Thursday, May 17, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 17

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Todd Bowers, Maria Milito

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

The Democrats take a dramatic step in Gonzales-gate, a no-confidence vote about the attorney general.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It seems the only person who has confidence in the attorney general is President Bush. His credibility is shot.


OLBERMANN: And shot. The original political hit list wasn't merely eight U.S. attorneys, as Gonzales just testified, but reportedly 26.

And now the stench of Gonzales's beside manner while White House counsel wipes off on the president. The Gonzales visit about warrantless wiretapping to the hospitalized John Ashcroft. The president is asked, Did you authorize that? Duck.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to talk about it. It's a very sensitive program.


OLBERMANN: The president also left explaining today, well, not explaining today, why he wants to cut salary raises for the troops.

It sounds like a terror plot. An air traffic control center fills with noxious fumes, apparently carbon monoxide. The men, landing dozens of planes, begin to get faint, and their bosses won't let them get help.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Started to feel light-headed, dizzy, had trouble concentrating.


OLBERMANN: That on which some of us have been concentrating since November 22, 1963, the latest effort, using the latest state-of-the-art forensics, to prove Lee Harvey Oswald was not the lone assassin of President Kennedy.

"American Idol."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the end of the road for you.


OLBERMANN: Ask not for whom the bell tolls, Seacrest, buddy. It may be the end of the road for you too.

The Worst Person in the World. Comedian Rush Limbaugh, nominated after demanding to know why everybody's asking the Republicans why there were no women and minorities among their presidential hopefuls, but nobody's asking the Democrats that. Possibly because the Democrats have women and minority candidates, moron.

All that and more, now on Countdown.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of these people (INAUDIBLE).


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

You heard it here first. Alberto Gonzales could quite possibly be the next president of the World Bank. In this administration, it could happen.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, as one Bush administration scandal reaches a conclusion, another still on its ascent to a boiling point, NBC News learning tonight that an agreement for Paul Wolfowitz to resign from the World Bank has been reached, just as Senate Democrats reached consensus to seek a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

We begin tonight with Mr. Gonzalez, Senate Democrats today citing James Comey's riveting testimony this week as the last straw, but definitely not the only straw, in their decision to seek a no-confidence vote over Mr. Gonzales over accusations that he carried out the president's political agenda at the expense of the Justice Department's independence and, well, you know, the rule of law and stuff.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: We lack confidence in this attorney general. I don't like saying this. I very much regret saying it. I want to say exactly the opposite. But in view of what I know, I can't.

Whether it was the torture memo, whether it's Guantanamo, whether it's Geneva Convention, whether it's U.S. attorneys, whether it's, I don't know, I can't recall, over a department as major as this, I don't think the American people are well served.

I'm hopeful this can be worked out, but there comes a time when you have to say what you think, and this is what I think.


OLBERMANN: The other shoe to drop today, and by now the collection of shoes rivals that of Imelda Marcos, a report in "The Washington Post" stating that Mr. Gonzales's Justice Department considered firing at least 26 U.S. attorneys, far more than the administration had previously acknowledged, or Gonzales testified to.

As for Mr. Comey's magnificent hospital tale, yes, we're back to that again, hope he sold the movie rights for a bundle, at the White House today, President Bush acknowledging nothing when asked if Gonzales and Andy Card were there on his orders.


KELLY O'DONNELL, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sir, did you send your then-chief of staff and White House counsel to the bedside of John Ashcroft while he was ill to get him to approve that program? And do you believe that kind of conduct from White House officials is appropriate?

BUSH: Kelly, there's a lot of speculation about what happened and what didn't happen. I'm not going to talk about it. It's a very sensitive program. I will tell you that one that the program is necessary to protect the American people, and it's still necessary, because there's still an enemy that wants to do us harm.

O'DONNELL: Was it on your orders, sir?

BUSH: As I said, I - this program is a necessary program that was constantly reviewed and constantly briefed to the Congress. It's an important part of protecting the United States.


OLBERMANN: Covering all of today's developments, we're joined now by correspondent David Shuster in Washington.

David, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Besides Senator Feinstein, who's behind that no-confidence vote, and what should we expect out of it? Does it have, for instance, any chance of passing? And even if it doesn't, when would we expect the actual vote?

SHUSTER: Well, that's going to be really interesting, Keith. And, in fact, co-sponsor of the news conference was Chuck Schumer. But we've already been told that Senator Patrick Leahy, who's the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he will support the measure, which means it'll go out of committee. And then it's up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and he has indicated to both Schumer and Feinstein today that he is open to introducing this no-confidence vote on the Senate floor next week.

Now, as a lot of people who cover the Hill know, sometimes it takes 60 votes to actually bring something to the floor to get past the filibuster and the parliamentary maneuvers that somebody could employ to try to block it. So you're looking at all the Democrats likely supporting this. But you've already got a number of Republicans - Coleman, Hagel, Sununu, Coburn, and McCain - who have all called for Alberto Gonzales to resign, then you've got Pat Roberts, Arlen Specter, who've said that he ought to consider it. That's seven right there.

So the Democrats are just a couple of votes short now of getting the 60 that they would need to bring it to a vote. And then, of course, if the vote actually happens, the Democrats are confident that it would pass overwhelmingly, and, of course, that would put a huge amount of pressure of public embarrassment on the Bush administration if Alberto Gonzales is still around when this vote would actually happen, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The "Washington Post" report, David, about the 26 U.S. attorneys on the original wish list to be fired, 26? I mean, that's - the redaction pen must have gotten some extreme use on the documents that were dumped. Twenty-six is far more than the administration has been willing to admit (INAUDIBLE). How did this, how did the rest of the information about the other 14 or more, who were not on our radar screen until today, how did that get held back till now?

SHUSTER: Well, and Keith, these are in documents that are still not being released publicly. What's happened in those, the congressional investigators are wading through these documents that were prepared by, for example, Kyle Sampson, who was Attorney General Gonzales's chief of staff. And the documents, taken together - and again, they haven't been released, but congressional investigators are so shocked that they're starting to tell reporters, Look, this was a widespread effort, as you mentioned, 26 different U.S. attorneys.

And what these investigators are suggesting as what's so shocking is, the sort of nonchalance in which you had people like Kyle Sampson, who had only prosecuted one case in his life, and Monica Goodling, the liaison to the White House, who had never prosecuted any cases, and they're batting around these names of possible prosecutors that ought to be dismissed, for reasons that aren't entirely clear. But it's as if they were simply shopping at a grocery store and trying to figure out whether to buy apples or oranges. That's how sort of nonchalant they were.

"The Washington Post," of course, broke the story, getting a congressional investigator to tell them what was sort of in these documents. And again, it paints a picture of just how chaotic and how casual the Justice Department was as far as considering somebody to be fired for no apparent reason whatsoever.

OLBERMANN: And speaking of documents and nonchalance, the Senate Judiciary Committee had ordered the Justice Department to turn over all of its documents to and from Karl Rove related to the firings of the U.S. attorneys. Did the Justice Department really say it couldn't find any, and Rove's lawyer must have them?

SHUSTER: Yes, that was the response. I mean, it was sort of a canard, I a sense, because, yes, Rove's lawyer does have the Justice Department documents related to the CIA leak case and Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation. The problem that Democrats say with this search is that the search was not very good. And again, we're talking right now just about Justice Department documents.

The way the Justice Department and Gonzales had the search conducted is that they put in key names, like Karl Rove and, but that had to hit a match only in the original documents.

So, in other words, suppose Karl Rove's deputy sends an e-mail to the Gonzales chief of staff and says, Hey, we need to talk about something, and the response is, Oh, yes, Karl Rove wants to fire somebody, well, that response would not trigger a find in this search.

In other words, it has to be just the original documents. You've got Democrats complaining to the Justice Department, the search was inadequate.

And secondly, Keith, the mother lode, as far as information about Karl, those are the White House documents. The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering issuing that subpoena for documents. That could happen, perhaps, within a couple of days, Keith.

OLBERMANN: It's fantastic. David Shuster. As always, great thanks for your reporting.

SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For more on the roiling cauldron and that exit of Mr. Wolfowitz, let's turn now to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Senator Schumer said today he hoped that a no-confidence resolution would importune the attorney general to step down on his own. Is- - he doesn't care about the Congress or stepping down on his own. I mean, how likely, how more likely today is a voluntary resignation than, I don't know, a thousand years ago?

WOLFFE: You know, I don't think Gonzales or President Bush are importunable, if that's a word. This has dragged on for a long time. Several months ago, the White House was telling me, Look, if this keeps on going, on this drip, drip process, if Alberto Gonzales does not repair relations with the Hill, then he's really going to be in trouble. Well, this has dragged on, and he's still there.

And unlike the Paul Wolfowitz situation, there isn't a mechanism, other than the president firing him, for him to lose his job. So I don't think, knowing this president, having covered him for a long time, that a no-confidence vote is going to do it. In fact, the chances are they'll want to hold on, show that he's still the president, still in control. But given a certain amount of time and space, he'll go.

OLBERMANN: What happens in terms of the PR damage? And certainly, we're not talking about the president's reaction to a Senate no-confidence vote. I mean, how could that be important to him? But he can't veto it, he can't stifle it, he can't make it go away. It would be a fact.

WOLFFE: Right. Of course, a lot depends on the extent of the vote. If it's 80 votes against Alberto Gonzales, it really is an untenable position. And Gonzales himself, to give him some credit here, in one of those rare moments, he actually said that he wanted to be effective. So there is a chink of light there where he could have an access - an escape route.

But for the president himself to respond to a Senate vote like this, if it's 50, 60 votes, I can't see that having an effect.

OLBERMANN: The other matter here, in the Rose Garden this afternoon, when Kelly O'Donnell asked him, did it seem like the president made a mistake, or gave up a good chance to deny that Gonzales actually went to John Ashcroft's hospital room on his orders?

WOLFFE: Well, we first reported this in "Newsweek" back at the start of the year. And the White House has neither acknowledged nor denied that this event is true. And I followed up today with senior White House officials. They again declined to comment on this.

Look, I don't give the White House advice in PR terms, and I doubt if they'd accept it. But I think they're ill served by dodging this kind of question. It's not the explanation of the hospital visit that's classified. The program may well be classified, but the president can justify the tactics used here, and he should do it if he can.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, as we reported at the top of the newshour, NBC News learning that Paul Wolfowitz, the World Bank, had reached an agreement about his resignation. He'd go in six weeks. There's a statement from the World Bank saying not only that he acted ethically and in good faith, but also that mistakes were made by other individuals at the bank. It's like they're giving him a raise or at least a free pen set for opening up an account there. I mean, what explains that methodology? Was that the only way to get him to go?

WOLFFE: Yes, it was. And, look, it's not worth the paper it's written on. It's like one of those positive management reviews for the poor U.S. attorneys who got fired. This is just a way of easing him out to the door. He can go out with some self-respect. But he's fatally undermined the very things that he stood for, this anticorruption drive in the World Bank. He is now being cited by corrupt countries, corrupt governments, as a reason for them not to adhere to these standards.

So, you know, time's up for him, and it's not too late for him to really go out with some dignity.

OLBERMANN: And as we suggested, the successor, Alberto Gonzales, good idea?

WOLFFE: I think Tony Blair is out there. I mean, he's looking for a job too.

OLBERMANN: That's right. "Newsweek" magazine's chief White House correspondent, MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe. As always, Richard, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Any time.

OLBERMANN: And another administration scandal still dogging its principals, four defendants, including Vice President Cheney, asked a judge to throw out a civil suit against them brought by Valerie Plame Wilson. And though the judge has yet to rule on the matter, he said the case was serious, and he questioned the vice president's claim of immunity.

Ms. Wilson attended the hearing. She claims that her career was ruined by disclosure of her covert CIA status by Mr. Cheney, Karl Rove, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage. U.S. District Judge John Bates did not sound like he was inclined to dismiss the lawsuit, describing it as a, quote, "serious case with serious issues."

And when Mr. Cheney's lawyer asserted that the vice president's immunity to the lawsuit was absolute, the judge interjected, saying that only the president has unique immunities.

Nineteen days from now, in another federal court, Mr. Libby will be sentenced for perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case.

The White House says it supports the troops in Iraq. So why does it also support a cut in the pay raise for the military?

And fumes pouring into air traffic control center, controllers getting sick, thousands of fliers potentially at risk. And the controllers forced to stay at their posts.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: "Support the troops" has been a rallying cry for this president in his political battles against Democrats.

But in our fourth story tonight, the president has confirmed in writing that when it comes to actually supporting the troops, he wants Democrats to do less. Support the Troops, it's a brand name.

May is National Military Appreciation Month, but Mr. Bush's office has now released his response to Democratic proposals for 2008 defense spending, saying that Democrats want to pay the troops too much, giving them a 3.5 percent raise, rather than just the 3 percent Mr. Bush favors.

Quoting, "The administration strongly opposes the additional 0.5 percent increase. The president's proposal provides a good quality of life for service members and their families." This, although a 2004 Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that one in five military families relies on Food Stamps or WIC federal aid.

Then there are the proposed limits on prescription drug prices for our soldiers. The administration strongly opposes them. And finally, for the families who lost soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, "The administration opposes Section 644, which would pay a monthly special survivor indemnity allowance of $40." Current survivor benefits are, quote, "sufficient."

Let's turn now to Todd Bowers. He's a veteran of the Iraq War and director of government affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Todd, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Mr. Bush says a 3 percent raise provides a good quality of life for service members and their families. Sketch for us the kind of financial profile of the average service member's family, if you'd be so kind.

BOWERS: No problem. Average service member, you join the military as a private. You get $1,300 a month. You've got expenses that you have to cover for. You've got to take care of family members, you've got to take care of car payments. It essentially adds up. This 3 percent raise would give them approximately $29 extra, all right? Point-five percent gives them an extra $6. We're talking about $6 for someone that's serving over in Iraq and Afghanistan that is away from their families. It's not too much to ask.

OLBERMANN: Six bucks. Service members have been largely supportive of this president. They have certainly frequently served, willingly or otherwise, as backdrops for his political campaigns. How do they react when he says a 3 percent raise - that $6 figure you just quoted - is enough for those in harm's way?

BOWERS: Well, I have to be very honest. I'd be very frustrated. It's like working in a restaurant, and you have your manager that's not doing their job. And what I'm connecting here is the VA bonuses that we just saw. Millions of dollars are going to an organization that's having a hard time taking care of our men and women in uniform.

Yet we can't provide those serving overseas right now, we can't provide them with a few extra dollars to take of their families. I think it's just absolutely ridiculous. And I sort of fall back on even military officers, 6 percent of military officers are having to use Food Stamps also. So it's not just the difference between enlisted and officer ranks.

OLBERMANN: The opposition from the president, giving families of the fallen - usually, that's the family's breadwinner - an additional $40 a month, calling the current survivor benefits sufficient. What do families of fallen service members get now? And that term, answer that question for me, first, then I want to ask you about that term, sufficiency.

BOWERS: Well, everybody has the same life insurance program. You get approximately $500,000, is what you end up receiving over years after the member of the armed services has passed on. What's interesting to note here, though, is that I just read today in "The Washington Post" is that someone just died, a major in the Marine Corps, and was buried in Arlington Cemetery yesterday, who died on his fourth tour.

Now, no monetary amount can suffice for what that family has gone through. That's four Christmases, four birthdays that they've missed out on. So we should be providing, if we truly want to support the troops, as much as we possibly can to these families.

OLBERMANN: That's $500,000 over the extent of the insurance policy.

That's not all at once, correct?


OLBERMANN: So $500,000 over 10 years gets down to $50,000 a year, over 20 years gets down to $25,000 a year. That's what we are valuing these lives at.

But sufficiency, this term sufficiency as the appropriate criteria for determining how this nation repays them. If you went to the guys on the front line and said, You're being on sufficiency for your family, sufficiency for six bucks a month in the terms of a raise, what would their reactions to that be? Have you talked to people still in - serving who've heard this phrase sufficiency before?

BOWERS: Well, I've spoken to them directly about how these pay - how we're seeing this lack of pay increase, and people are not getting this extra 0.5 percent. And to be regarded as what we're receiving right now is sufficient, well, I have been to be honest, the ultimate goal of pay increases is to bring our pay up to the same as civilians.

Well, what I worry about when I drive to work in the morning here is spilling my coffee in my lap. What these folks have to worry about is IEDs, snipers. It's just - it's too much.

OLBERMANN: It's too little. Todd Bowers, Iraq War vet, director of government affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Great thanks for your time. In the end (ph), Todd, great thanks for your service.

BOWERS: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Key physical evidence in the Kennedy assassination challenged anew, new science suggesting the old science about the bullet fragments may have been wildly inaccurate.

And for the lighter subject, the latest on debs behind bars. Will Paris Hilton avoid doing the whole stretch in the Big House?

The answer ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Thirty-four years ago today, a special Senate committee convened in Washington to investigate what was still widely referred to as the Democratic break-in, but ever increasingly known as Watergate. And on that same day, a nationally obscure Harvard Law professor celebrated his 61st birthday. His name was Archibald Cox. And the next day, May 18, 1973, he would be appointed special prosecutor in the Justice Department's investigation into the scandal that would claim a president.

On that note, let's play Oddball.

We begin on the Internets, with video that comes from some faraway land where the kids are mean and the sheep are scared, literally. Guess when you live on a sheep farm, you have to make your own fun, and these guys did it by putting a screen mask on one of the animals and letting it lose to terrorize the others. You have to wonder, which sheep is suffering more emotional damage here, the ones who think the Grim Sheeper has come for them, or the one in the mask, who can't figure out why his friends keep avoiding him.

If you think that was disturbing, you might want to turn away from the

TV now, because this breakdancing competition ends very badly for one very

young spectator. This was shot in Times Square in New York. The clip has

been viewed more than 2 million times across the popular video sites. And

why would that be? It doesn't seem like much of an act, until you see the

Yes, not for the dancing. The video stops after the incident, but the little girl can be clearly seen lifting her head up, so we're hoping she was all right. Why this clip has become so popular, we can't say. We know, we just can't say.

Nor can we explain why people have been inspired to make remix videos spawned by the original. We're very sorry, but we're going to have to play one for you now.

Yes, I'm going there, but you're going there with me for laughing.

The details sound like a Hollywood thriller. Air traffic controllers on the job getting sick, possibly from some sort of poison gas, as at least a hundred flights hang in the air in the balance. It's all too real. The FAA is investigating, and so are we.

And Melinda is voted off "American Idol," whoever the hell she was.

Details ahead.

But first, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Judge Peter Openshaw, presiding at the Willetts (ph) Crown Court in London in England. He's hearing a terrorism case, three men accused of inciting terrorism via the Internet. These three guys could stand a good chance of acquittal because Mr. Justice Openshaw stopping testimony to admit he really doesn't understand what a Web site is. They explained it to him, and he still didn't get it.

Number two, Shantae M. Cammack of New York City. She is that most rare of criminals. No, no, not a pudding (ph) impersonator and cannibal, but rather, she is an interstate female flasher. Police in Framingham, Massachusetts, say she was parked there in a van, periodically opening the door to expose her naked buttocks to drivers and passers-by. Periodically opening the rear door. Nobody knows why she was doing any of this.

Number one, Doctor George Costarelis and his team at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, publishing a study in the journal "Nature" suggesting they have got a lead on a new cure for baldness. They say they've discovered adult mice can regenerate hair follicles. People might be able to do the same thing. Not by using stem cells, but by reactivating genes that are at work as the embryo develops.

I don't really understand this. Let's look at the before and after pictures of the mice. OK, I've seen bald mice before. That's a bald mouse. And the after. OK, but you still got that you cut that off Robin Williams hiney didn't you look to it.


OLBERMANN: Our third story on the Countdown is the kind of thing that

if you're not already slightly afraid of flying will make you slightly

afraid of flying, or at least of the people who control the system. Air

traffic controllers, the very people responsible for keeping your plane

safely in the air and safely getting it back to earth, possibly poisoned by

deadly gas while trying to do their jobs and then told, through their

dizziness, to keep doing their jobs anyway. Countdown's own Monica Novotny

has the sickening details. Monica, good evening

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. It happened the night of April 25 at New York's TRACON, the Terminal Radar Approach Control. Now that's a facility where air traffic controllers handle all flights coming in and out of several of the major New York area airports. A nearby back-up generator was being tested and controllers who were in charge of dozens of planes at the time say they were overcome by what they thought were just diesel fumes at the time.

But when some later went to the ER, they were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. Now, I spoke with Edward Prusak, one of several controllers who worked that night and felt ill. After 19 years of landing planes, he says he's never experienced anything like this on the job.


EDWARD PRUSAK, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I was on a break and I heard an engine start up outside of the room I was in and within 30 seconds I was hit by a blast of what I would consider like a hot air, took my breath away. And I smelled diesel fumes. When I got back to my area of operation, I immediately smelled the same diesel fumes, started to feel light-headed, dizzy, had trouble concentrating.

I would clear an aircraft for the approach at Newark and I normally write down my instructions on strips, they're called, in front of us. And I would kind of turn my head a little bit because I was like dizzy, confused feeling. And then I looked back and I wasn't really sure what I had just done, whether I had done it. And I'd have to look to see if I wrote it down and make sure that I had actually performed that operation.

Within a couple of minutes, I started to feel physically ill, nauseous, and I truly felt like I was going to vomit and at that point I knew that something was wrong and I immediately asked to get off position.


NOVOTNY: Mr. Prusak was relieved of his position, so he got a break from handling the planes. But he says his manager refused to allow him to go home sick. He says he worked in that condition for 22 minutes handling those planes. He believes he handled as many as 15 to 20 jets, with as many as 2,000 passengers and pilots relying on him. Others controllers have also come forward to say that they too felt sick that night and they were not aloud to go home or to call for help.

In fact, one controller apparently said he wanted to call the fire department for help. He was told if he called the fire department, they wouldn't be aloud in to the facility. Now the very next day when Mr. Prusak still didn't feel well, he went to emergency room, where they detected a carbon monoxide level of 4.9 percent in his blood. We should point out he is a smoker, Keith, which could elevate his carbon monoxide level, but certainly would not be responsible for all of those symptoms that he was feeling and, of course, the fact that so many of his other colleagues were feeling those very same symptoms that night.

OLBERMANN: Monica, the FAA is doing what about this?

NOVOTNY: Well, they say they're investigating. That was essentially the length of their statement initially. Now though, we've received another statement from them and they say that they are looking at installing carbon monoxide readers and detectors for a range of different types of emissions. What is interesting here, Keith, is that Mr. Prusak told me he's subject to random alcohol testing, random drug testing. If he's so much as on an over the counter medication for a flu, he's got to report that.

So the FAA is very clear on the fact that the health of these people is clearly very important and that thousands of lives do hang in the balance every day. So it's surprising that it's taken them several weeks to even come to the fact that they're thinking about installing carbon monoxide detectors.

OLBERMANN: I understand this got to the attention of the senior senator from New York. Is that correct?

NOVOTNY: That's right. Senator Schumer is also getting involved. He sent a letter to the FAA, demanding that they look into this more seriously. He also this week is calling for a provision that would be added to the FAA's reauthorization bill for this year mandating that these carbon monoxide detectors be put in all of these facilities.

OLBERMANN: Countdown's Monica Novotny. Many thanks, Monica. We are six years, six months, and five days away from it having been half a century since President Kennedy was assassinated. If not new developments tonight, there are, at minimum, new scientific questions.

And lock-up, Paris Hilton; the heiress finds out if she might get out of the big house a little early. That and more ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It's ten years nearly since that dopey dream. President Kennedy had survived his assassination and was matter of factly explaining it. Obviously, he said in my dream, there was more than one gunman. But neither knew the other one was there. It was a coincidence. In the dream, I was aghast and offended. Oh, no, he scolded, think about how many times two bank robbers show up at the same time at the same bank. And consider this, the dream Kennedy continued, have you ever heard any other theories that are not disproved by just one of the irrefutable facts?

He had me there. In our number two story on the Countdown, the debate has flared up again. This time predicated on the idea that forensic science gets better with every passing decade. And the last word of 1977 may only be the preamble of 2007. The focus, as Pete Williams reports now, is the bullets.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motorcade is moving slowly west.

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's one of the most investigated events in American history. Now a new study casts strong doubt on the science used to reach a major conclusion that just one assassin fired the two bullets that hit their targets. One bullet was found nearly intact. Four other bullet fragments were recovered. Tests done 30 years ago concluded all five pieces came from just those two bullets.

But a new analysis says more bullets could have been fired.

CLIFF SPIEGELMAN, TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY: It's not valid to conclude that the five pieces constitute only two bullets.

WILLIAMS: A team of researchers, including a former top scientist from the FBI, studied ammunition identical to the kind used by Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin, made by the same company at the same time. Earlier research said the fragments could have came from only two bullets, because individual bullets vary so widely, they must have been unique. The new study found that many of the rounds tested were nearly identical to each other and one exactly matched one of the Dallas fragments.

So the researchers conclude it's impossible to say those fragments could have come from only two bullets. And if there were more fired that day, they say, there might have been another assassin, because Oswald could not have shot more rounds quickly enough with his bolt action rifle. The scientists say the bullet fragments, preserved by the National Archive, should be retested even though there is a risk.

SPIEGELMAN: I think they should be reanalyzed in a more modern way which might involve actually destroying the fragments.

WILLIAMS: Even so, an expert on the assassination says while the bullet science is debatable, a widely accepted finding still stands.

GARY MACK, 6TH FLOOR PLAZA: So the original explanation remains that the fragments must have come from Lee Harvey Oswald's bullets, because there is no evidence, no hard evidence of any other shooter that day.

WILLIAMS: But the study provides more proof of one thing, the books on the Kennedy assassination may never be closed.

Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: And, of course, those written about it may never cease. We have already had more than 1,000. From the sublime to the ridiculous, and we'll round up the celebrity and entertainment news in Keeping Tabs. And soon to be canned heat Paris Hilton; the TMZ website reporting she'll serve only 23 days in jail for having violated her parole. Her attorney dropping an appeal of the 45-day sentence after the L.A. Sheriffs Department agreed to shortened terms for good behavior. Good behavior!

She will be housed in a slammer called the Special Needs Unit, away from most other inmates. Meanwhile, some motherly advice from Paris's mom in a letter addressed to fans of her daughter and read on the show, "The View," not what you would expect from the woman who mocked the judge and called her daughter's sentence pathetic and disgusting.

"We can only hope," she wrote, "that something positive will come from all this. Hopefully young people who look up to people like Paris will learn from this."

By the way, if you're looking up to people like Paris, better first check that she remembered her undies. And on we go to another female celebrity with a troubled past. Now turning to faith and fans for comfort, Britney Spears has split from her husband, gone through rehab, shaved her locks, performed 15 minute flash concerts at local clubs and plunged into working on her first album in four years, all in an effort to turn her life and career around.

Now she's posted a message on her website saying she prays for her fans, thanks them for their prayers and wishes them god speed, all this while posing topless and wearing only a pair of white gloves. She also says she feels blessed - maybe that's a draft - and, quote, we are all lights of the world. Remember, your wattage may vary.

And while the ratings for the struggling "American Idol" program are way down, Countdown's own D.C. Idol competition is picking up right where that other show is leaving of. The latest figures are in. Nearly six million people start - strike that. Nearly 6,000 people have logged on and voted online. And boy is it a squeaker.

In case you missed our nomination spectacular, here's a taste of the D.C. Idol candidates.




OLBERMANN: Remember voting is your civic sacrament. Make sure to head over to to select your favorite D.C. Idol. Voting ends tomorrow afternoon and tomorrow night we will announce the winner. And immediately following that, the freshly crowned D.C. Idol will come on the show here and sing a tearful rendition of "One Moment In Time." Well, all but the last part is true.

The real "American Idol" suffering from a shocker, you mean the shock that people still cared. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. The bronze to right wing water carrier Melanie Morgan, who had been inexplicably invited on to the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer to debate Jon Soltz of in war funding issues.

She proceeded to shout Soltz down every time he tried to speak. Good for her ego, bad for her long term viability. Responding to viewer complaints, News Hour executive producer Linda Winslow responds, since the program is produced live, we can't do much to eliminate rude guests from your television screen once the segment has begun. What we can do is guarantee you will never see that person on our program again. Buh-bye.

Our runner up, commentator Bay Buchanan positing a theory that Senator Clinton is suffering from extreme insecurity that disqualifies her to be president. Miss Buchanan writes in a new book, quote, "not being a medical professional, I decided to look more deeply into the condition. After days of research, I was led to a fascinating field of study involving narcissistic personality style. The symptoms of the related disorder were intriguing, I have included them in an end note."

And then it has that little 74, indicating you should go read chapter one, note 74 for details. Of course, there is no note 74 in her book. Also, that phrase days of research, it may not be as impressive as you thought when you wrote it.

But the winner comedian Rush Limbaugh, one of those days to be extra special glad you're not him. I'll just read this verbatim. May I? "There is a template developing for the Republican debate last night. How come there are no women and minorities on stage? You know, the Democrats never get these kinds of questions because it's always assumed that they are fair and just and not discriminatory and all of that."

Or, and this is just a theory, maybe it's because at the Democratic debate there were women and minorities on the stage. I thought you were a more worthy opponent that this, sir. I forgot you were comedian Rush Limbaugh, today's Worst Person in the World.


OLBERMANN: Shocked is clearly a term that is now bandied about without any restraint. People tell me they are shocked that Melinda Doolittle got the boot last night on "American Idol." I mutter to myself that I'm sorry I left my cattle prod at home. And we move on. Our number one story on the Countdown, the contestant seen by many as the best apparently go the least number of votes, shock of shocks. Last night the 17-year old Jordan Sparks was declared safe by host Ryan Seacrest. That left Blake Lewis, the goof ball with the beat box, and Miss Doolittle, the former back up singer.


RYAN SEACREST, "AMERICAN IDOL": Almost 60 million votes again, an incredible number. Those votes came in. America has decided that this is the end of the road for you tonight on American idol. That means Blake makes it into the Idol finally.

Here she is, one of our best singers ever, Melinda Doolittle.


OLBERMANN: Let's turn once again to our the mid-day host of New York's classic rock station Q-104.3, who despite her status as our "American Idol" princess still knows every lyric to every song ever recorded by Badfinger, Maria Milito.

MARIA MILITO, Q 104.3: Thank you very much. Don't test me on that.

OLBERMANN: Melinda Doolittle is gone. Please bring some sense to this madness. Why Maria, why?

MILITO: This is what I think. OK? Jordan is 17, Jordan Sparks. I think she has the vote of the tweens and the teenagers. Blake, also younger, early 20s; I think he has young girls and young boys voting for him. Melinda is a little bit older and she is more of a professional, because she is a professional singer. So I don't think she had the fan base that the two of them had.

I also think it's almost like a presidential election, when the guy who you want to win is way ahead in the polls, so you don't bother to go out and vote. So I think a lot of people assumed that she would win, so I'm not going to pick up the phone and vote. That's my school of thought on that.

OLBERMANN: I have heard similar analysis of the presidential administration of Warren G. Harding. So I understand your theory there. But I also recall last year Idol folks were all worked up about the number four contestant, Chris Daughtry, who got eliminate. But he got a record deal. Last night's guest singer was the Elliot whatever was the number three from last season. He got a record deal. Is that not part of what's going on here, people know that you don't really need to win this thing to make a bundle?

MILITO: Absolutely, because, you know, Paula got up and said to Melinda, OK, well now your career's going to take off. Now it's time for you. So it's true. You really don't need to win "American Idol." I mean, look at Taylor Hicks. Hello, Taylor who? Compared to Daughtry and Elliot Yamin, and even Katherine McPhee. They all have record deals. So you really don't need to win "American Idol" to get a record deal and be doing the concert tour and everything else.

OLBERMANN: And this booted contestant, Miss Doolittle herself, she didn't seem that upset. But the t shirt, death cheater? Did that cost her the election right there?

MILITO: I don't think so. I think maybe she used it to ward off the evil that was going to happen. But you know what, I also think she is a professional. She's 29 years old. She is very humble. She's been very quiet. She's always surprised when they say, that was beautiful. You're a great singer. So, you know, she took it in stride. She's a mature woman.

OLBERMANN: And so she was not that surprised last night.

MILITO: I don't think so. And even so, you know what, she is back up singer. So now she can sing in the front. And you know she's going to get a record deal. I mean, she's an amazing singer. She can sing anything.

OLBERMANN: Is there a Simon Cowell curse? He was saying that he wanted her in the final. Last year he didn't want Taylor Hicks to win and he did win. Is there a curse?

MILITO: It seems like it. I think the first few seasons, when Simon really liked someone, I think America voted according to Simon. Now it almost seems like the tables have turned on that. If Simon says I want to see you in the finals, I think all the geeks across America vote against what he says. So it could be. I think it is a Simon Cowell curse.

OLBERMANN: All right, we've got two left. Is the winner now here not a no-brainer? I mean, Doolittle's votes all shift to the 17-year-old Sparks and that beat boxing kid gets to learn the original meaning of the word beat?

MILITO: Beat, right, and get a job? Well, I think, with Jordan Sparks - think about it, she really represents what the "American Idol" should be. She is 17. She has a beautiful voice. She can be molded. She can sing any song in any format. I mean, Kelly Clarkson was what, 19? And she was the first "American Idol."

OLBERMANN: You're asking me that question?

MILITO: It's a rhetorical question, OK. Yes, Jordan Sparks is who I think will win.

OLBERMANN: Maria Milito of Q-104.3 in New York. The end is near, great thanks. That is Countdown for this the 1,478th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.