updated 5/28/2004 12:23:55 PM ET 2004-05-28T16:23:55

Guests: Charles Cook, Martin Binks, Andrew Wojtanik

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Kerry on the attack:  We are in deep trouble in Iraq.  The challengers for imparities for national security. 

The faces of terror:  A Muslim arrested accused of trying to start a camp in Oregon.  And more on the California kid the FBI seeks. 

Diets:  An ex-Atkins dieter sues the estate of the late doc, while reveal COUNTDOWN‘s always-works revolutionary diet solution. 

So she‘s the win he of American idol?  I don‘t think so.  We‘ll look at the real winner. 

And the winner of the National Geography Bee, he gets to turn the table and asks the questions.  Take a wild guess who his victim is going to be. 

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  We did not ask either of the candidates to do this, it happened organically.  Monday, George Bush revealed his five-point plan for the future of Iraq.  Today, John Kerry revealed his four imperatives for national security.  Presumably tomorrow, Ralph Nader will give us three of something.  This program is called COUNTDOWN and now that the men who would be president all understand the rules, let‘s play the feud. 

Our fifth story tonight, after weeks of what it critics suggested was virtual campaign hibernation, John Kerry came out  not swinging, but jabbing today, trying to amplify his accusation that the president had made Homeland Security into a photo opportunity without also seeming to be anti-counterterrorism.  With the senator in Seattle is our correspondent, Kelly O‘Donnell. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For John Kerry, the campaign trail has fast become a campaign tight rope. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you. 

O‘DONNELL:  An uneasy balance between his need to appear tough enough on national security and terrorism, mindful of swing voters and moderates. 

KERRY:  As commander-in-chief, I will respond with overwhelming and devastating force. 

O‘DONNELL:  Without risking the wrath of the anti-war corner and his democratic face. 

KERRY:  They‘ve bullied when they should have persuaded. 

O‘DONNELL:  Today in Seattle, with a new focus on national security, Kerry again tried to distinguish himself from President Bush.  Harder now because the Kerry campaign claims the president‘s position on Iraq looks more like Kerry‘s.  Namely, enlist a broader U.N. Involvement and encourage more nations to help. 

KERRY:  Leaving us at war, not just...

O‘DONNELL:  That leaves Kerry with a smaller point to make, simply the claim that he could handle Iraq better.

KERRY:  Attracting international support in a situation like Iraq is a clear test of presidential leadership.  It is what capable and confident presidents do. 

O‘DONNELL:  In response, the Bush campaign says Kerry, while critical, offered nothing new. 

(on camera):  Kerry leaves open the option of sending more troops to Iraq if needed and he does not support a specific date for bringing them home.  Giving those who want to see the U.S. out of Iraq reason to turn up the pressure. 

TOM ANDREWS, ANTI-WAR ACTIVIST:  We need to draw the line and say, the military occupation of Iraq is going to end.  It will end on a date certain. 

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  Former democratic Congressman Tom Andrews now heads a group called Win Without war. 

ANDREWS:  ...no to any political leader or candidate who does not listen to this and take this position very seriously. 

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT:  How dare they...

O‘DONNELL:  While some democrats wish Kerry were as fiery as Al Gore was yesterday, Kerry did find his flank protected by Gore in a speech to a liberal activist group. 

GORE:  I do not believe that John Kerry should tie his own hands by offering overly specific detailed proposals...

O‘DONNELL:  On national security, the Kerry, strategy subjected to slayings from both right and left, is looking to find a path down the middle. 

Kelly O‘Donnell, NBC News, Seattle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And another challenge for Senator Kerry:  His style, his delivery.  It did not go unnoticed that the only loud voice we heard attacking President Bush in the last few weeks of this campaign was not the man who‘s challenging this time, it was Al Gore, the man who challenged him four years ago and who could be found screaming, sweating, and then towelling off his way through yesterday‘s angry speech in New York. 

Is John Kerry being quiet—too quiet?  Or is there a method to all this?  Joining to us now to weigh in with his thoughts, political analyst Charlie Cook of the “Cook Political Report” and the “National Journal.”

Charlie, good evening. 

CHARLIE COOK, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Kerry vis-…-vis Gore, first.  Is John Kerry letting Al Gore do some of the dirty work here while Kerry can try to appear to be above the Bush bashing?  Is it actually coordinated? 

COOK:  No. I think whether it‘s coordinated or not, I think it‘s very, very deliberate and I think it‘s the right thing to do.  You know, normally a challenger is in a situation where they have to first convince the American people, you know, or convince the voters, throw the other guy out, and then the second part is, elect me to replace him.  The thing is circumstances, events seem to be pushing people toward the first one and so Kerry doesn‘t really have to make that case terribly strongly.  Kerry just needs to get to the point of acceptability.  I mean right now, polls are starting to show increasingly, people are starting to kind of decide, tentatively decide they don‘t want to reelect President Bush.  The question is can Kerry clear that threshold.  And I think getting on television and screaming like a madman isn‘t what John Kerry needs to do to be a presidential and to become acceptable to the American people. 

OLBERMANN:  I know, and you‘ve reflected it here, to some degree, that the conventional wisdom, this year, on all this remains that John Kerry‘s best overall strategy is to let the events beat Mr. Bush and Mr. Bush to beat Mr. Bush.  But once again, do we have an example in presidential history of that actually having happened of an incumbent president simply losing to anybody but him?  And have there been recent developments to suggest that this really could also happen this November? 

COOK:  Well, 1980 with Jimmy Carter was an interesting case because you had—you know, the economy was a mess.  We had the hostages in Iran, Jimmy—President Carter‘s approval rating had dropped down to 31 percent, which is dismal.  That race was too close to call with Ronald Reagan, though, a week before the election.  And—because what had happened was people were convinced they did not want to reelect President Carter, but they had reservations about whether this one-time governor—or two term former governor of California, former movie actor, whether he had the stuff to be president.  We went into the debate the Thursday night before the election, the race was too close to call.  Reagan did very well, President Carter didn‘t do so well.  Carter comes out—you know, starts sinking, Reagan comes out of the debate charging hard, wins the race by 10 percentage points.  Where Reagan simply had to pass a threshold and he couldn‘t do it until that debate.  And I think that‘s the case though, where people had tentatively decided—or had decided they didn‘t want to reelect, but the challenger had to pass a threshold. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, speaking of speaking, were Mr. Bush‘s speech Monday, about the goals in Iraq and Senator Kerry, today in Seattle, kind of designed to do similar things, to set the tones, to raise delicate subjects and show how they could handle them? 

COOK:  Well, it was interesting, you were talking about the COUNTDOWN, the numbers, you know, you could take the four principles or imperatives that John Kerry outlined.  I don‘t think there was a thing there that President Bush would have disagreed with.  Now, the whole rest of the text, the rest of the speech was very much critical of President Bush and really did lay out a groundwork, but the imperatives, the principles, you know, they were fairly pabulum, I don‘t thing—you know, I don‘t know who could disagree with them. 

OLBERMANN:  As was the criticism of Mr. Bush‘s remarks on Monday. 

Charles Cook of the “National Journal” and of the “Cook Political Report.” 

As ever sir, thank you for your time. 

COOK:  Take care, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Clearly we have reached a tipping point regarding public disclosures about Homeland Security.  There has been considerable skepticism about yesterday‘s joint news conference from Messers Ashcroft and Mueller.  And there is considerable outrage that there is considerable skepticism, as well.  The third option, of course, is that both right, that there is simultaneously opportunism and counterterrorism going on.  Evidence of the latter in London, today. 

At American request, the British have arrested radical Islamic cleric charged, with among other things, trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon.  Our correspondent Pete Williams picks up the story of Abu Hamza al-Masri. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After trying for months to throw him out of the country, British authorities today, arrested Abu Hamza al-Masri on America charges that he‘s an international terrorist. 

RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER:  The arrest of Abu Hamza is a major development in the He is an acting agent development in the fight against global terror.  He‘s the real deal.  Think of him as a freelance consultant to terrorist groups worldwide. 

WILLIAMS:  With the help of a Seattle man already convicted, Abu Hamza is accused of trying to turn this ranch land in southern Oregon into a terror prep school.  And he‘s accused of working to raise money for the Taliban.

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  The indictment also charges Hamza with material support violations for facilitating violent Jihad in Afghanistan. 

WILLIAMS:  Before British police shut down his London mosque, last week, al-Masri preached a radical form of Islam.  Lavishly praising Osama bin Laden, bitterly attacking the west, America, especially.  He attracted Richard Reid, later convicted the would-be shoe bomber to his mosque and Zacarias Moussaoui accused of plotting with the 9/11 highjackers. 

British author Neil Doyle who obtained dozens of tapes of al-Masri preaching, says he frequently called for violence. 

NEIL DOYLE, AUTHOR:  There‘s a message that he repeats over and over again, as well, the importance of Jihad in your own homeland.  And also, exposing Jihads to countries all around the world. 

WILLIAMS:  After today‘s predawn arrests, some London Muslims said al-Masri gave them a black eye. 

GHAYASUDDIN SIDDIQUI, LEADER, MUSLIM PARLIAMENT IN BRITAIN:  My impression is that he is a very irresponsible person, he‘s a loud mouth, and he‘s lunatic. 

WILLIAMS:  Al-Masri is also charged with helping terrorists take 16 tourists hostage five years ago in Yemen, four were killed, so that charge carries the death penalty.  But the British say they won‘t allow it if he is sent here for trial. 

DAVID BLUNKETT, BRITISH HOME SECURITY:  We have an agreement with the United States which I reaffirmed a year ago, that the death penalty would not be put in place. 

WILLIAMS (on camera):  Al-Masri will fight extradition, so it could be months before he‘s brought here to face charges exporting al Qaeda terror. 

Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  We would all hope that the visceral response to the identification of a terror suspect named al-Masri would be the same as the visceral response to the identification of terror suspect who has called himself “Adam Pearlman.”  We are probably kidding ourselves.  The FBI‘s announcement that the California native was being sought, along with six internationals in an al Qaeda sweep, is still echoing strangely throughout the country.  This home video shows a young Adam Pearlman, evidently born Adam Gadahn, he is the one on the right in the T-shirt in the baseball cap.  His family has been able to shed little light on how the 25-year-old, who grew up on a goat farm in Orange County ended up on an FBI wanted list. 

George Lewis, tonight, from Los Angeles, as we try to figure out just who this man is and how he got that way. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  FBI director, Robert Mueller, got the attention of California law enforcement officer agencies. 

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR:  Adam Gadahn, is a U.S. citizen who converted to Islam.  He is associated with Abu Zubaida in Pakistan, and he attended the training camps in Afghanistan.  He is known to have performed translations for al Qaeda as part of the services he has provided to al Qaeda. 

LEWIS:  Adam Gadahn is 25 years old.  Law enforcement officials say he grew up in southern California and attended the University of Arizona. 

NANCY PEARLMAN, ADAM GADAHN‘S AUNT:  It‘s a horrible surprise.  I‘m appalled that there‘s a connection of any sort being suggested. 

PHILIP GADAHN, ADAM GADAHN‘S FATHER:  Well, I really don‘t know much because I haven‘t seen him for several years and he just—he sort of detached.  He went off and did his own thing and that‘s kind of the way he is. 

LEWIS:  He lived for a time in this apartment building in Garden Grove, California.  At this nearby mosque, there‘s a document signed by Gadahn, marking his conversion to Islam in 1995.  The director of the local Islamic Society says Gadahn was expelled after he got into a fight.

DR. MUZAMMIL SADDIOI, ISLAMIC SOCIETY DIRECTOR:  He was a young man who was a little disturbed.  Who was mentally disturbed, depressed, he was not communicating too much with the people. 

LEWIS:  These time sheets obtained by NBC News show that Gadahn worked for an organization called “Charity without Borders.”  An organization the federal officials say may have al Qaeda links. 

(on camera):  Law enforcement officers worry that if Gadahn is connected to al Qaeda, as an American, he can easily blend in here in this country. 

STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM EXPERT:  Clearly, using an American Muslim who has an American passport would make it much more easier for al Qaeda to carry out an attack. 

LEWIS (voice-over):  Federal officials say that Gadahn is presumed to be armed and dangerous, that anyone spotting him should call the FBI or local law enforcement. 

George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And the fifth story now takes us to the battlefield in Iraq and new hope for peace in the embattled city of Najaf.  After fighting that has kept families shuttered in their homes for weeks, life began a tentative returned to normal today in the sacred Shia city.  This after coalition forces accepted a truce offer from the militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.  Still it remains unclear if that truce will hold.  It is also unclear if this constitutes negotiating with terrorists.  Although fighting has ceased, U.S. forces have remained in that city, as did militiamen, from Sadr‘s Mahdi army. 

But as the violence in Najaf subsided, it continued to haunt members of the Iraqi Governing Council.  After participating in negotiations in Najaf today, Counselor Salama al-Khafaji was ambushed on the way back to Baghdad.  Three of her body guards killed, unclear if she was hurt.  Ms.  Khafaji had been appointed to replace another council member who had been killed last September. 

And the last part of the No. 5 story would be comical in a different context.  The United States Army appears to be running out of bullets.  A requisition form from the Army Field Support Command say that for each or the next five years, the military will need about one-and-one-half billion bullets per year.  But the service can only produce about 1.2 billion bullets per year at the one army-owned facility in Independence, Missouri.  That would leave the Army at least 300 million short per year.  That might ultimately be filled by expanding the facility in Missouri, but in the short term, the army may have to turn to private or international manufacturers, including a Canadian technology firm and a company called Israeli Military Industries.  Running out of bullets. 

COUNTDOWN opening tonight with politics and the war on terror.  Straight ahead, the No. 4 story:  The Kobe Bryant case.  Back before a judge today, and now someone besides the accuser is pleading with the judge for privacy protection. 

And later, the great radio face-off:  The first audience ratings are

in for Al Franken versus Rush Limbaugh.  The results have the jaws of

liberals, conservatives, and radio pros alike dropping to the floor.  Stand

by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight‘s No. 4 story up next, your preview:  A day after MSNBC broke the bombshell development from the Kobe Bryant defense team, the accuser‘s former boyfriend is now pleading that they not drag him into the heart of this case.  Stand by, a live report from Colorado is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Yesterday it was an unidentified man, or at least some of him, making the headlines in the Kobe Bryant case.  MSNBC reporting exclusively, a defense conclusion that forensics indicated the alleged victim had indeed had sex with another man right around the time of her encounter with Bryant.  Now, in tonight‘s No. 4 story in the COUNTDOWN, another man, possibly the same other man, enters the soap opera with a plea for privacy.  And Bryant enters and exits the courtroom in a hurry. 

Our correspondent in Eagle, Colorado, is Mark Mullen. 

Mark, good evening. 

MARK MULLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening to you.  And you‘ve got it.  I mean, that‘s basically what this is all about.  Kobe Bryant‘s lawyers, the defense team, continues to try to suggest it worked very hard to do so, that someone other than Kobe Bryant had sex with the accuser around the time of the alleged Bryant incident.  The latest now happens to be a pursuit by the defense team to try to get DNA from one of the ex-boyfriends of the accuser.  Obviously, he does not want to give the DNA, but what is the defense after?  Well obviously, if they can suggest and ultimately prove in court that this woman happened to have sex with someone other than Kobe Bryant, they might use that information to try and discount her credibility. 

Something else that came up today which was really quite interesting, something we‘ve never seen in a courtroom, today was the introduction of text messaging in court.  OK, what‘s that all about?  Well, a lot of you have cell phones and a lot of the new cell phone are sort of hybrid.  You can send e-mail on them or text messaging.  That‘s basically what came before the court today.  Apparently the accuser of Kobe Bryant has one of these telephone, which can send text messages, and apparently, prosecutors, along with defense attorneys, both contend that she used that cell phone to send text messages after the alleged incident with Kobe Bryant.  Who did she send them to?  Apparently different friends and perhaps that ex-boyfriend we already talked about.  What did she say?  We don‘t know.  But, that‘s what defense attorneys certainly want to know.  So, they‘ve pursued that very vigilantly today in court and despite some objections by different attorneys in court, the judge said he would review those messages.  He would consider them and if they seemed to be relevant, Keith, he will let them be introduced.  However, that said, he said he‘ll review those messages behind closed doors. 

OLBERMANN:  Mark Mullen at Eagle, Colorado.  Many thanks. 

And an update tonight too, from the Bryant case‘s twin on the COUNTDOWN blotter.  A significant step forward in the Laci Peterson murder trial.  We now have a jury.  Always useful.  Six men, six women, selected today to form the panel that will decide whether Scott Peterson killed his pregnant wife.  It was not easy to get to this point.  It took nine weeks to whittle the initial pool of nearly 1,600 down to just a dozen plus six alternates.  The members of the jury will hear opening arguments in the case next Tuesday.

COUNTDOWN No. 4 story behind us now.  Up next those stories with no news value, no COUNTDOWN number, and no apologies from us.  It is “Oddball” and tonight not one but two car chases, no extra charge. 

And later, a jaw-dropping Harry Potter prediction from Harry Potter himself.  How will this whole drama end?  Well, he ought to know, right? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s a murderer. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back and we pause the COUNTDOWN now, for the news you can‘t use.  The weird, the wild, the wonderful.  Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

And we begin in Ventura County, in the sunshine where the days are longer and the nights are stronger than moonshine.  The COUNTDOWN “Car Chase of the Week.”  Yeah, I know, we already had one this week, what are you taking notes?  Checking the “Oddball” scoreboard for the year we see it‘s Cop 44, guys who think they can escape the cops, goose egg.  But that ain‘t deter this guy.  Like a bat out of hell, this delinquent desperado leading police on an unbridled fiasco through—OK, I‘m not going to lie to you.  This one really isn‘t that exciting, in fact, it ended when the guy‘s Lebaron ran out of gas.  Now, if that isn‘t a stinging comment on the staggering oil pirces, I don‘t know what is.  Guy tries to flee from cops, runs out of gas.  He‘ll have plenty of time to contemplate the irony where he‘s going—the big house!

But wait, it‘s an “Oddball” two for Thursday.  Never mind that scoreboard because this guy‘s in a hurry.  Charlotte, North Carolina, the man fleeing a domestic disturbance, crashing at a busy intersection, he just walks away from his still-rolling vehicle.  Just park that anywhere, pal.  The other driver was injured, but not seriously.  Then the foot chase starts and our suspect turns on the speed.  Look at him run! An amazing display of Olympian footwork, the suspect outruns the cops in the straightaway, then into the hurdles, into the apartment complex, he should have gotten at least a trophy of some sort.  But, there will be no blue ribbon for this fleet footed fellow.  Maybe he can join the track and field team—in the big house!

I love “Oddball.” 

Going to the beach this summer?  Please don‘t forget your sunglasses, your sand bucket and pail, and your vial of hippopotamus sweat.  Scientists at Kyoto University in Japan, not my initials, that‘s the name of the place, have determined that hippo sweat is the perfect all natural defense against sunburn.  It has anti-bacterial properties.  It will not only help you protect yourself against UV rays, it may kill off that stuff growing between your toes. 

Besides which, you single gentlemen can now approach a young lady on the beach and say I‘m a hungry, hungry hippo and the odds that you won‘t be arrested will drop to only about 50 percent. 

COUNTDOWN leaves the land of “Oddball” picking back up with our No. 3 story, your preview:  A man on the Atkins Diet files a lawsuit because he says the diet ruined his health. 

And coming up, COUNTDOWN‘s ultimate secret weight loss plan.  Grab a pen and paper, we‘ll guarantee that no lawsuit will be required. 

Later, the new Mr. Altas, big man on campus when it comes to geography, he will put my geographical knowledge to the test. 

These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:

No. 3:  The Swedish postal service.  It says a package it received was sent through at least two mail processing facilities and delivered as addressed.  Postal workers were convinced it was no danger to anybody despite the fact that it bore three labels reading “Now you‘ll get it!” “Look out!” and “Warning, bomb!” They were right.  It was a hoax, it was a pair of shoes. 

No. 2:  Fidel Cueva, a passenger on a Greyhound bus going from Santa Maria, California, to Los Angeles, but he intended to get off at Ventura from what bus didn‘t stop at Ventura, so Mr. Cueva simply went to the back, pulled out the busses emergency window, and jumped out.  The bus was going 55 miles an hour at the time.  He was uninjured and his last words were—

“This is my stop!”

And No. 1, Scott Sweeney of Jupiter, Florida, early nomination for father of the year.  The boat captain let his son jump into the Loosahatchie River so that the 14-year-old boy could wrestle an alligator.  “That‘s my boy!” says Sweeney who is now under arrest for child abuse. “14 years old and no fear.”  No truth to rumors that the kid responded, “That‘s my dad, 52-years-old and not an ounce left of the brains god gave him!” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When he hit the big 50, Floridian Jody Gorran stepped on a scale and discovered he had put on eight pounds.  Determined to drop back to his preferred 140, he turned to the popular but controversial Atkins diet, all the eggs, meat and cheese you can swallow, just no carbs.  As Homer Simpson said to Bart, butter up that bacon, boy. 

But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, it‘s three years later now for Mr. Gorran and he is now suing both the company and the estate of the late Dr. Robert Atkins for having, he says, ruined his health. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JODY GORRAN, SUING ATKINS DIET:  I relied upon him and had no sense that I might have just made a deal with the devil. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Even after his chess cholesterol shot up from 146 to 230, Mr. Gorran stuck with the high-fat diet.  See, it was working.  He lost those eight pounds.  He gained three separate rounds of chest pain and a 99 percent blockage of a major artery that required angioplasty to correct. 

A quarter century ago, a New York jury rejected a similar suit brought by an elderly overweight woman who blamed her heart disease on the Atkins diet.  Atkins himself suffered a major heart attack of his own in 2002. 

Here, we do not merely sympathize with our fellow Americans in their pursuit of a slimmer waistline.  We emphasize.  In a survey of our staff, it proves that we‘re looking to shed a collective 166 pounds.  So we‘re going to clue you in to COUNTDOWN‘s top-secret weight loss plan.  I presented this once on the air in Los Angeles.  Works like a charm.  Step one, eat less food, especially bread and sugar, lots of salads.  The dressings these days are outstanding.  Step two, get more exercise. 

Would that it were all that simple.  As the case of the Atkins litigant suggests, the more complicated and the more tasty the diet, the more likely we are to try it. 

I‘m joined now by Dr. Martin Binks.  He is at the director of behavioral health and the renowned Diet and Fitness Center at Duke University. 

Dr. Binks, thanks for your time tonight, sir. 

DR. MARTIN BINKS, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST:  Hi.  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me start with the obvious. 

Let‘s take own onus off this Mr. Gorran.  Let‘s just say anybody who is looking to drop eight pounds and goes on Atkins for 2 ½ years, gets chest pains, his cholesterol goes through roof, at some point, is it not up to him to say, gee, whiz, the evidence suggests to me that this might not be doing me too much good; maybe should I see my doctor?

BINKS:  Well, I think you make a good point that it is important for people to talk to their physicians and people who are knowledgeable about health matters that are affected by weight loss and diet. 

The fact that, often, the media is able to promote the books like Atkins and so forth and that the popularity of those diets come along from people that have strong credentials, people may think that that is a good substitute for speaking to their own physician. 

MATTHEWS:  But do you by the argument that, once you get started on one of these things, that it takes on a momentum of its own and your common sense no longer is fully in your own grasp?  And this argument seems to be, to be a little less than—just to me as somebody who has done a lot of diets, a little less than the epitome of personal responsibility. 

BINKS:  Well, I think that it is important to be aware of your own health and your own needs and to be on top of that. 

But there is a powerful message given in many of these type of diet books.  People like yourself and myself do know that there are reputable places to go and learn about the various diet options and ways to apply those successfully.  But you get so many messages in the media and through advertising that say that there‘s a quick and easy way to do it. 

Now, the lower-carb approaches have some validity if done in an appropriate way by people who are well trained in knowing what to look for.  But the average consumer is bombarded by a lot of those messages that you can just do this on your own. 

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want to call the Atkins thing or the other diets fads.  Let me invent a term here called theme diets. 

What particularly—obviously, the publicity you mentioned, the speed that they supposedly take or bring to the process of dieting obviously are major contributing factors.  But is there something else that grabs people?  What ultimately draws people into these named programs? 

BINKS:  Well, I think that there‘s a sense of desperation among many people who have been trying for years without success to try and control their weight and improve their health.  And I think that that emotional element of the feeling of failure and repeated failure and the promise of something that is going to take that away instantaneously is very alluring for many people. 

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Martin Binks, director of behavioral health at the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

BINKS:  Thanks very much. 

OLBERMANN:  In case the diet news has not made you too afraid to even walk on the same side as the street as your doctor‘s office, one more warning about a potential bacteria factory, your doctor‘s tie, his neck tie. 

In a study at New York Hospital, nearly half of all ties were found to be carrying potentially disease-causing bacteria.  Well, it makes sense.  A tie is frequently contaminated when it brushes against the skin or the wounds of a patient.  And how often, after all, does a man wash his tie?  So add the tie to the list of things that researchers say you should not touch in a doctor‘s office.  The list, incidentally, headed by the office pen.  Germs stick to these things like glue, seriously.

COUNTDOWN now three-fifths complete.  Up next, our No. 2 story.  “American Idol” is over.  Thank you.  And in true COUNTDOWN fashion, we‘ll be celebrating our own COUNTDOWN idol.  It‘s not her.  And an American idol of a very different sort.  Rush Limbaugh vs. Al Franken head to head on the radio.  America has voted with its ears.  The startling results after the break. 

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN”)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR:  He‘s been awesome.  He originally came and got me to come here.  He‘s been terrific. 

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST:  What if he lets you take job, but he sits in the background, you can see him in the back, and just mocks the way you‘re doing it when you‘re doing the news? 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘BRIEN:  That‘s not the way you do it.  What are you doing over there?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He‘s doing a heck of a—you cut your teeth here, right?  That‘s where you started practicing?  That‘s good.  He married a Texas girl, I want you to know.  Karen (ph) is with us, a West Texas girl, just like me. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)

NARRATOR:  On May 2, 2004, presidential candidate John Kerry fell off his bicycle.  On May 23, 2004, President George Bush fell off his bicycle.  Vote Lance Armstrong for president. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Coming up, Fantasia may be the official “American Idol.”  But we all know who the real one is.  Our tribute to him a moment.  And breaking news for fans of Al Franken, Rush Limbaugh and “Harry Potter.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It, as they say, is a final.  With controversies both real and manufactured, winner who turned out to be losers, losers who turned out to winners, our No. 2 story after just four months, no more phone calls, please.  “American Idol” has a victor. 

The 19-year-old single mother from North Carolina, Fantasia Barrino, was crowned last night; 65 million people took advantage of two extra hours and countless additional phone lines to cast their votes after Tuesday‘s final performance.  Ms. Barrino took the clear lead that night.  Her rendition of the former “Idol” contestant Tamyra Gray‘s song “I Believe” prompting Judge Simon Cowell to declare it her acceptance speech. 

In the end, it was 1.3 million votes that cost the youngest “Idol” finalist a win.  Diana DeGarmo, just 16 years old, reportedly taking the loss hard, needing an hour after the show to compose herself.  The Supreme Court has stopped the Florida recount.  Thus, Fantasia wins by the vote of the Electoral College. 

One thing to remember, Ms. DeGarmo.  To win on a TV show on a soulless TV network is not necessary to win the public . The album from last year‘s runner-up, Mr. Clay Aiken, has outsold that of his rival, Mr. Ruben Studdard.  And regardless of the literal figures, it is obvious that the phenomenon in this year‘s competition was the guy that these geniuses cut on the first night of auditions, 15 minutes of fame extended to 120 days now and compressed for you into 118 seconds. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM HUNG, SINGER:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  Joining us now, the real live William Hung. 

HUNG (singing):  It‘s fun to stay at the YMCA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN IDOL”)

HUNG:  I have no professional training of singing. 

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE:  No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What else has this opened up?  Have you been invited to perform anywhere? 

HUNG:  Yes, mostly at the smaller venues. 

(singing):  Shake your bon-bon.  Shake your bon-bon.  Shake your bon-bon. 

I was certainly very surprised to see the 90 seconds of audition turning into this colossal thing. 

(singing):  Oh, no, no, no I‘m a rocket man, rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone.

OLBERMANN:  That was it, I guess. 

HUNG:  Year, chorus. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One, two, three.

HUNG (singing):  Talk to me, tell me your name.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  We‘re going to take a break between songs here. 

HUNG (singing):  Oh, everybody heard it.  All right. 

(singing):  She bangs, she bangs, oh, baby, I‘m wasted by the way she moves.

OLBERMANN:  William Hung. 

HUNG (singing):  No one ever liked so fine.

OLBERMANN:  All right, fade it down. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How long do you plan to ride this train? 

HUNG (singing):  No, I haven‘t planned it.

ELTON JOHN, MUSICIAN HUNG (singing):  Can you feel the love tonight? 

HUNG (singing):  How it‘s laid to rest.  It‘s enough to make kings and vagabonds believe the very best.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  From “American Idol” to Air America, as we segue into the news of celebrity gossip and broadcasting, the segment we like to call “Keeping Tabs.” 

And the new liberal cable network is not going to win business plan of the year honors.  But the first radio ratings are in.  Al Franken has clocked Rush Limbaugh and his program may turn out to be the most successful launch in radio history.  The Arbitron ratings for Franken‘s first month on the year, April, are in. 

In New York, in the audience coveted by the advertisers, 25-to-54-year-olds, Franken beat Limbaugh head to head with a 3.4 share, to Limbaugh‘s share of 3.1.  Among 18-34-year-olds, Franken crushed Limbaugh 2.9 to 0.4.  Even in Chicago, where the Air America network was only on the air for 28 days in April, Franken shows and the other liberal offerings made the younger ratings share on the station WNTD leap from 0.1 in February to 2.0 in April. 

And ahead in Chicago was Limbaugh, 4.8, Franken 3.0.  Most radio startups get microscopic ratings well into their second year. 

From unexpectedly strong starts to really unexpectedly bad endings, the star of the “Harry Potter” films telling the news conference today that he has always secretly suspected that the series will end with Harry dying.  “People are going to hate me for saying this,” says Daniel Radcliffe of the character he plays, “but I‘ve always had the suspicion that Harry might die.”

Harry and Voldemort, yes, have got the same core in them.  The only way Voldemort could die is if Harry dies as well.  The way the books and films keep going and going, Harry and his pals, Hermione and Ron, could all die of old age. 

Natural causes, like Rodney Dangerfield.  Well, marijuana is natural, isn‘t it?  The 82-year-old comedian going strong still and telling “Rolling Stone” magazine that he discovered pot when he was 21.  That means he has been smoking it since 1943.  He says the stuff not only helped him over his clinical depression of the ‘90s, but also during his childhood when his father saw him two hours per year and his mother stole money from him and once when he went to the White House during the Reagan presidency. 

His one complaint about the drug, which he now takes medicinally for chronic neck pain, its cost.  “As a kid, I bought it for $25 an ounce.  Decent stuff today costs you a minimum of $500 an ounce.  Ah, everything is insane.  I‘m telling you, everything is wild”—unquote. 

The COUNTDOWN‘s No. 1 story up next, as if my grilling from Alex Trebek were not pressure enough, now I‘m going to get put to the test by the America‘s new guru of geography.  That‘s ahead.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The last time we saw Alex Trebek, he was supervising an edition of “Power Players Jeopardy” in which Al Franken beat me by $1 after he earned $3,400 in one category called “Saturday Night Live” presidential players. 

Now Alex returns in tonight‘s No. 1 story as the quiz master of the 16th annual National Geographic Bee and, by extension, the chance to humiliate me once again, because I‘m going to try to answer some of the questions cold in a moment. 

Nearly five million students between the ages of 10 and 15 entered the bee.  The 55 semi-finalists faced off in Washington this week.  And, no, the one who looked the most like Al Franken was not asked a series of geography questions about his home town. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX TREBEK, MODERATOR:  Peshawar, a city in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan, has had strategic importance for centuries because of its location near what historic pass? 

Put your cards up. 

Andrew, you wrote down the al Khyber Pass and Matthew wrote down the Lhakpa La Pass.  The correct response is the Khyber Pass.

And that means that Andrew Wojtanik from Kansas, congratulations. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That would be Wojtanik, Alex. 

The 14th-year-old eight grader from Overland Park, Kansas, earned a $25,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and a trip to SeaWorld Adventure Camp, and then the bad with the good, a visit to COUNTDOWN world headquarters.

Andrew, good evening.  Congratulations.

ANDREW WOJTANIK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BEE CHAMPION:  Hello. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you study for this?  Can you study for it or do you just have to know geography? 

WOJTANIK:  It takes little bit of both.  I grew up studying and working hard and looking at atlases since I was 5.  And especially this year, since April, I‘ve been just studying at least 50, 60, 70 hours since April. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow.

OLBERMANN:  What I know of geography, I started to learn when I was 8, when I used to read the backs of the baseball cards and wonder where those towns were that the minor league teams played in.  You have got to get hooked some way. 

You opened up an atlas when you were 5.  What got you about it?  What brought you into geography? 

WOJTANIK:  I was just amazed by its detail and all its rivers and mountains and everything about it.  Who knows why, some crazy feeling.  But that is what got me interested. 

OLBERMANN:  So, all right, we‘re going to give you the opportunity to turn the tables after question after question after question. 

OK, you‘ve got questions.  Some of these are ones that you had to answer yourself.  I haven‘t seen any of them in advance, which will probably result in my getting none of them right.  I‘ll try not to humiliate myself. 

Go ahead.  Give me first one. 

WOJTANIK:  OK.  First question. 

This group of volcanic islands lies in the North Atlantic.  Fishing and fish processing are two of its main industries.  And the largest islands in this group are Streymoy and Eysturoy.  Name this island group.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, man.

WOJTANIK:  Good luck.

OLBERMANN:  The Falklands. 

WOJTANIK:  Sorry.  The answer is the Faroe Islands. 

OLBERMANN:  OK, well, I‘ve never heard of them, so I‘m definitely 0-1. 

All right, let‘s go for 0-2.  The second question.

WOJTANIK:  OK.

Lines of equal temperature on a weather map are called what?

OLBERMANN:  Lines of equal pressure on a...

WOJTANIK:  Equal temperature.

OLBERMANN:  Equal temperature on a weather map are called—that‘s a geography question?  Oh, man.  This is—isobars.

WOJTANIK:  That‘s what I said in the National Geo competition, but it is actually isotherms. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I feel a little better.  Thank you for helping.  But I‘m still...

WOJTANIK:  That was very close. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m still 0-2. 

They didn‘t give it to you, did they? 

WOJTANIK:  Actually, they did.

OLBERMANN:  They gave it to at isotherms?

WOJTANIK:  I said the same thing, isobars. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, well, I think the rules, the same rules apply. 

All right, so I‘m 1-2.  OK, give me the third question. 

Now that the bottom line humiliation has been eliminated from the table.  Go ahead.

WOJTANIK:  OK.  This is a pretty easy one.  You should get it. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

WOJTANIK:  How many state capitals are west of Los Angeles.

OLBERMANN:  Oh.  Two, Sacramento and Honolulu? 

WOJTANIK:  No.  You‘ve got...

OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes, that‘s right.

WOJTANIK:  There are six. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that‘s right.  I only lived in Los Angeles for 10 years.  Why would I know that one?  All right, have you got one more? 

WOJTANIK:  One more, last one.

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

WOJTANIK:  It is considered the “Mum City” of the United States because of the many chrysanthemums grown and sold to various states and Canada.  Name the city.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, the chrysanthemums.  Oh, yes, I‘ve heard this one, too. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  I just got the hint from the background behind you.  It is Bristol, Connecticut? 

WOJTANIK:  There you go.  Gave it away.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I knew it for something else.  And it certainly didn‘t have anything to do with the word mum.  But we‘ll pass on that. 

And let me ask you this, now, now that we have—what did I do, two out of four, two out of five?  Two out of five.  What now do you do after winning the National Geographic Bee?  Do you take the summer off?  What do you do? 

WOJTANIK:  Actually, next week, I‘m going to the Grand Canyon to hike down and spend two nights there.  And then after that, I‘m just going to chill out, play some baseball, work on my golf game.  It needs a lot of help. 

OLBERMANN:  Don‘t go to Bristol, Connecticut.  That‘s my only piece of geographic advice for you. 

Andrew Wojtanik, the winner of the 2004 National Geographic Bee, an excellent debut as a quiz master.  When Alex Trebek goes, that might be your next line of work. 

WOJTANIK:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  Give it a try. 

WOJTANIK:  OK. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, look, I‘ve gotten away with it for 25 years.  Thank you, sir.  Congratulations. 

WOJTANIK:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, sufficiently humiliated for one night.  Hope you feel same way. 

Good night and good luck.  Bristol, Connecticut.  Oh, there‘s some dead producers tonight.  Let‘s go deal with that right now. 

END   

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