guest of the United Nations, under the protection of the United States. What is your message to the American people?

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through interpreter): In the letter I sent to Mr. Bush, I also addressed the American people. We think that the American people are like our people. They're good people. They support peace, equality, and brotherhood. They like to see the world in peace.

WILLIAMS: What was your reaction to the pope's speech, and do you accept his apology?

AHMADINEJAD: I think that he actually takes back his statement, and there is no problem. People in important positions should be careful about what they say. What he said may give an excuse to another group to start a war.

WILLIAMS: The president of the United States, speaking to the United Nations, today said, to the people of Iran, he said he looks forward to the day when America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace. How do you react to the statement of the American president today?

AHMADINEJAD: We have the same desire, to be together for the cause of world peace. But we have to see what the impediments are. Is it Iranian forces that have occupied countries neighboring? Or is it American forces that are occupying countries neighboring Iran?

WILLIAMS: You are on the cover of "TIME" magazine here in the United States and around the world. Inside, it says, "A Date with a Dangerous Mind." Why do you think they think you have a dangerous mind? Do you?

AHMADINEJAD: You should hear what I have to say, and then be the judge of that. I think that if people have a hard time accepting the logic and fact, they should not actually accuse others.

WILLIAMS: If I was President Bush, sitting here across from you, what would you say to him, president to president, but more important, man to man?

AHMADINEJAD: I think that the situation would have been better here if you were Mr. Bush. You know that I am teacher. I'm interested in talks and in dialogue. I like to understand the truth, facts. And in that letter, I raised very important subjects. I invited him to peace, brotherhood, and friendship.

But we did not receive an answer.

WILLIAMS: And the American president says, It's OK, keep your nuclear program to keep your homes warm. Stop enriching uranium toward weapons. How do you react?

AHMADINEJAD: Who is the right judge for that? Any entity except for the IAEA? All IAEA reports indicate that Iran has had no deviation. We have said on numerous occasions that our activities are for peaceful purposes. The agency's cameras videotape all activities that we have.

Did Iran build the atomic bomb and use it? You must know that because of our beliefs in our religion, we are against such acts. We are against the atomic bomb. We believe bombs are used only to kill people.

WILLIAMS: Why keep them in your arsenal, if you don't someday hope to tip them with a nuclear weapon?

AHMADINEJAD: So, are you thinking of the possibility of a danger, is that what you're speaking of?

WILLIAMS: I'm asking about your arsenal.

AHMADINEJAD: Yes, we are powerful and strong in defending ourselves.


OLBERMANN: More of Brian Williams with the president of Iran at our Web site, MSNBC.com.

Diplomacy with Iran might seem to be symbolized by this, a tug of war against a Boeing 767.. Amazing feats of strength ahead.

And Howard Stern denying a report that there is a tug of war to get him back on free radio, because the report quotes a radio insider turns out to be the editor of the aptly named magazine "Inside Radio."

Details ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: This is the 210th anniversary of President George Washington's farewell address, about which there are two curiosities. It was neither his farewell nor an address. He served another six months in office, and the address was actually a letter published in many major newspapers on September 19, 1796.

Most people know he warned of foreign entanglements. Fewer are taught that he warned against one branch of government trying to usurp the powers of the others. Ahem. And he especially feared the rise of the excess of political parties, insisting that since that excess is a fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

We'll always remember you, George Washington, we'll just forget your advice and get ourselves into the mess we're in now.

Let's play Oddball.

And now, to distract you from thinking about stuff like that, here's another episode of Oddball's award-winning feature, Fun with Rope and Hernia Injuries.

Last night, we brought you the Dutch tug of war championships. Tonight, 300 Japanese versus a Boeing 767. Look at them tug. It's Sky Day in Tokyo, and we surrender. What better way to raise awareness about aviation than to force small children to pull a 90-ton airliner back to the hangar? It was all good fun. The kids learned about airplanes. And almost no one was sucked into the jet engines.

Oddball Weather is next, a report we found on the Internets of a German meteorologist who could not seem to get over a fairly run-of-the-mill TV blooper.

Sad thing is, she was trying to deliver a typhoon warning, and about half the country was wiped out.

For more on that story, let's go to our own MSNBC Weather Center.

OK, forget it.

The contractor problem in Iraq is front and center in our Worst Persons in the World for this week. Last night, we told you about this one, Halliburton offering a government medal to an injured driver, but only if he refused to sue, or agreed not to sue. That may be only the tip of the iceberg there. We'll talk to the producer of the documentary "Iraq for Sale."

And drama in space. Did a part of the shuttle fall off? "Atlantis" stays in space at least an extra day till NASA can figure it out.

Details on these stories ahead.

But first, time now for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Chris Malloy of Palm Springs arrested after a four-year search to discover who it was who sneaked two rare Asian leopard cats off a flight form Thailand at LAX, and convinced his traveling companion to hide four birds of paradise, several orchids from a threatened species in his baggage, to say nothing of hiding two endangered pygmy monkeys in his pants.

Number two, an unnamed teacher at Pine Tree Elementary in upstate Monroe, New York. The teacher handed out a curriculum a third grade spelling class on parent's night and some parent's noticed it was printed in unusual type face. The letters of the alphabet were made out of drawings of men and women contorted into various kinky positions. Hey, does the letter "G" look like a guy to you with two endangered pygmies in his pants?

And No. 1 Ahmed Rashed, formerly of Cranford, New Jersey. Remember the story of the stripper in whose home police found severed human hand in a jar of formaldehyde? Rashed is the former medical student police say cut the hand off a cadaver and gave it to the stripper, apparently because he liked her. Hate to see what he would have given her had he really liked her.


OLBERMANN: In a less morally murky time, it was called "war profiteering." Cutting corners, padding contracts, steeling. Businesses could make more money while American soldiers were shortchanged, undermined, undersupplied, their life and limb put at risk as a result.

In our third story in the Countdown, a senator named Harry Truman made a name for himself investigating just such misconduct during World War II, General Marshall later told him that his committee was worth two divisions to the war effort. Back then war profiteers were run out of town. Today it appears they run the town.

Senator Byron Dorgan has been trying to change that. At a Democratic hearing yesterday, his panel released a document showing how far Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, one of the biggest military contractors, has been willing to go. One of its truckers who survived the convoy massacre in Iraq was sent a KBR form to sign that said in quote:

"In consideration for the application for a Defense of Freedom Medal... I hereby release, acquit and discharge [KBR]... with respect to and from any and all claims... I may have against any of them."

In layman's terms, promise not to sue us, then you get your government medal. It made KBR Halliburton our "Worst Persons in the World" yesterday, but that's a mild outrage compared to some of what else goes on field.

Documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald has been chronicling the human toll of corporate war profiteering. His new film is called "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers." It's just played at select screenings around the country; you can order it now at Iraqforsale.org.

Mr. Greenwald, good evening.


OLBERMANN: As you point out in the film, never have so many military functions been turned over to private companies. We already known it's made it more not less expensive, but does it have any direct effect on people in the military?

GREENWALD: It's actually having quite a terrible effect to people in the military. These profiteers, these corporations that are making millions and billions are hurting the morale because one thing we never think about, and I didn't realized until I started working on the film, about military is working right next to somebody who's getting paid three and four times the amount to do the exact same job, and that's devastating to the troops, the men and women in the Army and how they are trying to do their job yet see these private folks getting more and more money because the corporations are profiting as a result of that.

OLBERMANN: We all know that the - what the word "snafu" is an acronym for and that it originated in military service, we'll say all "fouled" up rather than the other version of it. But, when you add business to the equation of war, let me play a clip from the film, a former Halliburton employee speaking to - testifying about contaminated water in Iraq. I'll get your reaction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tried to notify the troops that they may be exposed to a serious health risk, I was told that the military was none of my concern.

They were only concerned with making a profit and didn't care how it may affect the troops.

Of the 67 water treatment plants, that Halliburton run, 63 of them weren't providing safe water. And the Marines are showering in it every single day. (crying) Sorry. I was there to help them.


OLBERMANN: How is it that giving U.S. Marines tainted water does not kill a company dead let alone stop the stream of Pentagon contracts that they continue to get?

GREENWALD: I don't - It's quit shocking, actually. Halliburton is being protected at the highest levels of government. They are paying lobbyists huge amounts of money, they're giving campaign contributions, they're hiring former high-level military people. But David Lazare has made over $100 million, the head of Halliburton, since this war began. That is an obscenity. That should not be allowed to go on and it should be illegal.

OLBERMANN: You mentioned him, you mention the lobbyists. Give me some specifics, the connections the company have politically.

GREENWALD: Well, what they do is, you know, it's a - these companies are - spend a lot of time and money on this, so what they is they hire former legislators, they hire people who've been in the government, and then they hire military folks at very high levels so that when the investigations come this kind of network protects them against what should be happening which is people should be brought before commissions, people should be accused and told they are breaking the law and most importantly, look, there's a limited amount of money and if it's going in the corporation's pocket, then it's not going to the soldiers, it's not going to the Iraqi people. And here's the ultimate tragedy, all of us are less safe because that money - hospitals don't get built, water doesn't get cleaned and the Americans and the Iraqis pay a price for these guys making this obscene amounts of profits. The head of Cocky (ph), who supplied interrogators at Abu Ghraib, interrogators who were torturing for profit, he made $20 million.

OLBERMANN: Last point on this, we hear a lot towards the Fall elections that Democratic investigations, what that will do to the country, a lot of scare tactics from the party in power, currently. If the democrats did take over Congress or at least the House, what would change in terms of war profiteers if anything?

GREENWALD: Well, Henry Waxman, whose been an absolute hero on this issue, would have subpoena powers. He would call people before him - and he would get to the bottom of it. That's what you do in a democracy, you investigate and you find out where there's corruption, you find out where there's profiteering and you make sure there's hell to pay for it and that people go to jail for it and that if laws have been broken there are consequences. Right now there are absolutely no consequences for these profiteers who are acting in a treasonous fashion.

OLBERMANN: As Harry Truman did, a Democrat in a Democratic administration.

GREENWALD: Absolutely.

OLBERMANN: Robert Greenwald, the documentary is "Iraq for Sale," We thank you for your time tonight, sir.

GREENWALD: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Mystery in space, the return of "Atlantis" delayed a day as NASA investigates debris traveling in orbit near the shuttle, the question, is it just space junk or an actual piece from the shuttle and we all know what that might mean.

And a coroner in the Bahamas says the cause of death for the son of Anna Nicole Smith is clear. The coroner she hired says it is anything but clear, a new conflict in already bizarre story.

And a happy ending to the story of a missing baby in Missouri, breaking news ahead here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: New concerns about the shuttle's return to earth. Is Howard Stern returning to radio earth? The return of the missing baby in Missouri, and the turn of a giant in the world of sports broadcasting. That's next this is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It is technically a UFO, It is flying, it is an object, and worst of all, it is unidentified. Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, it is casting a fearsome shadow over the first mission since the shuttle "Columbia" disaster to resume work on building the International Space Station. The 115-foot long solar powered batteries the astronauts installed overhead now by something much smaller, that may have fallen off the spacecraft.

As of correspondent, Kristen Dahlgren reports from Cape Kennedy, tomorrow morning's landing has been postponed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to wave off tomorrow.

KRISTEN DAHLGREN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The space shuttle "Atlantis" will not be landing as scheduled tomorrow due to concerns about weather and this, an unknown object spotted orbiting near the shuttle this morning.

WAYNE HALE, SHUTTLE PROGRAM MANGER: It could be a little something up-close or bigger father away.

DAHLGREN: NASA engineers believe the object came off the shuttle during the test firing of jets used to guide. A test like the one seen here during a previous mission.

HALE: Some crews have commented it's like standing next to a howitzer when it going off. So we have all this vibration going on in the ship and apparently something shook loose.

DAHLGREN: The trouble is, no one know exactly what that something is. It could be a harmless object that came out of the shuttle's cargo bay or more worrisome, something from the outside of the shuttle, itself. Either way, NASA engineers want to take some time to study the issue, so the crew of "Atlantis" kept its antenna deployed to send back pictures of the object, and may even use its robotic arm to inspect the shuttle's thermal tiles.

HALE: We're taking it very seriously, we are going to go out and make sure we know what's going on to the best of our ability and make sure that we are safe to land.

DAHLGREN: If it's determined it's not safe to land, NASA engineers say they have a variety of options ranging from an in-flight repair job to sending the shuttle and its crew back to the International Space Station.

NASA would have to make a decision on going back to the International Space Station within the next two day. If, on the other hand, they decide it is safe to land, the next opportunity would be at 6:21 Thursday morning.

Kristin Dahlgren, NBC NEWS, Kennedy Space Center.


OLBERMANN: On this planet, we begin our nightly roundup of tabloid and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." Battling coroners in the death of the son of Anna Nicole Smith. Yesterday Dr. Cyril Wecht, the Pennsylvania pathologist hired by Ms. Smith said tests were inconclusive and presented no evidence of a drug overdose. But Bahamian coroner, Linda Virgil, insisted that the cause of death in known and that the toxicology report is very important here.

Today, Wecht, tells the website, TMZ.com, that "I could be a drug-related death of an accidental nature," but insisted, "I'm telling you, I don't know the cause of death. I don't know."

Another official, linked with the investigation told TMZ.com that Daniel Smith had a combination of antidepressants and other prescription drugs in his system at the time of his death.

Meanwhile, you can see images of Daniel Smith with his mother and baby half sister in the hospital, just hours before his death. A British tabloid reporting tonight, Smith's people sold those images to "In Touch Weekly" and the magazine shows "Entertainment Tonight" and the "Insider" for $650,000. Some have already aired tonight.

Breaking news out of Missouri this evening, an apparently happy ending to the grueling ordeal we told you about last night. The 11-day-old Abigail Lynn Woods, kidnapped from her mother in Union Missouri, last Friday, has been found.

Police tell us she is in a hospital alive and well. She has been reunited with her family including her mother, the 21-year-old woman whose throat was allegedly slashed by the female kidnapper.

A tip led police to a house less than seven miles from the baby's home. There they found the child and took a female into custody. It's not clear whether that person is believed to be the kidnapper or even a suspect.

Good news, too, about America's most prominent sports reporter. Peter Gammons will return to air tomorrow night on ESPN. Not even three months ago, his life hung in the balance after he felt symptoms of what proved to be a brain aneurysm. After surgery, weeks of recovery, the baseball expert of experts will report from Fenway Park in Boston for an ESPN broadcast at 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time tomorrow. He has already written his first new column for the network's website. "Not a full return to regular work," says the network, "but good enough for all of us who are Peter's fans and friends." Amen.

Speaking of returns, big rumors Howard Stern might be coming back to terrestrial radio, he says it's - well, you can imagine what he says it is. We'll check an industry insider, that is ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

OK, Amazon says it's back in stock and now available without a prescription.

Our nominees tonight, the Bronze to Senator Conrad Burns of Montana who gives us so much material we should pay him. That appears to be the problem, in fact, the "Associated Press" reporting Mr. Burns flew on a plane chartered by the Vonage internet phone company, to and from his own 13th annual Burns classic golf weekend, just days after the Senate passed the Burns amendment, legislation that had been advocated for the last year by the Vonage internet phone company.

Now there's a coincidence.

The Silver tonight, the "Dubliner" magazine, the latest to not double check when somebody sent it "topless photos of the wife of Tiger Woods." The Irish publication then ripped woods and other American golfers since, "Most of them are married to women who cannot keep their clothes on in public." Problem is the woman in the picture is not Mrs. Tiger Woods, in fact several other publications have discovered, to their dismay, over the last few years.

But our winners tonight - co-winners. In an interview on Bill-O's show, former New York Senator Al D'Amato said John McCain's position on torture deserves a pass, "Only because I think he was so traumatized by is time as a POW in Vietnam."

Bill-O then said, the Vietnamese ignored the Geneva Conventions during McCain's imprisonment, so we should too. McCain, of course, points out that as the time passed, the North Vietnamese, in fact, made the choice to start observing the conventions.

Best part, I did a search engine thing on Bill-O's name, it came back "no matches found for Bill O'Reilly, did you mean Bill orally?"

Al D'Amato and Bill Orally today's "Worst Persons in the World."


OLBERMANN: "At every crossing on the road that leads to the future" wrote Maurice Maeterlinck, "each progressive spirit is opposed by 1,000 appointed to guard the past." Maeterlinck was Belgian, later American playwright, who won the Noble Prize for literature in 1911 and later went on the Howard Stern show and appeared topless.

Our No. 1 story on the Countdown, rumors of a detour of the "King of all Medias" roads that leads to the future that he could head back to satellite radio to that ordinary free crap I do. Stern himself loudly dismissing the "New York Post" today as simply another attempt to sell newspapers by using his name.

Saying for an earlier report that his popularity of his website had dropped by 71 percent in the months since he was switched to subscriber-based broadcasting last January. The "Post" reported that the industry chatter says there's a deal in the works to put Stern's show on ABC stations about to be purchased by Citadel Broadcasting Company.

On his show today, Stern said he was not returning to over-the-air-radio. One red flag in the "New York Post" story, the paper cites radio insiders and then it quotes one man, the editor of "Inside Radio."

Let's talk to another one of them whose description is not merely an inversion of the name of his publication, editor, Michael Harrison of "Talkers" magazine.

Michael, good evening.

MICHAEL HARRISON, "TALKERS" MAGAZINE: Hi Keith, thanks for having me on.

OLBERMANN: The "Post" quotes rumors, Sterns flatly says it's not happening, do you know who's right?

HARRISON: Well, I'll tell you, Stern is so big that even rumors about him become No. 1 on a show like this. I mean, hiccups and everybody starts talking. He's bigger than ever. It's still just a rumor. I don't like to speculate on if rumors are true, but I can tell you it could be true because there's no reason why deals can't be made between terrestrial radio and satellite radio and there's nothing about satellite radio or terrestrial radio, inherently, where one is bigger than the other. So I think it's possible, but whether it's going to happen for sure, I don't know.

OLBERMANN: The "Post's" construction of this is a deal between the guy who runs Sirius, Mel Karmazin, who's been Stern's - I don't know, master/employee for 100 years, and the man who's about to buy ABC radio stations, (INAUDIBLE). Is that feasible? Could Mel Karmazin just sell Howard Stern to ABC or rent him to ABC? Could they do that even without Howard Sterns' permission or without his knowledge? Or wouldn't he have to come into the deal at some point?

HARRISON: Well, I think Howard Stern would be in the deal. I mean, it's possible they have a contract with Stern that's like every other schlepper in radio who's not as popular and that is you're basically just property of the company once you sign a contract. Talent contracts are usually management oriented. But, Stern is such a superstar and his value is in astronomical figures, I'm sure he's in on it. But Stern's a showman. Why would he answer any question openly or clearly at this point when the speculation is starting to build? I would think Stern's in on it, if in fact, there is some kind of a deal. As far as Karmazin, of course he would sell Stern, why not? He's a businessman. Do you think he'd be friends with Stern if Stern wasn't worth a lot of money to him?

OLBERMANN: But is not Howard Stern - has not everything he's done in the last year suggested that he is sincerely invested in this premise that there, besides this boat-load of cash, once you get past the cash there's also this idea of the freedom that he is looking for. That's not just some sort of veneer is it?

HARRISON: I think that it's a veneer to a certain level. I'm not a psychologist, I don't know what Stern really believes deep in his heart. But I just certainly don't think it's past him to play up the soap opera that is his life, the exaggerated aspects of Stern versus the world.

It just so happens, I happen to like the cause that he is using, whether it's veneer or deeply sincere, because he's talking about freedom of airwaves and talking about really, reactionary FCC censorship. Those are important causes, but I personally, and I don't think anybody else really, other than his die-hard fans care how sincere he is because if we worry about that, we're going to go crazy. Look at everybody else out there pontificating and talking about how to run the world. Are they sincere or are they doing it for show business? Who can tell?

OLBERMANN: I'm Howard Stern, Ahmed Ahmadinejad is next here on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Irrespective of Sterns opinion of how it is going, how is it going Sirius? Are they financially OK, still seeking stability? Are they gurgling? Where are they?

HARRISON: The problem with Sirius and XM is that although they've achieved tremendous publicity, they've become already icons. Everybody knows what satellite radio is, it's a household concept. The problem is it costs so much money to go into this business and they spent so much money upfront and they're putting out so much money object equipment, on talent, on studios that from a business standpoint, it's going to be a tough putt for them to make the kind of money within the time they need to be as successful as original projections indicated.

But they're successful on every other level. Their programming is great, people like them. But can they overcome the start-up costs? I don't know and the future remains uncertain for them.

OLBERMANN: Want to make a prediction in 30 seconds? In a year's time will he be on terrestrial radio, satellite radio, both or neither?



HARRISON: I think Howard Stern will be on both because I think there's going to be a blending of all of these different platforms. I think that we're too concerned now with A.M.,F.M., Internet, terrestrial, we've reached a point where the message is the message as opposed to the medium being the message. The message will be ubiquitous. Stern will be everywhere.

OLBERMANN: Well, I'm sure he'll be happy to be called ubiquitous.

Michael Harrison of "Talkers" magazine, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

That's Countdown for this, the 1,235th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Joe, good evening.