Guests: Jonathan Soltz, Howard Fineman, John Phillips, Jack Hanna
ALISON STEWART, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
“I see progress.” Where? Iraq, according to Senator Joe Lieberman, who dropped into Baghdad, pronounced things better, and then head home to Connecticut. But not before he faced tough questions from troops who think otherwise and want to know when they get to go home. Until then, they just want the body armor they need.
Well, here in the states at Fort Lewis, it was announced individual memorials will no longer be held for troops, because there are too many.
She‘s already a lawyer and a mom, but will she be a first lady? She‘s campaigning for a fellow who might make that so. We go on the trail with Michelle Obama.
Two people dead, 15 people injured, one speeding motorcycle, a fatal pileup in Maryland set into motion during a police chase. When is a chase not worth it?
His name is Andrew Speaker. He‘s a 31-year-old attorney from Atlanta, and he‘s likely to have exposed hundreds of people to a dangerous strain of TB. Oh, and one more thing. His father-in-law works for the CDC as a tuberculosis specialist. No, really, that‘s true.
And that‘s some pig. An 11-year-old hog hunter claims he shot a nine-foot hogzilla. But is this for real? Some aren‘t as sure as Jerry the taxidermist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, 1,000 pounds is a supermonster pig.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Jack Hanna gives us his take on the monster pig mystery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK HANNA: Never seen a pig anywhere close in size to this one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just saw a pig man.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A pig man?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Good evening. Keith Olbermann has the night off. I‘m Alison Stewart.
At least 123 Americans have been killed in Iraq this May, making it the third-deadliest month since the war began.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, soldiers still stationed in Iraq now asking the question, quote, “When are we going to get out of here?” end quote, amid new questions that President Bush envisions keeping a military presence in that country for the long haul, one U.S. senator praising progress being made in Iraq and the selection of knockoff designer sunglasses, Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman wore his new shades to lunch with Specialist David Williams of the 82nd Airborne Division, who says nearly every one of his fellow soldiers begged him to ask the senator, quote, “When are we going to get out of here?” another soldier at the lunch, a Connecticut constituent of the senator, telling a reporter that he was going to tell Senator Lieberman, quote, “We‘re not making any progress. It just seems like we drive around and wait to get shot at,” one report concluding that President Bush is, quote, “more convinced than ever of his righteousness on Iraq, syndicated columnist Georgie Ann Geyer (ph) writing in “The Dallas Morning News” that, quote, “Friends of his,” the president, “from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself in the chest three times while he repeated, ‘I am the president.‘ He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of our country‘s destiny,” end quote.
Dealing with the loss of American lives has been especially difficult at Washington State‘s Fort Lewis, where one out of every six soldiers killed in Iraq this month was stationed, so many that, starting tomorrow, Fort Lewis will no longer hold individual memorial ceremonies for fallen soldiers. Instead, the Army post will honor its war dead in a single ceremony, to be held once a month.
Many Fort Lewis families reacting that a shared ceremony would impersonalize the sacrifices of these soldiers, the mother of one fallen soldier equating it to, quote, “the birthday party once a month thing. That‘s wrong.”
For more reaction on this and the rest of the day‘s news, we‘re joined now by Jon Soltz, an Army captain who served in Iraq in 2003. He is now chairman of VoteVets.org.
Jon, thanks for being with us.
JONATHAN SOLTZ, CHAIRMAN, VOTEVETS.ORG: Thank you for having me, ma‘am.
STEWART: Now, officials at Fort Lewis are no doubt feeling overwhelmed. I can‘t even imagine what they‘re going through. But I do want to know your opinion, was stopping individual memorial services the best way to have handled this?
SOLTZ: Well, obviously, at VoteVets.org, we fight for the troops, and we remember all of them when they fall for this country. But I think it‘s a sign that the Army‘s completely overextended. One of the additional brigades that President Bush sent to Iraq, and obviously now (INAUDIBLE) in place, was one of these brigades from the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. That‘s why the causalities are so high.
This month in May was the highest month of casualties in Iraq in deaths since November of 2004. And it‘s unfortunate, because we need to remember all of our soldiers that die. I understand that they‘re overextended at Fort Lewis, like the rest of the Army, but we need to remember our troops. It‘s the worst thing that could ever—a soldier could ever think of is that they‘ll be forgotten once they fall. And we owe it to them to remember them individually every time.
STEWART: Need to do it every day. Yesterday came word that the White House sees the U.S. having a long-term military presence in Iraq similar to the one that it‘s had in Korea for so many years. Do you think that‘s a valid comparison?
SOLTZ: I couldn‘t think of a worst comparison. When we went to Korea, we went in under a U.N. mandate. It was a conventional, high-intensity conflict, force-on-force conflict. We used diplomatic solutions to get a stabilization on the peninsula, and we‘ve had a presence ever since. But the presence has been in peace. Our soldiers aren‘t being shot at in Korea every day. They‘re not coming home in body bags.
And for the troops on the ground, I mean, this is the second blatant example of this administration with their words undermining our troops in the field and emboldening the enemy. When they passed their torture bill last year in Congress, our soldiers are on the ground every day trying to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, and they validated everything that happened at Abu Ghraib, which undermines the popularity of the troops in Iraq.
And then when you go and you say, We‘re going to be there indefinitely, that‘s like a recruiting tool for al Qaeda. That‘s a recruiting tool. Our soldiers are in the villages every day, they‘re trying to say that we‘re here temporarily to help your government get established. And here come the people in Washington, D.C., who‘ve never had the courage to fight for this country. They stand up and they say, Well, we‘re going to be there for 50 years or indefinitely.
Only 1 percent of the Iraqi population supports an indefinite American presence in Iraq. So what the president did today and Tony Snow is, they gave al Qaeda a recruiting poster, and it‘s very unfortunate for our men and women in combat.
STEWART: I do want to follow up on one more thing about that Korea comparison. No one won in the Korean War. It was a cease-fire. Do you expect a change in the language about winning in Iraq?
SOLTZ: Well, I think that‘s funny, when they went after Senator Reid, winning or losing troop levels more, troop levels less. This is about diplomacy, this is about finding the politicians, or the people in charge, who control the armies or the militias or the guns. And we need some form of political settlement, both at the regional level and internally in Iraq.
I have no idea what victory looks like, because the commander in chief has not laid (ph) that. So we‘ll see, but I‘m not quite sure if we‘ll ever see victory or defeat, or if we‘ll just see something in the middle.
STEWART: I want to get your impression about those two soldiers who told the media that fellow soldiers do not think that progress is being made, and they want to know when are they actually going to get out of there, get to go home? How many more soldiers can we expect who are not willing to speak out publicly? And why don‘t they speak out publicly, sir?
SOLTZ: Well, I think what‘s interesting is that soldiers are speaking out. When Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was in Kuwait and the specialist spoke up, that‘s why we had up-armored Humvees in Iraq. And last year Zogby did a poll in Iraq of combat troops that were there, 70 percent thought we needed to get out within a year.
And now you have Joe Lieberman, who spent his Vietnam War years in law school, and claims that he‘s some kind of arbiter of patriotism, going to Iraq wearing his fake ugly sunglasses. And it‘s hard for me to know that he actually gets to see the troops, because those soldiers, they wanted to talk to Joe Lieberman, and they wanted to tell him the truth. They wanted to tell him what they saw, which was that they‘re driving around, they‘re getting shot, and they want to know when they‘re going home.
And for me, you know, when I came home, I was lucky to get to meet, you know, someone like Senator John Kerry, who took the time out to talk to me. And he really let me know that my opinion mattered to him. Obviously he had questioned the war in Vietnam when he came home.
But for these soldiers to have to go and talk to a guy like Senator Lieberman, who‘s not going to listen to their concerns, because he‘s—I don‘t quite know why he thinks what he thinks, but it‘s not based on fact and it‘s not based on reality, but it‘s bad for their morale. And it‘s hard for them to do that, like you said, because they‘re inside the military. And, you know, it‘s a culture of discipline. And it‘s obviously very difficult.
But I really wish they would have been able to talk to a senator that would have cared what they thought.
STEWART: Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets.org. Thanks for being with us tonight.
SOLTZ: Thank you, ma‘am.
STEWART: At the White House today, President Bush got on board with the rest of the Western world in saying that something needs to be done about global warming. Mr. Bush called on 15 other nations to join the U.S. in taking new steps to reverse climate change. His critics are, to put it mildly, skeptical, wondering if it‘s just some sort of hot air emission.
Chief White House correspondent David Gregory has our report.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Alison, as you might imagine, critics are already saying that the president has not gone far enough. But what is significant is this. For the first time, this president has committed the U.S. to lowering the emissions that scientists insist cause global warming.
(voice-over): It was an attempt today to end the administration‘s isolation on climate change. It comes just days before the president will meet allies in Europe, who have long criticized the U.S. for failing to join the Kyoto treaty, an international agreement mandating a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States takes this issue seriously.
GREGORY: Now, Mr. Bush proposes that the U.S. and other top producers of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, should work together.
BUSH: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases.
GREGORY: Still missing, specifics on how much each country should curb emissions. The White House has rejected mandated cuts, arguing countries should set their own strategies.
Climate change, sanctions against Sudan, and more money to combat AIDS in Africa are all issues the president has highlighted this week before next week‘s G-8 summit, in order to mend frayed relations with U.S. allies.
(on camera): That, of course, an important gathering in Germany next week.
On the subject of climate change, at least one member of the Bush administration was pretty far off-message today, NASA administrator Michael Griffin telling NPR this morning that global warming isn‘t necessarily a bad thing, leaving one astonished NASA scientist to call him uninformed, Alison.
STEWART: David Gregory at the White House. Thanks.
To those who might like to live in the White House, Al Gore gave Keith what sounded like a definite maybe in a possible ‘08 run. Now some good poll news for the former VP.
And a potential first lady, Michelle Obama, on her husband, her family, and the campaign.
And later, the risk of high-speed chases. When will the practice stop? In Maryland, two innocent bystanders killed and 15 others injured as cops chase a motorcyclist.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
STEWART: Tonight, the 2008 campaign officially enters the you know stage.
Number four in our COUNTDOWN, you know Al Gore is not running, at least not now, but you know why he might be tempted. “An Inconvenient Truth” won an Oscar. His new book, “The Assault on Reason,” is a bestseller in its first week on the shelves. And Gore is actually more popular with some voters than the Democrats who are actually running.
You know voters are restless when Gore does better than Clinton against the Republican frontrunner. Both Democrats and Republicans in the swing state of Pennsylvania say they‘d choose Gore over Rudy Giuliani. Now, it‘s a slim 1 percent margin, but remember, Gore isn‘t even running.
Then there‘s former senator Fred Thompson, the man who some Reagan conservatives seem to have a man-crush on. You know he may declare himself a candidate because he‘s given up his fat check from “Law and Order” in favor of launching a big fundraising campaign.
And then there‘s Senator John McCain and Bill O‘Reilly. Let‘s just say you know you‘re watching Fox News when Mr. O‘Reilly said immigrants would, quote, “break down the white Christian male power structure.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR,” FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
BILL O‘REILLY, HOST: That would sink the Republican party, I believe, so we‘d have a one-party system, and change, pardon the pun, the whole complexion of America. Am I wrong?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, you‘re right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Personally, I don‘t really pardon the pun.
Let‘s bring in MSNBC analyst and “Newsweek” columnist Howard Fineman.
Howard, nice to see you.
HOWARD FINEMAN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
STEWART: So that exchange, did Senator McCain just step in it with anyone who has any attachment to immigration or has a person of color in their family or as a friend? Or did O‘Reilly kind of do him a favor with a certain segment? O‘Reilly said it, and the senator just had to agree.
FINEMAN: I don‘t think he did him any favors. If you play that segment again in slow motion, Alison, I think you‘ll see an exceedingly high blink rate on John McCain‘s part, and a sort of -- You noticed when he first was asked the question, he kind of shook his head no, as if, you know, I read McCain‘s secret language, and I know what he was saying in his mind, which is, I can‘t believe I have to do this.
I think McCain is just caught in a nightmare situation, where he‘s running a campaign in 2008 that he shouldn‘t be running. He should be running the campaign that he ran in 2000, as the outsider, as the truth teller. Instead, he‘s running as the insider, touching all the bases, kissing all the butts. And I‘m sure it‘s not a happy experience for him.
STEWART: Let‘s talk about a guy who‘s not living a nightmare, he‘s living a dream right now. Things are going pretty swell for Al Gore at the moment. You had to column today, saying you ran into Mr. Gore recently, and he‘s worried about the political system collapsing, partly because of TV news playing into emotion and fear. But I know you challenged him that emotions can be a good things in politics. What was the argument you folks had, (INAUDIBLE) discussion, and how did he respond?
FINEMAN: Well, it wasn‘t an argument based on emotion. But I said, Look, you need the passions of people to get interested in politics enough to take part. That‘s what you want. And he said, Yes, but facts matter, and I agree with him about that.
Really, what his book is about, Alison, it‘s a philosophical argument that hides what I think is a campaign book, if he chooses to run. He‘s basically saying that the Bush administration runs only on emotion, runs only on fear and passion, has literally lost touch with reality, and has been able to manipulate an electorate that is too used to yelling and screaming on TV. What he‘s really saying is, Elect me, I‘m the only rational guy on the planet.
There are people who might not agree. There are even some people who might think that Al Gore uses emotions sometimes when he talks about the environment. But he‘s immensely popular out there among Democrats. I (INAUDIBLE) was in Pennsylvania yesterday, as a matter of fact. He‘s very popular there. I got a lot of questions from people. Is Al Gore going to run? I think he‘s sort of practicing the Zen of running by not running now, and he‘ll decide for sure in the fall.
STEWART: Want to talk about health care, obviously a big issue. And Barack Obama just detailed his plans, cutting insurance premiums and covering the uninsured by ending tax cuts for the wealthy. You know, but you think about Senator Clinton, who‘s this uniquely sticky position here, because of her failure of her health care initiative in the ‘90s. Is this why she‘s holding back on this issue?
FINEMAN: Well, I think she‘s careful, because she touched the wet paint sign, you know, once, and she doesn‘t want to get stuck on it again. She knows anything she suggests in health care is going to be scrutinized more closely than anybody else‘s policy position on anything, because she‘s supposed to be an expert. People are going to compare what she suggests now to the more sweeping things she proposed back in ‘94.
I had talked to her about this awhile back, and I observed that the states were moving rapidly. And she said, Yes, maybe what we ought to do is just let the states take care of it. You know, I think that‘s not realistic. She knows that. But she was almost wistful for the possibility that she wouldn‘t have to take the lead on this again, because I think she‘s a little gun-shy on it.
STEWART: When do we hear anything about health care from the Republican side? I mean, it‘s amazing, on Mitt Romney‘s Web site, there‘s barely a mention, there‘s two little paragraphs, when you type on his health care tab. Yet he signed this landmark health care coverage law in Massachusetts.
FINEMAN: Well, in Mitt Romney‘s case, the problem is in Massachusetts, that the premiums that are required under that system are skyrocketing. It‘s going to be very burdensome, and it‘s scared a lot of people in Massachusetts. That‘s why he doesn‘t want to brag about it.
I think what the Republicans are going to do generally is go to their default position, which is vouchers, some kind of voucher program for health care is probably where they‘re going to end up. And it‘s not their favorite issue, and it‘s about government, it‘s about big government, and they‘d rather, I think, avoid it than deal directly with it.
One person who wants to deal with it directly, by the way, is Newt Gingrich, who‘s another guy who‘s studied that closely and who‘s thinking of running in the fall.
STEWART: And we will no doubt be discussing him in days to come.
FINEMAN: At great length, yes.
STEWART: Howard Fineman. Thanks again, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
STEWART: Behind every candidate, there‘s usually a political spouse who tries hard to balance campaign fundraising with family, and sometimes even gives up a professional career. Michelle Obama is doing just that. And, you know, oddly, the mainstream media seems fascinated with the concept of a strong, well-educated black professional woman who speaks her mind.
In my family, we call that normal. What is not normal is, the woman‘s husband could become the first black to occupy the White House.
Michelle Obama is working hard for her husband‘s campaign, as NBC‘s Janet Shamlian found out during this exclusive one-on-one-interview.
JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She spends her days before crowds in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, but her nights are home in Chicago with an audience of two, 8-year-old Malia (ph) and 5-year-old Sasha (ph).
MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA‘S WIFE: I get up in the morning, I get the girls ready, get their lunch, hair fixed, get them off. Then I get on a plane, I come here, I do events, I get on a plane, and I‘m home before bedtime.
SHAMLIAN: Raised on Chicago‘s South Side, perseverance paved the way to Princeton and Harvard Law School, then to a Chicago law firm, where she married a hotshot new hire named Barack Obama. His campaign is why she‘s quitting her job, unemployed for the first time.
(on camera): Are you conflicted about leaving the workforce?
OBAMA: Yes, I wouldn‘t be honest if I didn‘t say that there—I mean, I think this is what professional mothers sort of grapple with all the time. Do I stay home? Am I working too much?
SHAMLIAN (voice-over): Aggressive and direct, 43-year-old Michelle Obama is not unlike her husband‘s most formidable opponent.
OBAMA: We have this window where maybe we‘re just sick and tired of the way things are.
SHAMLIAN: The campaign considers her crucial to reaching a pivotal voting bloc, working mothers. She says she‘s doing it on her own terms.
OBAMA: The campaign is going to have to adjust to a mommy being involved in it. Fortunately, I know the boss.
SHAMLIAN: She acknowledges her role as her husband‘s most trusted adviser. And while critics suggest it‘s one that‘s been manipulated for political advantage, she‘s willing to take serious issues head on.
(on camera): You have heard the criticism that he‘s not black enough, that he can‘t—he doesn‘t have that civil rights experience.
OBAMA: Folks aren‘t asking about whether Barack is black or what have
They want to know, what‘s his policy positions? What is his stance on the war in Iraq? They‘re not confused about race on this.
SHAMLIAN (voice-over): Michelle Obama knows what shapes her life, her husband, the campaign, and those two little girls.
OBAMA: This interview, I‘m not quite sure they‘re going to want to watch it if Spongebob is on. You know, they‘re kids, so their first priority is them.
STEWART: Janet Shamlian reporting.
The twist in the tuberculosis case. As if there could be more drama, the brand-new father-in-law of the patient works for the CDC. And the coincidence gets even stranger beyond that.
And nothing to see here. Just a deer in the middle of the legislature.
STEWART: Welcome back. I‘m Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.
And today marks a particularly poignant anniversary that still affects the nation. No, make that the world, for it was exactly nine years ago today that we found out the dreadful truth. Geri Halliwell, a.k.a. Ginger Spice, was leaving the group. The Spice Girls‘ Posh, Baby, Scary, Sporty, Sleepy, Doc, and Dopey, as we know them, were no more. So much for friendship is for never ends.
Let‘s play Oddball.
Oh, we begin in (INAUDIBLE), New Brunswick, Canada. And there‘s an intruder in the legislature, the pitter-patter of not-so-little cloven hooves echoing through the halls of power, alerting the local security guard, who gave chase as the furry fiend charged the lobby, into an elevator, then into the press room, which he trashed before fleeing out of a window.
Look at this together. Politics, intruders, press abuse? David Gregory is having a flashback somewhere.
Next up, the second installment of cool slow-motion camera stuff. Last night we brought you this winner, a water balloon bursting on his face. Tonight, a variation on the theme. First, what happens to a water balloon that doesn‘t break when you drop it? Splurge. Ooh, it‘s (INAUDIBLE). Now, how about an unburstable balloon to the face? I don‘t really know even know what to say about that.
So I move on to Loch Ness, Scotland, and fresh evidence that there is indeed a monstrous creature living in the lake. And by evidence, I mean this shaky home video. Apparently that moving shadow is meant to be Nessie. Got to say, as far as proof of a living dinosaur, maybe if you had (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE)?
Now, this is more like it. You better run for your lives. A dinosaur with a huge butt and (INAUDIBLE) tails terrorizing children and tourists in Australia. Oh, wait. It‘s just a dude in a suit. That could be real after five, six (INAUDIBLE). Neat, no (INAUDIBLE).
Turning to a living monster, at least it was living until an 11-year-old kid chased it through the woods and shot it dead. But is this so-called monster pig real? An exclusive COUNTDOWN investigation ahead.
And another deadly police pursuit, once again raising the question, given that speeding cars put the public in danger, are high-speed police chases worth the potential danger?
Those stories ahead.
Now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Robert Alan Soloway. He‘s a spammer in the slammer. If you have noticed a decline in the amount of spam in your email box since his arrest yesterday, here‘s why: federal authorities say he ran a massive spam operation, sending out millions and millions of bogus e-mails and then scamming people who replied. His arrest literally may stop the amount of you know what enlargement advertisements you get. However, he does still hold the title of one of the top ten spammers in the entire world.
Number two, Angel Santamaria, voted in as councilor for the small Spanish town of Royce. Santamaria‘s campaign promises included wearing his Elvis Presley outfit to all council meetings, turning the town square into a nudist pool, painting the town hall pink, planting marijuana in the park, and the coup de gras, giving local police GPS devices to find people who have marijuana, not so they can arrest them, but so they can supply smokers with a light for their joints.
Number one, Linette Servais, fired from a St. Joseph‘s Catholic Parish in New Frampton, Wisconsin because of her second job. She works part-time for Pure Romance, a self-described, quote, “romance enhancer business.” But the father at St. Joseph‘s Parish felt that sex toys are, quote, “not consistent with church teachings.” Thus Miss Servais was summarily dismissed from her church position, which was, I‘m not making this up, playing the organ.
STEWART: So you know that nightmare where your fiancee‘s dad works in a federal tuberculosis lab and then during your honeymoon, you expose her to one of scariest forms of TB there is? Yes, I hate that one. In our third story tonight, it turns out that the man who flew internationally and then snuck back into the United States knowing he had carried an often deadly form of TB, is the son-in-law of a long-time tuberculosis researcher who works at the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Conspiracy theorists, start your engines. Both father and son in law‘s identities were revealed today. And NBC‘s Robert Bazell followed the story through the day‘s bizarre and possibly Freudian twists.
ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The patient is Andrew Speaker, a 31-year-old Atlanta lawyer. Overnight a federal government jet flew him to National Jewish Medical Center in Denver. Doctors say he appears healthy, but is concerned about all the fuss his case has caused.
DR. GWEN HUITT, NATIONAL JEWISH HOSPITAL: He obviously very emotional about what has gone on.
BAZELL: In a bizarre twist, it was also revealed today that Speaker‘s wife‘s father is Dr. Robert Cooksey, a tuberculosis researcher at the CDC labs in Atlanta. Today Dr. Cooksey read a statement, strongly denying he had or the CDC had anything to do with the infection. And he had a plea for reporters.
DR. ROBERT COOKSEY, CDC: Please, try to refrain from uniformed anchor desk chit chat about this. There‘s so many factors involved. Please try not to hype this, because it is a very complicated situation and speculation will not do anyone any good.
BAZELL: Meanwhile, health officials continue to search for passengers who sat near Speaker on his trans-Atlantic fights. Jason Vik, was in the same row on the May 12th Atlanta to Paris flight.
JASON VIK, PASSENGER: They tested me. They gave me some X-rays of my chest, and then I have the skin test. But I stayed in this room for about five hours or so.
BAZELL: Officials say, so far they have found no infections. National Jewish became renowned as a TB treatment center early in the last century. Back then, it pioneered the surgical removal of a part of the infected lung. Speaker will undergo that same surgery.
The head of the hospital‘s TB program says Speaker‘s condition will deteriorate if the surgery doesn‘t work.
DR. MICHAEL ISEMAN, NATIONAL JEWISH HOSPITAL: If we don‘t manage to control the infection, remove the diseased portion of his lung, the rest of his life will be involved with TB. So this is the one central moment of this man‘s life.
BAZELL: And we‘ve learned there was a computer order to stop Speaker at any U.S. border crossing. But an inspector let him in from Canada because the inspector says he looked healthy. Tonight that inspector is on administrative duties pending an investigation. Allison?
STEWART: Robert Bazell, thank you. The danger of high-speed chases. When will the practice stop? A deadly accident in Maryland kills two innocent bystanders.
And Harry Potter fans can celebrate. When the last book and the last movie are done, you can still visit the new Harry Potter theme park. Details ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bytes of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Believe it or not, there‘s a guy in Buffalo that‘s been living in this underground bunker for the past six years. This is Clarence Rounds, 47 years old. His home is literally down to Earth. The Earth is his walls. The bunker is six and a half feet under ground, about 16 by 20 feet. It took Clarence two years to build his bunker. It‘s awfully dark.
How did you do it?
CLARENCE ROUNDS, BUNKER OWNER: With a bucket and a shovel, day by day.
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Thank you all very much. Yet poverty, a lack of education—I‘ll visit homes protected by mosquito sprays—these are just some of the things our government is doing.
Ladies and gentlemen, my husband, President George W. Bush.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Laura, thanks for that short introduction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sardoodledom.
KENNYI ADUAD, SPELLING BEE CONTESTANT: Sardoodledom?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sardoodledom.
ADUAD: Sardoodledom. S-A-R-D-O-O-D-L-E-D-O-M?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: If you have seen a police car chase on TV lately, there‘s a reason why more likely than not it‘s low speed. In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the risks of a high-speed chases. Depending on the crime, it would seem police are better off letting the speeding vehicle escape than weaving through heavy traffic to catch the culprit.
There are people in the D.C. are who not doubt think this. Two people dead, 15 people injured, including two police officers, all because one motorcycle was speeding on the Capital Beltway outside Washington, D.C. It happened last night during rush hour on the Maryland portion of the beltway in Prince George‘s County.
A police cruiser tried to cut off the motorcycle, which swerved and sped off. The police car then slammed into another vehicle, which caused that car to become airborne, over the median, and into oncoming traffic. The chain reaction crash that followed involved five more cars. All told, the seven car pile up closed down most lanes of traffic for five hours.
The two innocent motorists have been since identified as Kevin McCarter (ph) of Fort Washington, Maryland and Sidney Clanton (ph) of Buffalo, New York. Joining me now John Phillips, president of PursuitWatch.org, which tries to educate the public, the police and the press about police pursuits. Thanks for your time tonight.
JOHN PHILLIPS, PURSUITWATCH.ORG: Absolutely, thanks for having me.
STEWART: I want to break this down, focusing first on the incident last night. We don‘t have video of that actual event or specific details yet, but generally, why would police ever try to intercept a speeding vehicle on a freeway or highway during rush hour?
PHILLIPS: I don‘t know. I don‘t know what to tell you. I can‘t tell you what the officers were thinking. I can‘t explain why they would make that decision at a time like that, during rush hour traffic. First off, even if it was a car, I wouldn‘t be able to justify the decision, much less a motorcycle, which could outrun just about any police car there is anyway.
STEWART: Who usually makes the call about when to go into a chase mode, specifically a high-speed chase?
PHILLIPS: It varies. It could vary from the individual officer themselves up the chain of command.
STEWART: A lot of people talk about low-speed chases. Are there risks involved there as well? I mean, we shouldn‘t just assume that that‘s the safe way to go.
PHILLIPS: I think any chase is a chase in my book. You can kill someone going 10 miles an hour. You can kill someone going 110 miles an hour. It doesn‘t matter. A chase is a chase.
STEWART: On your site, you write that mandatory reporting of pursuit activity should be required by law enforcement agencies. How do you think that would affect things?
PHILLIPS: I think you would see right now—you would see a spike in the number of fatalities, not so much a spike. But as of right now it‘s a voluntary procedure, and that leads to a lower number than the actual number. Also, many times a report is filed, let‘s say, the day after and a victim were to die three days later, so they might not count, even though they were clearly a victim.
STEWART: Shouldn‘t there be some sort of sliding scale based on the offense? I mean, a kid steals a purse, jumps in his own car. That has to be a whole lot different than a murderer or car jacking someone and taking off.
PHILLIPS: Absolutely. What we‘ve done here in Orlando, in the central Florida area, is we‘ve gone to—police can pursue anything that is considered a violent crime. So we have, like you said, a murder, a rapist, a car jacker; in those instances it is worth the risk, for lack of a better word, to apprehend the suspect as soon as possible. Anything less than that, a busted tail light, speeding violation, anything like that; it‘s not worth the risk to the public, to the officers themselves and even those who are fleeing.
Many times it‘s just a dumb, stupid kid making a very bad decision.
It‘s not worth it. It‘s that simple.
STEWART: John, how often do police review these policies and jurisdiction change or adapt their updates, their pursuit books?
PHILLIPS: I think we‘re starting to see a trend of more restrictive policies. So policies that are not allowing officers to pursue at will. There is, although, a little bit of people—there are some people who are against that. But I think once these decisions are made to make policies more restrictive that everyone benefits and everyone agrees with that too.
STEWART: John Phillips, the president of PursuitWatch.org, thanks for taking the time tonight.
PHILLIPS: Absolutely, it was my pleasure.
STEWART: Turning now to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. And if just reading the books or seeing the movies isn‘t enough for you, there‘s a new pursuit for Harry Potter fans, a 20 acre theme park. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens up in the fall of 2009 on one of the Islands of Adventure in Universal Orlando.
Full disclosure, we here at MSNBC are part of the NBC Universal Company, and what do you know, the CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts appeared on the “Today Show” this morning for a little Potter talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS WILLIAMS, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, UNIVERSAL PARKS: It‘s really going to be authentic. You know, J.K. Rawling writes the book, and the film makers interpret that book into the visually stunning landscapes that are so renowned in the film. And we have the same production designers that worked on the film doing the design of this theme park within a theme park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
You will be able to walk through at your own pace. It‘s three dimensional. There‘s restaurants. There‘s shops. There‘s three different attractions. The environment is completely replicative of Hogsmeade Village. You‘ll be able to go to Hogwarts Castle. You‘ll be in the Forbidden Forest. It really affords the fans of Harry Potter, which number in the hundreds of millions around the world, to see this park, to see Islands of Adventure and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter within it, at whatever pace they choose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: And as the world turns, so do the days of our lives. When we last checked in with Lindsay Lohan, Li-Lo had entered rehab after a Memorial Day weekend that involved a car crash, an arrest for DUI, an alleged white substance and passing out in a friend‘s car. Or was she merely sleeping.
Anyway, Miss Lohan was also at risk of losing her part in the movie “Poor Things,” which was set to begin filming this week. But the producer and co-star of that film, Shirley MacLaine, has now weighed in, saying she‘s willing to rearrange the shooting schedule to allow Lohan to complete rehabilitation.
MacLaine and another producer said, in a statement, “we wish her love and the blending of mind, body and spirit.” But the blending of frozen margaritas, forget about it.
And to someone who still, despite everything, again insists she does not take drugs or use alcohol, that would be Ms. Paula Abdul. Abdul tells “OK Magazine” that, quote, I‘ve never been drunk. I don‘t do recreational drugs, end quote.
As for her sometimes bizarre behavior, she says it is simply sleep deprivation because of chronic back pain from her cheer leading days, quote, I try to say something and I stumble, and that‘s what people have picked up on.
OK, so maybe that explains the whole “American Idol” schtick, maybe, but what about her recent appearance on QVC?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAULA ABDUL, “AMERICAN IDOL”: I‘m creating my own—Wow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Paula. Another conundrum for the unsolved mysteries file, the monster pig, is it real? Is it a hoax? Is it an exaggerated fishing tail. The story has been everywhere on the Internet, on the TV. The one and only Jack Hanna weighs in with his opinion on the monster pig mystery next.
STEWART: rMD+IN_rMDNM_E.B. White‘s “Charlotte‘s Web” is one of the most beloved children stories of our time, the tale of Wilbur is a runt who was saved by the love of a child and a friend‘s ingenuity. Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, sure is not “Charlotte‘s Web;” it is one of the most popular stories on the Internet right now, the tale of Monster pig, an enormous feral hog killed by a child and his gun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ll tell the story. I killed a 1,051 pound hog.
Just want to tell you all how it happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Jameson, I‘ll tell what you‘re story is. This is how your family says it happened. Accompanied by his dad and some guides, Jameson hunted this Hogzilla over the course of three hours early this month at an Alabama hunting reserve, shooting him eight separate times with a 50 caliber hand cannon.
The story has raised a lot of questions, like is that thing for real? And what about the pig? If it is real, it would be one, if not the biggest on record, if anyone were keeping records of such things. Jameson‘s father said yes, the monster pig is really real. And he has the skull and the revolting details to prove it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ve seen a lot of hogs over the last couple of years. I have never seen a pig anywhere close to the size of this one. This pig, as you can see here by these marks—Most hogs you can take and put your knife between the vertebrae and basically the spine separates. You can pop the head off. This one, it wasn‘t happening. We had to take a chain saw.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: OK, that‘s quite enough. Our lunch might be gone. But the question still remains. There are still skeptics who believe this picture may be photo-shopped or maybe it‘s just coincidence this photo came out the same month that casting started for a film called “Legend of Hogzilla.”
Tonight, in a special COUNTDOWN investigation, we dig up absolutely no definitive answers whatsoever, but we get some pretty informed insight. Joining us now, who else, Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Jack, thank you so much for being with us.
JACK HANNA, DIRECTOR EMERITUS COLUMBIA ZOO AND AQUARIUM: Thank you.
STEWART: OK Jack, as part of this whole investigation we‘re doing here on COUNTDOWN, one of our producers spoke with the National Swine Registry, which confirmed that pigs can exceed 1,000 pounds. What‘s your take? Could this size pig exist? And how common are the big fellows if they do?
HANNA: We‘ll see, this is the thing, how does it exist out in the wild? Most pigs—I just talked to a good friend of mine, Gary Nicholas, a great conservationist, a guy who has hunted pigs like this before. He and I both agree—because I had to talk to somebody that hunted these pigs—if one of these hogs is fed somewhere, near a dump or something—
Most of them weigh 300 or 400 pounds. A boar is maybe 400 pounds, the big ones. Now how does this animal get to be not quite two and half times larger? Number one. Is the hog, again, around a dump or something like that.
A hog like this, when you are hunting them also, they don‘t see very well. So their smell and their hearing is what they rely on. Now, if that is going toward the hunter, that is great. But if it‘s going toward the pig and the hunter is standing there, that animal is going to take off quicker than a dear. So these are just questions. I‘m not going to say if the pictures involved, or it‘s been doctored or whatever else.
I‘m just telling you about the animal itself. These are wild animals. Some people hunt them with rifles. Some people hunt them with dogs and locate the animal. How did the young boy get that close? I was in the army and shot a .45.
Now in Alabama, he looks like he‘s a sturdy kid. But to shoot a .50 -
what was it, .50 magnum or something. Man, that is a big weapon. That thing would go like this. That‘s fine if he‘s been taught that. But there are just so many things here that, to me, I‘m just trying to figure out how the hog got that big. And how all of a sudden they went out with four other hunters and they got.
More than likely, maybe he did get it. But I talked to Gary and these folks who have hunted them and just a lot of questions to be answered.
STEWART: Normally, who would verify whether or not something like this is true? If someone you happened to know had a situation like this, who do you call to verify this, Jack?
HANNA: I can tell you right now there‘s quite a few people that are going to look at it. The Game and Fish Commission want to know, because if this hog was brought in—some of these are Russian Boars by the way. The ones in Florida came in from Spain. They‘re Feral Hogs.
This might be part Russian, which do get bigger. And if that animal
was brought in without the proper permits or papers from somewhere, then
somebody‘s going to be in big trouble. Because it‘s very difficult for us
For example, a wart hog from Africa, very, very few ever come in this country unless there is tremendous quarantine because of certain diseases.
Now, maybe this hog, plus being a nocturnal animal—they like to hunt at night time a lot. How all of a sudden the animal is running around in the day time. So, you see, there are just a lot of questions. The father might—they both might be honest, but they have to answer these questions on how, all of a sudden, this monster just showed up out of nowhere.
I mean, is it on 30,000 acres or on 3,000? If it‘s on 30,000 acres, then maybe he his somewhere and had his own big food pot. I don‘t know. But it is puzzling how the animal got this big and never was seen.
STEWART: From what I‘ve read, pigs are supposed to be very, very smart. How is it an 11-year-old could sneak up on an animal that big and kill it?
HANNA: Good point. That‘s what I‘ve been saying, unless this pig had been fed somewhere, and someone knew about this pig and was fattening it up. All of a sudden, like you said, maybe the movie was coming out and they wanted to get a bigger hog. Because pigs are intelligent. I used to have pigs on our farm in Tennessee. I mean, we raised one big pig that was about 650 pounds. I thought he was the biggest pig in the world.
Obviously, I was wrong. We fed him—I fed him where he just laid there and rolled around. He couldn‘t even walk hardly.
STEWART: Well he was one happy pig. Jack Hanna, we thank you so much for lending your expertise and helping us out with this.
HANNA: We‘ll see soon if it was a real pig or a fake boar.
STEWART: We shall see. That is it for this Thursday edition of COUNTDOWN. Up next, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” with Joe Scarborough. I‘m Allison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. Thanks for watching.
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