updated 7/9/2007 11:56:27 AM ET 2007-07-09T15:56:27

Guests: Derrick Pitts

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

The Odom plan, the director of the National Security Agency, the NSA, under Ronald Reagan.  General William Odom says the best way to support the troops in Iraq is to get them home from Iraq, and that the administration is so out of control that the only way to make that happen is to threaten the president with impeachment if he does not agree.  Reaction tonight from General Wesley Clark.

The London and Glasgow plots.  “The Times” of London, Rupert Murdoch‘s “Times” of London, reports the dramatically underachieving schemes were personally approved by Osama bin Laden, which should be good news for all of us who hate Osama bin Laden, since if this was his work, he‘s slipping.

Something‘s slipping at NASA.  A new state-of-the-art toilet for the space station, thigh bars, leg restraints, greater privacy, and it only costs $19 million.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Poop in space!

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OLBERMANN:  Back on earth, Live Earth.  Celebrities try to make global warming awareness sexy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When a scientist says to us, Hey, the polar ice caps are melting, we don‘t care for some reason.  Yet when Madonna says it (INAUDIBLE), you better pay attention.  Why do you think that is?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No, I said a celebrity.

Like GI Joe, now a minor league baseball manager.  What would happen if those were real grenades?

People all over the world, join hands, start an Oddball Plays of the Month train, month trains, when suddenly, the plays of the month and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from New York.

It has been thus on every sinking ship from “Titanic” to the S.S.  “Minnow” of “Gilligan‘s Island.”  A few far-thinking visionaries try to get off first and get others to leave with them, then others begin to file off one by one, and after them, the deluge.  And so it is for the Bush administration‘s policy in Iraq.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, conservative Republican Senator Pete Domenici yesterday, conservative Republican Congressman John Doolittle today.  Hope you can swim, boys, this, while the top national security officer from the Reagan administration insisting that the only way to protect the troops in Iraq is to get the Bush administration to bring them home, and the only way to do that may be to threaten the president directly with impeachment, the commander in chief having now supported the troops to a death toll of 3,592 with no end in sight, conservative Congressman Doolittle of California, one-time Mormon missionary, today joining the others in his party in questioning whether the conflict is worth the loss of any more American lives, his remarks, though, making the congressman sound less like a great humanitarian or patriot and rather more like a huge xenophobe.

“I am increasingly convinced,” said Mr. Doolittle, “that we are never going to succeed in actually ending people dying in Iraq.  I think it‘s going to be a constant conflict.  And if that is going to happen, it needs to be the Iraqis dying and not the Americans,” the White House saying today it views any sort of precipitous withdrawal from Iraq as dangerous, the Pentagon, that leaving early would leave that country a mess, but Lieutenant General William Odom, the director of national security for President Reagan, the Bush administration says that—he says that the Bush administration, rather, should no longer be allowed to determine the vocabulary for the debate, General Odom‘s contention that supporting the troops actually means bringing them home, and now, Mr. Odom pointing out that Congress clearly and indisputably has two powers over the executive, the power of the purse, and power to impeach, should the first option fail, Mr. Odom saying lawmakers should not be afraid to threaten the second, having ample justification to do so.

“An attempt to extort Congress into providing funds by keeping U.S.  forces in peril surely would constitute the high crime of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his,” the president‘s, “own personal interest.”

An honor for us once again to be joined by our analyst, retired four-star Army general Wesley Clark, also, of course, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, and a former Democratic presidential candidate.

General Clark, thanks for being with us again tonight.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), MSNBC ANALYST:  Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That plan that has been (INAUDIBLE) put forth by General Odom, would the main obstacle to that plan seem to be lawmakers in Congress having the guts to execute it?

CLARK:  Well, I think the country‘s not quite there yet on the impeachment issue.  But I do think that it‘s important to get those troops out of Iraq.  It‘s time for the United States to begin redeploying.  We‘ve given it four long years.  The politics has never come together.  This administration won‘t do the diplomacy in the region.  And it‘s left our men and women in uniform out there exposed.  Bill Odom‘s a strategist.  He‘s thinking strategically.  And he says you‘re in a situation where you‘re only losing more with each passing day.

OLBERMANN:  The general‘s comments regarding the rhetoric of this, control the rhetoric, you control the debate.  How is it, in your estimation, that the administration continues to have a stranglehold on this phrase, “supporting the troops,” when 3,592 of them have died, and scores of thousands more have been wounded physically or psychologically?

CLARK:  Keith, it‘s hard for me to explain it.  I mean, we‘ve had Democrats for the last three years talking about how this administration hasn‘t supported the troops, hasn‘t provided them the body armor, hasn‘t given them a winning strategy, hasn‘t taken care of the veterans when they‘ve come home.

This administration doesn‘t support the troops in Iraq, it supports its political aims, which was to go in there and knock off one state after another through regime change.  It‘s holding on in Iraq, waiting for the term to end, and then dump the problem on the Democrats at the expense of our troops and the United States of America.

OLBERMANN:  When it comes to things like equipment, body armor, size of the troop force, how is there—is there a way of measuring how the administration has supported its troops in the field not rhetorically, but practically?

CLARK:  Well, I think you can look at the actual issues that have been brought up, and you can look at the amount of the buy that‘s been made.  Secretary Rumsfeld said it best, he said, “We went to war with the army that we had.”  But that was in response to a soldier‘s complaint.

And the soldiers know they didn‘t have the body armor they needed.  They still don‘t have the right protective vehicles there to deal with the improvised explosive devices.  And we don‘t have, and we‘ve never had, enough troops on the ground to really do the kind of peacekeeping mission that was required.

But even worse than that is the strategic failure, Keith.  You know, soldiers expect their leaders to do the hard work of diplomacy, and to use the military only as a last resort, because when you use the military, it‘s final.  People die.  The fate of nations hangs on it.  It‘s much better for the diplomats to work it all out first if they can.

Well, this administration didn‘t give the diplomacy a real chance to work before the war.  And now, in dealing with Iran and Syria, it‘s simply refusing to do the diplomacy that‘s required.

Our men and women most of all need the support of good leadership, courageous leadership in the White House.  And they don‘t have it.

OLBERMANN:  Do the, do the motives of, of, of other leaders, or perhaps the courage, even, of other leaders, do the actual origins matter?  Congressman Doolittle, who mentioned, was mentioned today, linked to two bribery scandals, Senator Domenici was involved, just yesterday called for a change of course in Iraq, was involved in this, really sort of kicked off the U.S. attorneys‘ firing scandal, and he‘s up for reelection next year.

Do the motives of Republicans who are defecting detract at all from the size of the, of the problem that potentially looms for the president?

CLARK:  Well, if you‘re suggesting that their motives are that they‘re not great strategic thinkers, but they might be interested in reelection, I think that‘s an appropriate concern for anyone in political office.  I mean, they are supposed to reflect the views of their constituents.  It‘s clear that they‘re hearing from the constituents that they don‘t want any more of the policy.

So regardless of what their strategic acumen is, I think it‘s a good thing for the country that the Republican Party is starting to come apart here at the edges, and maybe deeper, as the president pursues this policy in Iraq, because it‘s only the politics of it that can change the strategy of it.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Unfortunately, it‘s a big table, but there‘s seats for everybody.

General Wesley Clark, MSNBC analyst, again, our pleasure, sir.  Thanks for your time.

CLARK:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The flip side of General Odom‘s message was that politics aside, President Bush‘s unprecedented, unprovoked war is doing what no enemy of America could, shattering the U.S. military, particularly the lives of the soldiers who serve in it.  Specifically, Odom points out the effects of Mr. Bush‘s strategic choices.

Quote, “no U.S. forces have ever been compelled to (INAUDIBLE) sustain combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq.  Day in and day out for a full year, with only a single two-week break, they confront the prospect of death, losing limbs or eyes, or suffering other serious wounds.  They are combat-exhausted to the point of losing effectiveness.”

Combat-exhausted.  In the Civil War, they called it “soldier‘s heart.”  World War I, it was “shell shock,” then “battle fatigue,” and now post-traumatic stress syndrome, PTSD.  According to “The Washington Post,” 45,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have sought help for PTSD.  The tangible tolls of it can be seen in increased rates of suicide and substance abuse, and even in car accidents, shattering their lives and the lives of others years after they return.

Let‘s turn now to Perry Jeffries, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a first sergeant in the Army, and today serves as veterans‘ outreach director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

PERRY JEFFRIES, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA:  Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  How have leadership decisions in the war placed, in many ways, greater burdens on the troops than other conflicts have?

JEFFRIES:  Well, Keith, one of the things that soldiers are looking to do is to see their leaders lead from the front.  And too often in this war, that‘s not happening.  When you get caught in an ambush, what you‘re supposed to do is fight through, pick a direction and fight through.  And right now, our soldiers are just idling in the kill zone.  They‘re sitting around while the leadership waits to see what is happening.

And that‘s not what we need.  We need somebody to get the nation behind a strategy.  Let‘s resource it properly, and let‘s get it executed.

OLBERMANN:  What—that history, the etymology of that phrase leading up to the description of (INAUDIBLE) post-traumatic stress disorder or syndrome, the military is still requiring soldiers who claim to have it to prove that they witnessed an act of violence.  You‘re the outreach director here.  Have you seen any indication that PTSD might also be caused merely by one of this war‘s distinguishing features, that grinding, ever-present fear of violence and not knowing where it could come from, because there is no front, per se?

JEFFRIES:  Well, Keith, as you know, Iraq is what they call an asymmetric environment, 360 degrees.  There are no front lines, which means there are no rear lines.  And there‘s no place that a soldier can get away to rest.  Even the safest areas, like the green zone in Baghdad, soldiers have to wear body armor and helmets from day to day.

Now, our soldiers are being stationed in these small forts and police stations forward as part of the surge.  So there‘s no place that‘s truly safe.  They never get a break while they‘re in combat.  We used to call it Groundhog Day, where every day seems like the last, every day you‘re in danger, every day you‘re worried about your buddy, everyday you‘re trying to make sure that everyone around you stays alive.  And it certainly takes a toll.  And that‘s why the signature injury of this war is post-traumatic stress disorder, and now the traumatic brain injuries.

OLBERMANN:  It is a delicate business to imply that the capabilities of the troops might suffer, because that sounds, in the broadest sense, like criticizing the troops.  But General Odom has this concern that President Bush is sacrificing not just individual soldiers, but the overall effectiveness of the military itself.  Is that not his main point in bringing this up?

JEFFRIES:  Right.  It‘s not a criticism of the troops, it‘s identifying an injury, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, those are real, physical, observable injuries, just as if you had a tear your skin or a broken bone.  It NEEDS to be treated.

But too often, our soldiers are just handed Motrin and put right back into the fight.  There‘s a lot of systems beginning to spin up to try to address these people, but they‘re way overloaded.  Once you enter the VA or even the Army‘s medical treatment plan, you‘re pretty good.  But you have to wait in a long line, sometimes months.  Sometimes you have to return to Iraq before you get all the treatment you need.

OLBERMANN:  I, I, I‘m almost in disbelief of what I heard you say.  Is this what we‘re dealing with?  Is this how—from the president on down, we are responding to the needs of the soldiers in the field and—who become the veterans who return still untreated, that when they‘re faced with post-traumatic stress, we are giving them Motrin?

JEFFRIES:  Well, what happens is, these explosively formed projectiles and the improvised explosive devices, they cause a huge overpressure.  So even if the soldier‘s not physically—visibly injured, with a cut or a tear in his skin at the time, it shakes the brain, and it shakes the internal injuries—internal organs around.  And a lot of soldiers, if they‘re not, you know, laying down in a pool of blood, then they‘re put right back to work.

One of our members that works in D.C. now had blood running out of his ears.  He wiped off the blood, got right back in another Humvee, and went right back to doing his mission.  And that‘s happening time and time again.  Every policeman in this country that‘s involved in a shooting talks to a counselor, sees a doctor afterwards.  And we‘d ask the same for our soldiers.

OLBERMANN:  Good grief, at the very least.

Perry Jeffries, spokesperson for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  Great thanks for joining us, sir.

JEFFRIES:  Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN:  The London and Glasgow plots.  They were reportedly approved by bin Laden.  This is what bin Laden‘s reduced to?  Amen.

And the forecast for Mars, dust storms enveloping the entire southern hemisphere.  Say goodbye to the Mars Rovers, perhaps.

The good news aboard the International Space Station, say hello to the new supertoilet.  And wait till you see what it costs.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  In the last month, President Bush has compared his war on terror to the cold war and al Qaeda to the Nazis and the slaughter of tens of millions in World War II.  Thankfully, there is reason to believe he‘s intellectually or morally challenged or confused, to use someone‘s phrase.

And a propos of that, our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the remarkable claim in Rupert Murdoch‘s “Times” Of London, that the not-very-terror-filled terrorist attempts in London and Glasgow a week ago were directly authorized by Osama bin Laden, the first such story ever in which there is even a fleeting thought in anybody‘s mind that bin Laden might suddenly appear to deny he had anything to do with that.

As you know, two radical doctors, apparently amateur terrorists, set themselves afire even before they damaged the airport.  While British investigators say it is too soon to tell if there is a foreign connection, “The Times” of London cites an unnamed top foreign intelligence official, who says Glasgow, along with the failed London bomb attempt the day before, had bin Laden‘s blessing.

London an even bigger failure by its perpetrators, since the device didn‘t even catch fire, and it left a Mercedes load of evidence behind.  Both bombs, such as they were, amounted to little more than attempts to use propane and gasoline with ineffective detonators, anything, thankfully, but the kind that make a Baghdad-style car bomb so destructive.

If the bin Laden connection is true, the Murdoch report casts doubt on al Qaeda‘s current capacity to reach out and attack us here.  The butcher, who once trained and dispatched teams of professional terrorists halfway around the world, now, if “The Times” of London is to be believed, resorted to guys who wound up having to push their flaming car into an airport.

MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey is, of course, former counterterror coordinator with the National Security Council.

And Roger, it‘s always a pleasure.  Good evening to you, sir.

ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We can go back and forth about the meaning, the implications of what was attempted in London and in Glasgow, but bin Laden approved this, one car bomb that produces some light smoke, and another one, the bomber has to get out and push?  These were his guys?

CRESSEY:  Yes.  As a friend of mine in government said, if that‘s true, then we can pretty much declare victory, because al Qaeda as we know it is done.

I don‘t think it‘s true, Keith.  I‘ll be very surprised if we find

direct links back to al Qaeda central.  I think what‘s more likely is,

these guys were radicalized.  There (INAUDIBLE) may be some ties back to

Iraq or certainly Jordan, where they‘ve come from, and that might go back

to Al Qaeda in Iraq.  But, yes, this was not the A-team, and thank God for

that

OLBERMANN:  Are, is somebody really sending out amateurs, or are people in intelligence who might be throwing out al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in Iraq, are they seeing connections that aren‘t there?  Or what would—why, why the rush to say these guys are linked to fill in the blank?

CRESSEY:  Well, I think there‘s always this default that people have in government, and sometimes in the media, we‘re guilty of it too, where we see a potential terrorist attack, and we assume it‘s al Qaeda, and that‘s a false assumption to make (INAUDIBLE) as a knee-jerk reaction.

But there‘s clearly these guys, they were radicalized somehow.  And what we don‘t know is, what was the motivator?  Was it something that happened when they were in Great Britain, and then they decided to conduct attacks?  Or was it something happened before they came in?  If it was something that happened before they came in, when they were still in Jordan or this one doctor who came from Iraq, and there was a relationship there, that would be interesting, it‘s worth exploring.  But again, this was not the A-team, and that does say something.

OLBERMANN:  I understand that when even non-A-team attempts are made, people get scared, even the authorities get scared.  But why is it not OK to come out after events like those in Great Britain and say, We must remain vigilant, we‘re clearly dealing with people with intent.  But we can take some heart that these people were still poorly trained, poorly equipped, and they left the last 25 percent of their plan to absolute chance?  Why can‘t that be said?

CRESSEY:  Well, it should be said, because in the case of the London and Glasgow attacks, the stupid factor was pretty high on the part of these guys.  And it gave law enforcement tremendous opportunity to exploit the cell phones that were left and to conduct a rapid investigation.  And it‘s incumbent upon authorities in Europe as well as the United States to say, Here‘s an example where al Qaeda, we think al Qaeda, maybe not, here‘s an example of several individuals failed, and there‘s reasons why, and there‘s a good-news story here.

At the same time, we have plenty of reason to believe there are other elements out there that want to conduct attacks as well.  So you can do both in a way that educates the population, reassures them that steps are being taken, while at the same time doesn‘t lead people to think, Oh, well, the threat‘s over, we don‘t have to worry about it any more.

OLBERMANN:  Roger, lastly, the truly worrisome thing here is, these guys got into Britain and tried to get into this country, at least two of them apparently did, as we were reporting tonight.  Would they have gotten lesser scrutiny because of the medical training?  And if that has to be rethought, how do we rethink it?

CRESSEY:  So it‘s a fascinating question, Keith, because they do not fit the profile of what most people look for when it comes to potential terrorists.  And you‘re not going to have the terrorism databases all of a sudden creating a medical subsection.  Instead, what you‘re going to see is individuals in the medical profession coming from countries of concern, which, by the way, now include Great Britain, to get greater scrutiny, greater assessment of their visa applications.

Bottom line is, if these guys want to come into the United States, wouldn‘t have been a whole lot to stop them, because their records were clean.

OLBERMANN:  Roger Cressey, formerly of the NSC, now terrorism analyst for us here.  Great thanks, Roger.  Have a great weekend.

CRESSEY:  All right, you too, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Bill-O gets a rude surprise in Washington, D.C.  His radio show canceled there, and his report about a nationwide wave of lesbian gangs turns out to have been off by about 4,000 percent.

And here‘s his next trick.  Like this guy is going to try to hold his breath for 10 minutes.  No, he‘d never survive that much hot air trapped in his lungs.

The championship breath holderer, next on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  The great actor Ned Beatty turns 70 years old today.  He‘s been in everything from “Deliverance” to “Superman” to the TV series “Homicide.”  But his lone Academy Award nomination came for a performance that only took about two days to shoot, the role of the evil corporate giant, Mr. Jensen, in the movie “Network.”  His four-minute monologue assault on the crazy newscaster, “You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and you will atone.”  I‘ve been given that speech by my boss.  Happy birthday, Ned Beatty.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin on the Internets, with shocking home video of a daring jailbreak by a pair of pandas in China in broad daylight.  The ingenious plan unfolded before shocked zoo visitors, one panda kneeling down, providing the lift necessary for his partner to make it through a small opening to sweet, sweet freedom on the outside.  But much like Ned Beatty in “Superman 2,” stuck holding the rope ladder as Lex Luthor escaped in the hot-air balloon, as you‘ll recall, one panda was left behind (INAUDIBLE) will face the wrath of the angry warden and do the hardest time there is.  Put him in the hole.

To Kazakhstan, home of the fictional Borat character, and apparently some of the guys left over from the ‘70s television program, “That‘s Incredible.”  It‘s here that we find Ahmed Serkatinfluf (ph), 52-year-old yoga expert attempting to break the Guinness World Record for holding the breath longer than anybody else in history without dying.  He‘s doing it jammed into a little glass box submerged in water, for comic effect.  After holding his breath for a full 10 minutes and three seconds, Ahmed emerged from his glass box only to be told by the Guinness people, Sorry, buddy, but some guy in Italy did it for 14 minutes last year.  He then said, Do I at least get to meet Kathy Lee Crosby?

The monthly best-of collection tonight, the Oddball Plays of the Month.  That dog meant to do that.

And you say the new toilet aboard the International Space Station cost $19 million?  What exactly does it do for me?

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Lu Xiaoqing, an official in charge of Foreigner Street, the tourist area of Chongquing (ph), in China, (INAUDIBLE) Chun King, he‘s just opened a new public bathroom there.  It‘s 32,290 square feet.  It has 1,000 toilets and soft music playing.  After they use the bathroom, he says of tourists, they will be very, very happy.  And yes, you see it right, his name is Lu.

Number two, still-not-officially-a-presidential-candidate Fred Thompson, still also widely portrayed as a hero in some (INAUDIBLE) in some quarters because it was he who asked the question at the Watergate hearings, the answer to which revealed the existence of President Nixon‘s secret White House taping system.  Thompson has long ago revealed that he asked the question because he was convinced any tapes would exonerate Nixon.

But now the “Boston Globe” reports that the day before Thompson did that, one of the Republican staff counsels on the Senate Committee, namely Thompson, had phoned the White House as part of his periodic, unauthorized leaks about what the committee was going to do. 

Thompson, the paper quotes a Democratic counsel, was a mole for the White House. 

Number one, Sam White, manager in Durex, Australia.  Durex has had a publicity gold mine by claiming it is offering a job at its plant for an official condom tester.  You have to write an essay on why you would be good at it. 

I will bet you anything you have they get one that reads like this: I know this letter isn‘t very good and it isn‘t very legible.  But I‘m perfect for the job because you won‘t believe what I‘m writing this with instead of a pen. 

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OLBERMANN:  In space, challenges can be broad or mundane.  Both Mars rovers are imperiled tonight as that plant is engulfed by a dust storm twice the size of the United States.  Meantime, the International Space Station has order a new toilet?  Ah, you say, why is that news?  Because it costs 19 million dollars.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the dust boll and the toilet bowl. 

The lieu first.  It is a Russian built toilet system, a system.  NASA officials explained the hefty cost by comparing it to a municipal treatment center on earth.  It will be the second bathroom on the Space Station when it is completed next year.  But this one will actually convert urine into drinking water. 

See, I‘m thinking they couldn‘t pay me 19 million dollars just to test if that part of the gizmo works.  The bathroom will also offer more privacy, a crucial factor since the Space Station crew will grow from three to six people by 2009.  The toilet has leg restraints and thigh bars to keep astronauts in place and other gadgets that are best left undetailed.  Suffice it to say, weightlessness is not always cool. 

On Mars, far less control over the elements.  That huge dust storm continues to block sun light from reaching the rovers‘ solar panels.  Officials worrying that the rovers‘ batteries might empty and they have powered down perhaps everything except what is necessary to keep the rover‘s vital components from freezing over. 

The storm has already forced NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Lab to postpone the Rover Opportunity‘s decent into the Victoria crater, where it was to explore the planet‘s geologic past and look for cheaper toilets.

Joining us now, the chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, Derrick Pitts.  Derrick, good evening.

DERRICK PITTS, ASTRONOMER:  Thank you, Keith.  How are you tonight? 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m all right except for this one story.  We get that all the stuff in space costs more.  These days we under sell the bravery of anybody who goes into space; they deserve the best.  But even if this new toilet were used 20 times a day for ten years, that still averages out to be about 260 dollars per flush.  How is this worth it? 

PITTS:  It sounds expensive, but you have to think about the consequences of what would happen, Keith, if it didn‘t work for any reason at all.  So this toilet absolutely has to operate under every condition possible.  And it has to work every time without fail.  Otherwise, imagine what Space Station might be like if the toilet didn‘t work right.  So for 19 million, considering how long a walk it is to the next nearest John, well, maybe it is worth it. 

OLBERMANN:  But the Russians, who also built the MIR, are building this one and built the one that was already there.  NASA wasn‘t interested in trying to build this thing itself for just a little less?  I mean, I think even Halliburton could have brought this in for 15 million. 

PITTS:  That would be amazing, wouldn‘t it, if they could beat that number.  But it‘s one of these things that NASA has decided to farm out.  I think maybe it‘s not really their kind of work to do this, but handing it off to the Russians, I‘m not sure that‘s a better deal either. 

OLBERMANN:  To the situation on Mars, as best we know it; the rovers, they‘ve weathered dust storms in the past.  But it‘s nothing quite like this.  Explain what‘s going on up there. 

PITTS:  What‘s actually happening here is that the dust storm that is so large over the northern hemisphere of the planet is beginning to cause problems for the rovers because the dust storm itself cuts off the amount of light that the solar panels on the rovers receive.  That, in turn, cuts off the amount of power that can be regenerated by the batteries.  They‘re using solar power to recharge the batteries to run everything.

And cutting off the sun light cuts down the amount available for charge.  Now, the interesting thing is that one might think that the batteries certainly should be good for this, shouldn‘t they?  They might be able to withstand a little bit of a wait of a week or two weeks or so.  But we have to remember that these batteries have been cycled a number of times.  That is, they‘ve been charged and discharged a number of times over the now—what is it, 1,200 days of operation they‘ve been there. 

This is far more than they were ever scheduled to run.  So that‘s really the issue of whether they can stand this kind of cycling and then having this lack of light for so long a period of time. 

OLBERMANN:  So they were prepared for this, but they were prepared for something like this much earlier in the lives of these batteries? 

PITTS:  Sure, much earlier in the mission and maybe not—maybe not lasting so long for this—for the dust storm also. 

OLBERMANN:  What happens if the rovers do survive?  What are they still trying to do?  These things have beamed back a great deal of information already.  What‘s left to get? 

PITTS:  They‘ve done a tremendous amount of research and exploration on this planet.  We have gotten so much bang for the buck.  They were only supposed to last 90 days originally.  As I‘ve said, they have lasted over 1,200 days.  But even if they continue to work, Opportunity sits right at the doorstep of Victoria crater.  And in this crater we can see that there are layers of subsequently older and older rock units that can be examined. 

And let‘s say, for example, that Opportunity gets down into the crater and for some reason can‘t get back out, there‘s probably a year and a half worth of exploration it can do in just that crater alone.  So there‘s lots to find out. 

OLBERMANN:  Last thing here, this National Academy of Science‘s report for NASA that advises them extra terrestrial life, if it exists, might be so unlike ours that we wouldn‘t recognize it right away as being alive.  We can‘t limit ourselves to water-based concepts, carbon based concepts.  I‘ve heard this before.  Is there news in this?  What is the point of this, are people at NASA hearing this for the first time, perhaps? 

PITTS:  No, it‘s not for the first time at all, in fact.  They‘ve based all of the Mars exploration on the fact that they have to look for water as the lead here, rather than looking for some form of life, because they don‘t really know what to expect for a form of life.  But the common denominator for all life here on Earth is water. 

I think what‘s going on is we have the theorists and the practitioners getting on the same page.  NASA being the practitioners, and the guys at National Academy of Science being the theorists, getting it all together.  Now we‘re all moving in the same direction. 

OLBERMANN:  What if life on Mars is in the form of a dust storm?  Have we considered that possibility?  They‘re really big and only show up every 15 years. 

PITTS:  We really need to leave the door open for almost any possibility.  Because depending on what the conditions might be on some planet somewhere, Keith, life could turn out to be almost anything.  We have very little experience at this and we only know of one sort of scenario for how life can develop, and that‘s what we have here on this plant. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  Give another thought to what those 19 million dollar toilets might turn out to be.  Derrick, always a pleasure to visit with you. 

PITTS:  My pleasure, Keith, thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at Philadelphia‘s Franklin Institute, great thanks.  From outer space to out of sight, getting the groove thing on to fight global warming.  How celebrities in music somehow transform a problem into a cause. 

Given how few members of his family have actually remained monogamous, I don‘t know why we worry about this, maybe because Prince William is supposedly dating the same woman he was earlier?  That is next here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s part of Al Gore‘s monumental push to get not just Americans but the world to start preventing global warming.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, Live Earth, 7,000 events in 129 countries, including eight huge concerts on all seven continents.  Full disclosure, it will be broadcast live on various NBC Universal platforms tomorrow.  Carson Daly, who along with Ann Curry, will co-host NBC‘s prime time special coverage “Good Morning,” explains just what message the organizers hope to get across through the music.  Good morning. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SINGING)

CARSON DALY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The year was 1969, and a rainy, crowded, mismanaged folk music festival would become a symbol of a generation‘s idealized hope for the future.  But Woodstock did more than that.  It proved that a single music event could move us and empower musicians to raise awareness for social causes. 

And in the 1980‘s, that cause was hunger. 

In 1984, singer Bob Geldoff (ph) gathered musicians on both sides of the Atlantic.  First in London, and then in Los Angeles to make recordings which to this day continue to raise millions of dollars for African famine and disease relief. 

But it was one event on July 13th, 1985 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s 12 noon in London, 7:00 a.m. in Philadelphia, and around the world it‘s time for Live Aid. 

DALY:  Two simultaneous concerts in the U.K. and the U.S., which proved pop music could bring the world together if only for a day.  The goal was to pull in one million dollars in aid to Africa.  And in a time before cell phones, before fax machines, and before most homes had computers, over 280 million dollars was raised. 

And now, tomorrow, over 20 years later, the same producers from Live Aid will issue this generation‘s call to action.  Global warming awareness in an unprecedented event, called Live Earth.  Eight life concerts on seven continents, including Antarctica.  Over 100 artists performing, including the Police, Madonna, Kanye West, Cheryl Crow, Kelly Clarkson and Bon Jovi. 

And this time musicians won‘t be raising money to change someone else‘s life, they want you to change your own.  I met up with Live Earth‘s executive producer, Kevin Wall.

(on camera):  The actual concerts are just step one of your objectives.  The second step is action.  And you‘ll be providing people with tools at these concerts.  What sort of tools will you be providing? 

KEVIN WALL, LIVE EARTH PRODUCER:  Some people it‘s simple as first steps, changing a light bulb, checking the pressure in the tires, turning down the thermostat. 

DALY (voice-over):  That‘s right, Live Earth doesn‘t want you to open your wallets, they want you to grow tomatoes, reuse the news or even wear a sweater to conserve our natural resources. 

(on camera):  When a scientist says to us, hey, polar ice caps are melting, we don‘t care for some reason.  Yet, when Madonna says it, it‘s like we‘d better pay attention. 

WALL:  I think it‘s a combination.  I think on this we are listening to scientists.  But certainly there‘s nothing like music creating that emotional bond, that emotional bond of a message. 

DALY:  This music‘s message is not about saving someone else.  It‘s about saving ourselves. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Plus a quick segue into the entertainment department, Keeping Tabs, and three months after splitting up, Prince William and Kate Middleton are reportedly back together.  Or maybe the whole break-up was made up.  Or maybe the back up together is made up.  Consider the source, again Rupert Murdoch‘s other rag, the “Sun” cites an unknown source saying, quote, only when they took a step back did they have space to examine how they really felt about each other.  They have now talked through their problems and are closer than ever. 

Officially the pair are just good friends, despite that hallmark greeting card kind of stuff.  Though given how the paparazzi chased Ms.  Middleton around when they were officially dating, keeping a rekindled relationship secret might be the only way this young couple can get any privacy. 

And the more things change, the more they remain the same.  Take former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, who once served time for money laundering.  She is now the proud owner of a 24-hour laundromat called Dirty Laundry in the town of Parump (ph), Nevada, best known for its legal brothels.  That‘s right, Fleiss, who once helped stars and movie moguls take the tumble, now offers her customers hot sudsy action and tumble drying. 

She says something just told her to open a laundromat.  Maybe it was money.  She as also investing in wind power.  Her plans to open Heidi‘s Stud Farm, a brothel for women, are tied up in red tape, as presumably would be some of the clientele. 

Segue, Oddball‘s plays of the month, including a new meaning to that golf term, it‘s hooking.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.

The bronze to Neil Cavuto of Fox noise, where bizarre Internet rumors become TV terror topics.  Cavuto‘s guest, Jerry Bowyer of the “National Review” online, picked up the hysteria on the radical right, claiming Michael Moore and his movie “Sicko” about nationalized health care is somehow responsible for the would be terrorist doctors who went to work for Britain‘s National Health Service. 

Saying that if one of your private doctors here, quote, is spending all the time online reading Osama bin Laden‘s fatwas, someone is going to notice that.  But the National Health Service, Bowyer went on, is more like the Post Office.  You know there‘s a lot of anonymity.  It‘s easy to hide in the bureaucracy.  The terrorists here working our Post Office?  Should we all have private mailmen? 

The silver to Bill-O.  His radio show, the one where he called out Fox security to get the guy who called in and mentioned my name on the air, has been canceled in Washington, D.C., dropped from the schedule, to be replaced by a sports talk show with Jim Rome.  Jim Rome!  Jim Rome?  You got canceled and replaced by Jim Rome, the guy who was hot in the 1990‘s? 

I never even got replaced by Jim Rome!  Jeez, Jim Rome?

But the winner, Bill-O, who has breathlessly advised his couch potatoes that a, quote, national underground network of lesbian gangs carrying pink pistols is terrorizing, even raping young girls, forcing them into lesbianism and attacking straight males.  A guest advised that there are 150 different such crews in Washington, D.C. alone. 

Pink pistol-packing groups.  Washington police say no, there are only 150 to 175 gangs of any kind in the District of Columbia.  And the Mid Atlantic Regional Gang Investigators Network, which is the intelligence sharing group with 400 criminal justice pros in Washington, D.C., in Virginia, in Maryland, it‘s president says, no, in the entire mid Atlantic, there‘s one lesbian gang. 

And now you know why Bill-O just got canceled in Washington.  Bill O‘Reilly, dreaming of being chased by a lesbian gang, today‘s Worst Person in the World!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The official story on the Beatles and drugs was that they knew nothing of them until 1966 when Bob Dylan hooked them up at a concert.  However, 43 years ago today, the first Beatles movie, “A Hard Day‘s Night,” premiered in London.  Even five year old kids were observant enough to ask a parent why John Lennon was holding a bottle of Coca Cola to one nostril and a finger over the other one and inhaling.

On that bizarre anniversary, on to the number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the highlights of the bizarre for the four weeks just past, the Oddball plays of the month. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  We begin in Philadelphia.  We begin in Juan Covalaca, Peru (ph).  We begin in Chattanooga.  We begin in Italy at Milan‘s Milate Airport, where we‘re experiencing heavy ramp saturation due to rabbits humping on the runway.

We begin in Liverpool in England, where this building appears to have suffered some serious structural damage.  Either that or I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. 

We begin in Peru, where dozens of cute little guinea pigs have taken time out of their busy schedules running around on track wheels and eating their young to take part in the big annual festival of the queen.

Bravo.  Bravo.  Let‘s see that again. 

And we begin on the Internets with another tip of the hat to the fine folks at Youtube, without whom we might never get to see this video made by two idiots with big giant balls. 

That‘s America‘s youth in action, folks, today‘s—no, tomorrow‘s leaders today.  We begin in Stubenvill (ph), Ohio for the first in a Friday fun pack of COUNTDOWN‘s scariest bear chases caught on tape.  Bad bears, bad bears, what you going to do?

Finally to Denver, Colorado, and the COUNTDOWN chase of the week.  Nobody was seriously hurt here.  It started with a single officer running down a suspected bank robber and car thief ducking and weaving through traffic.  He manages to knock the guy down.  When he turns around, there‘s an—oops. 

Hello, that‘s Mississippi Braves Manager Philip Wellman and look out because this man has gone crazy.  But this may be the first time we have seen a manager so angry that he regresses into some kind of inherited Vietnam flashback at the pitcher‘s mound.  Boom.

We begin on the Internets with one from the please don‘t try this at home file, from way down town, bang.  Hey ma, look it, racing.  Boring.  Much better.  What do you think, this might be a fake? 

Cape Canaveral where to this day you can still go visit the towers from which hundreds of missions were launched over many years of the space program—never mind. 

According to some members, the Garden Tree bears a likeness of Jesus Christ or possibly Jeff Bridges as the Dude in the big Lebowski. 

Speaking of golf, we begin in Strausberg (ph), P.A. and the lush greens and friendly fairways of the Cherry Valley Golf Club.  You‘ll take particular note of the hole on 18, where there‘s a dog leg right and stripper hazard on the left. 

This is why we had this situation in India today, to unveil the world‘s largest blue suede shoe.  There it is, behold, almost five people showed up for the big event.  Kawasaki, Japan, hello.  It is here that we find the COUNTDOWN, cool ass robot head of the week, programmed to give special specific facial expressions in reaction to more than 500,000 different words. 

The face is capable of a whole range of emotion, shooter, your dog just died—did I say dog, I meant sister.  There‘s a bee in your shoe, somebody stole your car battery. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,528th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

END   

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