'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 30
Guests: Barney Frank, Ken Bazinet, Jay Holcomb
BRIAN UNGER, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The incident at Haditha. We'll show you a step-by-step account of the events leading up to and during the alleged murder of Iraqi civilians. What does this mean for those hearts and minds in Iraq and beyond? We'll talk to the brother of the murdered Marine whose death allegedly sparked the Haditha killings.
The Jefferson raid. A tidal wave of bipartisan support to prevent the FBI from searching Capitol Hill offices. Just about everyone's on board this time, except Barney Frank. And he joins us.
The war of the world. What do Nazis have to do with Al Gore or global warming? What's up with attack ads against a guy that's not running for anything?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: Inside the swift-boating of Al Gore.
The big dig. Stunning developments from that Michigan horse farm.
Could the search for Hoffa be offa?
And waiter, there's an E.T. in my duck. That's right, a duck ate an alien, and we've got the X-rays to prove it.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
And good evening. I'm Brian Unger, filling in for Keith Olbermann.
Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Greek dramatist Aeschylus summed up the inherent problem with investigating anything that happens on the battlefield. In war, truth is the first casualty.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, trying to find out the truth about allegations of atrocity in Iraq. Twenty-four civilians, including women and children, reportedly shot dead by Marines after the death of one of their own.
Our correspondent Richard Engel looks at the attempt to piece together exactly what happened in Haditha on November 19, 2005. Richard?
RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: Brian, Iraqi witnesses, doctors, and a local human rights group all tell NBC News a consistent story about what happened in Haditha. But it is not one we have been able to independently verify.
(voice-over): This crater is all that's left of a roadside bomb attack last November, but controversy remains over the chain of events it triggered.
Seven-fifteen a.m., a convoy from the 1st Marine Division is attacked by a roadside bomb, a Humvee destroyed, 20-year-old Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas is killed. Terrazas was from a family of Marines and always wanted to enlist.
JORGE TERRAZAS, GRANDFATHER: We were very proud of him, absolutely.
He was 18 when he joined the Marines.
ENGEL: Seven twenty-five, witnesses say Marines search the area for the bomber. They storm a house directly across from the attack, shooting as they approach.
This video, shot by a local journalism student, purports to show the bloody aftermath of what happened inside to 76-year-old Abdul Hamid, blind and in a wheelchair, his 66-year-old wife, and nine of their sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren.
'Local coroner's reports obtained by NBC News say Abdul Hamid was shot in the stomach and head. The reports say his wife and five other relatives were also killed, all by multiple gunshot wounds. Four inside the house survive, including 10-year-old Iman.
IMAN (through interpreter): The Americans came into the room where my father was praying and shot him. They went to my grandmother and killed her too.
ENGEL: During the raid, Abdul Hamid's house caught fire. Witnesses say Marines then move next door to the house of Younis Hamid (ph). Nine people are inside, eight are killed, five of them children. Twelve-year-old Safa (ph) says she survived hiding under the bed.
SAFA (through interpreter): They came in and shot all of us. I pretended I was dead.
ENGEL: Witnesses say Marines then move to a third location, a taxi parked by the side of the road. In it, residents say, are four university students and a driver. A witness watching from a nearby rooftop says Marines took the five men out of the car and executed them. "The driver screamed in English," he said, "'Please, please, please,' but they shot him in the body."
Other witnesses say two hours pass as more Marines and helicopters arrive to lock down the neighborhood. Around 10:30, Marines then storm the house of Eid Ahmed (ph). Here, they allegedly separate his four sons from the women and children before killing the men.
Nine-year-old Khalid (ph) is in the house. "This is my father," he screamed. "God will take my revenge."
In El Paso, the Terrazas family had made a memorial to Miguel, but they told us today their grandson cannot rest in peace with so many unanswered questions remaining about the hours after his death.
(on camera): NBC News asked the U.S. military to comment on this report, but so far, American military officials here in Baghdad would only say they do take the Haditha allegations seriously, and cannot comment on ongoing investigations, Brian.
UNGER: Richard Engel in Baghdad. Thank you very much.
For more context, we spoke to Martin Terrazas, who lives in El Paso. It was his brother, Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas, who was killed by an IED on that road in Haditha that apparently sparked the alleged killings of civilians in that town last November.
I asked Martin about what his brother had told him about the insurgency in Iraq, and how an haunting reminder of the Viet Cong in Vietnam, the enemy in Iraq is often indistinguishable from civilians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN TERRAZAS, BROTHER KILLED IN HADITHA: They're all dressed the same, they all dress alike, they all dress the same. And you can't tell if it's woman or a man. That's what he would tell me.
He got an award from the Marines, you know, because he spotted an insurgent far away, and a little child was next to that insurgent hiding the weapon, trying to hide the weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: Martin Terrazas, whose brother's death may have sparked the Haditha killings, had this to say about murder charges which may be levied against Marines in his brother's unit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRAZAS: I hope all those charges drop, and these Marines, they go over there and do their job, you know, protecting our country, and they come back, and now we want to face those kind of charges? I mean, I don't get it. I believe the Marine Corps would, you know, investigate and hopefully do the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas is now inextricably linked with what happened in Haditha. I asked his brother Martin how he'd like to see his brother remembered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRAZAS: As a hero, Marine, and he's a hero. That's how I would describe my brother or be remembered as.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNGER: While the military conducts its own inquiry, Congress and the White House are also promising full investigations and disclosure into exactly what happened in Haditha, undoubtedly with the political fallout from the Abu Ghraib scandal, not far from their minds.
Norah O'Donnell reports.
NORAH O'DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Marines accused of going on a shooting spree, killing about two dozen Iraqi civilians, the White House today promised full disclosure.
TONY SNOW, WHITE House PRESS SECRETARY: When this comes out, all the details will be made available to the public.
O'DONNELL: With America struggling to hold on to public support for the war, the news of Marines killing civilians could be devastating.
GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The initial indications are that this is not something that we're going to be proud of, and it could be damaging, for sure.
O'DONNELL: Congressman John Murtha, a former Marine, has said the scandal is worse than Abu Ghraib.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), ILLINOIS: Who covered this up? Who is trying to cover this thing up? When something like this happens, you have to get it out in the open. You have to take action.
O'DONNELL: Republican Senator John Warner said there will be hearings on Capitol Hill.
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: There's a direct conflict between the findings of the investigation team, that is, the on-scene investigation team, and what was reported by the Iraqi citizens themselves.
O'DONNELL (on camera): Investigators are focused on about a dozen enlisted Marines, and charges could be brought soon in what may be the ugliest incident of the Iraq war.
(voice-over): In fact, some are now calling Haditha Iraq's My Lai massacre, the 1968 mass murder during the Vietnam War, when an Army platoon led by Lieutenant William Calley killed some 500 Vietnamese civilians.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Combat is brutal. We've always known we had 1, 2, 3, 5 percent of our troops that could snap under pressure.
O'DONNELL: Raising the possibility that the stress of fighting a violent and unpopular war has hurt not only Iraqis, but the greater cause America is fighting for.
For Countdown, I'm Norah O'Donnell in Washington.
UNGER: It's not just civilians and soldiers on the front lines. This has been one of the most deadly conflicts for journalists since World War II, more than 70 killed. The latest casualties, a CBS news team, two journalist killed, a third in critical condition.
As our correspondent Jim Maceda reports from Baghdad, it's another horrifying reminder of the singular danger of covering this war in Iraq.
JIM MACEDA, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Transferred today to the U.S. military's largest hospital abroad, CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier remained in stable but critical condition, according to U.S. doctors in Landstuhl, Germany.
COL. BRYAN GAMBLE, LANDSTUHL HOSPITAL COMMANDER: Right now, she's doing as well as can be expected.
MACEDA: But Dozier's camera crew, Britain's Paul Douglas and Jim Brolan, were killed by the same roadside bomb while embedded with the U.S. Army in Baghdad. And it underscores yet again the danger journalists face here on a daily basis, even the most seasoned and cautious, like Dozier.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she was wearing all her gear, and she was doing what she always does.
MACEDA: According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 71 journalists have died covering the war in Iraq, surpassing the number killed in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, three quarters of them Iraqis, who often can't afford expensive, around-the-clock protection.
LINDA MASON, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CBS NEWS: Journalists are getting out and trying to report as much as they can, but it's with a lot of constraints.
MACEDA: In the early days, we moved freely and usually away from the U.S. military who were the target. Over time, reporters came under attack by suicide bombers or kidnappers, and the military embed became the safer option.
But as NBC's Richard Engel found out during an ambush in Mosul, or when a roadside bomb just missed NBC News reporter Mike Boettcher's Humvee on patrol south of Baghdad, there are no safe ways to cover Iraq.
MIKE BOETTCHER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: They were watching us the whole time. And when we were standing in the right place, they hit the button.
MACEDA: Even the standuppers, those pieces to camera where you see us talking to you, have become exercises in survival.
(on camera): Going out beyond the walls of your compound exposes you to attack, but just being outdoors is dangerous. There could be snipers, or mortar rounds, or rockets. So we wear our body armor to protect us even on our compound.
(voice-over): The danger is constant, but worse for Iraqis without armor or security consultants. That's the story Dozier, Douglas, and Brolan risked all to bring home every day.
Jim Maceda, NBC News, Baghdad.
UNGER: And Republicans embrace a Democrat on Capitol Hill. The outrage over the FBI raid. We'll talk to Congressman Barney Frank, who says, Why shouldn't members of Congress be treated like any other American citizen?
And Al Gore wants to do something admirable, like save the planet. And what do critics call him? Hitler. The swift-boating of Al Gore, already in full swing.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
UNGER: Who knew that congressional hearings could sound like a convention seminar for law-and-order junkies? At Tuesday morning's session, that we had been thinking of merely as the Jefferson raid hearings, came, in fact, with the dramatic billing, "Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?"
Our fourth story on the Countdown, the William Jefferson corruption investigation just keeps getting more dramatic. What began with the discovery that the Louisiana Democrat kept a wad of $90,000 stashed in his home freezer has also brought us a rare show of bipartisanship from lawmakers claiming to be outraged that the FBI deigned to search a congressman's office, for the first time in the history of the Republic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Ten days after the fact, we have yet to be told why the pending subpoena against a member could not have been enforced consistent with the law.
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think we want to make sure that when the next congressman is investigated for illegal activity, that the procedure done by the Justice Department is right.
Help the Justice Department get it right next time, because they didn't get it right this time.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
UNGER: Now, one Democratic congressman, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, breaking ranks to defend the FBI's search of Congressman Jefferson's office.
Congressman Frank, thank you so much for joining us.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Glad to be here.
UNGER: Thank you for your time.
Any irony here to the fact that many Republicans in the House seem to be just fine with the warrantless wiretapping of average citizens, and yet when it comes to the warranted search of a congressman's office, not so much?
FRANK: Oh, I would say there is more irony here than in the collected works of George Bernard Shaw.
Here you have a Republican Congress which has been enthusiastic about the disregard of any kind of reasonable strength on law enforcement for almost everybody in the country, and now they overreact when it's a member of Congress.
To put it very tersely, they have generally, the Republicans in particular, approved of warrantless intrusions into the privacy of average citizens. That is, they've said it's OK to go in and get into what people read in the libraries or what they've said on the phone without a warrant.
Here, a warrant issued. So we ought to be very clear, this is not a unilateral executive decision to do it. A judge issued a warrant. And I must say, having seen the evidence, I don't know what the ultimate answer is, guilt or innocence, and that's to be decided later, if, in fact, there's a trial. And there hasn't even been an indictment.
But it does seem to me that based on what we saw, there was sufficient basis for a warrant. This was not an imprudently granted warrant. And the notion that we would object when a search is conducted of one of our officers pursuant to a warrant, when people don't conduct when there are searches without warrants of average citizens, yes, that's pretty ironic.
UNGER: It should be noted here that for nine months, Jefferson did not respond to a subpoena for the documents. Now, if some of your colleagues clearly do not like the FBI getting a warrant to search the office of a member being investigated for illegal activity, what are they suggesting be done instead?
FRANK: Well, you'll have to ask them. I sometimes have a hard time explaining what I'm doing. I never am able to explain what other people are doing.
UNGER: Do you think that some of your colleagues might actually feel that legal protections, or their legal protections are superior to those of the average citizen or is it just that the (INAUDIBLE)...
FRANK: Apparently, and I'm disappointed by that. Look, there is a phrase in the Constitution that says for what we say in speech or debate, we shouldn't be made to answer elsewhere. That frankly comes from really Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. They interfered with parliament when it was first starting.
I understand that. What that means is, I can get up on the floor of the House, actually, under the rules of the House, I can get up on the floor of the House and say bad things about anybody in America, even if they're not true, and not be held accountable. But I can't even tell the truth about one of my colleagues.
But, yes, I do think it's right that we shouldn't be subjected to libel laws and slander laws. There ought to be free debate. But to extend that, that's what they're saying, that the phrase that says you shouldn't have to answer anywhere else, i.e., in court, for anything you say in a speech or debate, that somehow gives us special legal protections for searching our offices doesn't make any sense to me. It's the speech and debate clause. And I got to tell you, my office has never made a speech.
UNGER: The - Congressman, the drama's been ratcheted up a bit too. Why do you think the president has stepped into this mess, putting himself at direct odds with his own attorney general?
FRANK: Of course, he's in serious difficulty with his congressional party. He has had a very good five years from the Republican Congress, indeed, and this is part of the irony of what we were talking about. The Republicans in Congress during the past five years, because of their ideological affinity and their partisanship, have done virtually no oversight. And that's really unprecedented in America, even in the past.
Republicans looked at Republican presidents. Democratic Congress looked at Democratic presidents. This group has done no oversight. And that seemed to work for them politically. Recently, they've gotten into political trouble. And there are Republicans angry at the president over immigration, they're angry over some other issues.
And I think the president feared that he was about to lose control, or even a significant amount of influence with the Republican Party in Congress. So the Republican leadership basically said to him, If you want to continue to have our support on other issues, you better (INAUDIBLE), particularly the case where the House got so involved.
Remember, the president's got a serious problem trying to deal with immigration. An immigration bill went through the Senate, in which a majority of the Republican senators voted no. George Bush feels he has to do something concrete about immigration. As of now, he's got a Republican Party in the House that's overwhelmingly against what he says he wants to do.
I think, frankly, he was afraid of further exacerbating that, and looking impotent for a couple years. So he threw the FBI over the side.
UNGER: Well, shat is going to happen in 45 days' time? There is a freeze on this evidence at the moment. But what is going to happen? Will all be forgiven or forgotten? Or where does this pick up (INAUDIBLE)...
FRANK: I would hope not. Now, let me say, look, there are things in my office that constituents have written that ought to be kept private, and it is certainly true that that's the case. But, you know, that's true against of every citizen. If you are a citizen, and a warrant is issued by a judge, as I said, in this case, the warrant seemed to me to be prudently issued, and the law enforcement people search your papers, yes, there are things that they're going to see that shouldn't be revealed, and if they ever reveal any of them, they should be punished.
So the normal rules should apply. But we shouldn't have any special rules. I would hope, at the end of the 45 days, the president would decide to treat any member of Congress like any other citizen in this regard.
UNGER: Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, thank you so much for sharing your time with us.
A raid of a much different variety when the worlds of bees and humans collide. It can't be a pretty beginning to Oddball.
And the end of the search for Jimmy Hoffa. The digging may be over, but the feds tell the Mob they're not off the hook.
Details ahead on Countdown.
UNGER: I'm Brian Unger, sitting in for Keith Olbermann.
And once again, we pause our Countdown for the day's real news for a brief segment of stupid news, stupid video, and stupid criminals.
Let's play Oddball.
We begin in Oklahoma City for another episode of Help, there's a crapload of bees on my house. Homeowner Joe Bush says he knew he shouldn't have painted the house with sugar water. But who could have expected this? The swarm moved in sometime last week, and doesn't appear to be ready to leave just yet. And Joe Bush finds himself kicked out by a woman yet again.
JOE BUSH: Somewhere in my house, there's a queen bee, and there's many others trying to cluster around her. So that's kind of unsettling for me.
UNGER: And to Arlington, Texas, now, for some good old-fashioned convenience store security video. Now, the guy in the hat there is demanding money from the register, but little does he know the man behind the counter is former minor league slugging champ Merrill Hess (ph). OK, not really, but you get the picture. One swing, and that guy is out of here. Thank you. Come again.
The robber escaped and is still on the loose. Police are looking for a man average height, average build, favoring his right arm, and kind of whimpering a lot.
And finally, to Berlin, where Spaniard Momen Compallo (ph) has been named Super Memory Dude of all time, or something like that. Compallo won the big competition by memorizing a 16-digit number in less than half a second Monday. It's a new world record to add to his collection, which includes memorizing a string of more than 23,000 words, and some other things I can't quite recall.
Ah, but can this man match wits with Al Gore as the former VP relaunches his campaign to save the world from global warming? His critics decide to ignore the science and attack Al Gore.
And what's up with this picture? Now, this, there is real scientific debate over it. No manufactured controversy. This is an alien in a duck's stomach.
Those stories ahead.
But first, here are our Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Sergeant Howard Sawyers of the Elkhorn, Wisconsin, sheriff's department. He's been named the world champion of doughnut-eating cops after a hard-fought competition in Illinois. Sawyers ate 13 doughnuts in three minutes to win the prize, a brand-new gun and a street survival training seminars. Survival tip number one, stop eating so many doughnuts.
Number two, Oleg Blokhin, coach of the Ukrainian national soccer team, he's offered an incentive for his players to win at the upcoming World Cup tournament. Reach the semifinals, and they can have one night with their wives or girlfriends. Ah, but if they lose, probably some mild punishment, like, you'll never see your families again.
And number one, the city of Ottawa, Canada, officials are apologizing over their new don't smoke pot and drive campaign, which includes billboards reading, "Don't drive high," in five languages. The problem is, the Arabic version is written backwards and translates to something completely different. Unless you're already high, in which case it makes perfect sense, or no sense.
UNGER: Third Reich analogies are the nuclear bombs of oratory, rhetorical, or literary devices. They obliterate any logic or reason within miles and the hurler of the Hitler bomb almost always looks worse than the intended recipient of the blast. "Seinfeld's" soup Nazi gets the only waver. The latest target of the Hitler comparison, Al Gore and his global warming film. And anyone who has a beef with it should probably base their criticism on the science and not the mindset of old Adolf. In our third story on the Countdown the swift boating of Al Gore. The former vice president's wakeup call on climate change, leading to some unfortunate analogies and a debate that seems lacking in substance. The documentary itself, "An Inconvenient Truth" making an impressive debut at the box office raking in an average of just over $70,000 per screening over the holiday weekend. The No. 1 film "X-Men III" averaging less than half of that. As a result the counter attacks beginning in earnest. Meteorologist Bill Gray making little mention of the weather in his rebuttal. Quote, "Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews." Which doesn't even make sense.
Then there's the pundit who compared the Gore movie to Joseph Goebbels films about Nazi, Germany. The FOX News analyst who said that global warming was bogus and dreamed up by environmentalists to stop economic development. And in true swift boat fashion, the campaign-style attacked ads produced by a conservative think tank that is funded largely by the energy industry.
ANNOUNCER: There's something in these pictures you can't see. It's essential to life. You breathe it out, plants breathe it in. It comes from animal life, the oceans, the earth and the fuels we find in it. It's called carbon dioxide, CO2, the fuels that produce it have freed us from the world of back-breaking labor, lighting up our lives, allowing us to create and move the things we need, the people we love. Now some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant. Imagine if they succeed. What would our lives be like then? Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.
UNGER: Time now to suspend this lesson on photosynthesis for a closer look at the politics involved here with the White House correspondent for the "new York Daily News" Ken Bazinet.
Thank you for joining us.
KEN BAZINET, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Hi Brian. Good evening.
UNGER: For five years now, Al Gore has been, you know, little more than a political punch line at times. Why go to all this trouble of attacking him now? I mean, are conservatives legitimately scared of a Gore comeback here?
BAZINET: I don't necessarily think they are scared of a Gore comeback, but I think it's the message. It's sort of a wine whose time has come, I think. In 2000, when Al Gore was talking about climate change and global warming, I don't think people by and by could state their position, articulate about how they felt about it or what it was. I think now in 2006 we're at a place were people actually do have an opinion of this. They go on the internet and want to try and find out what does climate change have to do with hurricane season, for instance. What exactly are greenhouse gases? I think the timing of this really is what's essential. I don't think it's so much the messenger as it is the message.
UNGER: It feel, though, that this is a personal attack. The politics of global warming has, of course, you know, the science has long been in dispute. Is this more personal?
BAZINET: Well, I don't think that Al Gore has sort of manufactured himself to become a candidate overnight, but I do think he can lay claim to this issue. But again, I want to get back to my - to really my first answer, they're attacking Al Gore because he's the perfect messenger. He can articulate this. I spoke with someone who attended the screening of his film, and one point that she made was that he really does a good job of simplifying things that are very complicated to, I think, the untrained mind. I think that's very dangerous. If you can say in a simple declarative sentence what the problem is, back it up with science, I think that really you have a hot potato and I think that the right is very concerned about that, potentially those folks who are on the payroll of big oil at this point, I believe.
UNGER: The swift boating of John Kerry help secured four more years of George W. Bush. Anything that it would suggest that it won't work this time?
BAZINET: Well, first of all, what ballot is he on? And you know, second of all, I think that there is probably more science to back up Al Gore's case at this point. I'm not sure that this will work to destroy Al Gore as much as it's going to cause an awful lot of people who, you know, quite frankly he wasn't on their radar screens, but now will be. Any time you hammer someone, I mean, people want to know why. So, I think it's a risk move and I think that's why you don't necessarily see so-called mainstream republicans jumping in on this, but rather sort of the fractured right at this point.
UNGER: Big box office does not mean a film like this will have any real lasting impact at the ballot box, "Fahrenheit 9/11" being a recent example of that. Is it too soon to be hailing the success of "An Inconvenient Truth?"
BAZINET: I think - I think it's not necessarily too soon to hail it, but I think that you can measure it, both dollars and cents wise, people, obviously, showing up at the theaters. But also, let's see whether or not he's able to, you know, get people talking. If he's able to galvanize, for instance, part of the true left, I mean, that can work to the advantage, obviously, of those democrats, those progressives who are on the ballot this fall. So I think, yes, the jury's out, but we're already talking about this.
UNGER: Ken Bazinet, thank you very much for joining us.
BAZINET: My pleasure.
UNGER: There is so much to fear in the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence, if it is correct and global warming goes unchecked, fiercer hurricanes, flood and droughts, among them, but until then, a more immediate sign that global warming may be taking its toll and it may make you itch. Our correspondent is Kevin Corke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm itchy and I want to go home!
KEVIN CORKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Painful, itchy, impossible to scratch.
One touch of poison ivy's dreaded leaves can leave you with a bad case of the summertime blues. And a new study suggests that poison ivy is a growing problem, literally. Researchers theorize that carbon dioxide from cars, clear cutting, even cattle, is leading to a greenhouse effect with poison plants reaping bigger harvests, producing three times the chemical that makes your skin itch.
FRANCIS GOUIN, HORTICULTURIST: Due to the increase in carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere, many plants are going to increase in growth, not only poison ivy.
CORKE (on camera): But more than 350 reported cases every year, poison ivy is one of the most widely reported ailments to poison control centers throughout the country. And experts say if this recent study is accurate, that number could rise significantly in the years to come.
(voice-over): Some tips for avoiding poison ivy? Learn to spot it. As the scouts say, "leaves of three let it be." Look for three pointed and glossy leaflets. Wear sleeves to cut down on possible exposure. Use a protective cream like Ivy Block or Hydropill. Wash your hands and clothes, especially if you've been walking trails. And don't forget to hose down the dog. The oil from the plant can get on your pooch's fur and then right back to you. In the meantime, getting back to nature now could come at an increasingly unpleasant price.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put it right on the red part.
Kevin Corke, NBC News, Washington.
UNGER: The mysteries of Jimmy Hoffa still hidden at Hidden Dreams Farms. The dreams of investigators in solving the case? Shattered.
And Pitt and Jolie pay the tab for having Namibia keep a secret. It's not as expensive as you would think. Details head but first time for Countdown's "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.
ANDREW MORBITZER, CAUGHT BARRY'S BALL: I heard the roar and I figured it's to be the homerun, but it hadn't connected yet that it was Barry Bonds and I looked up and I saw these hands reaching in the air and I just saw the ball kind of come through the hands and I put my right hand up and I just - it just like came into my hand.
MEGAN MORBITZER, WIFE OF BARRY'S BALL CATCHER: I was like wish my husband was here. I can't believe he's down getting me peanuts and a beer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready, begin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watch out. Class is in session at the Family Martial Art Center in Aurora. But getting a black belt requires more than just perfect punches and kicks. Students must also learn to get a kick out of kindness.
Picked up the mail, said please and thank you, forgave my dog for eating my cookies.
CRAIG CANNON, DENTAL BRIDGE BROKE ON TV: I just hope a tour will help them change the face of the fab - farmer's market. Excuse me, Donna, go ahead. Donna, this is the funniest thing, I'm going to have to duck out of here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
CANNON: I have a bridge that has fallen out, so Dr. Stringfellow, get ready.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, call the dentists.
CANNON: Goodbye folks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Goodnight Craig thanks for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How's that for entertainment, folks?
UNGER: It's mystery night on Countdown. The Hoffa case remains in the unsolved file and the search for life in outer space. Did an earthling duckling find it then eat it? The x-ray raising eyebrows around the world and cash on e-Bay. That's next, this is Countdown.
UNGER: Well, the search for the missing teamster's leader is over. An enduring American mystery is preserved until someone gets an itchy digging finger again. The exhaustive and pricey two-week dig that involved 30 FBI special agents and ultimately demolition of a barn that was in the way of unearthing Jimmy Hoffa has sparked criticism of how taxpayer money is being spent in searching for a man who disappeared more than three decades ago. Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, Jimmy Hoffa is still missing and the FBI is not saying anything about the cost of the futile excavation project. But the project won't end until they pay for a new barn. When we say they, we mean you, your tax dollars. David Dietz (ph) from our Detroit affiliate WDIV has the story.
DAVID DIETZ, WDIV REPORTER: Day 13, and the search for Jimmy Hoffa is officially over.
JUDY CHILEN, FBI: After a thorough and comprehensive search, no remains of Mr. Hoffa have been located.
DIETZ: At times more than 25 agents scouring an 89-acre Milford township horse farm, locking in on a 4,700 square foot barn, tearing it down and digging beneath it for five days, finding absolutely nothing relating to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. Still, the FBI believes Hoffa was buried here, suggesting he was moved or that they just can't find him.
QUESTION: What makes you believe that?
CHILEN: Just the information that we've corroborated and the information we have gathered that was in the search warrant affidavit.
DIETZ: The tip came from Donavan Wells, a federal prisoner looking for a get out of jail free card. He passed a lie detector test, but if he was telling the truth, it did not lead to a major discovery. Almost two weeks and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance remains a mystery.
CHILEN: We do not put a price tag on kidnappings, murder investigations, as we treat human life on an equal basis. We don't not make judgments on the victims of crimes, we do our job.
UNGER: And on to our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." And a gift marking the arrival of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's baby. The couple has donated $300,000 for maternity equipment in Namibia where their daughter Shiloh was born on Sunday. The money will be used to treat babies at state-run hospitals in two different towns there. The couple said in a statement, quote, "We want to contribute to Namibia and the people who have been so gracious to us at this time." Brangelina also gave $15,000 to a school and community center that they recently visited. The couple plans to remain in Namibia while Miss Jolie recovers. Meanwhile, baby Shiloh has been offered Namibian citizenship.
In the continuing Countdown OB-GUY report, it's a boy this time and finally a Hollywood baby with kind of a relatable name. Actor Mira Sorvino and 14 years her junior husband Chris Backus welcome their bundle of joy and to demonstrate that some in Hollywood resemble human parents in the rest of the county, they named their newborn Johnny - not Moses, Apple, Shiloh, or Suri, just plain old Johnny.
To more celebrity baby news and Halle Berry who is talking adoption.
First there was Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman who adopted two children. Sharon Stone adopted a boy from Texas last year whom she named Rhone, and the world knows about Angelina's Jolie's passion for adoption. In no time Halle Berry is planning on following in the footsteps of her acting colleagues. During an interview with "Extra" the Oscar-winning actress expressed her desire to become a mom, saying, quote, "I will adopt if it doesn't happen for me naturally. I will definitely adopt. And I probably will adopt even if it does happen naturally." The "X-Men" star is dating Canadian model Gabriel Aubry.
Is there intelligent life in outer space? And if so, why was it consumed by a duck who presumably came back to earth after its own space flight? The only evidence is this shaking x-ray. That's ahead on Countdown.
UNGER: It came from outer space. That of course will be the headline when an intergalactic spaceship finally plops itself down in major city in broad daylight for everyone to see and the aliens will do one of those mind melds with us and explain everything and we will know once and for all we are not alone in the universe. But until then mankind has to settle for signs are not so easily verified like decades of UFO sightings, dozens of claims about alien abduction and even those adorable crop circles in fields of unsuspecting farmers. And now in our No. 1 story on the Countdown, the head of an alien in the stomach of a duck.
It was an adult male mallard with a broken wing, the folk folks from the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Cordelia, California tried to save it. They took an x-ray and what they saw was this: In the duck's stomach the image of an alien's head. Not a very happy alien, either. The duck eventually died so an autopsy was performed. But the little ET had mysteriously disappeared. The x-ray is on eBay and bidding brisk. All proceedings will go to the International Bird Rescue Research Center and joining me now the executive director of that organization, Jay Holcomb.
Thank you for your time, sir.
JAY HOLCOMB, INTL. BIRD RESCUE RESEARCH CTR.: Thank you, Brian.
UNGER: So, who was the first to spot this little alien?
HOLCOMB: Oh, one of our employees, Marie Travers, just did a routine x-ray of this bird that was injured. We see them all the time. And then she kind of kept saying there's something looking out at me and there was this little face and we all started laughing about it and everybody came to look and it was undeniable, there was an alien-looking face in it.
UNGER: So there was no - no eureka! I found a alien - or come quick?
UNGER: Can you remember the exact words?
HOLCOMB: Yeah, it was just like, there's an alien in the duck, if you'd like to see it. I think it was something like that. Marie is pretty understated. We thought it was maybe, you know, Brangelina's baby or something like that or somebody did a joke or the duck ate something, but it turns out it just was this image that was very sharp and clear, which is the reason we kind of went on with it.
UNGER: And no one is too jaded to not look and alien in a duck. They go. They go and see.
HOLCOMB: Yeah, for sure.
UNGER: Later you did an autopsy and there was no alien. Where did it go? I mean, that is kind of a mystery, right?
HOLCOMB: Yeah, well the mystery is, you know, we're really practical people so we think, our first thought is well, what's making that image, if there's really not an alien, and we thought maybe it actually swallowed a toy or something like that, so when we looked, there was some food in its stomach and really nothing else. So the veterinarians believe maybe it was food or air or intestines, you know, or you can decide for yourself what you think it was.
UNGER: Now I know you and your employees have all had a little fun with this, too. But honestly, what are the possibilities here? How do you explain the image?
HOLCOMB: Well, explain it, as we think, there was something in the bird's stomach or the way the intestines were line up as the bird was laying on the - they lay on a plate while they're being x-rayed, so we think that's probably the most practical answer.
UNGER: Now, any chance that the alien enter the bird and caused it to crash? Any evidence of, you know, dare I say, foul play?
HOLCOMB: Yeah. You said it.
UNGER: Thank you.
HOLCOMB: There - well, there's of that, but the bird did have injured wings, so you know, something made it crash.
UNGER: What about this? I mean, is it actually a duck from outer space?
UNGER: It is.
HOLCOMB: Yeah, I think it probably is, but I don't think - I don't really have any way to prove it, but you know, we kind of thought, well, the world should see this, there's a face coming out of a duck, what a perfect bird to have that happen, so.
UNGER: And, any connection, you think, to the crop circles discovered in your area over the past three years? You know, do you think this x-ray could be the signal for the rest of them to sort of come on down to earth?
HOLCOMB: Well that was, you know, one of the first things I said. Immediately I told everybody, you know, those crop circles here, and I got ride from a cab driver a few years ago that told me he just took someone into the fields to leave him to have - be picked up a spaceship. And that was right by our center too, so I figure there might be a connection with all of it.
UNGER: Why, then, did you decide to sell the x-ray on e-Bay?
HOLCOMB: Well, you know, when we saw the picture we thought it was funny and we shared it with everybody and I sent it to our public relations director, Karen Benzel (ph), who can make anything work, and she has an incredible mind so I gave it to her and she said, you know, do you remember the piece of toast with cheese on it that has the image of the Madonna that sold for a lot of money on e-Bay? And I went, oh yeah, you're right. She goes, there's people that might like this stuff, it's a pretty clear image, so put it in her hands and she really made it happen. She sent it out to the media and got everybody interested and it just took off more than we ever expected.
UNGER: What are we talking here in terms of cash being raised? How high has the bidding gone so far?
HOLCOMB: Oh, I think we're at - the last I know it was around $9,000 and, but I don't have any idea of where it might go. We were surprised at that.
UNGER: And you will be selling t-shirts, no doubt? Or coffee mugs or something like that?
HOLCOMB: Oh yeah, there's t-shirts already on the web on Cafe Press and you can go on our website and get to it.
UNGER: OK. Well, Jay Holcomb of the International Bird Rescue Research Center, many thanks for helping us out and try to make sense of all of this.
That's it for the Tuesday edition of Countdown. I'm Brian Unger for Keith Olbermann. Keith will make his triumphant return tomorrow. Until then our MSNBC coverage continues with the view from Scarborough Country. Good evening, Joe.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END