updated 8/27/2007 1:28:27 PM ET 2007-08-27T17:28:27

Guests: Lawrence Korb, John Dower, Michael Musto

ALISON STEWART, MSNBC GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  Called to action.  According to reports, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, is expected to advise the president to reduce troop levels in Iraq but as much as half.  What does this mean for the president‘s plan?  The White House responds to the story by saying, nothing‘s happened yet. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON JOHNDROE, WHITE HOUSE SECURITY ADVISOR:  We have received no recommendations regarding our future force posture in Iraq. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Who needs advisors when you can crack the history books when you can make your case for high troop levels in Iraq? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s the observation as one historian put it, as these erstwhile experts have their way, the very notion of inducing a democratic revolution would have died of ridicule at an early stage.  So I think it is important to look at what happened. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  One slight problem.  The historian who was quoted said he has been misrepresented and he is not happy about it.  The good professor will join us. 

Breaking news in the world of sports.  The NFL weighs in on the professional fate of Michael Vick and he‘s out.  We have the details of his guilty plea. 

The return of the astro-nut.  Lisa Nowak in court to complain about the pesky monitoring bracelet. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA NOWAK, FORMER ASTRONAUT:  I the day I have to wear the boots, it is held very tightly against my leg. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  This discomfort brought to you by a woman who chose to drive 900 miles while wearing a diaper? 

Outrage.  Nicole Richie forced to spend one-sixteenth of her day in jail -- 82 minutes.  Paris is so jealous right now it is not even funny. 

To Japan, the nation who keeps on giving.  Lizards chasing humans and now, behold, human Tetris. 

All that and more now on “Countdown.” 

STEWART (ON CAMERA):  Good evening.  I‘m Allison Stewart in for Keith Olbermann tonight.  When Senator John Warner calls on President Bush to start bringing some troops home from Iraq, that can be damaging enough.  Now imagine what happens when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff advises the president to cut U.S. forces there by as much as half.  Our fifth story in the “Countdown,” a published report says we may not have to imagine that scenario for much longer.  The “Los Angeles Times” reports that Peter Pace is expected to recommend to President Bush that the U.S.  presence in Iraq be reduced, keeping more than 100,000 troops in that country through 2008, quote, “will severely strain the military.” 

In a response tonight, General Pace denies the story is true, but qualifies that by saying a troop reduction is still one of the options that he and the Joint Chiefs are investigating, adding that he and the Joint Chiefs, quote, “always review a wide range of options on any issue,” end quote. 

At the western White House in Crawford, Texas, the president‘s spokesman agreed neither General Pace nor anyone else has advised the president on troop cuts, at least not yet. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNDROE:  The president has received no recommendations regarding our future force posture in Iraq.  I would caution everyone that between now and the next approximately 19 days, we are going to see a lot of reporting about what different people are recommending, what they are not recommending, more troops, less troops, stay the same.  I think we are going to see a lot of that over the next two weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  We call on our own Dana Milbank, the national political report for the “Washington Post.” 

Hi, Dana. 

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Hi, Alison. 

STEWART:  This triple whammy saying the troop cut is still on the table, how does that raise the stakes for the White House ahead of the assessment from General Petraeus? 

MILBANK:  This is proving the old Washington adage that Washington will get it right after all other possibilities have been exhausted.  That is what about what we are seeing here.  Republicans are moving toward the notion there has to be a drawdown among the troops.  At the same time the democrats are moving away from the notion of a rapid or radical troop withdrawal.  What we are really talking about now is a debate about how large the withdrawal will be and will it happen at Christmas, will it happen at Easter, somewhere in between?  They are bumping up against the military reality that the Army will be broken if they don‘t start withdrawing troops. 

STEWART:  War supporters, as you mentioned, this could provide an alternative.  So what can the White House do to convince those lawmakers to stick with the surge? 

MILBANK:  They can‘t do a whole lot.  The national intelligence estimates, which had painted this bleak picture, also said that things could get substantially worse if there were, in fact, a dramatic troop reduction.  This helps the White House play the political rear guard and they can argue that point of keeping troops as close as possible to the 160,000 or so that they have in Iraq right now.  The White House deputy spokesman who drew the short straw of having to be the spokesman in Crawford this week is trying to get at that argument.  We are going to hear a lot more of it. 

STEWART:  The timing of all of this, the elephant in the room.  General Pace is about to leave.  He has one foot out the door.  Do you think he would be making this sort of statement if he was going to be sticking around? 

MILBANK:  I think some people are surprised that General Pace was still on the job.  He had developed this reputation of being the parrot on the defense secretary‘s shoulder, saying what was asked of him.  It has been reported that he and others in the Joint Chiefs were resistant to the surge strategy to start with.  It may be the fact he is on his way out he feels free to talk about it. 

His successor, Mike Mullen, has said the surge, as a practical matter, will have to end by the spring because there are not enough troops unless you extend their deployments. 

STEWART:  Pace released a statement saying it is speculative, he provides advice privately to the president.  Did he have to respond? 

MILBANK:  It is like a hostage statement when he is blinking SOS with his eyelids.  He had to put something out there because it was an embarrassment.  Given it was consistent with what has been said privately and clearly with others in the military.  There is no denying the central fact here. 

STEWART:  From the White House perspective, there was support from him this week.  Senator Hillary Clinton saying the military surge in Anbar Province was working, the NIE painting a bleak picture, one that supports keeping the troops there.  How do those factors weigh against General Pace‘s and senator Warner‘s move out? 

MILBANK:  Republicans are realizing there has to be some pullout and the democrats are realizing they can‘t be willy nilly.  That may keep troops in Iraq in counterterrorism operations, particularly in al Anbar.  We are finally coming around to what the Iraq study group recommends last year.  We are a year late and $1 trillion short. 

STEWART:  For more on the military angle of General Pace‘s recommendation, let‘s turn to the former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. 

It is our pleasure to have you with us. 

LAWRENCE KORB, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  It is nice to be with you. 

STEWART:  Do you think this is a sign the U.S. military is stretched too thin, sir?

KORB:  It‘s way too thin.  In order to maintain this surge we are not allowing people to spend enough time at home before they go back.  We have extended the tours from 12 months to 15 months for soldiers, this is something we didn‘t do in Korea or in Vietnam, and as a result desertions are up, divorces are up, your West Point graduates are leaving in numbers not seen in 30 years. 

STEWART:  According to this “Los Angeles Times” article, General Pace is cutting the forces by perhaps 50 percent.  Do you think this would be enough to address other concerns should troops be needed elsewhere?

KORB:  It certainly would help, but it would allow the troops to spend enough time in between deployments.  The social contract we have with the active duty people, every year you spend in a combat zone you should spend two years at home.  Many are not getting one year.  This will help that and relieve the strain on them.  It will provide you with a reserve.  Right now we don‘t have a single brigade of the 82nd Airborne in the United States.  They‘re a ground reserve.  At the height of the Korean War we always kept one brigade here to go somewhere else. 

STEWART:  Administration officials are quoted saying the Joint Chiefs believe excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq would, quote, “severely strain the military.”  It is like saying, wow, I gained 50 pounds in the past week.  This view would have to be developed over time. 

KORB:  Even if you get down to 100,000, the fact is you are still going to have to send many of the same forces back three and four times.  You know, this administration was told three or four years ago, expand the size of the Army and Marine Corps.  They refused to do it because Rumsfeld had a notion you could fight wars without people.  Now they have finally agreed to it.  It is really too late to relieve the strain on the people.  Even 100,000 is going to be a terrific burden on the force that you have. 

STEWART:  I want to ask you a question that I asked Dana Milbank.  Based on the culture of the White House, the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs, if General Pace were not leaving, would he be in a position to give this kind of bold advice or would he have to be a good soldier and remain silent and supportive? 

KORB:  Unfortunately, a lot of people, when Rumsfeld was there, were not as forthcoming, not only with the president but with the Congress.  We had General Shinseki, the former Army Chief of staff—was the only one who spoke up.  I think it‘s a combination of General Pace leaving, plus Admiral Mullen, who will be taking over is already on the Chiefs.  He is the chief of naval operations.  As Dana mentioned, he has been outspoken since he got the job.  That is a combination of those things coming together. 

STEWART:  Lawrence Korb, with the Center for American Progress. 

Thanks so much for your time tonight. 

KORB:  Thanks for having me. 

STEWART:  President Bush uses history to convince Americans to stay the course in Iraq.  The problem is the historian he quoted is not pleased with the way his work was represented.  That historian joins us. 

Lisa Nowak is not happy either.  Remember the diaper-wearing astronaut?  Diapers (ph) are OK, those tracker ankle bracelets, not so much. 

Breaking news from the NFL.  Michael Vick‘s legal team reveals what the Falcons‘ quarterback is admitting to and the NFL decides whether Vick gets to play anymore or keep his signing bonus. 

You are watches “Countdown” on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  President George W. Bush said he doesn‘t worry what history has said about him.  If they are still writing about George Washington, I don‘t have anything to worry about.  Our fourth story tonight, yes, historians are still writing about the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, World War II.  And some of the writing about the later has been used, one person says abuse, this week by Mr. Bush and his speech writers.

On Wednesday, the president told the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention that the troops and commanders need support and they deserve everything they need—boilerplate for any politician facing a room full of battle-hardened war vets. 

He then began comparing the fighting in Iraq to other wars.  Pundits expect he is laying the groundwork for the progress report from General Petraeus.  He used World War II and Japan as an analogy of what could happen in Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  You know, the experts sometimes get it wrong.  An interesting observation, one historian said, had these erstwhile experts—he‘s talking about the people criticizing efforts to realize the blessing of a free society.  He said, had these erstwhile expects had their way, the very notion of inducing a democratic revolution would have died of ridicule at an early stage.  So it is important to look at what happened. 

STEWART:  If you look at the work of that author—you can use the Google—you would discover he would not agree with that set up.  An op-ed titled “No Comparison” written in November of 2002, historian John Dower wrote, “Does America‘s successful occupation of Jaffa after World War I provide a model for a constructive American role in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq?  The short answer is no.” 

John W. Dower teaches history at MIT.  His book “Embracing Defeat” won a Pulitzer Prize. 

Professor Dower, thank you for being with us tonight. 

JOHN DOWER, PROFESSOR, MIT & AUTHOR OF “EMBRACING DEFEAT”:  Thank you for inviting me. 

STEWART:  I have to give full disclosure.  I did not read your entire book this afternoon.  So forgive me if my questions are very basic.  I understand you found the use of that quote through a journalist.  Why did you become so upset?  What was your initial response? 

DOWER:  I was surprised and distressed that the administration continues to misuse history in this way.  They began using occupied Japan as a way of prepping the U.S., force the invasion of Iraq.  And they‘ve continued to do so to the present day.  And it is a terrible misuse of history. 

STEWART:  In an interview you referred to the use of your quote to draw this historical comparison between Japan and Iraq as, quote, “really perverse,” in the sense meaning the corruption of the idea.  Specifically, what was corrupted or presented wrongly? 

DOWER:  I think what is perverse is they have continued to use occupied Japan as an apt model for Iraq and what they are doing.  And, in fact, if you look carefully at what the place and the occupation of Japan after World War II, everything says this is entirely different from Iraq.  Without these conditions you can‘t expect this to happen. 

The occupation began in 1945.  And most of the basic reforms, the great reforms, the democratic reforms were completed within the first two or three years.  We‘re still today sitting at over four years, almost four and a half years into the occupation of Iraq and the country is in chaos.  These models have no application.  It is not history.  It‘s propaganda that they‘re giving us.

STEWART:  The White House has responded Mr. Bush used the quote, “to in no way endorse his view of Iraq, only his view of Japan.  Do you buy that? 

DOWER:  Anyone‘s view, mine, and I think anybody who knows it, but I think anybody that knows it, and most people in Japan—the media in Japan responded very negatively also to that speech.

I would say that everything in Japan was very, very different from in Iraq and those differences are striking and if the administration had paid more attention to them, perhaps they would have not been so foolhardy in the things they did.  They do not use history for illumination, but to support propaganda. 

STEWART:  An editorial you wrote in 2002 was precedent (ph).  You predicted attacks on our troops and, quote, “religious, ethnic, regional and tribal animosities likely to erupt in post-war Iraq.”  Why did you believe this at the time? 

DOWER:  I think most—many people who knew Iraq very much were pointing out to the racial, to the ethnic, to the tribal and geographic fault lines in Iraq, which were just enormous.  Anyone who worked on Japan, as I do, would say what a stunning difference from Japan.  There are no such fault lines in Japan.  That was one of the many differences in Japan.  If you went down the list, for example, and this was clear before the war. 

World War II against Japan was a formal war with a formal surrender.  The Americans moved in and the Japanese government remained completely intact from the top to the bottom, beginning with the emperor through the bureaucracy through the towns and cities and villages.  The country had great social cohesion.  It had a deep national history.  It had very strong democratic traditions back in the 1910s and 1920s in particular, before militarism took hold. 

If you sat with people from the Middle East, who really were looking seriously at it, it was clear, they were all saying none of this is present in Japan.  None of what was present in Japan is present in Iraq.  And then if you go beyond this to other differences, one of the stunning differences is the Americans began planning for the occupation of Japan in 1942. 

STEWART:  So the planning alone is enough? 

DOWER:  So the planning alone—and it was taken seriously.  When they arrived in Japan, they had plans and a very charismatic leader, General Douglas MacArthur.  And he announced them clearly and swiftly and they were a very competent occupation regime.  So there was a competence there which added to their sense of legitimacy. 

STEWART:  John Dower, historian and professor at MIT.  Thank you for your time tonight and giving us a little bit of a history lesson tonight.  It was great. 

Speaking of changing history, Mother Teresa, a woman with seriously shaken faith in God.  The surprising letters from the woman on the fast track to sainthood. 

Japanese TV.  What do you get when you try the computer game Tetris with real human beings?  A whole bunch of “Oddball” laughs, that‘s what. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  It was on this date in 1934 the greatest robot was born. 

Today R2D2 turned 73.  I‘m sure you are saying your dates are mixed up.  Actually, today is Kenny Baker‘s birthday.  He‘s the guy inside the tiny tin, who helped the Rebel Alliance destroy the death star and save the universe.  So if you see Kenny today, buy him a pint, will ya? 

Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

We begin in Iceland with the greatest advance in fishing since the worm on the hook.  This is a remote control mini-trawler.  Thunk (ph) up by a local angler who was tired of the back-breaking labor of orthodox fishing.  The trawler dangles a lure.  The fish jumps to grab the lure and gets stuck in the boat, which gets remote controlled back to the fisherman.  That is what I call, lazy—I mean, genius. 

To Boyd County, Kentucky.  This guy can catch fish with his face.  The duct-tape bandit, the man believed to be the bandit, although, in this jailhouse interview, he strenuously disagreed with the charge. 

DUCT TAPE BANDIT SUSPECT:  Look at me.  Do I look like a duct-tape bandit, baby?  I‘m not no duct-tape bandit.  You hear me?  Lie one-on-one, you know this is not me.  Now, look, do the math, do the homework man. 

STEWART:  What the hell was that?  He sashayed into court, doing his little pimp walk, getting his chance to tell the justice system, do the math, do the homework, baby.  In spite of the pictures of the duct-tape guy and the fact that the police had to rip the duct tape off his face, he entered a not guilty plea.  Maybe the judge will take kindly to his advocacy of math homework and the creative use of industrial products. 

Finally, to the Internet, to the reason number 4,304 of why the Japanese have us Americans beat in the TV game show biz.  This is whizzing around the web.  It is only to be described as human Tetris.  Let‘s watch.

STEWART:  Oh, to speak Japanese right now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  Hey, you want an extra dose of Oddball, tune into a special network edition, COUNTDOWN on NBC, this Sunday 7:00 eastern, 6:00 central, the best of the best Oddballs from all summer long. 

Speaking of Oddball, that bizarre astronaut love triangle headed to court today.  Lisa Nowak, rumored to have worn diapers in an over night drive to attack a romantic rival, doesn‘t like wearing her ankle bracelet.  Go figure.

Nicole Richie is sure to never drink and drive again.  I mean, 82 minutes behind bars is enough to change anyone.  Michael Musto puts his special brand of spin on that just ahead.  But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day. 

At number three, an unnamed man in Burlington, Ontario, Canada, angered by a swarm of bees that approached him while he was smoking on his porch.  The man says he flicked his cigarette at the bees and then fled into his home.  The cigarette supposedly missed the bees, landed in a pile of leaves, caught fire.  The fire spread to his home, gutted it, causing 60,000 dollars worth of damage. 

Number two, Mlaba, mayor of the South African municipality of Ethnic Winnie (ph).  Mr. Mlaba says he wants to change the name of his town.  You ask why, because when people ask him what Ethnic Winnie means, he has to tell them bull testicles.  Yes, I would work on changing that one too.

And at number one, 17 year old George Hotz of Glenrock, New Jersey.  Mr. Hotz became the first non-Apple guy to hack the iPhone, meaning he figured a way around the AT&T only service provider stipulation for owning one of those iPhone.  While your teen spent the summer loitering at the mall or sleeping past noon, George Hotz spent his summer sticking it to the man. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Going to outer space is pretty impressive and there is still a very small club of people who have done it.  But when astronaut Lisa Nowak went on another kind of trip, a road trip to end all road trips, she secured her place in infamy.  Today, she was in court.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the woman who was accused of stalking a romantic rival, a Navy pilot, who allegedly drove 1,000 miles in a diaper so she wouldn‘t have to take a bathroom break, today asked permission to remover her GPS monitoring device, otherwise known as an ankle bracelet. 

Though it was clear that Miss Nowak does not think of it as a charming accessory.  Of course, Miss Nowak has already pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary with assault, all stemming from her confrontation with Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman in the parking lot of an Orlando International airport. 

She had been assigned the monitoring bracelet so that authorities would know if she ever tried to confront Miss Shipman again.  But at today‘s hearing before a judge in Orlando, Florida, she described how the bulky monitoring device operates. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA NOWAK, ASTRONAUT:  One of the primary concerns is the safety issue when driving, especially on the highway.  One time the device went off—when it goes off initially there is a buzzing vibration to give you an initial warning.  Within about a minute, a loud siren goes off and an actual telephone device, a person from the monitoring station calls and asks what the problem is and why the battery isn‘t there, because they‘re not getting signal. 

If you are on the highway or driving in any case, you have to pull over to attend to changing the battery and talking to the telephone that‘s on your ankle.  You actually have to bring the ankle closer to your mouth to talk into it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  And that is not all.  Nowak says the ankle bracelet doesn‘t work well with her military boots. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOWAK:  On the days I have to wear the boots, and I goes up to that high point—it is held very tightly against my leg, so on those days it causes abrasions.  Also, if it is worn without a bandage or something to keep it in place, it causes abrasions around the ankle area. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  And by the way, the pesky thing keeps her from keeping fit. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOWAK:  One limitation is that it cannot be immersed in water.  While you can shower, you cannot take a bath or go to a swimming pool, for instance, to accompany children or anything like that.  You cannot immerse it in water.  I primarily formerly used to run as a form of exercise.  I cannot do that with this device because the way it would move up and down, even with a bandage.  I tried it again, causes abrasions because it won‘t stay still.  It is too heavy. 

So I cannot do that form of exercise.  Obviously, also, I cannot swim. 

So it limits the forms of exercise I can do. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  But Ms. Shipman, also testifying in court today, had other ideas about whether Ms. Nowak should keep the anklet on. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Miss Shipman, did it make you feel better that you knew she couldn‘t come near you or be around you? 

COLLEEN SHIPMAN, FORMER ASTRONAUT:  Absolutely.  When I‘m home alone and there is nobody there with me, it is a comfort. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you still afraid of Ms. Nowak? 

SHIPMAN:  Yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you want her taken off the ankle monitor?   

SHIPMAN:  Absolutely not. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Neither woman has convinced the judge yet.  He said he needed more time to make a decision about the ankle bracelet and other pre-trial motions.  Ms. Nowak had the last word, for now, after the hearing. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOWAK:  I know that it must have been very hard for Colleen Shipman and I would like her to know how very sorry I am about having frightened her in any way, and about the subsequent public harassment that has besieged all of us.  I have also received many media requests presented as offers to help me and tell my side of the story.  And while it may be that some of these are sincere, I do not see any possible way that additional exposure can help anyone involved. 

Therefore, at this time, I have no plans to further discuss this unfortunate episode in a public forum. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  The astronaut allegedly in the middle of the love triangle, Bill Ofelein (ph), who was allegedly Miss Shipman‘s boyfriend and Miss Nowak‘s obsession, not in court today.  Smart move. 

Coming up, breaking news from the NFL.  League officials announce a punishment for Michael Vick.  We have the details. 

And Mother Teresa‘s crisis of confidence, not in herself, in god, in Jesus, in her soul.  Who knew?  She is still on the fast track to sainthood though.  Mother Teresa and Nicole Richie in the same show, you‘ve got to love it.  Has Richie‘s faith been shaken after prison?  I mean, 82 minutes behind bars is a long time for her to thing.  That ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Exercises three times a week and has for years. 

The other two days a week he spends on the judo mat. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When it comes to Judo, Paul definitely knows what he is talking about. 

PAUL OWEN, JUDO MASTER:  You would be scared if I said I was going to demonstrate a hold on you.  If you let me get a hold on you, I would bet that you wouldn‘t get away. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That is a bet this 92-year-old had no trouble winning. 

In Lincoln, Nebraska, with videographer Richard Tolen (ph), Dennis Kellogg for NBC News.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s it.  The win goes to the west regional champions as Arizona gets a 9-2 win over Minnesota.  It will be Georgia and Arizona meeting in the semifinals.  Oregon and Texas in the other. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now listen to this, according to U.S.  intelligence, they say that Iraq Prime Minister Maliki is an ineffective leader—this is serious stuff—unable to work with his cabinet, lacks authority with the population, has poor communication skills—wait a minute. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Our number two story, in two weeks will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of the Mother Teresa.  The life and words of the legendary nun who dedicated her life to caring for the hopelessly sick and desperately poor remains a reminder of the power of faith.  But it turns out even Mother Teresa questioned the strength of that power. 

So why do we know this?  Her writings, which were not supposed to see the light of day, well, they have.  Here is correspondent Bob Faw. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB FAW, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Tiny and bent, her saintly presence was, or so we thought, fortified by her nearness to god, her joy so real because Mother Teresa said Christ is everywhere. 

MOTHER TERESA, LIKELY FUTURE SAINT:  I‘m only an instrument in god‘s hands.  That‘s all, a little pencil. 

FAW:  Now though, in a stunning new book based on letters Mother Teresa wrote over 66 years and wanted destroyed, she revealed her smile often masked profound persistent spiritual pain, so great she sometimes doubted the existence of heaven or god, once even concluding, “I have no faith.” 

JAMES MARTIN, AUTHOR:  The idea that she lasted 50 years to her death without any sort of relief is really, as far as I know, unparalleled. 

FAW:  Despite the anguish, her good works continued as she ministered to the poor in Calcutta.  She would write, “the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great, nothing touches my soul.”  Adding on another occasion, “deep down there is nothing but emptiness and darkness.” 

BRIAN KOLODIE JCHUK, EDITOR, “COME BE MY LIGHT”:  It was a constant source of torment, feeling unwanted, unloved, rejected. 

FAW:  Somehow through prayer and the counsel of a spiritual adviser she did come to terms, came, as she put it, to loathe the darkness.  That balancing act, say theologians, is Mother Teresa‘s message for today. 

MARTIN:  Most of the saints that did have the benefit of having a sense of god‘s consolation and feeling god‘s presence in their prayer and daily lives.  Mother Teresa had to go on an empty tank. 

JCHUK:  I think, if anything, they will enhance the sense people have of her holiness. 

FAW:  An icon‘s whose spirit prevailed, despite those long dark nights of the soul. 

Bob Faw, NBC News, Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  Turning to our nightly round of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Breaking news tonight from the NFL, league officials have thrown the book at Atlanta Falcons‘ quarterback Michael Vick.  He has been suspended indefinitely without pay.  The punishment handed down after the details of Vick‘s guilty plea surfaced today.  He has admitted to financing a dog ring.  He has had admitted to helping kill pit bulls, but he denied explicitly killing the dogs or betting on the fights. 

With all that established, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy this morning.  In return, the government has promised to recommend a lower sentence of between a year and 18 months.  But the judge could decide to put him away for the maximum on conspiracy charges, five years in prison. 

After his plea, Vick apologized today, not for what he did to the dogs, but, for quote, poor judgment.  That is classy.  The Atlanta Falcons said they support the suspension of its quarterback, and can now possibly go after Vick‘s 22 million dollar signing bonus.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also praised the NFL for its quick response to the situation. 

Still speaking of fighting, Amy Weinhaus (ph) out of rehab and back brawling with her husband in the streets on camera.  But she says the fighting is all her fault.  After Internet gossip guru Perez Hilton expressed concern for Miss Weinhaus, she sent him a text message reading, quote, Blake is the best man in the world.  We would never, ever harm each other.  Take back what you said on the blog.  I thought she was my girl.  I was cutting myself after he found me in our room about to do drugs with a call girl and rightly said I wasn‘t good enough for him.  I lost it and he saved my life. 

That makes it so much better. 

Spider-Man saved her from the would-be robbers in the movie, but in real life, Kirsten Dunst is just like the rest of us.  The bad guys got away with her stuff.  She was robbed.  Two thieves broke into her New York hotel room earlier this month and made off with several wallets, an iPod, several cameras, a Mark Jacobs handbag and a 13,000 dollar Ballaencia (ph) purse.  I don‘t know what it is. 

Police have arrested one suspect, a Brooklyn plumber with a lengthy wrap sheet, but they haven‘t recovered any of the items.  Dunst had to cancel her credit cards to prevent ID theft.  She had to cool her heels before replacing that 13,000 dollar handbag that is hard to pronounce. 

And finally, it is back.  “American Idol,” the fame, the fortune, the funny looking singers.  More on that in a moment.  First an update.  Near winner Blake Lewis, who finished second in season six, just inked a deal with 19 recordings.  The label managed by the creator of “American Idol,” Simon Fuller (ph).  Stand by for his first album out later this year. 

The singer he lost to, Jordan Sparks, signed her record deal after winning the competition in May.  Her album is out in November.  Her first single, titled “Tattoo,” is on the Internet today and will get radio play starting Monday. 

Just when the new batch of idol wannabes start lining up in Philadelphia to try out for next year‘s competition, COUNTDOWN‘s own “American Idol” princess will head down to the auditions to suss out if there‘s any talent there.  Tune in to COUNTDOWN on Monday for the highlights. 

More questions of celebrity justice.  Nicole Richie behind bars for, oh, 82 minutes.  Was it special treatment for her or mercy for the other inmates?  Michael Musto will tackle that one next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK:)

STEWART:  Nicole Richie served 82 minutes of her four day jail sentence yesterday afternoon, 82 minutes.  But her reality show co-star Paris Hilton served 23 days of her own 45 day sentence.  There is something not so simple about that math.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Miss Hilton, of all people, is starting to look like she did hard time.  While Ms. Richie, at only 82 minutes, has probably had hair appointments that lasted longer.  Low lights take time, people. 

Los Angeles officials insisted Miss Richie received no special treatment.  Under Sheriff Larry Waldy (ph) saying that, quote, the reality of over crowding is that would have happened to any female inmate with a 96 hour sentence.  So Miss Richie reported to the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood at 3:15 local time and after being processed was released at 4:37 p.m. 

Richie had been sentenced to four days for driving under the influence of drugs, when she was stopped by police last December for driving the wrong way on a major road artery in L.A.  She told them she had taken marijuana and Vicodin. 

And now to someone who really knows how to dispense some justice. 

Let‘s bring in “Village Voice” columnist Michael Musto.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  I‘m only on Vicodin, only on Vicodin. 

Hi Allison. 

STEWART:  Eighty two minutes, not four days, not 12 hours that had been predicted for cases like this, 82 minutes.  Is there something special about this amount of time. 

MUSTO:  Yes, well, Nicole is not that bright; 82 minutes is how long it takes her to watch “60 Minutes.”  It‘s also her 15 minutes of fame, plus 67, which is Lionel Richie‘s age in nine years.  This has been carefully figured out by ding bats. 

STEWART:  I thought you were going through a minute a pound.  I‘m meaner than you are, apparently.

MUSTO:  That would be five minutes. 

STEWART:  Now, when Richie‘s TV co-star and fellow famous for no real person, Paris Hilton, served her 23 days in the slammer, Hilton took along spiritual books.  What did Ms. Richie bring for her 82 minutes? 

MUSTO:  She go the same bible that Paris had.  Paris sold it on eBay.  But this time there are passages circled in crayon for when Larry King asks you your favorite parts.  She also has a book called, “How to Accidentally Fall Down Stairs and Lose Seven Pounds in Prison For Pregnant Dummies.”  Great book. 

STEWART:  TMZ.com says Richie was surprised by her extremely short stay, that she was prepared to serve the whole four days.  It also says she found the Sheriff‘s Department professional, cooperative and efficient.  Reality check, what else would she say?

MUSTO:  She actually meant moronic, insane and wonderfully open to bribes.  Look, if she was—she was prepared to spend four whole days, why did she only bring 12 outfits and 40 press on nails.  This is fishy.  She knew it was an 82 minute job. 

STEWART:  Meanwhile, old Lindsay Lohan‘s plea deal gave her a just one day sentence.  If Richie did 82 minutes for four days, how much time do you think Lohan is going to actually serve? 

MUSTO:  I‘m good at math; 82 divided by four is 20.5.  But I think they are going to round it off to just three minutes, which is just enough time to do a quick bathroom check, encounter.  Then she‘s a free woman with all new STDs. 

STEWART:  Now Lohan‘s estranged father told “Access Hollywood” that all she needs is her faith.  If Mother Teresa had a crisis of faith, what is a girl who drinks Red Bull and Vodka like tap water going do with faith? 

MUSTO:  First of all, Lindsay Lohan‘s father telling you to have faith is like O.J. instructing you to be kinder to your spouse.  In any case, I think Lindsay could probably get ahold of the bible after Nicole sells it on eBay.  And I really think that faith will help her get through this hideous three minute ordeal. 

STEWART:  She is also going to be required to perform 10 days of community service, complete a drug treatment program, and an 18 month alcohol education program.  Is La Lohan really going to be able to make time in her schedule for all of that? 

MUSTO:  Her schedule?  Allison, I just looked on IMDB.  She has one moving coming out and that is not even definite.  She has all the time in the world.  She is not even going to need to do the alcohol education.  She knows, for example, that it takes Gin to make a Singapore Sling. 

STEWART:  All right, Paris Hilton isn‘t resenting the fact that Nicole Richie got off so easily.  She‘s reportedly bought 10,000 dollars worth of baby clothes for Richie‘s impending bundle of joy.  No hard feelings there.

MUSTO:  Actually, I have seen the clothing and one of them is an I am with stupid t-shirt.  And the rest of them are strippers outfits, which will be interesting if it‘s a boy.  Paris is chalking this up as her charity work for children that she promised on some other cable channel.  Now all she has to also help are women and muscular dystrophy. 

STEWART:  Multi-tasking, so to speak.  Let‘s take a look at the mug shots of these three ladies.  You‘ve got to hand it to them, they are not horrendous pictures.  Maybe they should get together and write a manual on how to finesse getting booked and dealing with the law and pouting provocatively. 

MUSTO:  You wonder if they broke the law just to get another photo shoot.  They are gorgeous.  That‘s like a Mount Rushmore of bimbos.  They look fabulous.  Much better stylists there than Nick Nolte had.  They should do a book called “Jailhouse Bookings Can Be Just as Fun as Modeling Bookings,” or maybe “DUI is just IUD Spelled Backwards.” 

STEWART:  The one, the only Michael Musto.  Thank you for your time tonight.

That is it for this Friday edition of COUNTDOWN.  A final programming note, COUNTDOWN is going be on NBC this Sunday.  Keith Olbermann, the top five stories of the day, NBC, 7:00 Eastern, 6:00 central.  As KO would say, be there, aloha. 

I‘m Allison Stewart, until we meet again, check out my pod cast, “The Bryant Park Project.”  You can find it at NPR.org.  Have yourself a great weekend.

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

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