updated 3/24/2004 12:18:34 PM ET 2004-03-24T17:18:34

Guests: Richard Ben-Veniste, Gretel C. Kovach, Kay Redfield Jamison, Brett Butler

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

The 9/11 Commission:  Public hearings, some public anger, a lot of public buck passing.  Richard Clarke isn‘t there, but gets quoted a lot.  Condoleezza Rice isn‘t there, but gets invited a lot.  Commission member Richard Ben-Veniste joins us.

Warnings to those prescribed antidepressants medication:  With a reported increased risk of suicide for new users, the FDA rushes to slap special labels on 10 different drugs. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Dallas Zoo, there‘s a gorilla on the loose and it‘s going after people.  I am not joking. 

OLBERMANN:  The gorilla breakout at the Dallas Zoo:  In its aftermath, questions about teenagers throwing things at the 340 pound beast who mauled three visitors before being killed. 

Kids in trouble: 4-year-olds bringing their parents rock cocaine to preschool.  Eleven-year-olds having to drive their drunken parents home.  Nineteen-year-olds attacked by a man allegedly hired by the mother of another 10-year-old.

And, how to lose friends and alienate people:  Comedian Brett Butler joins us to explain why this t-shirt is not going over too well in wheeling. 

All that and more in COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  Congressional investigative committees are as old, as timeless, sometimes as useless as the democracy itself.  Abraham Lincoln had to suffer the joint committee on the conduct of the war as long ago as 1862.  But, it speaks to our time and their topic that when the bipartisan committee investigating 9/11 broke for lunch today, Chairman Tom Kane he had to remind spectators not to leave their bags or belongings in the hearing room because Capitol Hill police were likely to confiscate them.  The unstated message being your unattended bag would be assumed to be a potential weapon of terror. 

Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, tonight:  The first public televised hearings of that commission.  The current secretary of state and his predecessor were grilled.  The current secretary defense and her predecessor were grilled, and neither of the previous presidential administration nor the current one looked very good during any of it.  In a moment, commission member Richard Ben-Veniste joins us. 

First, about the current administration, not necessarily under siege here, but certainly under scrutiny.  As testimony continued, its chief defended its record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, the facts are these:  George Tenet briefed me on a regular basis about the terrorist threats to the United States of America, and had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on September 11, we would have acted. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  To try to gage how correct that statement and other ones are, and how the commission is going about how to assess how correct it is, we‘re honored to be joined by one of commission members, Richard Ben-Veniste, the former senator counsel to the Senate White Water Committee and also the chairman of the Watergate taskforce.

Good evening to you, sir.

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER:  Good evening

OLBERMANN:  I thought perhaps the best way of trying to get a handle as to what actually happened on this long day would be, we would play some segments from the testimony itself and then ask you for your perspective. 

Let me kind of start at then end.  You had an exchange with secretary Rumsfeld in which you listed all the possible suicide plane attack plans that were picked up by U.S. intelligence and other intelligence services late in the ‘90s up to 2001, it was an extraordinary list, a long list.  And you asked, in essence:  “How could we not know in that context that there was a chance of a suicide plane attack in this country?”  And this is how Mr. Rumsfeld replied:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  I didn‘t say “we didn‘t

know,” I said “I didn‘t know.”  The fact that I might not have known

something ought not to be considered unusual.  Our task was to be oriented

out of this country

BEN-VENISTE:  I understand.

RUMSFELD:  To then defend against attacks from abroad. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Was that a good enough answer?  Does Mr. Rumsfeld‘s answer suggest that at the end of this, sir, we will have eliminated all the possibilities that everybody will have proved themselves not responsible for what they didn‘t know? 

BEN-VENISTE:  No, he‘s correct that the Department of Defense is not principally involved in protecting the homeland, although there is a component involved in protecting our airspace, which is in fact the obligation and the mission of NORAD.  But I was questioning an earlier response that he made, a part of his initial statement in which he said, “We had no reason to believe that the planes would be used as weapons in New York City.”  And, in fact, I think Secretary Rumsfeld conceded that the intelligence community had information going back to the mid ‘90s.  at least, with respect to these kinds of plots. 

OLBERMANN:  As it pertains to the intelligence, and the intelligence community, there were frequent references, throughout this day, to actionable intelligence.  The former Secretary of State Madeline Albright made one early on and it really seemed to perturb your fellow commission member, the former Senator Bob Kerry. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB KERRY, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER:  You said “We had balance between military effort and diplomacy,” and frankly I‘ve got to say, it seems to me it was very unbalanced in favor of diplomacy. 

MADELINE ALBRIGHT, FMR.  SECRETARY OF STATE:  In many cases, some of the linkages that have been made now, were not evident at the particular time. 

KERRY:  I keep hearing the excuse, “We didn‘t have actionable intelligence,” well what the hell does that say to al-Qaeda? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This may, inadvertently, refine the political question that, kind of necessarily has to sit behind any commission like this.  From what Secretary Albright said today, from what Secretary Cohen said today, from all that you have looked at, is there any reason to believe that if, say, the Clinton presidency were to have expire not early in 2001, but early in 2003, that things would have turned out any differently?  I mean, is that transition really an excuse or an explanation for how September 11 turned out? 

BEN-VENISTE:  When you talk about “actionable intelligence,” and I think what was meant there, is when you have an al-Qaeda operating from a foreign country under the protection of the government of that country, in Afghanistan, then “actionable intelligence” means:  do you have information that we can utilize, in this case through using our submarines in the gulf to spin up TLAMs or cruise missiles to put them on target.  And, by the time you do that, because of the time delay involved, it‘s entirely possible and likely, in fact, that al-Qaeda or others will have moved.  And I think that was the problem that bedeviled both administrations.  Until the crew—until the predator, armed with Hellfire missiles came into production. 

But, my focus has been a little bit different; here we‘re talking about efforts offensively to go after bin Laden and his organization, al-Qaeda, and that‘s a very important thing to do and we‘ve heard about that.  But, the flip side of that is defense.  What did we do to protect the United States?  And that‘s my focus and particularly with respect to what intelligence we had and how it was utilized.  Obviously it wasn‘t utilized sufficiently.  I think we had collected a great deal of information from both our foreign and domestic agencies, but it wasn‘t put to proper use to protect us. 

OLBERMANN:  Pertaining to defense, the last—the last piece of tape that I would like to get your reaction to, certainly the television audience had two new phrases introduced to them today:  “The summer of threats” and “people running around with their hair on fire,” the Richard Clarke‘s and such, but while we heard so much of what was being heard in 2001, Secretary Powell said that by the time the Bush team was in place, it really was too late to interfere with the 9/11 plot. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Anything we might have done against al-Qaeda during this period, against Osama bin Laden, may or may not have had any influence in these people who were ready in the country, already had their instructions, already burrowed in, and were getting ready to commit the crimes that we saw on 9/11. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So that, Mr. Ben-Veniste, that addresses, I think or leads into that question, of defense. 

Sure.

BEN-VENISTE:  OLBERMANN:  Why weren‘t the people who knew about the so-called “summer of threats” getting to meet the people who were “running around with their hair on fire?” 

BEN-VENISTE:  Well, those were the same people, they were receiving the threats.  We were intercepting communications that were at a level behind anything we had heard before.  During the millennium threat period, the Clinton administration went to battle stations and, fortunately, they interrupted a plot to blow up LAX.  Now, during the summer of 2001, there was a very high threat level.  On the same hand, we knew that two al-Qaeda operatives were in the United States, they turned out to be two of the highjackers.  We also knew that a man named Moussaoui had been arrested and he had been learning to fly a commercial airplane.  He didn‘t want to learn though you take off, he didn‘t want to learn how to land, he just needed to know how to steer it.  Now, that was pretty important stuff.  It never got to the right hands and that‘s one of the things that I point to when I say, we had a good deal of intelligence, but why weren‘t the photographs of the two al-Qaeda put on television, on “America Most Wanted?”  Why weren‘t people at the airports briefed, to put up greater security?  All of these things could have been done had we acted in a way that was commensurate with protecting our homeland. 

OLBERMANN:  Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the 9/11 Commission.  Thank you much for your time sir, especially during such a busy period for the commission. 

BEN-VENISTE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Conspicuous by their absence today, one witness who was testified, though the White House probably wishes he wouldn‘t, and another who will not testify, largely because the White House says she can‘t.  The Condoleezza Rice part of this sideshow, in a moment, first the former counter-terrorism czar, now Bush administration would-be whistleblower, Richard Clarke.  Another reaction from the administration now and again, not exactly a slap on the back.  Vice president Cheney dismissed his former colleague during a radio interview saying that Clarke, quote, “Wasn‘t in the loop and might have had a grudge to bear.”  And the full-court press, continued from White House officials yesterday, with 15 interviews scheduled on cable news programs, today accompanied the release of Clarke‘s letter of the president—or to the president, his resignation submitted on January 30 of last year.  After noting there is, quote, “Never a good time to leave,” Clarke ends by complimenting the president, writing, “I will always remember the courage, determination, calm, and leadership you demonstrated on September 11th.”  That about a man who Clarke has plainly said he believes does not deserve to be reelected.

And then there is Dr.  Rice, or more accurately, then there isn‘t Dr.  Rice.  The national security adviser‘s absence from the hearings produced the only broad bipartisanship of the whole day, noted even by the republican chairman in his opening remarks.  But as several other members made sure to point out, while Dr.  Rice is not testifying at the public hearings, she is talking to the media, including chief investigator component Lisa Myers. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  Terrorism was a high priority for this administration.  We did pursue the Clinton administration policy and peruse it actively until we could get in a place a more comprehensive policy, not to roll back al-Qaeda, but to eliminate al-Qaeda. 

We thought that we needed a more robust policy...

LISA MYERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Did some senior administration official view Saddam Hussein as a greater threat to U.S.  security than Osama bin Laden? 

RICE:  I don‘t think you have to make a choice.  These were both great threats to our national security.  Everybody knew the story of Osama bin Laden.  The president had many, many sessions with the director of Central Intelligence about the al-Qaeda threat.  That was what led him to say “I‘m tired at (sic) swatting of flies, I want a comprehensive tragedy to eliminate al-Qaeda.” 

We also knew, and it was important to recognize, that we had a problem in Iraq. 

MYERS:  Why was there no retaliation after President Bush learned that bin Laden was responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors? 

RICE:  We were concerned that we didn‘t have good military options, that really, all we had were options like using cruise missile, to go after training camps that had long since been abandoned.

MYERS:  Our sources say that the camps in Afghanistan were thriving that you could have hit the camps and killed lots of terrorists. 

RICE:  Even if you‘d been fortunate enough to get a few people, clearly wasn‘t going to impress al-Qaeda.  Al-Qaeda had to be eliminated. 

MYERS:  What about the Predator‘s spy drone which was being harm armed with Hellfire missiles after capturing this video, in the fall of 2000, of a tall man believed to be Osama bin Laden.  Why wasn‘t the Predator sent back to Afghanistan to hunt al-Qaeda before 9/11? 

RICE:  We did think about how fast we could accelerate the work of the Predator, but you always have to be careful to make sure that you‘re going to have something that works, and the assessment was that it would be ready to fly in the fall, that we would be ready to go.  We felt that was as fast as we could get to done. 

MYERS:  Did you ever say “September isn‘t soon enough, we have got to get this back up there?” 

RICE:  The Predator was not a silver bullet, let‘s be very clear about that.  Even if you‘d been able to get Predator up, even if you‘d been able to kill bin Laden, I think the assessment of the director of Central Intelligence was that it would probably would not have prevented the attack on September 11. 

MYERS:  Why did it take nine months to hash out a new terrorism policy?  In retrospect, shouldn‘t the Bush administration have done something? 

RICE:  Lisa, we were in office 230 plus days.  By the time we got to the summer of 2001, at least 16 of the 19 of the highjackers were already in the United States for the final time. 

September 11 was a terrible event in the history of the United States.  I think that people dealt with al-Qaeda as they best knew how, the Clinton administration before us and the Bush administration.  But, the fact of the matter is that when we went to war against them, after September 11, we went to war against them with all of the assets of the United States fully deployed.  And it‘s still going to take a long time to defeat them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  National Security Adviser Rice with Lisa Myers.  Dr.  Rice will not be repeating in public to the commission the answers she gave them in private briefings.  And, there is one other headline from the 9/11 commission today, it‘s about 9/10. 

The commission today issued several preliminary reports, the most poignant of them reached one simple conclusion:  That the U.S. government finally settled on a strategy to undermine al-Qaeda by attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan on Monday, September 10, 2001. 

COUNTDOWN‘s No. 5 story:  Terror, stopping another September 11.  Coming up, tonight‘s No. 4:  Chaos at a zoo.  New 911 tapes released as Dallas zoo goers plead for help after a gorilla escapes.  And what might have gotten the ape so angry?

And, later on, they are popular drugs to treat depression, but now the government is issuing a big warning about them, especially for kids to whom they are perscirbed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Coming up on COUNTDOWN, tonight‘s No. 4 story:  Another 911 operator in the news, this time the calls are about a gorilla rampage, and also, hints about what set the gorilla off. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The slightest change in a ‘90s movie title became a description of the fear and confusion that erupted last Thursday in Dallas, Texas.  “Gorilla in Our Midst.”

Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN:  It happens with alarming frequency, a gorilla escape, in this case, an escape that nearly resulted in tragedy.  Three-year-old Rivers Heard spent his first full day recuperating at home today, after having been bitten on his head and chest last Thursday by Jabari, the 13-year-old, 340 pound male gorilla who somehow managed scale the 15-foot wall that separated the Dallas Zoo‘s “Wilds of Africa” exhibit from the customers. 

Rivers‘ mother was one of three other people attached before police fatally shot Jabari.  A series of horrified onlookers called 911.  In the still inexplicable new tradition of our times, tapes of those phone calls, including one from a Mr. Enrique DeLeon, were today released to the public.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

ENRIQUE DELEON, DALLAS RESIDENT:  The Dallas Zoo, there‘s a gorilla on the loose and it‘s going after people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you serious?

DELEON:  I‘m serious, I swear to God.  I am not joking.  There‘s people yelling and it‘s going after people.  It‘s at the wildlife...

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK, thank you.

DELEON:  All right.  Please, hurry up.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Reporter Gretel Kovach was in her office at the “Dallas Morning News” listening to police dispatchers, that harrowing evening, and she joins us now after followed the story ever since. 

Miss Kovach, good evening, thanks for your time. 

GRETEL C. KOVACH, “DALLAS MORNING NEWS”:  Hello. 

OLBERMANN:  What are zoo officials saying happened here at this point? 

What do they know about what precipitated all this? 

KOVACH:  Well, they still seem to know very little.  They say they are baffled and they‘re asking any witnesses to the escape to come forward if they have any information.  But, after a preliminary investigation, they have found very few clues.  They examined the wall and the electrical fence that surrounded the gorilla, they could find no signs of an escape, no hairs stuck in the electrical wire, no holes in the mesh that were screening the trees, and they also say that the gorilla could not just have walk out of the holding pen, that there were several doors that he had to pass through.  So, at this point they really don‘t know how the gorilla escaped. 

OLBERMANN:  There was a lot of, at least, anecdotal evidence that there had been some taunting involved by some teenagers.  Have they been able to verify whether or not this ape was somehow angered into doing whatever he did? 

KOVACH:  Yes.  Zoo officials have confirmed that witnesses have come forward and said “we did see some youths taunting the gorilla.”  But, that still does though the explain how the gorilla was able to escape, presumably children have long since taunted the gorilla.  He had been at the zoo for about 10 years, so they still do not know how exactly he escaped. 

OLBERMANN:  This is suddenly now a federal case, there is a federal investigation?  Do we know why the federal government is involved in this? 

KOVACH:  The federal government does regular inspections of the zoo and in 1998, after a gorilla escaped at the same facility, they did end up fining the zoo, but more recent inspections, the zoo had passed the federal inspections, and the gorilla habitat specifically had been examined and found to be safe.  But, there were people injured in this incident and they do need to find out what happened to try to prevent it from happening again. 

OLBERMANN:  Gretel C. Kovach of the “Dallas Morning News,” many thanks for sharing some of your reporting with us.  Good night. 

KOVACH:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  The Dallas gorilla rampage, tonight‘s No. 4 story.  And, straight ahead, those stories that will not make the front page of your “Times‘” (sic) and “Posts,” but turn our heads anyway.  “Oddball” is just around the corner. 

That‘s soap you‘re looking at there. 

And later, a student caught with crack cocaine at school, not necessarily news until we tell you that the student is in preschool. 

Before we get there, four more things you need to know about tonight‘s No. 4 story, Gorilla‘s have an unfortunate knack for escaping captivity. 

COUNTDOWN‘s top four self-liberating primates:

No. 4:  September of last year, a 300 pound gorilla, Little Joe, broke out of Boston‘s Franklin Park Zoo after unsuccessfully trying to get on a bus, he was brought down by four tranquilizers. 

October 2000, Evelyn uses overgrown vine to escape her confines at the L.A.  Zoo, her fourth escape.  Zookeepers nabbed her in the men‘s restroom.  Like George Michael.

No. 2:  The Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas had two fugitives on their hands, Tammy and her companion, Rocky, made a break for it in ‘97. 

And, finally No. 1:  The unnamed female gorilla at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium answering the call of the wild in February 2001, cashing it all in, in exchange for an unwrapped Hershey‘s Kiss. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As we always do at this hour, time to pause the COUNTDOWN to set aside the tumults and crisis of the day and instead turn on the Lawrence Welk bubble machine of news, which we invoke by merely saying, “Let‘s play Oddball.”

This festive-looking downtown scene in Duluth, Minnesota is not what it seems.  Nearly three years ago, some loser poured five gallons of dishwasher liquid into the Fountain of Wind at Canal Park.  This set up amounted to white-out conditions in the middle of July.  Kathy J.  Kelly was walking along when the bubbles overtook her.  She could see nothing, she fell into the fountain, and sustained a shin injury so series it required skin grafts and she sued.  Today the city of Duluth was found 70 percent negligent by a jury, which awarded Miss Kelly $125,000. 

Remember David Blaine hanging in that plastic box near the British Parliament for 44 days supposedly without food or water?  It was bad enough by itself, but now it has inspired copycats.  A Chinese Taoist Herbalist has sealed himself 49 feet off the ground in a mountain resort in the province of Sichaun a small glass house—so he can‘t throw any stones. 

Chen Jianmin says he has—he is going to beat Blaine‘s 44 days performance because he has learned the magic of fasting from ancient Taoist medical scriptures.  He claimed he once went 81 days without food.  No, no, intentionally, he wasn‘t even a Chinese political prisoner. 

And, from 49 feet above the ground to 40,000 above the ground, that‘s how high David Hempleman-Adams got today.  Breaking the world record for greatest altitude achieved in an open basket.  His open basket, designed specially for the venture, included three fully pressurized cabins, a sauna, two escape pods, and a radar scanner.  No, that‘s an old “Monty Python” gag.  It was just him way up in the air in his beautiful balloon. 

COUNTDOWN ready to pick up with tonight‘s No. 3 story.  Your preview: 

A mug shot, a mullet, a mother, and a man on a mission.  A surprising plot to settle a score between teenagers.

And later, marketing to teens:  Abercrombie and Fitch regularly drawing fire for its racy catalogs, now drawing the ire of a governor after the retail chain‘s latest stunt.

Those stories ahead.  First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

No. 3, the RIAA, the Recording Industry Association of America, the folks who keep suing over illegal computer downloads of their music.  Their Web site has been hacked again.  They have lost count how many times now, but the site was down today for the fifth consecutive day.  As we used to say at old college radio station, never fight with the techies.  They know more ways of messing with you than you know of messing with them. 

No. 2, unidentified twin brothers who forced a JetBlue flight from New York to Florida to land in North Carolina after they got into a fistfight over the armrest between their seats.  And, no, the pilot did not come on the P.A. and announce, if you two don‘t stop that, I will turn this plane around. 

And, No. 1, Joey Buttafuoco.  No only has he been sentenced to a year in jail for insurance fraud.  He has also now been banned for life from the auto body business in California, which, sadly, automatically makes him ineligible for the auto body parts hall of fame. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Weekly, daily, sometimes hourly, the stories pour in. 

Children, by accident, by lack of supervision, by some touch of evil, theirs or others, stuck into awful situations that we like to think of as reserved for the punishment that is life as an adult.

Our third story, growing up too quickly.  And it is mortifying to realize that the young women involved in the first part of story are the oldest kids you will here about tonight. 

We begin in Norman, Oklahoma, where a long-running feud between two teenage girls ended with the mother of one of them hiring a guy with a mullet nicknamed Bam-Bam allegedly to attack the other girl. 

The reporter is Quin Tran of our affiliate in Oklahoma City, KFOR.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUIN TRAN, KFOR REPORTER (voice-over):  Three days after the attack...

JIM PARKS, NORMAN POLICE DEPARTMENT:  Conspiracy to commit assault and battery and an unlawful possession of a firearm. 

TRAN:  Detectives accuse 47-year-old Anita Hulsey of hiring a man to beat and threaten a teenager. 

QUESTION:  Do you know why they are arresting you? 

ANITA HULSEY, DEFENDANT:  No.  It‘s because they‘re stupid, I think.

TRAN:  Police say there was a feud between Hulsey‘s daughter and a 19-year-old girl.  Investigators say Hulsey took the matter into her own hands and hired this man, Matthew Urbin, AKA Bam-Bam.

PARKS:  She provided him with the handgun.  She wanted the threats and the assault to be taken very seriously. 

JEREMY CARTER, VICTIM‘S BOYFRIEND:  And waking up in the morning to a gun held to your head is kind of scary. 

TRAN:  Jeremy Carter is the victim‘s live-in boyfriend.  He says during the ordeal, the couple‘s 15-year-old daughter woke up.  That shook up the suspect and he left.

CARTER:  He said if we called the cops, he would come back and kill us.  So we almost didn‘t call the cops, because we really didn‘t know what to do. 

TRAN:  They chose to call police and within hours the hired bully was caught.  He says he was just hired muscle working for this woman whom police say was trying to scare her daughter‘s enemy. 

PARKS:  Kids are not going to have to stand on their own two feet and not get involved and especially not to the extent that this lady did. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  As I said, at 19, those are the oldest of the kids in our No. 3 story tonight.

At Indianapolis, a child has brought crack cocaine to school, preschool.  The unnamed 4-year-old showed up attention Head Start preschool yesterday with several rocks of cocaine worth about $7,500 retail.  Police say the boy seemed to have no idea what was really in his bag. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT TUCHEK, INDIANAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT:  He took it out and he was showing other students this particular substance and was describing it as flour. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It was not.  None of the children in the preschool ate any of the potentially lethal drug.  The boy‘s parents had fled by the time investigators got to their apartment. 

In Miami, it was a 5-year-old sprinkling it over the lasagna of a fellow kindergartner, marijuana.  The lunch monitor who interceded believes the boy thought it was an oregano.  This may not have been bad parenting.  Police are looking into whether or not an older child had asked that boy to hold the plastic bag of pot.

And on it goes.  A year ago in Crafton, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh, mailman Clayton Smith was inexplicably shot and killed while on a break from his route.  There was no motive.  Now a neighborhood child has admitted he had found a gun and was shooting it out of window hoping to hit a tree.  Police there say an unnamed individual has been charged, presumably about the gun.  The shooter could be charged too in the death of the policeman.  The shooter has just turned 10. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY BETH BUCHANAN, U.S. ATTORNEY:  Under federal law, it is conceivable that a child could be charged for assaulting a federal officer.  There may also be state charges that could be brought as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But there are two examples in this third story of kids rising to the occasion as adults sank into the depths. 

Near Nashville, 35-year-old Lori Rock was driving her daughter‘s friend Sydney Hughes home.  Ms. Rock, police say, was so drunk, she passed out behind a wheel on a highway.  Sydney managed to guide the car home with no more damage than a minor fender-bender.  Sydney is 12.  She is the elder of the suddenly designated drivers. 

Unlike Ms. Rock, 35-year-old Robert Crider (ph) of Lubbock, Texas, knew he was too drunk to drive home.  He gave keys to his son.  The boy was pulled over for erratic driving about halfway through their trip, their 350-mile trip.  That boy is 11.

It is just coincidence that today in Washington, MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, called for increased penalties against adults who drive with intoxicated and with kids in the car.  The organization asked for revocation of licenses for adults who do that, also for a lower blood alcohol threshold for any adult convicted of driving drunk with a child in the car, 0.05, instead of the standard 0.08. 

The Centers for Disease Control reported last month that of kids 14 and younger who were killed in drunk-driving accidents, two-thirds were killed with the drink driver. 

And there is breaking news out of Iraq, where explosions have been heard near the Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad.  You‘re looking live at pictures from Baghdad.  There have been no initial reports of any injuries.  A grenade, a rocket-propelled grenade, hit the 13th floor of that hotel.  The lobby of the hotel strewn with glass, but, again, to this point, in an area that is housing mostly foreign contractors and journalists, no casualties reported. 

Coming up, our second story.  It relates to kids, as our No. 3 did, but it‘s not just about them, just why a sudden governmental decision occurs to slap a warning on widely-prescribed antidepressants.  Plus, why eBay bidders might soon start a price war over some used hotel furniture.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  They are meant to help depressed patients, not to possibly push them closer to the edge.  Our No. 2 story in moment, a government warning about Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, and seven other popular antidepressants.   

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  All you have to do it read the printout that most pharmacies now give you, along with your prescription.  A list of side effects sometimes numbers in the dozens, drowsiness, insomnia, hunger, loss of appetite, dry mouth, projectile drooling.  You wind up being afraid to stand next to the bottle. 

But in our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, a push to urgently add still more warnings about side effects in a widely prescribed and potent family of drugs, antidepressants, antidepressants that could cause suicide, Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin and the six other leading antidepressant drugs.  A formal government caution issued by the Food and Drug Administration, a sudden decision to ask doctors to monitor patients taking the drugs for warning signs of suicide, especially those just going on one of the drugs, especially among young people. 

In short, the worst-case scenario of the illness the drugs are designed to combat may be a side effect of taking the drugs. 

Joining us now, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison.  She is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University.  She wrote a book about her battle with Bipolar Illness.  It‘s called “An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods & Madness.”

Dr. Jamison, thank you for your time this evening. 

DR. KAY REDFIELD JAMISON, AUTHOR, “AN UNQUIET MIND”:  Thank you. 

Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Did this come out of left field?  Is it focused specifically on young people and is it a good thing? 

JAMISON:  I think it‘s—it‘s not a bad thing. 

I think that one of the things that is really important to realize is that depression, of course, is a very deadly illness and a lot of people die from both depression and bipolar illness.  So that‘s the context of having these drugs.  These are really good drugs.  But like all good drugs, they have side effects. 

And I think it‘s not a bad sort of thing to have a little bit more regulation in the sense of at least asking doctors to be aware of some of the problems that these drugs might have. 

OLBERMANN:  And what would you say to patients who have found one of these drugs useful and are already established on them? 

JAMISON:  I would say, you know, go and talk to your doctor.  Be sure and ask your doctor about things that might happen that might be a problem, but, you know, for heaven‘s sakes, not to stop without talking to the doctor about it. 

OLBERMANN:  The subject of kids and the antidepressants, last year, the British declared all of these drugs except Prozac to be unsuitable for affected teenagers.  Is the FDA being too loose in not taking that step?  Did the British overreact somehow?  Why two different paths? 

JAMISON:  Well, I think the British may have overreacted.

I think what‘s really important is that what‘s coming out of this is a

lot of education to doctors who are prescribing these drugs.  These are

drugs that people should really know how to prescribe and that there are

certain patients that might be at risk.  But you don‘t want to get rid of -

·         and you don‘t want to make it more difficult for people to prescribe drugs that save lives. 

You really don‘t want to do that, but you want people to have some educated notion about how to use them well. 

OLBERMANN:  Perhaps uniquely, or nearly so, you understand both sides of this equation, what it‘s like to suffer from bipolar, what it‘s like to work with patients who suffer from it and other diseases.  Do you think that doctors have been tending lately to prescribe these types of drugs without supervising the patients or knowing the consequences?  Or is this just such an opportunity for them that the prospect of bringing real relief in an area that hasn‘t offered that is just too good to pass up? 

JAMISON:  Well, I think that overwhelmingly the evidence is that probably not enough people are being treated for depression.  So that‘s the problem.  I think that there may be some people that are overprescribing, sure.  But, again, you don‘t want to discourage people using drugs that work well. 

You just want people to be aware that there are certain risks and that there are certain times that people should be really monitoring patients.  And you really want to open up the discussion between family members, patients and doctors and really have family members much more actively involved as well. 

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, many thanks for your time this evening. 

JAMISON:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a leap, but it‘s a much needed leap.  From our No. 2 story, we pause the COUNTDOWN to bring you instead the news that is often just too stupid to elicit anything but a laugh, the celebrity stuff and gossip we call “Keeping Tabs.” 

A Denver furniture dealer has bought up everything from the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, the infamous resort at which Kobe Bryant allegedly raped a 19-year-old hotel staffer.  The entrepreneur, a man named Steve Farland, says he is going to resell a wrought iron chair from room 35, the room in which Bryant stayed.  He may even auction it and other dark reminders of that room on eBay. 

One snag, the general manager of the spa says the hotel sold all its furniture from all its rooms to Mr. Farland as part of a remodeling project and none of it was marked with room numbers.  Everything was simply piled in the lobby for Farland to pick it up. 

And the staid world of public radio is atwitter tonight over news that Bob Edwards, the first and only host of “Morning Edition,” has been forced out of the position by NPR.  Edwards signed on the signature broadcast in 1979.  But at the end of this month, he will be reassigned as senior correspondent for NPR news, making contributions to “Morning Edition” and other shows.  No, he is not going to be replaced by Howard Stern. 

A network spokesperson said—quote—“A new host will bring new ideas and perspectives to the show.  Bob‘s voice will still be heard.  We just felt it was time for a change.  It‘s part of a natural evolution”—brought to you by the Chubb Group.  I made up the last part about the Chubb Group.

And the queen of soul is in the hospital, Aretha Fanklin being treated in Detroit, has been since Saturday.  She is in stable condition.  Her publicist is otherwise giving out no other details, not why, not what.  Ms.  Franklin turns 62 the day after tomorrow. 

Just one story shy of a completed COUNTDOWN.  And up next, the store that brought us preppie clothes and half naked catalogue models strikes a nerve in the Mountain State. 

But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top two photos of this day. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Time it was when Abercrombie & Fitch was the place you went when you needed a portable bathtub to take with you during your safari to Matabeleland.  Economics being what they are, the company gradually evolved into a supply outfit for those of the well-to-do who like to go outside occasionally, and finally into somewhat typical controversial edgy clothing line for those under the age of 25, or 14, or whatever. 

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, there is one thing about living along the edge, though, even if you‘re Abercrombie & Fitch.  sometimes, you will fall off of it three times in only two years.  Previously, the company issued a controversial soft-porn Christmas catalogue and marketed what was widely considered a racist T-shirt bearing the phrase “Two Wongs Can Make it White.” 

Now it‘s a couple of T-shirts about the state of the Unions.  One mocks New Hampshire.  The slogan, “40 Million Squirrels Can‘t Be Wrong.”  But another sticks it to a slightly more Southern locale.  “It‘s All Relative in West Virginia.” 

In a letter fired off to the company, Governor Bob Wise of West Virginia said—quote—“By selling and marketing this offensive item, your company is perpetuating an inaccurate portrayal of the people of this great state.”

Do you get the joke or do you need this one spelled out?  It‘s like the joke about the guy who introduces you to his sister and his wife and there‘s just one woman standing there.

You seldom hear that joke about, say, the state of California, even though that‘s where the man accused of incest allegedly killed nine relatives two weeks ago.  Is the T-shirt just a gag or is the geographical equivalent of racism at play here? 

I‘m delighted to be joined by comedian Brett Butler, formerly of the TV hit “Grace Under Fire,” now with a show under development at USA Network, born in Alabama and raised in Georgia. 

Brett, thanks for you time tonight.

BRETT BUTLER, COMEDIAN:  Hey there, Keith. 

Well, the important this is, I got over both of those things. 

OLBERMANN:  Congratulations. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUTLER:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  West Virginia, it‘s all relative.  As a native Southerner, are you offended by that? 

BUTLER:  Well, what I want to know is, who was mean enough to read that to the governor? 

(LAUGHTER)

BUTLER:  No, you know what?  I‘m not, because, I mean, you know, I never heard anybody with an incredible cerebral arsenal make true fun of the South where I was offended. 

It tends to be one of those—it‘s the spirit of how things are said, you know, that‘s more important.  Like, I‘m front Alabama and I just visited there.  And my boyfriend and I were driving in.  And I said, I think the Alabama state motto could be, Alabama, where you can rest your mind. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUTLER:  And what‘s funny is, my boyfriend is a New York Italian and he hesitated a second and he goes, hey, that‘s funny.  And I went, see, it was the hesitation that made it.

OLBERMANN:  Now, I think I heard you on this subject once talking about another great Southern humorist, the late Bill Hicks, and you suggested that a Southerner can make any joke he or she wants about the South, but if somebody else does it, it‘s not only kind of offensive, but it‘s kind of stealing your material, isn‘t it? 

BUTLER:  Well, no, not really. 

And, as someone from Alabama, I have always been grateful for the presence of West Virginia, because it‘s funny.  The snobbery that exists among Southerners is phenomenal.  Like, someone from Virginia speaks very slowly to me because they think they are very special.  And it‘s ironic, too, that Virginia is near West Virginia, because they are really dreadful about it.  They are quite snobby.  And parts of West Virginia are further north that Pittsburgh.  A lot of people don‘t even know that. 

OLBERMANN:  Possibly a lot of people in West Virginia don‘t know that? 

And there I go.  I‘m throwing it in there, too.

BUTLER:  Yes, but, see, the way to me that calls attention to it, you know, first of all, the only times I have been in Abercrombie & Fitch, I have only seen really good-looking, cut gay guys and other menopausal women like me, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

BUTLER:  So there is a touchy couple of groups right there in themselves.  They are not going to market to like buff gay guys.  They can‘t just come out and do that.  I feel sorry for gay menopausal men from West Virginia. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, they are getting it on three sides at the moment, yes.

BUTLER:  They probably don‘t even get the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue.

OLBERMANN:  Well, but, now, about this, that may be who you have seen in those stores.  But with that catalogue, the sort of soft-porn catalogue, with the bad joke about the “Wongs,” they seem to be going for the edgy audience, the one that responds, the under 25 group or whatever.  Do you think any of them get this joke, that maybe this is even too sophisticated for 25-and-unders? 

BUTLER:  Oh, no. 

And I also know that there is kind of—how can I put it?  See, if I tell you I miss the comedy of Don Rickles, that just meant when you were allowed to just be funny.  I still think he was like one of the funniest ever.  And, essentially, in comedy, and it‘s fortunate and not, there is something kind of mean that runs through it, but there is also a big heart that runs through it.  I really, you know—maybe I‘d offended if I were from West Virginia. 

Like I say, there are—there is just a lot more going on.  That‘s sort of a red herring, really, that someone get annoyed at that shirt.  Like, if I wore a shirt in West Virginia like I want, with a picture of John Ashcroft and the words “Be Afraid” underneath it, I would probably get in a lot of trouble. 

OLBERMANN:  The politically correct police would be over to visit you right away. 

BUTLER:  No, they would just ask me if I were really an American. 

OLBERMANN:  There you go. 

Brett Butler, a pleasure.  Thank you for your time tonight. 

BUTLER:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Before we seal up the No. 1 story, the No. 1 other thing you need to know about, we can knock down one aspect of this calumny.  West Virginia is not the state with the highest percentage of toothlessness.  That would be Kentucky.  West Virginia is the runner-up.  And, yes, this is legit.  Somebody keeps track, the Centers For Disease Control, based in Atlanta, we might add. 

Let‘s recap the five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you‘ll be talking about tomorrow.

No. 5, testifying on terrorism.  The 9/11 Commission goes public.  And taking criticism for not stopping al Qaeda before the attacks, both of the last administrations.  Four, the monkey attack in Dallas.  Officials say some teenagers may have been throwing rocks at Jabari the gorilla.  That perhaps is why he jumped the fence and injured four last week. 

Three, kids in trouble because, as usual, of negligent adults, a mom arrested after hiring a bully to attack and intimidate her teenager daughter‘s archrival.  Two, a warning label for popular antidepressants—doctors should watch for their patients, especially new ones, and possible suicidal tendencies.  And, No. 1, the relatively offensive West Virginia T-shirt, courtesy Abercrombie & Fitch.

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann. 

Good night and good luck. 

END   

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