'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 17th
Guests: George Parnham, Michael Duffy, Bryan Bender
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The victim of the hunting accident is out of the hospital and immediately has another accident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY WHITTINGTON: Regardless of how experienced, careful, and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen. And that's what happened last Friday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Uh, Saturday, right? You meant Saturday, not Friday?
Oh, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife hunting accident report official sketch of the injuries shows them on the left side of Mr. Whittington's face, when clearly they were on the right side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thankfully, Harry Whittington is on the mend and doing very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Doing better, clearly, than is the story of what happened to Harry Whittington. What is going on here?
The Scooter Libby trial, we know what's going on there. His lawyers want access to 277 classified intelligence reports. The prosecutor calls the request graymail.
And it's blowtorch versus baseball bat and chair. No, not an American gladiator. No, not the Winter Olympics. Just another day at another American convenience store.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
Where in the hell do these crazy tinfoil-hat people get these conspiracy theories from? Just because the official sketch of Harry Whittington's wounds after he was accidentally shot by the vice president of the United States shows them on the left side of his face, when the witnesses all said they were on the right side of his face, and just because, as he left the hospital this afternoon, Mr. Whittington himself said the accident occurred last Friday, not last Saturday, is no reason to go off all, you should excuse the expression, half-cocked.
Our fifth story on the Countdown - You know, come to think of it, maybe it is.
Seventy-eight-year-old attorney who, it turns out, refused to have his account of the shooting recorded on audiotape, he said his voice was embarrassingly raspy, made a robust, cordial, and gentlemanly exit from Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, early this afternoon. He was clearly, as Texans like to say, bloodied but unbowed. And then, reading from a prepared statement, he got the day of the shooting wrong. At least as far as we know, he got the day of the shooting wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITTINGTON:... all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this past week. This past weekend encompassed all of us in a cloud of misfortune and sadness. It is not easy to explain, especially to those who are not familiar with the great sport of quail hunting.
We all assume certain risks in whatever we do, whatever activities we pursue. And regardless of how experienced, careful, and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen. And that's what happened last Friday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Whittington did not take any questions, so nobody who might have noticed could have said, Friday! The vice president's office tells Countdown that Mr. Whittington simply misspoke. One thousand and twenty miles away, Mr. Cheney himself also spoke 15 minutes after Mr. Whittington had finished his remarks, the vice president addressing the budget session of the state legislature in his native Wyoming and addressing the good news about the recovery of his friend - good friend - acquaintance after the accident last Friday - Saturday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: I want to thank you for that welcome home. It's a wonderful experience to be greeted with such warmth by the leaders of our great state. That's especially true when you've had a very long week.
Thankfully, Harry Whittington is on the mend and doing very well.
Party politics has its place, but it's severely overdone in Washington, D.C., these days. Out there, we could learn a thing or two from the tone and the spirit of the Wyoming state legislature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And as Mr. Whittington's brief appearance before the cameras showed, his black-and-blue and other marks were on the right side of his face, which is not where they are placed on the official diagram that is part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife hunting accident and incident report form filed over this shooting.
Look carefully. The figure on the far left, the frontal view, shows shading areas indicating injuries on the left side of Mr. Whittington's body. His injuries, of course, occurred on the right side. In fact, the figure on the far right of the diagram indicates injuries on the right side of Mr. Whittington. That part is correct, though it is obviously inconsistent with the frontal view on the left side.
Not too confused, Texas game warden James Duke, who filled out the report, made a mistake, so says Lydia Saldana (ph), spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife in comments to the "Newsday" newspaper of New York. "That's human error," Saldana said.
As for the final police report, none of the affidavits of witnesses have been released with it.
Look, 78-year-old men who get accidentally hit by up to 200 pieces of birdshot and then have a heart attack, and then leave the hospital in the span of one week, they're entitled to make a mistake. And a local game warden trying to sketch the wounds is entitled to make a mistake, even though filling out these forms and doing these drawings is part of his job.
But if you wanted to create an environment of suspicion and doubt, you couldn't have done a better job than the one that started last Saturday when the accident was not reported, nor the principals interviewed, and that continued today with Mr. Whittington saying and the appearance of the latest flaw in the local investigation.
The record seems to present a clearer and cleaner picture of a true story of James Frey than it does the Cheney-Whittington accident.
To discuss the efficacy of the investigation, I'm George - I'm joined by George Parnham, criminal defense attorney well known for his work in high-profile cases, including that of Andrea Yates.
Mr. Parnham, thanks for your time this evening.
GEORGE PARNHAM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thank you for asking me.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Whittington wrote in his statement, and read aloud, "Friday," and the full response we got from the vice president's press office, which is back on the job after apparently having spent much of the last week off, the statement read, "Mr. Whittington misspoke. We are trying to reach the hospital to inform them of that fact, but the incident, as noted in the sheriff's report, happened Saturday, and the V.P. got there late on Friday night."
There's no chance the day is wrong, correct? I mean, Mr. Whittington did just get his days confused?
PARNHAM: Well, probably so. You know, the individual, 78 years of age, and a horrific situation involving trauma, being shot by a firearm, with all the political ramifications, and the attention being drawn to that situation by the media, the man almost had a heart attack, well, as a matter of fact, did have a heart attack, and how do we know how close to death he was? And I don't hold that any real level of significance, quite frankly.
OLBERMANN: The second bit of confusion about the Texas Parks and Wildlife hunting accident and incident report form, we hear that hunters getting injured in accidents is not uncommon. But is there any way to gauge how uncommon it is for the game warden to write injuries to the right side of the face and then draw the injuries on the left side of the face?
PARNHAM: You know, obviously, the injuries were to the other side of the face, other than the one that the game warden accentuated. Where he got his information, who knows? I don't know if there was any type of interview, any looking at any medical records, any conversations that the game warden had with anybody.
So again, I think that is simply evidence of a sloppy and somewhat negligent reporting on the part of one of the investigators in this case. One would expect that that not take place. I'm not a hunter. I don't know. But I have some observations about the criminal investigation that was conducted by the sheriff's department.
OLBERMANN: And to the, that point, the entirety of the investigation, I don't get involved in enough hunting accidents, apparently, or other events that involve local law enforcement, but from the delay Sunday to actually going to the accident scene, interviewing the vice president, from that on to what we're seeing now, how would you characterize this investigation? Is it good, bad, or indifferent?
PARNHAM: Well, I would say it would be bad and possibly indifferent. It's not a good investigation. My many years of being in criminal defense practice, I've seen many instances of law enforcement investigating shootings. Individuals with law enforcement are dispatched immediately to that scene. Sketches are drawn of the location.
The information then is turned over to the - either the county attorney or the district attorney for review, and the DA Will then make a determination whether or not to present it to a grand jury or dispose of the case at that time, absent any other insight or information made relevant to that (INAUDIBLE), to that investigation.
That didn't happen here. The sheriff summarily simply just said, It's an accident, case closed. And what's ironic about that is that we have in Texas a standard of conduct, a mental element known as criminal negligence. And that basically is defined as an individual who deviates from a standard of conduct, and that deviation is based upon a gross, basically, not understanding or not realizing that there was a danger.
That's a criminal state of mind, and in this situation, the most important individual that could give some information on that standard of care and the gross deviation, if any, would be the hunting guide, Mr. Hubert, who, at the time the (INAUDIBLE) report is disseminated to the public, had never been interviewed. And I think that's not the way to go about it.
And I'm not suggesting that there's anything here that would evidence criminal conduct on the part of the vice president. All I'm saying is that it could have been done in a more efficient way, should have been done in a more efficient way, questions that could have easily been answered had it been done in that fashion.
OLBERMANN: So on the public record, or (INAUDIBLE) in the actual public record, we've got a witness - the victim probably accidentally saying Friday instead of Saturday. The witness, the shooter keeps identifying as the most reliable saw everything from 100 yards away and thought at first that Mr. Cheney had been injured or was sick.
There's been three versions of this. There's some alcohol, there's no alcohol, there's a beer, there's a cocktail. The sheriff doesn't interview anybody for 14 hours. Is there a point at which some higher authority has to step in in Texas to clean the investigation up?
PARNHAM: You know, the next-higher authority would be the district attorney or county attorney, perhaps, of Kenedy County in this case. I think that somebody ought to come in and take a look at what has been done. Obviously, the crime scene hasn't changed, other than maybe mowing grass, if you will. But take a look at this situation. Lay to rest these questions once and for all about what actually happened.
And again, we're talking about the objectivity of a standard of care that should have been taken into consideration in making a determination as to whether or not this was an accident or is basically an act of negligence that borders on possible criminal conduct.
You just - you don't - you know, we're not talking about a situation where a gun was dropped and went off accidentally. We're talking about an individual who was shot with a firearm. And you just got to get out there and do your job if you're law enforcement. And unfortunately, what we've seen so far speaks to just the opposite.
OLBERMANN: The criminal defense attorney George Parnham. Our great thanks for your perspective and your time tonight, sir.
PARNHAM: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: In the very brief part of his remarks today in Wyoming that touched on the incident, Mr. Cheney himself referred to this as "a long week." The calendar week is over. What about the event that made it so long?
Let's call in the assistant managing editor of "TIME" magazine, Michael Duffy.
Michael, good evening.
MICHAEL DUFFY, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Giving everybody who messed up something today the benefit of the doubt, which is the same benefit of the doubt that's been given out wholesale since the news broke out last Sunday sort of stumbled down the news trail, even assuming it's just a screw-up, one after another, doesn't this not cumulatively make the vice president and his staff look like the Keystone Kops out there?
DUFFY: Yes, it was amateur hour out there for a while, and I think we have a pullout tonight, Keith, that shows that the public approval of the vice president has fallen to 29 percent, which is really low, and not helping the president, of course.
And I think the question is simply that a lot of folks have known in Washington for a long time that the office of the vice president sort of operates at a remove (INAUDIBLE) plays by slightly different rules, and that was exposed, I think, in a much more dramatic fashion than had ever been before.
And whether the West Wing now will allow that to continue, can, or any changes made really remains to be seen.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, the White House hoped that today would be the ribbon on the bow in this box. Whittington speaks, goes home. Cheney speaks at his home. Everybody have a nice weekend. Please, nobody shoot anybody else.
But is there a tipping point where they have to go back in and have Mr. Cheney address this again? Do you need X number of further screw-ups, or does there have to be an unknown factor that keeps the story alive? Is, in short, is another Cheney comment even a remote possibility?
DUFFY: I don't think so. I think one of the advantages of having it gone on for so long, the tension really built up, and so that (INAUDIBLE) when you get to the fifth day and you finally make a statement, and a lot that, a lot of the air goes out of it pretty quickly.
He barely touched on it in Wyoming, and I thought that was interesting and indicative of where they think they are. The president has blessed the event now. And so I do think it, everybody moves on.
We may see a slight shuffle in the vice president's staff, and particularly how he handles his trips. I suspect they're going to get a better handle on how it is that they couldn't reach him, or he couldn't reach them, and I think we need to know how the vice president is in communication with the president's office a little better.
If this had been about something that affected all of us, I think we would care a great deal. So we may see a fix there, but I don't expect them to tell us about it.
OLBERMANN: You said the president had basically given his blessing on this. But he, again, passed up an opportunity today to just sort of give an all-clear or a smile or something here. He made the comments yesterday that he was satisfied with the vice president's explanation, at the same time didn't really address the way Mr. Cheney had handled the situation.
Missed an opportunity to do that again today. Tom DeFrank from "The New York Daily News" was on there, on this news hour last night and said that Mr. Bush's displeasure with Mr. Cheney was still lingering. Was that true, is that still true?
DUFFY: Well, I think there was (INAUDIBLE), there was widespread unhappiness with how it was handled. But I think that when the president said what he said yesterday, he was putting to rest. And I don't think he was going to go out of his way to say it again. So I think, really, in some ways, the matter really has been closed here, and everybody moves on.
OLBERMANN: Except that the former Reagan speechwriter and noted conservative Peggy Noonan did a piece for "The Wall Street Journal" that suggested that the president might want to push Mr. Cheney out, that somebody might be telling him, Hey, take advantage of this, he's at 29 percent, as your new poll suggests, move a potential successor to the vice president's job for '08. Is such a move even remotely conceivable?
OLBERMANN: OK, very good.
DUFFY: No, you know, it's interesting, other vice - other presidents have thought about it. Richard Nixon, obviously, did it. Gerald Ford, you know, said, I want someone other than Nelson Rockefeller. Even George Herbert Walker Bush, some of his aides thought about moving Dan Quayle out. That didn't happen here. I don't expect it. I don't, no one does, I know.
And there really is no obvious replacement.
OLBERMANN: The assistant managing editor of "TIME" magazine, Michael
Duffy, clearing up what we think will be the last element of last Friday's
I'm sorry, last Saturday's shooting in Texas. Great thanks, Michael.
DUFFY: All right.
OLBERMANN: The vice president still strains the calm of another Washington weekend. But so too does his former chief of staff. The man prosecuting Scooter Libby says Libby's lawyers are trying to graymail him by demanding a blizzard of classified documents.
More conventional crimes caught on tape, actually on tape. This one, you will recognize the weapons. Sadly, the hold-up using the flame thrower, though, not so much on the recognition factor.
You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The latest twist in the CIA leak investigation, Scooter Libby's lawyers want secret national security documents released to help in his defense, 277 of them.
Our number four story on the Countdown tonight, how many trees must die before we can write the story of Plamegate in the pages of history, Libby's lawyers arguing that their client was, quote, "immersed throughout the relevant period in urgent and sensitive matters"?
Special prosecutor Fitzgerald is calling foul, actually calling graymail, asserting in court papers filed late yesterday that releasing those documents would not only sabotage his case but jeopardize national security.
"The defendant's request to compel the production of approximately 277 presidential daily briefs is nothing short of breathtaking. As the defendant well knows, the PDB is an extraordinarily sensitive document. The defendant's effort to make history in this case for the sole purpose of showing that he was preoccupied with other matters when he gave testimony to the grand jury is a transparent effort at graymail."
Graymail, if the term is new to you, the attempt of a government official here charged with an offense to thwart prosecution by compromising national security secrets.
The special prosecutor even invoked the vice president's own words in
his argument, adding this as a footnote to the phrase, "As the defendant
well knows, on May 19, 2002, during Libby's service as chief of staff to
the vice president, Vice President Cheney described the presidential daily
briefs in a Fox News interview as 'the "family jewels" of the government.'"
To discuss the jewels, let's call in Bryan Bender, national security correspondent for "The Boston Globe," who joins us from Washington.
Good evening to you, sir.
BRYAN BENDER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "THE BOSTON GLOBE":
OLBERMANN: First off, the presumed motive here for the Libby defense team, is that plain old stalling, or don't we know?
BENDER: Well, I don't think we know. But clearly, requesting these documents, these daily briefings for the president, it's hard to know how that has anything to do with what Libby's being charged with, which is lying to investigators.
You know, the case is not about him leaking information or providing some sort of national security secret. It's about him lying to investigators. So it's unclear what the reason is. I guess one could, you know, think that maybe it's to delay the process or to make it about something else.
OLBERMANN: And Patrick Fitzgerald describes this as graymail, which would presumably be just a stab down from blackmail. It's a fairly strong term, certainly, from a prosecutor. What, do we know what his idea is in using that term, and why he's thrown it out there?
BENDER: Well, I mean, that's a term that people have used over the years to refer to a government official who is facing charges who tries to get or requests that classified information be released so he can help make his defense. And, you know, it's not clear at this point that the government's going to release these documents.
The presidential daily brief has been a focus of controversy before. Some Democrats in Congress have wanted it released, one of these documents, or some of them, released to see what the president was receiving in terms of intelligence before the war in Iraq. And the White House has been unwilling to do that. So it may be a, you know, a futile attempt.
OLBERMANN: And under what circumstances? Can you envision any circumstances under which the PDBs might actually be released? I mean, it would seem to be something that the administration would fight even more strongly than the prosecutor would fight in this situation.
BENDER: Well, I mean, I can't, at this point, see any way, other than by a court order. If a court ordered the administration to release these documents, then maybe it would happen.
OLBERMANN: Any relevance of the nature of the charges against Mr.
Libby, naming, namely, perjury and obstruction, relative to this request?
Is there (INAUDIBLE) that these would specifically address?
BENDER: Well, I mean, (INAUDIBLE) his lawyers are arguing that they need these documents to demonstrate what other things Scooter Libby was doing at the time that he leaked this information about Valerie Plame, maybe to make the argument or to try and defend his assertion that he just couldn't recall when he talked to reporters, what he released, when he released it, you know, to give a sense of the kind of information he was dealing with, you know, some very (INAUDIBLE) stuff in his position as the chief of staff of the vice president.
But I don't see any direct relation to, like I said, the charges, which are not being truthful or not being fully forthcoming with the investigators, like Patrick Fitzgerald.
OLBERMANN: Bryan Bender, the national security correspondent of "The Boston Globe." Great thanks for joining us. Have a good weekend.
OLBERMANN: There's a late-breaking political story out of San Diego, where the prosecutors, you'll recall the stunning betrayal of the public trust by former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who wept openly as he resigned and entered a plea of guilty in a deal several weeks back, prosecutors have now recommended that Cunningham receive the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison in a 35-page memorandum, prosecutors wrote, "Cunningham used his status as a war hero to get into Congress, and then he used his congressional office to get rich."
He pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and others in exchange for defense contracts and other favors. The litany of what he (INAUDIBLE) rather than just cash boggled the mind in some respects. Randy Cunningham, the recommendation from prosecutors that he spend 10 years in prison.
Also tonight, there's something tangentially connected to Scooter Libby. If you remember that novel he wrote about the Orient and the bears, the baby panda playground. All right, the next thing you know, we'll be showing you the Teletubbies.
And a Kentucky family catching something shocking on tape. The neighborhood peeping Tom, peeping into their teenage daughter's room. That's ahead.
This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It was on this date in 1598 that the new czar of all the Russias was selected, a rags-to-riches story of a guy who'd actually worked his way up from being an archer under Ivan the Terrible. His name was Boris Godunov. His seven years on the throne were key to Russia's history. But most important, of course, without him, Rocky and Bullwinkle would never have had an arch-enemy named Boris Badenov.
On that note, let's play Oddball.
I said, lady spy and to moose and squirrel, who gets blown up? Me. Sorry we began in China, actually, where I thought the great panda was endangered. I'm confused, because it appears everybody has one there.
Welcome to panda kindergarten, the world's first panda bear daycare designed to give young pandas the chance to interact with others their own age. Just like real kindergarten, the toddlers are encouraged to find a mate. Start the whole breeding process as early as possible.
It wasn't like that in my kindergarten. I don't know about you.
Checking oddball weather. In the South Florida region, we're looking at mostly sunny skies, 10 percent chance of falling scrap iron. Police in Davie, Florida, say they are still investigating, because they can't say for sure where the metal bolt that crashed through this guy's house came from.
A bolt from the blue, literally. The police are stumped. I mean, is it not obvious that there's some sort of giant iron pterodactyl in the area?
Nobody was injured, but roofers had just hours earlier finished repairing the hurricane damage to that roof. So they will now get a chance to gouge this guy all over again.
Finally, to South Korea and really, really, really casual Fridays. This is the third Friday of the month, which must be come to work in your pajamas day, at this office in Seoul. It is a morale booster management came up with after a series of 17 meetings and the involvement of 13 different people from the help disk.
So far, everyone seems to really enjoy wearing their sleepwear around the office, especially strange Bob from purchasing, who of course usually sleeps au naturale.
Think that day at work stunk? How about getting a blow torch pulled on you by a would-be robber? Fortunately, it was no match for an old fashioned bat and chair whipping. A little whip action upside your head.
And you think that a lifetime spent in politics would have left the former governor of Maryland a little bit more savvy than to sexually harass a young woman while the TV cameras are rolling. No.
These stories ahead. But now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
No. 3, Hsu Yi-Ling. An official prosecutor's office in northern Taiwan is now offering drunk drivers a choice of sentences. The standard cash fine or mahjong. You can get out of a fine by playing mahjong with the local elderly.
No. 2, Bob Schieffer - that's not a segue. I'm sorry, Bob. The CBS News anchorman and noted baseball aficionado offering off lunch in an eBay auction, all proceeds to the communities in schools charity. One problem. Three days into the bidding and they had to lower the reserve price. Ow. Bidding up to $500. How much would you get if you auctioned off lunch with Katie Couric? They are auctioning off - oh, they're auctioning off Katie Couric. Oh, oh, oh.
No. 1, Thor Jeffrey Steven Laufer of Fort Washington, Wisconsin, facing three years in jail after a crime spree. He says he took a variety of objects from the construction sites to make it look like an ordinary robbery. In fact, he was only interested in one thing: door knobs. He steals door knob after horrifying door knob. What does he do with the door knobs? I don't know. And what's more, I don't want to know.
OLBERMANN: Literature and espionage are filled with one line: who can spy on the spies? Our third story in THE Countdown, something in the manner of an answer tonight. We have a string of sagas of crime caught by surveillance cameras. There will be blow torches.
But we start with Donna Gregory and those who could spy on the spy. The Kentucky family that caught the guy spying on their daughter, because they had been spying on him.
DONNA GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This home video released by police confirms what the Hall family has suspected for months: a man peering into the bedroom of their 16-year-old daughter.
LINZIE HALL, VICTIM: I was freaking out. I was crying and screaming.
GREGORY: Police say the suspect, 28-year-old John Morgan, a married father of two, admits he's the man on the tape.
MISCHELLE HALL, MOTHER OF VICTIM: When I watched that video, it was like watching a scary movie on the outside of my home.
JAMES HALL, FATHER OF VICTIM: I wanted to take him out of this world is what I wanted to do because he pretty much changed my daughter's life forever.
GREGORY: The Halls set up their own surveillance camera after a neighbor spotted a man prowling around Linzie's window in early December. When the suspect spotted the camera, he tried to remove it. The family checked the tape and called 911. A police dog tracked Morgan's scent to his home only a block away.
JOHN DOLAN, FLORENCE POLICE DEPARTMENT: The track was probably a thousand, 1,500 yards to the rear of the residence. Basically, just a street over.
L. HALL: That was pretty scary, me not knowing that he was that close to me.
GREGORY: Even with the arrests, the Halls say they don't feel safe and plan to sell their home.
M. HALL: It's a bad memory. I just want to put it behind us.
L. HALL: I just want to move and get out of here so he can't find me.
GREGORY: Morgan's out on bond. He can't return to independence until he goes on trial. Donna Gregory, NBC News, Chicago.
OLBERMANN: A terrifying ordeal for a convenience store clerk in Bakersfield, California, caught by that store's security camera.
A warning here. The images are extremely violent and, unlike the typical surveillance video, you can hear last night's crime taking place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD BATCH, CLERK: I won't give you nothing. I won't give you nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me everything. Give me everything. Give me it. Give me it. Give me everything right now. Everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Fifty-three-year-old Donald Batch, the clerk, last listed, extraordinarily enough, in stable condition. Authorities still looking for that gunman, who fled the store after the shooting. He stole nothing. Police believe that the suspect, whose speech seemed to be impaired, may have worn braces or even had his jaw wired.
A robbery of vastly different circumstances with the same end result, nothing, caught by the cameras in a gas station in Encinitas, California. The bandit seen here is carrying a blow torch, a blow torch for to rob a convenient store.
Ah, but the man says, "I'll see your blow torch and raise you a bat and a chair." The creatively nicknamed blow torch bandit in turn, defends himself with the propane end of his apparently useless weapon. The assailant, chased from the store into a waiting Dodge Neon, is still at large. And in a Dodge Neon.
And finally, perhaps they'd like to dust off the corporate video on what constitutes sexual harassment at the old Maryland state house. Or in a pinch, they can just run this.
One of Maryland's most famous politicians, 50 years in offices ranging from mayor of Baltimore to governor of the state, and he doesn't know not to do this, at least while there are cameras rolling.
Twenty-four-year-old aide to the current governor, a woman named Elizabeth Krum, bringing in a cup of tea to 84-year-old state comptroller William Schaefer at a meeting this past Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM SCHAEFER, MARYLAND STATE COMPTROLLER: Walk again.
ELIZABETH KRUM, AIDE TO MARYLAND GOVERNOR: Hmm?
SCHAEFER: Walk again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Cameras catching Mr. Schaefer, telling the young woman to, quote, "walk again" as he then watches her leave the room. The comptroller sent Ms. Krum a letter of apology this afternoon, a spokesman for the governor's office saying the aide considers the matter closed.
More extraordinary, more devastating video images, still. Officials warning this could a humanitarian disaster. A mudslide, burying an entire village in the Philippines. As many as 1,800 feared dead.
And in celebrity news. They're selling Michael Jackson's precious glove on eBay, but it's as much about the seller. Here's a hint. He's an ex-Mr. Minnelli.
Those stories ahead. Now here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: NASCAR is in love with merchandizing. Its latest fling is with Harlequin Books, the world's leading publisher of romance fiction.
The first offspring of this new union is the racetrack romance called "In the Groove." In it, NASCAR superstar Lance Cooper meets kindergarten teacher, Sarah Tingle. It's a real page turner. Listen to this.
"Whenever Lance is near Sarah, he feels he's been shocked by a loose spark plug wire and Sarah gets hot as race car fuel."
The Stanford tree has been given the ax. Not for a lack of spirit but for something of a tree lighting ceremony, last week before this Stanford-Cal game. Because police say by halftime, the tree was lit.
ERIN LASHNITS, FORMER STANFORD MASCOT: They asked me if I'd been drinking and I said (sigh).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some new ideas for improving our health care.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, thank you Mark.
Thank Mike Leavitt. Where are you Michael? Surely he's here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's in Florida.
BUSH: Oh. He's in Florida, OK. Surfing. Actually, I saw him this morning. Don't make excuses for him. He's doing a heck of a job. He really is, and I hope you enjoy working for him.
I am really pleased that...
OLBERMANN: An unbelievable mudslide leaves 200 people dead officially. But officials in the Philippines think that death toll could be nearly nine times that much. That's next. This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Two weeks of constant downpours. Rain totals of 27 inches in 14 days. A succession of flash floods throughout the eastern region of the Philippines. And today, the almost inevitable consequence.
Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, at sunset, the official death toll from an extraordinary mudslide there stood at only 23. But the Red Cross estimating the true count is at least 10 times that. And another 1,800 are missing and presumed dead.
As our correspondent, Mark Potter, reports in our No. 2 story, a small farming community, once home to 2,500 people, is now, simply, horrifyingly gone.
MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What once was a farming village of some 1,800 people is now buried under a sea of mud and debris, in some places, 30 feet deep.
Around mid morning, soaked by weeks of heavy rains, the mountainside above Guinsaugon collapsed, covering nearly 400 homes and an elementary school with more than 250 students and teachers inside. This child was one of the lucky few, found alive, covered in mud.
This eyewitness said the mudslide began with the sound of an explosion before rocks and boulders cascaded downhill.
Rescue efforts were hampered by blocked roads, washed out bridges, more rain and treacherous ground. Braving fears of further landslides, workers continued to search and located several survivors.
In one case, rescuers carried a woman to safety in the front of a bulldozer. She, too, was covered head to toe in mud, unable to open her eyes and was badly shaken.
More than 1,500 people are still missing. The governor of Southern Leyte Province was stunned to find most of the village and its residents gone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know how many of them are still alive.
I pray to God that some of them are still alive.
POTTER: The Philippine military and Red Cross converged on the disaster scene. And the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo promised even more aid.
GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO, PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES: Help is on the way. They will come from land, sea and air.
Potter: A sad irony is THAT most of the villagers had earlier evacuated the area, fearing the possibility of landslides. But when the weather began to clear, they returned to face a horrible disaster.
Mark Potter, NBC News, Beijing.
OLBERMANN: No serious, no easy segue into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." But if you have a spare quarter of a million, you can now join into that age-old joke that they used to make about bad baseball fielders. What do you and Michael Jackson have in common? You both wear a glove on one hand for no reason.
Jackson's famous diamond-studded white glove worn by the Prince of Pop during the 1990s can now be yours for the staggering price of $250,000. And he's not the only famous person connected to this clothing. It used to belong to the ex-Mr.Liza Minnelli, producer David Gest.
Yes, the guy who says Liza with a "Z" used to beat him up loopy with a punch to the head.
He had it in his private collection. Don't ask how he got it. But it is now in the hands, or hand, of a Paris-based seller who put it up on eBay.
If you are interested in owning the glove, it does come with one caveat for potential buyers. Quote, "the palm side is visually stained through use." Oh, thanks for sharing that.
I'm not sure if Lisa Marie Presley had anything to do with that. I doubt it. I doubt she'll be bidding on the item as a keepsake of their marriage. Michael is just so three husbands ago.
A publicist for the rock singer daughter of the late Elvis Presley announces she has been married, for a fourth time, to a guitarist and producer named Michael Lockwood.
So if you're scoring at home, and why not? It is Friday. That would officially make her Lisa Marie Presley Jackson Cage Keough Lockwood.
Powerball jackpot, now up to a whopping $365 million, and if history is any judge, you should be on your knees right now, praying that you do not have the latest winning numbers. That's ahead.
But first, time for Countdown's three nominees for worst person in the world.
The bronze, Jennifer Silva, a teacher in Katy, Texas. She told her class if they didn't settle down, she'd tape their mouths down with Scotch tape. They didn't. She did. She's been suspended.
Runner up tonight. Environmental protesters in Turin, Italy. To try to combat global warming, they want less fuel used on the Olympic torch.
All right. We know you're right, just give it a rest until next week.
But tonight's winner, former baseball star, Albert Bell. The global positioning satellite device on the car of his ex-girlfriend fell off last month. This was a double shock to her, insomuch as she'd never put a GPS on her car.
But this did explain why the former slugger kept showing up at the store that she was shopping at or at the gym or on her dates with other guys.
Bell is charged with stalking, out on bail of $108,000. He also gets bonus points tonight for having told an Associated Press writer, quote, "You didn't write a story about my Hall of Fame induction. You guys never report the good stuff that I do."
Albert, I hate to break it to you, you did not get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. You only got 40 votes.
Albert Bell, today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Three hundred and sixty-five million dollars, the largest Lotto jackpot in U.S. history. One in 146.1 million. The odds of winning that jackpot on Saturday? I'm guess nobody listened after that term 365 million was used.
But let's just say you do beat those odds, lightning strikes twice kind of fashion. You hold a big news conference. You're smiling. You're clutching your giant check. Well, you might as well just put your head between your knees and kiss your butt goodbye, because as Countdown's senior millionaire correspondent, Monica Novotny, reports in tonight's No. 1 story, what good does it profit a man to win the lottery and lose his butt?
Good evening, Monica.
MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening.
By now, Jack Whittaker's name probably sounds familiar. The West Virginia contractor won a $315 million jackpot on Christmas day back in 2002. Now his family is on the surprisingly long list of players who watched the dream of easy money during into a nightmare.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nation's largest Powerball winner, I'm happy to present to you, from Putnam County, Mr. Andrew Jack Whittaker, right here.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): When Lady Luck smiles, it feels like a miracle. But for too many with the golden ticket, winning big is a blessing, and then a curse.
SUSAN BRADLEY, FINANCIAL PLANNER: There's a great American myth that money is good and more is better. The truth is that a windfall, sudden money from any type of event actually can cause as many problems as it can solve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People look at you and expect you to live out their fantasies and somehow, if you don't do it, they're disappointed in you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I gave a lot of it away. That's what my problem was. Then I had to borrow to pay my taxes.
NOVOTNY: Financial planner Susan Bradley works with lottery winners.
BRADLEY: A big lottery win usually starts off with a lot of extreme behavior.
NOVOTNY: And often ends that way. Since Jack Whittaker's $113 million payout in 2002, he's been charged with assault and drunken driving. He lost his marriage. Even his 17-year-old granddaughter, Brandi, who disappeared last year, was later found dead.
In 1998, Phyllis Klingbeil (ph) sued her own son, Michael, claiming he failed to share the $2 million jackpot he won.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her son called her and told her, "Mom, we won."
NOVOTNY: She eventually settled out of court for about 20 percent of the prize money.
Lewis Snipes picked the winning numbers for his wife in 1988. They won $31.5 million, but she and her sisters wanted the payout.
LEWIS SNIPES, LOTTERY WINNER: I'm the one that won the lottery. I'm working with a scalding hot welder every day, trying to get by. I do not have $31 million. That makes me feel terribly cheated.
NOVOTNY: After four years of litigation, the former family split the winnings and split for good.
Paul McNabb, Maryland's first lottery millionaire, endured kidnap threats to his children, repeated break-ins and ended up driving a cab in Los Vegas.
PAUL MCNABB, LOTTERY WINNER: Viva Las Vegas, as Elvis would say.
There she blows, baby.
NOVOTNY: And so if the winds of good fortune blow your way, experts say take some time to focus on the things money can't buy.
BRADLEY: What they should be thinking about is who are they now because of this? What has changed in their lives and what kind of new decisions do they have to look at?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you think your life is going to change?
WHITTAKER: It's not. If I can help it, it's not going to change.
I'm content with my life.
NOVOTNY: Now, the cash option for Saturday's drawing will be an estimated $177.3 million. And if you're still determined to win, keep this in mind: about 70 percent of purchases are computer picks and about 70 percent of winners are computer picks. So you may want to leave your lucky numbers at home.
OLBERMANN: So when you won all that money, how did it change your life?
NOVOTNY: Yes, right!
OLBERMANN: Why don't they just disappear with the money or change their names and go to Tahiti?
NOVOTNY: You would think. I mean, some people try to, and some people sort of do that successfully. But most laws - most states actually have laws...
OLBERMANN: I see.
NOVOTNY:... that anyone who asks actually can get the name and the city or town where the winner resides. So it is public information.
OLBERMANN: Last Powerball record was last September. What happened to those folks? Do we know?
NOVOTNY: They're doing really well because they - after they did their press conference, they essentially disappeared. They did play again this Wednesday. They did not win. They said they're probably going to play for - for tomorrow's drawing, but they said they'll be awfully embarrassed if they win begin.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Oh, we're so sorry to be getting this gigantic check again, yes. We're just going to give the money to charity. Our own family fund.
OLBERMANN: Monica Novotny, Countdown's senior "money does not buy happiness" correspondent. Great thanks.
That's Countdown for this, the 1,023rd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. A reminder to join us again at midnight Eastern, 11 p.m. Central, 9 Pacific for the late edition of Countdown. Until then a special edition of "Lockup: Inside New Mexico" next.
I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END