updated 6/18/2007 11:43:04 AM ET 2007-06-18T15:43:04

ALISON STEWART, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Incompetent.  That‘s the word Senator Harry Reid used to criticize the leadership of Generals Pace and Petraeus in Iraq.

There‘s outrage, but should there be, considering General Pace now says he was forced out as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs?  He still has the gig until October 1.  And by then, the troop surge he still supports might be working.  Or not.

Legally blonde.  New concerns that the attorney general may have coached Monica Goodling before she testified.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I object.

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STEWART:  The Department of Justice is investigating the meeting that made Ms. Goodling, quote, “a little uncomfortable.”  Gonzalez-gate continues.

From Gonzo to Scooter.  Will Libby be pardoned?  The buzz has already started about what the president‘s next move is.  But is it truth, or a trial balloon?

Cold war in space.  The Russians say there may be a fatal flaw in the computers on the international Space Station.  And now they are blaming the Americans for the problem.  Quick, somebody make this better.

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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Russia is our friend.

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STEWART:  And after 35 years, Bob Barker signs off from “The Price Is Right.” for the last time.  We‘ll take a look back at the man, his ladies.

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BOB BARKER, “THE PRICE IS RIGHT”:  I like younger women.

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STEWART:  And all those showcase showdowns.  Just remember, America, without him, we‘d be overtaken by cats.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARKER:  Have your pets spayed or neutered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Good evening.  I‘m Alison Stewart.  Keith Olbermann has the night off.

And pretty soon, General Peter Pace will have all of his days off, now that the Bush administration has decided to replace him as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a decision that General Pace disclosed today was forced upon him.  In his words, “I‘ve been told I‘m done.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, people who are competent are sometimes, but rarely, asked to leave their jobs involuntarily.  Something to keep in mind amid all the outrage over Senator Harry Reid‘s revelation that he once told General Pace directly, quote, “what an incompetent man,” unquote, Reid thought Pace was, in his first public comment since last week‘s surprise announcement that the Bush administration would be replacing him, General Pace telling an audience at a military college in Virginia that he had been asked to retire voluntarily, but he refused, saying he wouldn‘t just walk away from his duty, duty which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to think he wasn‘t doing so well.

Senator Reid caused a stir during a conference call with bloggers when he criticized General Pace by likening him to Attorney General Gonzalez.  Quote, “Pace is also a yes-man for the president.  I told him to his face, I laid it out last time he came in to see me.  I told him what a incompetent man I thought he was,” end quote.

Today, the senator defended his right to tell the general anything he wants.

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SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  Peter Pace, I talked to him in my conference room, just him and I.  And I told him how I felt, that he had not done a very good job in speaking out for some obvious things that weren‘t going right in Iraq.  I told him that to his face.

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STEWART:  As for the war that General Pace is still helping to oversee until the fall, the top man at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, made a surprise visit to Iraq today, calling progress of how the war is going there, quote, “a very mixed picture,” end quote.  The so-called surge of U.S. troops complete as of today, with 28,500 additional Americans in uniform now posted in that country, Secretary Gates making it 28,501 for now.

Time now to call on our own Jonathan Alter, also, of course, the senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.

Hi, Jon.

JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:  Hi, Alison.

STEWART:  So the outrage over Senator Reid‘s comments, is it warranted, or was it just a clumsy way of saying what many believe is true, that Iraq is having problems and has been mishandled by administration officials?

ALTER:  The outrage is not warranted.  I mean, the man was speaking the truth.  Now, was it a little bit clumsy because it attracted too much attention to the senator, as opposed to keeping the focus on the war?  Sure.  You know, but the fact remains that Iraq has been a fiasco.  General Pace is associated with the fiasco.  He didn‘t tell the truth enough, either to Congress or to the president‘s face.  The country‘s paying a heavy price for the fact that he didn‘t get it done.

And I think the time of saying, Well, we‘re never going to say anything critical about the military, because we want to support the troops, should be starting to come to a close now.  And we should lay the judgments on people as merited.

STEWART:  But despite his blowback, do you think we‘ll expect to hear more tough talk from Senator Reid in the weeks and months ahead?

ALTER:  We probably will.  And—but I think he probably would be well advised to be a little bit more careful about the kinds of things he says.  For instance, you know, some time ago, he said that the war was lost, and that the surge had failed.  That just made him a lightning rod.  It didn‘t really accomplish anything, even if there was some truth to it.

There still, as one congressman put it to me the other day, a 10 percent chance that this can work.  So he was probably a little hasty in his judgment.

You also might want to be well advised to, you know, couple his criticism of the war with support for being tougher on the war in Afghanistan, tougher on al Qaeda .  That‘s been a Democratic position, to try to shift our focus there.  I call it pull and strike, to pull out our forces, ground forces, out of Baghdad, but strike harder in Afghanistan against al Qaeda .

And you might hear—be hearing Senator Reid and others start to talk more in that key in the days ahead.

STEWART:  I need to ask you about Peter Pace.  He still has three more months on the job.  So what do we attribute his remarks today?  Is the administration giving him a bit of latitude here, a chance to maybe save face?  I was sort of struck that he said, Yes, basically, they made me leave.

ALTER:  Yes, well, I think that he didn‘t like the impression that was left by Secretary Gates that he somehow was afraid to go and appear before Congress.  That was the stated reason why he was not going to be renominated to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  And I think, you know, Pace wanted to make it clear that there were political factors, both within the Pentagon and on the Hill, that made his continuing status untenable, and that, you know, he was asked to leave, but it wasn‘t as if he was chicken to go up on Capitol Hill, which is the way it looked last week.

STEWART:  And before we let you go, Jonathan, we want to ask you about another conflict the White House has to consider.  Islamic fundamentalists led by the Hamas terror organization seized control of the Gaza Strip for moderates backed by the Bush administration.  What does this do to President Bush‘s vision for that region?

ALTER:  Well, you know, it‘s just really—it‘s so awful.  I mean, here the Israelis unilaterally handed over Gaza.  They did what they‘ve been urged to do in the West Bank.  Everybody said, Yes, give the Palestinians their territory.  So they did that.  How were they rewarded?  With missiles fired into Israel from Gaza, and now, with a takeover by Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of Israel.

The only thing that might turn out in a positive way, Alison, is on the West Bank, because Abu Mazen, the leader of Fatah on the West Bank, he can now say, Look, give Hamas Gaza.  We‘re going to be in charge on the West Bank.  And he‘s much more willing to engage in the peace process.  You could see a little bit of progress on the West Bank.

But it‘s not anywhere near what this president hoped for when he first outlined a peace agenda three years ago.

STEWART:  Well, let‘s all hope for the positive.

Jonathan Alter, senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.  Have a great weekend.

ALTER:  Thanks a lot, Alison, you too.

STEWART:  While President Bush dismisses congressional investigations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as political theater, like it or not, the president may have a ringside seat to the DOJ‘s new show, called investigating Gonzalez.  The attorney general is now being scrutinized by two ethics watchdogs within his own Justice Department for his conversation with a top aide back in March.

Prior to congressional testimony by aide Monica Goodling, Gonzalez told her his recollection of the events leading to the U.S. attorney scandal, then asked for Goodling‘s response.  Goodling testified that that exchange made her uncomfortable, because it dealt with matters under investigation.  It also conflicts with Gonzalez‘s own claim under oath that he didn‘t discuss the matter at all with his top aides for exactly the same reason.

The DOJ watchdogs yesterday told the Senate Judiciary Committee that they are including the incident in their ongoing investigations.

Also yesterday, just hours before Mr. Bush signed the law ending Gonzalez‘s ability to appoint interim U.S. attorneys indefinitely, Gonzales notified the committee that he is appointing another interim U.S. attorney.  The difference now is that George Cardona, already acting U.S. attorney, will only get another 120 days in office before he has to face Senate confirmation or go.

This all coming as the DOJ inspector general continues probing allegations that just came to late today, the news blog TPMMuckraker.com obtaining an internal DOJ complaint alleging that the top Gonzalez aide, a top Gonzalez aide, Bradley Schlozman, carried out a purge of the civil rights appellate division, the complaint, by an anonymous DOJ staff, says Schlozman, quote, “appears to be targeting minority women lawyers.  Schlozman told one recently hired attorney that it was his intention to drive these attorneys out of the appellate section so that he could replace them with ‘good Americans,‘” which the complaint identifies as, quote, “white, invariably Christian men,” unquote.

Let‘s bring in a veteran critic of political theater, Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post.”  He‘s also our own political analyst.

Hey, Dana.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

Hello, Alison.

STEWART:  Let‘s start with this new aspect of the internal investigations, Mr. Gonzales discussing with Goodling.  What do you see as the big problem?  Is it having a little chat with someone who worked for you before, say, she testifies before Congress?

MILBANK:  Yes, that‘s a bit awkward, particularly when you‘re the top law enforcement official for the nation, and when, in fact, you‘ve testified that you did no such thing.  The two things can‘t be correct at the same time.  And Monica Goodling said that the attorney general told her, Here‘s my version of events.  I just want to make sure that‘s consistent with your version of events.

But clearly, the inspector general there in the Justice Department has his hands full.  And one of the things he may want to be investigating right now is if anybody‘s still actually working in the Justice Department.  We had another Friday night—not quite a massacre, but another homicide over there.  And Mike Elston, the deputy—the chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, is this Friday‘s resignation.

And McNulty himself is out of there in a few days.  So it‘s getting lots of more real estate for each person who‘s still working there.

STEWART:  The office jockeying will start soon.  Hey, could this grow into an independent investigation, do you think?

MILBANK:  Well, there‘s no independent counsel statute.  It certainly would have in the old days.  But both parties were very happy to get rid of this.  In theory, the Justice Department, the president could be pressured into creating a special prosecutor here.  But the fact of the matter is, the attorney general can fire a special prosecutor at will, just as he can with the inspector general.

So it wouldn‘t necessarily achieve anything, although it would elevate the prominence of this issue, which is certainly what some Democrats would like to do.

STEWART:  I‘m really interested in this alleged purge of the civil rights division, has equally, and in some people‘s minds, more serious, implications than the U.S. attorney firings.  Any sense of why stacking the civil rights division hasn‘t risen to the levels of the U.S. attorneys‘ issue?

MILBANK:  Well, it‘s just because the U.S. attorney issue is where—that was sort of the entry into this whole scandal.  That‘s a couple of the senators found out about it, and that‘s where they started probing here.  The fact of the matter is, what‘s developed elsewhere in terms of Monica Goodling‘s hiring of both political and career people based on their political orientation, now we hear it‘s happening in other parts, like the civil rights division.

It‘s also alleged to be happening among the summer interns and among certain internal awards programs.  It—at this rate, it will be just another week or so before we find out that the cashiers in the Justice Department cafeteria are being checked for political donations.

STEWART:  Oh, you joke now.  You know, Dana, it seems like this story is just one big drip after another.  We haven‘t mentioned the warrantless wiretaps probe, the midnight ride of then-counsel Alberto Gonzalez to the hospital bed of John Ashcroft to get his signature to renew the program.  Yet Alberto Gonzalez is still the attorney general.  Will it take the investigations to get any movement?  Or is this guy just Teflon?

MILBANK:  Well, I‘m not sure it‘s a matter of Teflon, but the attorney general—about 25 percent of the public believes he‘s been handling himself properly here.  But that‘s not such a big deal if only 30 percent of the public approves of the way the president‘s been handling his job.  So from the president‘s point of view, there‘s no real pressing need to get rid of him.

STEWART:  Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”  Thanks for being with us.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Alison.

STEWART:  Begging his pardon.  Libby‘s lawyers plan to appeal this Monday to keep him out of jail.  But will the president take care of that problem with a pardon instead?

And Russia says there could be a, quote, “fatal flaw” in the life support and computers on the International Space Station.  Does that mean its death?  Is that imminent?  Or does the fact that four of the six computers are finally up again mean a reprieve?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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STEWART:  Scooter Libby is four to six weeks away from going to prison, unless his lawyers can somehow become very appealing.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, they‘re filing as fast as they can.  Libby‘s attorneys now say on Monday they will go forward with an emergency appeal to overturn U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton‘s most recent ruling, the one that orders Mr. Libby to begin serving his 30-month sentence while his conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice is under review.

If the appeals panel agrees with Walton‘s decision, and if Libby‘s overall appeal fails, keep your ear to the ground and to talk radio, because you will no doubt hear cries for a presidential pardon.  And calls by conservatives for such a move might be paving the way for President Bush‘s choice, especially since it‘s not just rightwing pundits pushing that idea.  Eight of the 10 Republican presidential hopefuls, for example, either favor a pardon outright, or have suggested, you know, that might be a good idea.

Led call in Rachel Maddow, whose show airs every weeknight on Air America Radio.

Nice to see you, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Hi, Alison.  You too.

STEWART:  Do you think that all the talk about a pardon for Scooter Libby, on both the right and the left, has effectively served as somewhat of a trial balloon for the White House?

MADDOW:  Yes.  I think that they couldn‘t have intended for it to be used as a trial balloon.  The talk was going to happen anyway.  But if they were wondering whether or not this was going to become a cause celebre on the right, yes, it has become a cause celebre on the right.  And you see that with the presidential candidates, you see that with kind of the right wing punditocracy.  They have decided that this is the hill they want to die on.  They really, really, really want a Scooter Libby pardon.  And they‘re going to push for it very hard.

The president now has to decide whether or not he‘s going to—whether or not he‘s going to see that as outweighing what will undoubtedly be a more general outrage  (INAUDIBLE) among the country, among the rest of us in the country if he does issue the pardon.

STEWART:  Yes, let‘s forget the politicos for a minute.  Wat about the rest of people, the regular public?  Does it even matter at this point, given the president‘s approval rating is so low?  Do it or don‘t do it, he‘s just in a bad place.

MADDOW:  He is in a bad place, but he could always be worse.  You know, there‘s (INAUDIBLE), there‘s always further down to go.  And you can just imagine some of the things that people would say.  First of all, it‘s, you know, it‘s all these issues about the rule of law, lying and obstructing justice.  But there‘s also a history for Bush personally with this.  I mean, Bush refused to pardon Carla Faye Tucker, remember, back in 1998, when people—Christians as diverse as the pope and Pat Robertson were calling for her to be pardoned.  Bush refused, and made sure that she was the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.

Him not pardoning Carla Faye Tucker, but pardoning Scooter Libby?  I mean, that‘s the kind of comparison that Bush is going to have to weather.  Yes, his approval ratings are bad, but they can always get worse.

STEWART:  And there‘s been this idea that‘s been suggested, most recently in Slate, that Mr. Bush pardoning Libby might actually boost his ratings a bit and win back some of the conservative support that kind of a kiss and make up for, say, his immigration plan that has so many of his base folk all up in arms.

MADDOW:  Well, you know, there‘s—you never count them out in terms of the crazy decisions.  They could decide to go for broke and give Scooter the Medal of Freedom.  You know, he—at this point, he has to decide how important the tiny remaining slice of his base is to him, versus his overall legacy, and versus what could still be a very uncomfortable remainder of his second term.

The—one thing that I think has not received enough attention here is that pardoning Scooter Libby would be directly contrary to Justice Department guidelines for pardons, which might result in a number of other reasons that might result.  But there may an Democratic congressional—

Democratic-led congressional investigation into the president if he decides to issue this pardon, possibly into the role of the vice president, who was Scooter Libby‘s boss, and pushing for such a pardon.

This, pardoning him makes the story a story about Bush and Cheney rather than it just being a story about Scooter Libby, to the extent that‘s been confined (INAUDIBLE).  I think it holds real political risks for him.  But he has to decide how much he wants (INAUDIBLE) wants to cater to that base.

STEWART:  And of course the White House has said that the president will first allow the legal process to work itself out properly, referring to Libby‘s appeal.  Where would the pressure come from from Mr. Bush to pardon Mr. Libby before he even sets foot in jail, which is likely?

MADDOW:  Yes, there‘s a real interesting time frame issue to watch here, because we could be looking, within four to six weeks, at Scooter Libby being in prison, actually, you know, wearing the jumpsuit and meeting his cellmates, very shortly.  And if the idea is that they want to prevent him from losing his dignity in that way, they really want to keep him out of jail, then this pardon thing is going to happen fast.

STEWART:  Rachel Maddow, host of “The Rachel Maddow Show on Air America.  Good to see you.

MADDOW:  You too, Alison.  Thanks.

STEWART:  Speaking of criminal behavior, first they were attacking joggers, now they‘re trying to break into our homes.  Why are birds going berserk?  We have a special Oddball investigation.

And bouncing baby.  The mother who went to watch her son on a baby monitor and saw a NASA spacewalk instead.

That‘s ahead.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  I‘m Alison Stewart.  Keith Olbermann will return from vacation on Monday.

So for the final time this week, let‘s stop the COUNTDOWN for a brief segment of silly news, goofy video, and stupid criminals.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Fertigen (ph), Switzerland, with a runaway train caught on tape.  Look out!  Actually, it‘s a big celebration to commemorate the opening of the world‘s longest overland tunnel.  Yay (INAUDIBLE).  It‘s the Lachsberg (ph) Tunnel, 21 miles long, through the Alps, giving high-speed trains a way to cut the trip from Germany to Italy to less than two hours.  And, of course, once that high-speed train service officially begins, there probably won‘t be all these people having cocktails on the tracks.  That wouldn‘t be good.

An update now on the breaking Oddball news, birds going crazy.  Last night, we brought you the story of the red-winged blackbirds in Peoria attacking joggers for exercising in their migratory nesting area.  Tonight, an attack on the media itself.  Goosebray, Labrador (ph), it‘s a raven rapping, gently rapping, on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation‘s plate-glass door.  Maybe it sees its reflection and wants to fight, or maybe it‘s got a problem with the evening news anchor.  The one thing is certain, the birds are going crazy.  Somebody call Dick Cheney.

And finally, to Rochester, Minnesota, where one doctor at the Mayo Clinic has invented the perfect way to keep fit at the office, the treadmill desk.  It‘s a treadmill with a desk on it.  Ta-dah.  Dr. James Levine says office workers can burn up to 800 calories a day walking while they work.  Of course, they‘re likely to put that weight back on when they‘re laid up in a full body cast for six months.  But if you can‘t walk and type at the same time, that‘s your problem, buddy.

Russia is blaming America.  America is blaming Russia.  If we can all just get along for a minute, maybe someone will fix the crippled computers on the space station for good.

And a game show legend signs off after five decades on the air. 

COUNTDOWN pays tribute to Bob Barker, ahead.

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

Number three, the local Applebee‘s Restaurant in Antioch, California.  There‘s an investigation going on (INAUDIBLE) in just to how to a little 2-year-old boy was given a beverage that made him sick.  Now, his parents ordered an apple juice.  He was given, in a little plastic sippy cup, a margarita.  After throwing up for a while, the boy is fine, but now has a thing for nachos.

And number two, Jacob and Emily.  Those are the two most popular baby names of the 2000 through 2006, according to a new report from the Social Security Administration.  Almost 400,000 babies were given one or the other in the last six years.  The report also noted that 1,026 girls were given the name Unique.  Not so much, actually.

And number one, Senator Raymond Levine of the Canadian government, who‘s got a bit of a shaky record on ethics and misuse of public funds, so his opponents are on the right are now investigating his recent paid medical leave.  He says he underwent hemorrhoidal surgery.  But the Senate has hired a doctor of their own to check Levine out.  They want the proof.  And we thought politics here were ugly.

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ALISON STEWART, GUEST HOST:  It shouldn‘t be surprising that solving computer problems in space isn‘t as easy as calling tech support.  But the number three story, success.  The space nerds score a partial victory over the computer inside the international space station, 200 miles owe our heads. 

NBC‘s Tom Costello has been following this story all day. 

Tom?

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Alison, good evening from Washington.  Late this afternoon, cosmonauts on board the international space station bypassed a faulty power switch and then rebooted the six computers that have caused so many problems.  At the moment, four of the six appear to be working.  The question now, will they hold? 

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COSTELLO (voice-over):  On board the international space station, crew members spent the day inspecting every cable connected to those six troublesome computers, looking for signs of electrical interference.  They found nothing. 

Then late in the day, progress, with four of six computers showing signs of life.  The trouble all started on Wednesday when astronauts connected a new solar panel unit.  Russian engineers believe the power surge cripples their computers. 

JIM OBERG, NBC NEWS SPACE ANALYST:  Apparently, the physical damage has been done.  It is a matter of bypassing these units. 

COSTELLO:  Without power, they can‘t control the rockets that maintain proper alignment or attitude, and keep it from spinning.  And that could mean trouble when the space shuttle gives the station a jerk when it undocks next week. 

MIKE SUFFREDINI, NANCE SPACE STATION MANAGER:  The highest priority would be maintaining attitude once the shuttle departed. 

COSTELLO:  Today mission managers say they remain confident that without computers, they can find a way to keep the space station stable and astronauts will not need to abandon ship. 

SUFFREDINI:  There is nobody in this agency, as far as I know in the Russian agency, who thinks this vehicle is at risk of being lost, not even remotely. 

COSTELLO:  If the computers don‘t fully recover an early resupply mission in July may be necessary to install new computer parts.  Until then, it would float free for six weeks. 

UNIDENTIFIED NASA EMPLOYEE:  OK, Danny, we would like to you pitch up a hair and pan right. 

COSTELLO:  Meanwhile, another space station walk today as astronauts work to repair a hole in the protective thermal blanket.  Astronaut Danny Olivas neatly tucked the blanket back in.  Then stapled it down. 

DANNY OLIVAS, ASTRONAUT:  We have one, two, three, four, five, six staples. 

COSTELLO:  Making the shuttle safe for reentry next week. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO:  Back now to the space station, engineers say they only need one pair of computers operating to keep the station stable.  So having four up and running, at least for now is a very positive step—Alison? 

STEWART:  NBC‘S Tom Costello, thanks. 

For more, let‘s bring back James Oberg, NBC News space consultant and former space shuttle engineer. 

We know it has been a long day.  We appreciate you sticking around for us. 

JAMES OBERG, NBC NEWS SPACE CONSULTANT:  We‘ve been up and down and around.  This morning they were frustrated.  They did not know what might be causing it.  By the afternoon.  We‘re diving in to fix it.  There is a long way to go.  Now they know who the enemy is.  This is not a lurking mystery.  This is a burn out box.  And they‘re ready to be MacGyver. 

STEWART:  It was so funny that you say it is a burned out box.  When you listen to it, it sounds like you‘re at your house and someone plugs in a blow dryer and the thing blows.  Is it that delicate that one thing can blow a box? 

OBERG:  It is not supposed to be.  And all the equipment that‘s hooked up there—this is Russian, the Russian module but these are German computers.  Hooked up for a Japanese experiment with the, on the U.S. half of the station. 

So when you build this international space station, generally you specify exactly how much stress and how big a spark you‘re supposed to handle.  They don‘t know yet what dropped the ball.  Who dropped the ball?  Whether it was an unusual big spark, a pulse, whatever. 

The latest accounts from Moscow, and I haven‘t been able to talk to Tom about this.  Talking about an electrostatic charge.  Not a power charge from the solar panels, electricity, but actually a spark coming from running this long metal beam through the earth‘s magnetic field from 18 miles an hour.  That generates power.  They‘re supposed to ground it.  But it may not have happened.  They‘ll find out why and meanwhile, they‘ll work on fixing it. 

STEWART:  You know the commercials, I‘m a Mac and I‘m a P.C.  This is a joint effort by more than a dozen countries.  You‘ve been talking about them right now.  Has there been any squabbling over who is to blame? 

OBERG:  The squabbling would be, if one party didn‘t follow the initial rules.  Early on, when you‘ve decided you‘ll put two things together.  Both sides get down and they‘ll negotiate out how they fit.  The size of the bolt holes, the voltages, the size of the temperatures.  And when they finally get those specifications, the specs, the engineers call them.  Then they have to obey them. 

And later on when something goes wrong, like something has.  We‘ll find out.  Which piece of equipment did not meet those specs?  You cannot squabble owe that.  When someone is not meeting the specs, they just sneak off into a hole somewhere. 

STEWART:  As a long-time observer of the space program, has this space station‘s project been wore the trouble and the $100 billion?  What do you think? 

OBERG:  I think it is worth it for both physical and mental reasons.  It‘s worth it because it is a much longer building than anyone expected or hoped.  The stage of getting additional people, more scientists and more power and more laboratories were on the verge of doing that.  We‘re not putting more and more rooms on board.  We‘re doubling and redoubling it. 

There has been a whole litany of things that should never have happened.  It is still here.  It is there and we‘re going to use and it exploit it for research and for inspiration. 

STEWART:  Both good things.  James Oberg, we‘ll keep in touch with you.  Thanks a lot.

OBERG:  Thanks, Alison. 

STEWART:  The high-tech wizardry that brings us live video from orbit costs hundred of millions of dollars.  Certainly not to be compared with one of those $49.95 baby monitors that you keep an eye on the tiny tot in your house.  Right?  Wrong. 

Last Sunday, one Chicago mom noticed a live feed of space video, like this, on her baby monitor.  Suddenly, her little son Jack‘s crib was looking a lot like the NASA channel.  Natalie Meilinger might have thought her son‘s first words were “Mission control, do you read me, over?”

NATALIE MEILINGER, ILLINOIS MOTHER:  I went into their bedroom to make sure there was nothing on the television in there.  And nothing.  Came back and I went to bed.  I said I‘ll deal with it in the morning if it is still there. 

STEWART:  NASA says signals couldn‘t have come straight from orbit. 

It is possible the device picked up someone else‘s wireless Internet video.  That‘s right.  A toaster oven blows out the space station and you guys blame it on the Internet. 

Legal shockers.  The man who wrongly prosecuted three people for rape suddenly announces his resignation on the stand at has own ethic trial. 

And the fact they filmed him drunk, David Hasselhoff has just been awarded full custody of his kids.

Those stories ahead, but first, here are “COUNTDOWN‘s” top three sound bites for the day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CORRESPONDENT:  ... Oyster producing regions.  But a farmer‘s life can be hard.  Unstable prices and disease have affected business in recent years.  So one farmer decided it was time to improve his performance.  George May discovered by pulverizing Viagra tablets and sprinkling them on the water, the oysters easily absorbed the active ingredient. 

GEORGE MAY, FARMER:  We take world‘s most natural aphrodisiac and you blend with it the most effective manmade aphrodisiac, you end one something that really works. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I like the idea of mentors reaching out to children to set good examples and to encourage them to achieve big goals in life.  And that‘s what happens here in this Boys and Girls Club.  It is a place where dreams are fostered and skills are given so people can realize their dreams. 

JON STEWART, “THE HOSTESS”:  When you walked—did you walk the streets of Pakistan? 

JANET ???:  When I was there, yeah. 

J. STEWART:  And do you wear a head covering? 

JANET:  I did, yes. 

J. STEWART:  Did you wear a burqa? 

JANET:  I did put it on for a moment to see what it was like. 

J. STEWART:  Janet, if I may, I say, with all due respect that, you know.  Can a burqa contain your hotness?

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  The testimony of Reed Seligman, Duke Lacrosse player, was striking.  Our number two story, the district attorney in that case is now on trial himself for possible ethics violations.  And today, he has said he will resign. 

Mike Nifong brought charges against the three lacrosse players in April of last year.  Despite the fact that freely given DNA evidence did not link the men to the accuser.  Now Mr. Nifong faces possible disbarment. 

As for his continuation as district attorney, an issue not on trial, Mr. Nifong has made that decision himself. 

Our correspondent is Ron Mott.

Ron? 

RON MOTT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening to you, Alison.  Mike Nifong‘s stunning announcement caught most if not all of courtroom observers by surprise.  It was an emotional mea culpa that followed emotional testimony earlier today. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOTT (voice-over):  Mike Nifong dropped a bombshell.  His intention to resign as Durham county district attorney. 

MIKE NIFONG, DURHAM COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  It is not fair for the people of my community to be represented by someone who is not held in high esteem. 

MOTT:  Hours before, he seemed ready for his day on the hot seat. 

NIFONG:  I want people to hear the truth. 

MOTT:  Once inside, he had a tough act to follow.  One of three duke lacrosse players he charged with rape.  Reed Seligman broke down, recounting the day 14 months ago when he told his mother. 

REED SELIGMAN, DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER:  I can hear her on the other end of the phone.  The life was sucked right out of her. 

MOTT:  Reed Seligman, Collin Finnerty and David Evans were cleared.  Nifong was called a rogue prosecutor.  Nifong went on trial this week for possible ethical violations that could lead to his disbarment. 

NIFONG:  I‘ve always, as my parents raised me, tried to do the right thing.  And I‘ve always been willing to take responsibility for the things that I have done, right or wrong. 

MOTT:  The principle allegations, that he made inflammatory statements. 

NIFONG:  I am convinced there was a rape. 

Clearly some of the statements that I made were improper. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Standard practice among prosecutors and the standard of practice among DNA technicians is to report all of the results. 

MOTT:  Withheld evidence. 

NIFONG:  That is certainly evidence that the defense attorneys were entitled to have. 

MOTT:  And misled the court.  A charge Nifong denies. 

NIFONG:  I cannot admit the total lie.  And I still intend to defend myself. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MOTT:  The panel extended hearing testimony into tonight and left open the possibility of going into the weekend. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  Ron Mott in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Thank you. 

You might want to get out that box of Kleenex because it is time for our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news we call “Keeping Tabs.”  It will be nothing but tears and raw emotion tonight. 

Tears of joy for a happy Hoff.  David Hasselhoff is telling tmz.co.com he has finally won sole custody of his two daughters after a strangely nasty fight.  He accused her of alcohol and drug use and generally psycho behavior.  She accused him of fooling with the nanny and she did catch him fooling around with Wendy, or maybe something from Wendy‘s 99 cent menu. 

He had with this video made by his kids.  But the court ruled that an occasional inebriated binge.  They awarded him full custody.  No hassle for the Hoff.  Happy Fathers Day, David. 

A bankruptcy court ruling today may have cleared the way for publication of O.J. Simpson‘s hypothetically, hypothetical account of how he did not kill his ex-wife and her friend, Ron Goldman. 

They found Simpson tried to hide his book profits from the Goldman family by using a shell company. 

The Goldman‘s are still due almost $38 million for the wrongful death ruling.  It clears the way for Goldman to clear the way to receive the proceeds of the book.  Goldman‘s lawyers say they will sell the rights to publish under a new name, such as “Confessions of an Acquitted Murder” or simply, “I Did It.”

And it doesn‘t stop.  Whether you thought the “Sopranos” finally was ridiculous or fascinating, one thing is undeniable, people are still talking about it, particularly whether Tony Soprano is dead. 

The actor who played him certainly doesn‘t know. 

A charity event where all the major “Soprano” stars were gathered recently, he said he has no idea.  And said, “I thought the ending was great.  You decide.” 

An HBO spokesman suggested Tony was killed and may be on to something.  He said that, yes, a legitimate clue came in the penultimate episode.  Tony recalls a conversation with Bobby about death. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SOPRANO:  You probably don‘t even hear it when it happens, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

STEWART:  The final and sudden black screen, the argument goes, was definitely Tony getting shot because he did not hear it when it happened. 

And the end, not a series, but another entire era of television. 

Bob Barker steps down from “The Price is Right.”  We‘ll send him off in style, next on “COUNTDOWN.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  A TV icon will no longer grace the screen, no longer kiss the screen, spin the wheel or talk into a tiny microphone.  But what exactly happened to Bob remains unclear. 

In our number one story in the “COUNTDOWN” tonight, Bob Barker‘s final “Price is Right” aired today.  Questions remain about his abrupt departure.  Are we meant to think he died?  Or was the farewell a way to indicate that justice does not always have its say.  Critics are loving and scorning it.  Fans are speculating about death metaphors. 

Regardless of what you think happened on the final episode of Bob Barker‘s “The Price is Right,” his place in TV history is secure. 

BOB BARKER, HOST, “THE PRICE IS RIGHT”:  Come on down.  Let‘s party. 

STEWART:  It may be hard to believe but Bob Barker was not the only host of “The Price is Right.”

Bill Cohen hosted the first incarnation in 1956.

BILL COHEN, FIRST HOST:  Welcome to “The Price is Right.” 

STEWART:  But that show was cancelled in 1965.  And in 1972, Bob Barker came on down. 

Over the 35 years, the price of a box of Rice-a-Roni may have quadrupled and Barker‘s hair may have changed overnight in 1987. 

BARKER:  I got a letter that said, “Bob, you must have had one hell of a night.”

STEWART:  His hair color may have changed but a few things remained constant, like his love for the ladies. 

BARKER:  She said I will meet you in the parking lot. 

STEWART:  What kind of woman does Bob like?  That is funny.  So did John Tesh. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN TESH, ENTERTAINER:  What kind of woman does Bob Barker like? 

BARKER:  Of course, I like pretty women.  I like younger women. 

TESH:   OK. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  One such younger woman, Diane Parkinson, thought Bob was a little too into her so she sued him for sexual harassment in 1994.

BARKER:  If what I‘m going through right now is a part of hanky-panky, I don‘t want anymore of it. 

The next year, another beauty, Polly Houstrom (ph), sued Barker for wrongful termination because she says Barker fired her for gaining weight.  Barker dodged those and other bullets in the ‘90s.  But that decade wasn‘t all legal wrangling for the veteran MC. 

BARKER:  I cannot believe you‘re professional golfer.  I think you should be working at the snack bar.

STEWART:  In 1993, he made a cameo in “Happy Gillmore”.

ADAM SADDLER: The price is wrong, bitch. 

BARKER:  I think you have had enough. 

STEWART:  It was this Kung Foo Bob Barker, coupled with the invention of he intraweb that propelled him to his current unparalleled stardom. 

With the inception of YouTube, every ridiculous thing that ever happened on the show wound up on the web. 

CONTESTANT:  I am pumped to be here. 

BARKER:  You are pumped?  You just think you are pumped.  I am going pump you good. 

STEWART:  Take this woman and her dirty kitten for example. 

BARKER:  Which one you want to buy first? 

CONTESTANT:  Titty cats. 

BARKER:  You want the Tidy Cats. 

STEWART:  Or this guy, who proposed to his fianc’ as he named a buck on the wheel.

CONTESTANT:  Rosey, will you marry me? 

BARKER:  Rosey?  Are you serious? 

CONTESTANT:  Yes. 

BARKER:  We are having a proposal.  Look.  You got a dollar. 

STEWART:  There was a stoner contestant who was not so good with numbers. 

BARKER:  What are you going bid, Benjamin? 

BENJAMIN:  Seventeen hundred thousand dollars. 

BARKER:  You bid what? 

BENJAMIN:  Seventeen hundred thousand. 

BARKER:   15?

BENJAMIN:  17.

BARKER:  17.  1,700?

BENJAMIN:  Thousand.

BARKER: One thousand seven hundred dollars?

BENJAMIN:  Seventeen hundred.

BARKER:  Seventeen hundred thousand. 

STEWART:  And this stoner contestant who used stoner code on all his bids. 

BARKER:  Let the bidding begin with Evan. 

EVAN:  I‘ve waited all my life to say this, Bob, 420. 

BARKER:  $420?

$1,500, Evan?

EVAN:  1420, Bob. 

BARKER:  $1,420.

$250.  Evan?

EVAN:  What was her bid, Bob? 

BARKER:  $350, $325.

EVAN:   You know I‘m going to have to go for 420, Bob. 

BARKER:  $420. 

STEWART:  After all of that, it is all over.  Bob Barker‘s 35-year ascent into the pantheon of game show hosts, in a set not unlike that mountain climber‘s climb, the cliffhanger game has come to an end. 

And as he heads off into the sunset, we bid a fond farewell as we remember good times and poetic words once spoken by Barker buddy, Adam Sandler. 

ADAM SANDLER:  Bob Barker, Bob Barker, we will all have the memories of the happiness that you made.  So in honor of your retirement, sir, Bob Barker, I went out and got myself spade.

STEWART:  We‘ll miss Bob.  That is it for the Friday edition of “COUNTDOWN.”  I‘m Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.  He will return to his post on Monday.  Until we meet again, check out my podcast and blog an npr.org.bryant park.  Thanks for watching.  Have a great weekend.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 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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