updated 12/5/2005 1:32:44 PM ET 2005-12-05T18:32:44

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Craig Crawford

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

The CIA leak investigation, now it goes inside “TIME” magazine.  Is reporter Viveca Novak being called to testify because she reminded Karl Rove‘s lawyer of something Rove had forgotten to mention, that Rove had been interviewed by “TIME” reporter Matt Cooper?

The deadliest attack on American troops since August.  Ten Marines are dead, and 11 more injured.  A roadside bomb near Fallujah.

The largest rescue ever of household pets, one of the successes post-Katrina, dogs and cats still being reunited with their owners.

And a rare victory for us geezers, the sound that scatters loitering teens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s horrible because it really gets inside your ears, and it really hurts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But it is inaudible to anybody over the age of 30.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t hear a thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Can I order them by the carload, what?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

One controversy down, who knows how many to go?  The military has tonight confirmed it has paid Iraqi newspapers to run positive stories about American efforts there.  Details in a moment.

First, the investigation of the CIA leak.  And it has been, at its core, an attempt to chart the flow of information from Bush administration officials to members of the media.  But tonight, that premise has shifted about 180 degrees.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, it may turn out that the loosest lips in this saga in fact belong to a reporter, “TIME” magazine‘s Viveca Novak.  And what she told Karl Rove‘s lawyer, Robert Luskin, may well prove to the foundation of his case in Mr. Rove‘s defense.

According to a “New York Times” report, Ms. Novak letting slip in a conversation last year with Mr. Luskin that one of her colleagues, Matthew Cooper, might have interviewed the White House adviser about the CIA officer at the heart of the case, and that that fact could pose legal problems should he be forced to testify.

Until that point, says the report, Mr. Rove had testified that he had spoken with just one journalist about Valerie Plame, the columnist Robert Novak, no relation to Viveca Novak.  So, based on what Mr. Luskin had learned from Ms. Novak, he then asked his client to have the White House search for any record of a conversation with Mr. Cooper.  And after an e-mail was found, Mr. Rove reappeared before the grand jury to amend his testimony.

Our flow of information analysis on this development coming from “Newsweek” magazine‘s White House correspondent Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:  Hi, Keith.  Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  How would this new information help Karl Rove‘s defense in the obstruction-of-justice scheme of things?  Does it matter if he clanged his testimony based on what Viveca Novak told Robert Luskin, rather than because he might have been himself concerned about what Matt Cooper would have told the grand jury?

WOLFFE:  Well, trying to paint the picture of his motive here.  Karl, they‘re saying, is a victim of an innocent misunderstanding.  He‘s a busy guy.  There was no grand conspiracy or scheme here.  He was just responding to the questions of pesky reporters.

That‘s the kind of picture they‘re trying to paint.  It doesn‘t, unfortunately, deal with the flip-flops, to coin a term, in his testimony, which presumably he‘s been called to clear up in his several appearances to the grand jury.  But they‘re trying to paint a picture of motive here.

OLBERMANN:  And does the fact that there are other people now to put a sort of face on this, does it buttress that central—or centerpiece of the defense, that he is a busy man and can‘t remember every single e-mail and conversation and such?

WOLFFE:  Well, up to a point.  The problem here is that we‘re only seeing the tip of iceberg, and as journalists, of course, we like to see the bit of iceberg that looks like us, which is journalists talking to people in power.  And that‘s certainly what we all focused on when it came to the Libby indictment.

What we don‘t know—and there‘s a lot we don‘t know—we don‘t know what Karl Rove heard from other administration officials.  And if you think back to the Libby indictment, what was most compelling about the case against him wasn‘t so much his conversation with Tim Russert as how he got information from other administration officials, from CIA people who briefed him, from other people in the White House.

And that‘s what we don‘t know about the Karl Rove case here.  We‘re just focusing on the reporters, because it‘s easier to see them.

OLBERMANN:  Well, to continue the Narcissus part of this, to keep staring in the pond at our own reflection, you write for a weekly newsmagazine.  Would it be common, to your experience, for a reporter at such a magazine to tell the lawyer of a newsmaker who‘s under criminal investigation, Oh, by the way, your client could be in legal jeopardy, because this guy I work with might testify against him?  Does that ring untowardly to you at all?

WOLFFE:  Well, there are a number of things that are curious about the behavior of “TIME” magazine in this case.  And I don‘t mean to be critical in any way, but in a case that‘s incredibly sensitive, as this case has been for a long period, you might expect more of a sort of Chinese wall between the reporter covering the story and the reporter who has become part of the legal turmoil, as it were, to do with the investigation.

So it‘s not really a question of ethics, but you might just want an arm‘s-length relationship there.  Passing on information, sort of the inside scoop, reporters do with sources all the time.  But “TIME,” of course, has become part of story.

So if this is true, it would be indiscreet, let‘s say, and maybe careless.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s also confusing, on one last point, and it might be a trivial point, but if Karl Rove really did testify about his conversation with Matt Cooper on the 14th of October in 2004, why, nine months later, would Matt Cooper have headed out of the house on the morning of July 6, 2005, expecting that he was going to be jailed that day for contempt of court?  Would a reporter still need to protect a source, if the source has already testified about the conversation?

WOLFFE:  Well, that‘s a great question.  A lot depends on whether these two parties, Rove and his lawyers and Matt Cooper and his lawyers, were really talking to each other.  There‘s plenty of evidence out there to suggest that they weren‘t really communicating very well, right up until Matt Cooper went to talk to the grand jury.

You know, you‘d want to know for yourself that the—what the source had been saying to the grand jury.  In this case, he may not have known.

OLBERMANN:  It is an extraordinary and extraordinary layered kind of web.  Matt Cooper, Viveca Novak, and Robert Luskin have all been my guests at various stages on various stories.

“Newsweek”‘s magazine White House correspondent Richard Wolffe, our guest on this occasion, great thanks, and a great weekend, sir.

WOLFFE:  And to you.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, the strange case of Congressman Tom DeLay taking a new turn of its own tonight.  Already facing charges of money laundering and conspiracy for his effort to see more Republicans elected to the state legislature of Texas, today he learned, and we learned, that his resolution to see more like-minded Texans join him in Congress might also have been illegal too, at least at a point.

A newly released Justice Department memo showing that Mr. DeLay‘s redistricting plan was pushed through the legislature in 2003, despite the objections of Justice Department lawyers, who felt it violated minority voting rights.  But senior agency officials appointed by the president ignored their own lawyers, approved it anyway.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who was White House counsel at the time, today defended that decision, saying it survived a legal challenge in federal court, Texas Republicans picking up five seats in the U.S. House during the 2004 election subsequent to that redistricting.

More evidence that late Friday is indeed, as famously phrased on the dramatic series “The West Wing,” take-out-the-trash day.  Late this afternoon our time, U.S. officials in Iraq confirmed that the military indeed sometimes paid Iraqi newspapers to print positive stories about American operations there.

A brief written statement described them as, quote, “a function of buying advertising and opinion-slash-editorial space,” said such practices were “customary in Iraq,” and an “essential tool” in the war.  Military also promising an investigation of alleged improprieties.  The story will sit there over the weekend.

President Bush spending his Friday trying to break through the din over the Iraq war and the various skirmishes in the Beltway by focusing on some strong economic news here at home.  There are 215,000 new jobs, and no need for any military information officers to buy space in American newspapers to spread the good word, we don‘t think.

The president handled the PR on this directly in a two-and-a-half-minute appearance in the Rose Garden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We have every reason to be optimistic about our economic future.  I mean, when you think about the news that‘s come in, the jobs report, the recent report on strong economic growth, low inflation, strong productivity, lower gasoline prices, a strong housing market, increases in consumer confidence and business investment, our economic horizon is as bright as it‘s been in a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president ignoring a question shouted from the press corps about that military program, now having been confirmed to have planted favorable stories in the Iraqi media, then as now, accentuating the positive.

“Congressional Quarterly”‘s Craig Crawford is a glass-half-full kind of fellow himself, here to help us to figure out whether or not the president‘s message is resonating.

Good evening, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  Hi, good to see you.

OLBERMANN:  If strong news on the economic front does not help turn around the president‘s approval ratings, should we start saying it‘s no longer the economy, stupid?

CRAWFORD:  Yes, you know, this economy is doing better.  And it is a bit of a mystery that the president hasn‘t been able to get a little more credit for it.  I think one reason is, he hasn‘t really focused on the economy a lot.  We don‘t see him out there working on the economy.  Americans only know about his tax cuts, really, as far as his policies are concerned.  So it is a little harder for him to take credit for it.

OLBERMANN:  Is there the question here relative, even, to this subject, of a credibility gap, that even when the president‘s positive news survives fact-checking before or after, there‘s a certain segment in the country that just does not believe him, or is not willing to listen to him, even if he is absolutely correct?

CRAWFORD:  (INAUDIBLE), the most dangerous that‘s happened in this polls, in these recent ones we‘ve seen, is the loss of public trust in his personal credibility.  That personal bond that he had with so many Americans was always his safety valve in tough times, and he‘s lost that.  And so that‘s going to cut across a lot of issues, sure.

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve written about the backdrop of U.S. service men and service women at every event relating to Iraq.  And I want to ask about its meaning relative to the war.

But first, what about its meaning when the president is not talking about the war?  Is he dammed if he does and dammed if he doesn‘t?  Do people tune him out because he‘s no longer standing in front of a roomful of soldiers?

CRAWFORD:  Well, (INAUDIBLE) talk about this economic pitch that he made today, I mean, he knew about the killings of those 10 soldiers over there, he was briefed on it Thursday night and again Friday morning before he went out.  I thought it was an interesting choice he made to talk rosily about the economy and not mention those deaths, after he‘d been (INAUDIBLE) on, focused on the war all week long.

OLBERMANN:  And to that point of wrapping himself in the flag and in the military, are the civilians tuning him out?  Is he a victim of fatigues fatigue?

CRAWFORD:  Well, I think he‘s tuning the civilians out.  I mean, he‘s giving the impression, you know, a commander in chief has every right to appear before the troops.  He commands them.  But every single time you talk about the war, he seems almost afraid to get in front of a group of regular Americans with tough questions and answer those questions.

Of course, I, it is always safer to appear before people who can be court-martialed if they don‘t applaud.

OLBERMANN:  And let‘s just finish this off with the breaking news that once again, as I mentioned, reinforces this idea that Friday afternoon is the time when all the real news gets revealed by this White House, and as it has been by other White Houses, and fictional White Houses as well, that they would have chosen a very late, early December, very late on a Friday afternoon, time slot to reveal that indeed, that report from “The Los Angeles Times” and then picked up by other media outlets during the week, was correct, that we have been buying essentially good news in Iraq in the Iraqi newspapers.

Give me your thoughts of the meaning of that and the meaning of the timing of the confirmation of that.

CRAWFORD:  Well, I think they had to have known all along it was happening.  They spent $300 million to private companies for this so-called psychological operation...

OLBERMANN:  But—but...

CRAWFORD:  ... part of which was this planting of stories.

OLBERMANN:  But you can spend $300 million in the government and not know it.

CRAWFORD:  I guess so, Keith, and that scares me more than anything.  I mean, we‘re spending $6 billion a month on this war.  I think we could at least expect the people at the top to have some clue what it‘s being spent on.

OLBERMANN:  Well, just for the fact that they waited till Friday to tell us, we‘ll have to do it again as the lead story on Monday.

CRAWFORD:  I think it‘s coming back.

OLBERMANN:  I think it is too.

Craig Crawford, author of “Attack the Messenger,” many thanks, and have a good weekend.

CRAWFORD:  Good to see you.

OLBERMANN:  There is grim news tonight from Iraq.  Craig mentioned it, insurgents carrying out the deadliest attack on U.S. forces in nearly four months.

And a deadline is now looming over the lives of four Western hostages as well.

And three months since Katrina, the families being reunited with their lost pets.  They are now slowing to a trickle, despite what‘s being called the largest effort ever to reconnect.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  On both sides in the political debate over what to do with Iraq, there is one common phrase that keeps cropping up, reality on the ground.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the grimmest kind of reality there tonight, 10 Marines killed in a single attack, 11 more wounded, with four other service personnel having died in the previous 24 hours.

Our correspondent in Baghdad is Richard Engel.

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RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force has had one of the toughest jobs in Iraq in what they say is its worst neighborhood, Fallujah.

In nearly three years, 147 of them have been killed.  At their base, Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, tonight families and friends awaited word on the latest casualties from Regimental Combat Team 8.

BARRY EDWARDS, 2ND MARINES DIVISION SPOKESPERSON:  Morale does drop a little bit.  It doesn‘t go away.  Our determination is still there.  They use that determination to build back up that morale and carry out the mission.

ENGEL:  The attack was one of the deadliest in months, a booby trap.  U.S. military sources tell NBC News a platoon of Marines was on a routine foot patrol yesterday afternoon in an industrial zone in the southwest corner of Fallujah.

The Marines entered the grounds of a factory, searching the courtyard for weapons, insurgents, and bombs.  Hidden in the ground under their feet, a bomb of several artillery shells fused together, planted, waiting for them.

The explosion killed at least 10 Marines and wounded 11 more.

(on camera):  A U.S. military official told us tonight that the Marines in this platoon were like most, tight-knit and very young, typically 19-year-olds led by 23-year-olds.

(voice-over):  Most of the U.S. troops in Iraq are now killed by a weapon they rarely see, an IED, an improvised explosive device.  Of the 85 U.S. troops killed in Iraq in November, 41 were by IEDs.

Even though the U.S. has spent billions up-armoring vehicles and developing sophisticated anti-IED technology, the insurgents are now making bigger bombs, often made of higher-quality explosives that are more accurate.

MICHAEL O‘HANLON, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION:  Military capability does not help that much.  It can help us a little, but overall, the insurgents, perhaps, have the slight upper hand in the IED measure-countermeasure competition.

ENGEL:  The Marines killed Thursday had been patrolling the same area where U.S. troops saw some of the heaviest fighting during their offensive a year ago.  Fallujah had been relatively calm since then.  The U.S.  military has a plan underway to hand control of parts of the city to Iraqi police.

The Marines killed Thursday had arrived in Iraq last February and would have probably soon been on their way home.

Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  U.S. troops not the only ones in danger in Iraq tonight.  An American peace activist and three of his international colleagues are now being threatened with death unless their kidnappers‘ demands are met by next Thursday.

The group, calling itself Swords of Truth, seized the four victims in Baghdad last week.  Today that group released a new video message to the Al Jazeera television network, threatening to kill the hostages unless all prisoners held in Iraqi- and American-run jails in Iraq are released by next Thursday.

Away from the cameras, insidious and often hidden violence, hundreds of ordinary Iraqis turning on each other, settling old scores.  As our correspondent Mike Boettcher reports tonight, it is that creeping sectarianism that truly threatens to tear that fragile country apart.

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MIKE BOETTCHER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  There‘s another war, less noted.  One by one, Sunni killing Shia and Shia murdering Sunni, a war of retribution and intimidation.  Iraqis fear it more than the insurgency.

ADNAN RACHACHI, SUNNI LEGISLATOR:  This polarization has to end, otherwise, you know, this could lead to a disaster for the country.

BOETTCHER:  Each day, new funerals on both sides, the casualties of a simmering sectarian war inflicted by armed militias and shadowy assassins who don‘t fit the neat definition of insurgents.

While most Iraqis don‘t yet call it civil war, “Real Iraqis don‘t kill each other,” says this man, reflecting the general sentiment on the street.  It is at worst a form of ethnic cleansing.

(on camera):  Adding to the polarization is a quiet migration, the violence against both sides is causing Sunnis to move from Shiite neighborhoods, and Shia to move from Sunni areas, turning once diverse, mixed neighborhoods into enclaves of purely Shia or Sunni.

(voice-over):  Shiev Mohammed (ph), a Sunni, has come to Baghdad‘s largest mosque looking for help to find a safe, Sunni-dominated place to live.  He brought pictures of his tortured and murdered brother.  He too has been threatened.

Mustafa Kareem (ph), another frightened Sunni, also needs relocation.  “During Saddam‘s days,” he says, “even though there was a lot of injustice, we did not go through such circumstances.”

After three of his relatives were killed and his family was threatened with death, Ali Abdullah (ph), a Shia, also felt compelled to move.  The conditions in his new, pure Shiite neighborhood are rough.  But at least he feels safer.

“I‘m hoping that I will return to my place one day,” he says, “and hope that everything will be better soon.”  But he fiddles with his worry beads more often these days.

A nation that has lived through two generations of conflict fears what could be the bloodiest of them all, civil war.

Mike Boettcher, NBC News, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Back here, you‘d think fear of getting caught would be a reason for a high school football coach not to cheat.  You would be wrong.

And if you think these extreme runners look silly in their underwear, how about two men rowing from the Canary Islands to Antigua in their birthday suits?

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and for the final time this week, unless we have a Saturday edition they haven‘t told me about, we step away from the serious news to watch silly people do stupid things on videotape for a couple of minutes.  You‘ll like it, it‘s good for you.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in the Red Sea resort town of Elat, Israel, for the big annual Pre-Israeli Triathalon Underwear Race.  It has been a yearly tradition dating back nearly to the last century, four whole years now, ever since organizers saw the same thing in Hawaii and decided to steal the idea.

It‘s a two-meter run, stopping every few minutes --  You can‘t share underwear.  Every few minutes, it stops, when that dope with the horn decides to pose for the cameras.

The amount of alcohol involved in the event has not yet been announced.

To Georgia.  I‘m not talking about the Peach State, I‘m referring, of course, to the Republic of Georgia and the capital city of Tblisi, where today we visit Karlem (ph).  They are debating some budget issues today.  I‘m a little rusty on the language here, but I think that guy there is trying to get a bridge built from his house to Ketchekan (ph) in Alaska.

It‘s always fun to see old guys in suits pummel each other, even if you don‘t follow the issues.  But don‘t worry, the way things are going in Washington, it‘s only a matter time before we have these kinds of scenes every Friday night on C-Span, Congresswoman Schmidt.

And speaking of Friday night, drinks are on the robot.  It‘s Robobar, the latest technical innovation from the folks at Motoman.  Robobar is superior to a human bartender in every way, better, stronger, faster, less likely to show up drunk and steal money from the register.

Motoman is expecting big things from the robot barkeep, which pours perfect drinks every time and can work 24 hours a day without a break.  But Americans will never go for Robobar.  Studies show we prefer our bartenders to be womanizing, ex-alcoholic baseball players with great detachable hair and a hilarious group of sycophantic regular customers.

Of course, those studies were done in the late ‘80s before “Cheers” went off the air.

From useful robots to not-so-useful loitering kids.  The new device that causes the young to scatter, but has no effect on adults.  It‘s a dream come true.  British inventors strike again.

And one well-traveled cat.  She got out her front door in Appleton, Wisconsin.  The next thing she knew, she was in France.  You know, like Billy Crystal in “Forget Paris.”

Details on those stories ahead.

But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Dave Casson.  He owns the Cookshop in Cheshire in England.  The kitchenware department was playing a demonstration videotape for a group of older women customers, when the tape suddenly switched from cooking tips to an adult film.  The demonstration had been for an onion-chopping machine called the Alligator.

Number two, another Briton, Andy Park.  For the Wiltshire man, every day is Christmas, literally.  He is in his 12th year of doing Christmasy things every day, roasting a holiday turkey, then he plays with Christmas noisemakers, then he opens Christmas presents that he‘s gotten for himself, and he watches a tape of the queen‘s Christmas message to parliament.

Mr. Park is divorced, as if you hadn‘t already guessed that.

Number one, “Hello, Kitty.”  Popular Japanese cartoon cat is already on 50,000 different products.  But as of Monday, there will be a new and novel one, Euro coins.  Actually, European, actual European Union currency, with “Hello, Kitty” on the back.  The 50-Euro kitty coin is made a mixture of gold and, of course, actually kitties.

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OLBERMANN:  The story has not been undercovered.   The effort has not been underfunded.   The attachment between people and their pets and vice versa has not been underestimated.   In our third story of the “Countdown,” even though the ASPCA says this is the largest effort ever to reunite humans and their animal companions.   The post-Katrina results are inevitably beginning to taper off.   As our correspondent Martin Savidge reports from the New Orleans bureau, the final success rate will be less than two in 10.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Dakota‘s finally back in New Orleans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don‘t cry, mom.

SAVIDGE:  It‘s another tearful reunion.  It‘s also extremely rare. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I got you a toy.  

SAVIDGE:  Despite effort by hundreds of volunteers, unprecedented cooperation by animal groups, millions of donated dollars, plus wide use of the Internet, the reunion rate of owner and pets separated by Katrina is less than 15 percent.  

ANDREW SMITH, KATRINA EVACUEE:  We felt sure, as in many other times, we‘d be back in a day or two days at the most. 

SAVIDGE:  When Andrew and Glenda Smith fled New Orleans in a packed car, there was no room for their dogs.

SMITH:  We had left food and water for him upstairs and downstairs.

SAVIDGE:  Instead Max and Zach were rescued and taken to the Lamar Dixon Animal Shelter. 

The Smiths found Zack in a cage, but no trace of little Max. 

GLENDA SMITH, KATRINA EVACUEE:  I probably spent two about two to three hours a day, sometimes four, on the Internet and on the phone searching. 

SAVIDGE:  The biggest breakdown was organization after pets were saved.  Many well meaning volunteers had no clue what to do.  Paperwork got lost.  Information was never entered in the computers. 

G. SMITH:  The animals were marked, but there were definitely some that  were not.  

SAVIDGE:  Internet postings had bad photos or no photos. 

(on camera):  Another problem, people who‘ve adopted Katrina pets now refusing to give them back.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We just dealt with a rescue who literally held the animal for eight weeks and allegedly forced a payment to get that animal back. 

BETSY SAUL, PETFINDER.COM:  Now are sadly, you know, thousand of pets that aren‘t going to find their mama again.  

SAVIDGE (voice-over):  For now, Zack sleeps by the empty bed of his buddy and a family‘s heart is broken.  

G. SMITH:  But I‘m not going to give up. 

SAVIDGE:  Martin Savidge, NBC News, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

OLBERMANN:  We do not yet have the by now traditional reports of some of the animal victims of Katrina making their own way, hundreds of miles, to follow their human friends to some new home, but that  transition is still intact.   Although in the case reported to us by our correspondent Kevin Tibbles, Emily the cat‘s unintentional roundtrip tour of Europe was not entirely her own doing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Tense moments at the Milwaukee Airport as the family of Emily the cat awaits her return.  

LESLEY MCELHINEY, EMILY‘S OWNER:  She maybe only has like half a life left at that point, I‘m not sure. 

TIBBLES:  Emily disappeared two months ago from her Appleton, Wisconsin home only to turn up in France.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I travel with business all the time.  And I haven‘t got to go to  France. 

TIBBLES:  The famous feline stowaway rode a shipping container to Europe, surviving three weeks without food or water.   Once discovered, her owners were traced through the cat‘s name  tag.  And then, the pampering set in.

Continental Airlines furnished a first class ticket.  

PHILLIPE FLEURY, CONTINENTAL INTERNATIONAL:  I don‘t think she will drink champagne anyway, but I think she will be happy to rest.  

TIBBLES:  While other passengers dined on salmon fillet, Emily nibbled on cat food, but the jet set lifestyle did wear her down. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She slept most of the flight. 

TIBBLES:  And after the big reunion, those who love her most had noticed Emily had taken to the French cuisine.

NICK HERNDON, EMILY‘S OWNER:  She‘s bigger and heavier   than before. 

TIBBLES:  She won‘t be working off the extra weight by heading outside, at least not for a while.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Every time the door is open, that everybody‘s watching to make  sure she doesn‘t get out again.  

MCELHINEY:  I want to hold her. 

TIBBLES:  Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Again, the bond between people and pets often cannot

be   distinguished from the bond between people and people.  Usually that‘s

the benefit of all the species involved.  Occasionally, it is not. 

On Monday morning, Houston‘s fire deputy was happy to help when a women‘s cat got stuck up a tree.  Wednesday, there were anything but happy when another women‘s cat got stuck in a storm sewer.  Probably because she had called 911 and told the dispatcher that it was her “baby boy” who was trapped.  35 firefighters raced to the scene.  And Kym Alvarado-Booth, from our Houston affiliate KPRC reports, it was only then that they learned that the woman‘s “bay boy” was a male cat name “Baby.” 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAREARL MALONE, RICHARDSON‘S SON:  My cat, he got stuck. 

KYM ALVARADO-BOOTH, KPRC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The scene, a dark concrete tomb for a  kitty in a crisis.  Kids direct firefighters to a new storm drain behind a few fences in northwest Houston.  The kids tried unsuccessfully to free their feline. 

MALONE:  We had some sheets, we had a shirt, and we had a chain and tried to get him out. 

ALVARADO-BOOTH:  Did it work? 

MALONE:  It didn‘t work.  He grabbed on to it and then he let it  go. 

CAPT. KEITH ELLERY, HOUSTON FIRE DEPT.:  They said they were desperate.  They didn‘t know what else to do.  They didn‘t know who else to call, so they called 911.  

ALVARADO-BOOTH:  The cat‘s owner reported the animal in trouble several times, but cat rescues are not considered 911 emergencies.  

ELLERY:  Not the type-rescue we normally do, assists in animal rescues or retrievals, not on a regular basis.  But on this particular incident, you know, we felt compelled to kind of help him out tonight.  And. 

ALVARADO-BOOTH:  So the kitty‘s owner called 911 again saying her two-year-old baby was stuck in a sewer. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I called my baby, my baby.  And she said (INAUDIBLE), too.

ALVARADO-BOOTH:  The owner tried to explain herself to police.  You see, the cat‘s name is “Baby.”  Firefighters crawled 12 feet into the sewer to finally free the kitty.

The children celebrated, but police later ordered a warrant for the arrest of the 911 caller for filing a false report.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Kim Alvarado-Booth with KPRC in Houston.

Also tonight, what might be the high school football equivalent of that 911 call.  No coach, only the refs are supposed to move those orange yard markers.  

Now what do you mean you don‘t know how to fly?  You‘re a vulture.  What do you do everyday - order take-out?  Flying lessons   for a bird, ahead on “Countdown.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Morality is good.  A sense of sportsmanship and fair play is even better.  But best of all is the great and simple fear of getting caught.

Our number two story in the “Countdown,” our nightly world of wide sports report.  And it is impossible to believe that in this time of a video camera every three feet, people would still try to cheat in public.  

Then again, badness and stupidity happens to a lot of adults when they are involved in kids sports.  After further review, as the football referees like to say, it turns out one of the coaches tried to personally give his own team the proverbial longest yard.

Here‘s Ted Chen from KNBC in Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

TED CHEN, KNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  October 28th, a tight game between San Pedro and Gardena High Schools.  And with about seven minutes left in the game, San Pedro appears to get a first down on fourth in one.  But look closely on the left.  Behind the referee, San Pedro assistant coach Paul Brian, crouching in a black sweatshirt and white cap reaches down and moves the first down marker to the right in San Pedro‘s favor.  San Pedro goes on to win the game and the league championship.  

MARSHALL JONES, GARDENA FOOTBALL COACH:  I couldn‘t believe it.  I just couldn‘t believe it.  Never seen anything like this in 25 years of coaching.  

DEVOHN MOUTRA, GARDENA TEAM CAPTAIN:  My reaction was, you know, I thought it was unbelievable, really, you know, I didn‘t think had a coach, not anyone on the team but a coach, you know what I‘m saying, moving a down marker.   You know, I never think the game would be that serious.  

CHEN:  The game was videotaped by another competing high school coach and has circulated around the league.  It was seen just yesterday, though, by San Pedro High School principal Diana Gelb.  Today, she suspended Brian from the football team for a year. 

Why was it important to do that?

DIANA GELB, SAN PEDRO HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL:  Basically we are role models.  And that was an obvious act that should not have taken place. 

CHEN:  Gail says Brian has coached for more than 20 years without any problems.  Of the incident he‘s quoted in “The Daily Breeze” as saying, “It happened.  I wish it hadn‘t happened.  It was stupid.”

But at least one of his players is standing behind him.  

JOEY PADILLA, SAN PEDRO FOOTBALL PLAYER:  We‘re still Marine league champions.  It ain‘t nothing because you know what I‘m saying, we would have had that first down no matter what.  So besides what the coach did or whatever, he just wanted us to win. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  That explains it.  Ted Chen of KNBC in Los Angeles, who if he is fortunate, will not be assigned next to cover the Atlantic rowing race from the Canary Islands to Antigua.

The British team is rowing naked.  It consists of James Cracknell and Ben Fogle.  Cracknell is a veteran.  Fogle became famous as the member of the cast of the original British reality TV show, “Castaway.” 

They‘re not doing this for fun.  They say they are rowing across the equator.  And the best way to avoid chaffing is to not wear any clothes that will quickly become salt encrusted.  Cracknell says that he‘s made sure he‘s going to sit in front and Fogle in the back so, “I don‘t stare at his butt for 50 days at sea.”

And yes, the first syllable of his name is probably for nude rowing.  Crack - Cracknell twice won Olympic gold for England.  We may rightly mock his nation‘s recent international sports prowess, but remember it was a Britisher, Roger Bannister, who officially broke the four-minute mile barrier in 1954, and another Britisher, James Parrot, who unofficially broke it in 1770.

So the British are just burnishing their collective sports reputation now in preparation for London hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics with two naked men in a boat together for 50 days. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The games of the 30th Olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the city of London.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST (voice-over):  Britain has become the modern home for spectacle sports and stupid stunts.  Think of David Blaine. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is the end, the most important experiences in my life.

OLBERMANN:  British hospitality is, of course, simply legendary. 

Consider the celebrity chairman of the welcoming committee, Sir Elton John.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Pig, pig.  Rude, vile pig. 

OLBERMANN:  This is a country steeped in Olympic tradition, not only hosting in 1948 and 1908, but having invented the marathons.  Yes, you‘ve heard that nonsense about a guy in Greece.  And he drops dead after he runs.

It actually began on a hill in Gloucestershire.  But a bunch of drunks dropped the cheese they intended to have with their vat of wine.

The first winner of that race broke 26.2 bones in the effort. 

Thus the marathon distance is a mile for every task.

Olympic wrestling, well they call it Greco Roman, but we know it‘s really just a descendant from the British forced shin kicking.  I got the shin kicked out of me.

The U.K. is truly a kingdom united by the purity of sport.  The Olympic majesty of 15 caravans in a demolition derby.  The quiet dignity of the competitive medal eater.  The loneliness of the long  distance bod snorkler, scenes that resonate across the country from the weirdos dressed in superhero costumes at Buckingham Palace, to England‘s most intellectual elite.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You are the weakest link.

OLBERMANN:  If not our own, then what better country to represent the  spirit, the sportsmanship, the thrill, the color, the pageantry that will be the games of the 30th Olympiad.  Today, we say hurray for Britain and France.  I blow my nose in your general direction.

And we‘ll see you all in 2012.  Remember, mind the gap.  Do not make eye contact at the soccer hooligans.  And by all means, have the fish. 

Well, England and France may never kiss and makeup, but another dispute among international leaders is finally over and provides an easy segue into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keep Tabs.”

David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey are at peace.  Finally accepting his invitation to appear as a guest last night, Letterman and Winfrey ended a feud that had blossomed when he had made fun of her name and that of Uma Thurman as he hosted the 1995 Oscars.

It actually started long before that, but Winfrey got a laugh out of the Uma/Oprah, Oprah/Uma thing, giving Letterman a framed photo of herself and to Uma Thurman, signed with love.

Letterman unveiled most of his jokes before Winfrey was introduced, including top 10 messages left on Oprah‘s answering machine.

Number 10, this is Martha Stewart.  If you need it, I planted a box cutter in the guest chair.  Letterman later escorted Winfrey literally across the street to the Broadway theater so she could attend the premiere of the musical she is producing, “The Color Purple.”

Well, even if that‘s cleared up, there‘s always the dispute between Anna Nicole Smith and sober people.  The producers of last summer‘s Live 8 Concert have sued the diet pill manufacturer for whom Smith works over her boozy conduct.

The lawsuit claims that Trimspa still owes $320,000 it was to pay for commercials during the telecast and for integrating Smith into the production.

But the organizers took even greater exception to her behavior.  To add insult to injury, the lawsuit states when Ms. Smith showed up to the Philadelphia concert to be integrated into the ABC broadcast, she was intoxicated and scantily clad in revealing attire that was totally inappropriate for a broadcast that would be seen by millions of people.  

Wait, you guys took money to put Anna Nicole Smith on television and you figured she‘d be in a sailor suit, drinking a milk shake?

And if a New York radio report is correct, one of those TV news outfits that doesn‘t have a permanent anchor for its nightly network newscast is about to get one. 

Charles Gibson is telling friends that he will be named the  anchor of ABC‘s “World News Tonight”.  Still reports the entertainment correspondent for WINS in New York, Sandy Kenyan.  ABC has been using a rotation of Gibson, Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff since illness forced the late Peter Jennings off the newscast last winter.

The network would not comment, save to say no announcement is planned.

Just coincidentally, we can congratulate our pal, Brian Williams, tonight on the one-year anniversary as the anchor of NBC “Nightly News.”

Speaking of world news, what do noisy teens and grounded vultures have in common?  Both are the current pet projects of mad British scientists.  That‘s ahead.

But first, time for “Countdown‘s” list of today‘s three nominees of the coveted title of worst person in the world.  The bronze winner is Ferrell White.  F-e-r-r-e-l-l.  Not Feral, F-e-r-a-l.

He‘s the building official for Spring Hill, Tennessee.  He has ordered a hair salon to remove lewd language from an advertisement in town.  The ad is for products called sexy hair concepts. 

The lewd language Mr. White says, is the word sexy.  There‘s an issue that never arises for our runner up tonight.  Ann Coulter.

A twofer.  She posted the personal phone number and e-mail of a blogger who was critical of her.  And she called other groups which  disagree with her, “Nazi block watchers”.  You know, she explained.

They tattle on their parents, turn them into the Nazis.

But the winner, and this one comes with great personal pain because we were friends when he worked here and thereafter, John Gibson.  Selling his new book about this phony baloney war on Christmas, John revealed a very ugly side to himself.  He is one of those people who think all religions but his are mistaken.  You know, the way a lot of these religious nut bag terrorists think.

I would think, Gibbie said on a syndicated radio show. if somebody is going to be—have to answer for following the wrong religion, they are not going to have to answer to me.  We know who they‘re going to have to answer to.

I‘d tell you which religion, John, thinks is the only one that‘s right, but what‘s the difference?  It‘s not the faith that‘s the issue.  It‘s the intolerance.  John Gibson, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Some of their innovations have been milestones, like flushing toilets and vacuum cleaners.  Some of them have changed the world like jet engines and television and ooh, the English language.

But in our number one story on the “Countdown” tonight, the British have also given us mustache protectors, and eyeglasses for chickens, and the Spice Girls and those two guys rowing naked across the equator.

To say nothing of two new lamees tonight from the lime-ees, there‘s the invention that tries to teach a new bird an old trick.  And first, there is a device to keep teenagers from loitering at convenient stores.  No, I‘m not kidding.  Our correspondent in Barry, Wales is Ned Colt. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NED COLT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Irritating?  What about these?  Still with us?  Now try this.  If you‘re over 30.

Is that good?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s good for me.

COLT:  But if you have young ears like Page. 

COLT:  What does it sound like to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sounds like babies crying. 

COLT:  What would it be like?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s like crickets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s like when you go on holiday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  .cricket noise is horrible, because it really gets inside your ears.  And it really hurts. 

COLT:  The source is this innocuous little box called the mosquito.  It emits a high-frequency tone that older ears can‘t pick up. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you generate just the right frequency, the right pitch and the right isolation, it sounds to a teenager like a demented alarm clock, and one they can‘t turn off. 

COLT:  Convenience store owner Rob Goff had had enough.  His shops nine cameras didn‘t deter teens from loitering and bothering customers.  He asked inventor Stapleton to install this first mosquito here five weeks ago. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  .which is what I wanted, you know.  You can still come through.  You can walk into the shop.  You can do your shopping.  We won‘t affect you.  We won‘t bother you. 

COLT:  It did affect Darren and Shane, who used to hang out here. 

What does it sound like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Squeaking noise. 

COLT:  Squeaking like a what?

COLT:  OK, a mouse. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Like a mouse?

It‘s weird noises, isn‘t it? 

COLT:  Now if an inventor can only find a positive pastime for bored and wayward teenagers.

Ned Colt, NBC News, Baron, Wales.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

OLBERMANN:  Turn them into inventors.

So that‘s what you do with young humans who won‘t fly away.  What about young vultures who won‘t fly away?  The United Kingdom has that one solved, too.  Wind tunnels.

From the town of Milton Kings in England, here is correspondent Helen Callahan of our affiliated British network, ITV. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HELEN CALLAHAN, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  He‘s got a six-foot wing span but this Gollett Britain‘s laziest vulture has never had to lift a feather in his life.

In the wild, the African Whiteback‘s mother would lovingly pushed him off cliffs to teach him to fly.  But because he spent all of his four years in captivity, with his food delivered to a door, he‘s never bothered to learn.

STEVE EALES, GOLLETT‘S OWNER:  He‘s probably the most (INAUDIBLE) vulture I‘ve ever come across.  He takes everything in his stride, but not in his flight.  He doesn‘t want to fly.  And I hope on the wild side, we pride ourselves in flying birds to the best of their abilities.  But he‘s been a bit of a stumbling block, because he just wants to walk everywhere. 

CALLAHAN:  But not anymore.  Now it‘s time to shape up.  After nervously watching the professionals in an artificial wind tunnel, Gollett had a go at the flying equivalent in a running machine. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He did enjoy it.  It was quite different.  You can see him testing the air and using his wings on how they‘re meant to be used in a rather artificial setting.  But it‘s very similar to what we‘ve created in the wild with rising air currents. 

CALLAHAN:  Today, Gollett‘s been made a frequent flyer member at the Milton Keen‘s wind tunnel.  And tomorrow, well maybe he‘ll be soaring in the sky above the Serengeti.

Helen Callahan, ITV News.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

OLBERMANN:  And if he‘s lucky, they‘ll get him some goggles.

Time for me to blow out of here.  That‘s “Countdown.”  Our MSNBC coverage continues next with Rita Cosby, “LIVE AND DIRECT.”

And (INAUDIBLE) alderman.  Keep your knees loose, good-night and good luck. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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