updated 9/13/2004 10:53:33 AM ET 2004-09-13T14:53:33

Guests: Michael Wolff, Amy Henry, Nick Warnock, Michael Brown

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALISON STEWART, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Countdown to Ivan:  Grenada picks up the pieces; Jamaica battens down the hatches; and Florida braces for their third and potentially biggest hurricane in just a month.

Altering a nightmare:  Three years after the tragedy of 9/11, one woman‘s fight to have her son‘s remain and the remains of hundred of other World Trade Center victims moved from a Staten Island landfill.

Reading the fine print:  President Bush‘s military service paper trail picked up a few pages earlier this week.  But now, looming questions that some of the released documents could be fake.

And the long-awaited return of the Donald‘s magic dismissal. 

DONALD TRUMP, HOST, “THE APPRENTICE”:  You‘re the greatest person that‘s ever worked for me, but honestly, you can do better someplace else. 

All right then.  He‘s chilled out a little bit.  Fearless forecast in the art of getting canned.  From two of last year‘s elite “Apprentice” candidates, Amy and Nick.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera):  And good evening to you.  I‘m Alison Stewart, filling in the very big shoes of Mr. Keith Olbermann.  Mr. Olbermann has the night off.

Governor Jeb Bush has described the situation as one that could only unfold in the mind of a Hollywood screenwriter.  But the prospect of a third deadly storm striking Florida in just four weeks is only too real. 

Our number five story on the COUNTDOWN tonight:  Hurricane Ivan.  Already laying waste to the Island of Grenada, now barrelling down on Jamaica, the Category 4 hurricane has claimed at least 33 lives in the Caribbean.  Three days remain before Ivan breaches our shores.  The precise path and intensity of impact?  Still uncertain.

For residents of Jamaica, the familiar phrase, “No problem, mon,” certainly does not apply when it comes to Ivan.  Mark Potter reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK POTTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  With Hurricane Ivan bearing down, bringing fierce wind and rain that could devastate Jamaica overnight, thousands of residents sought shelter.  In low-lying Kingston, the capital, families flocked to the National Arena to ride out the storm. 

PAULA PAISLEY, EVACUEE:  It‘s coming with a lot of speed and a lot of water.  And where I‘m living, it‘s above the beach, and the sea level is very high.

POTTER:  The Jamaican government pleaded with a half million people to evacuate, hoping to prevent a major loss of life if people cooperate.  Many have not. 

DEAN PEART, JAMAICAN MINISTER OF LAND AND ENVIRONMENT:  Move out.  Go to higher ground.  Move out.  Secure yourself.

POTTER (on camera):  The concern here is not only for the kind of damage done by wind and rain, but also from mudslides in the mountains throughout Jamaica, where many people have their homes.

(voice-over):  Twelve hundred miles southeast in Grenada, where Ivan hit Wednesday, the death toll rose to more than 20.  The island is under curfew to prevent looting.

Nearly 500 miles northwest of Jamaica, in Cuba, residents are still reeling from Hurricane Charley, which struck a month ago; 100,000 residents still without power.  Now, with Ivan apparently heading there next, Cubans are evacuating again.

Chiomarra Santa Maria (ph), who lost her home as she rode through Charley, says this time she will leave the area.

And about 100 miles north, in the Florida Keys, evacuations continued for the second day. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m evacuating Key West for Hurricane Ivan. 

POTTER:  Seventy-nine thousand residents were ordered to leave.  At the Home Depot in hard hit Punta Gorda, homeowners lined up, taking Ivan much more seriously than Charley. 

KELLY MARIE HESLIN, PUNTA GORDA RESIDENT:  This one looks bad.  So, yes, I‘m not going to take chances with this one. 

POTTER:  Back in Jamaica, many still remember the widespread destruction of Hurricane Gilbert, exactly 16 years ago.  Gilbert killed 26 people here, and was only a Category 3.  Ivan is much more powerful and dangerous. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  And Mark Potter joins us live on the phone now from Jamaica. 

And I hope this doesn‘t sound trite, Mark, but how‘s the weather been? 

POTTER (on camera):  Well, it‘s been getting worse by the minute.  The leading edge of the hurricane, Alison, has probably hit here late this afternoon.  And tonight, the winds and the rain are picking up considerably.

We drove around a while ago, and we see that there‘s already a lot of flooding here, some downed trees.  Of course, much, much more to come.  And officials are saying that the key to determining how many casualties there are with this very powerful storm and dangerous storm is the willingness of the people to prepare and to follow those evacuation orders.  Their concern is that many of them did not do that. 

STEWART:  Mark Potter in Kingston, Jamaica, tonight.  Thank you so much.  And please do stay safe.

Up next, Cuba—Fidel Castro taking to the airwaves last night, warning residents to brace themselves.

For the rest of Ivan‘s itinerary, we turn to AccuWeather meteorologist Jim Kosek.  Jim, what‘s the deal?

JIM KOSEK, ACCUWEATHER METEOROLOGIST:  Alison, unfortunately, the hurricane force winds with Ivan haven‘t even reached Jamaica yet.  Hurricane force winds extending outward upward of 60 miles from the center.  It is currently moving west northwest at 11 miles per hour.  Top sustained winds, 150.  That‘s a strong Category 4 hurricane.  Category 5 starting at 156.

One thing that I do want to show you—a different perspective here.  Earlier on this afternoon, you can almost see the northwestern part of the storm system—a little ragged, some drier air coming off the higher terrain 7,000-foot cliffs in Jamaica.  Now, the storm system is more symmetrical.

So, earlier, the storm was down to 140 miles an hour.  Now, it‘s back to 150, passing just off to the south and west of Kingston over the next several hours here.  Probably getting into the western side of the island, but maybe still just off to the south of Montego Bay.  A very, very dangerous scenario.  I‘d rather see it pass much farther south or off to the north even.  But this is a bad scenario here.

And there‘s a lot of warm water still in advance of it.  Sub-tropical high-pressure system with its clockwise steering flow has been pushing the storm system east to west.  But this weekend, as this high weakens, it does two things.  It allows the storm to take a northwest track, and also, it allows the storm to slow it down.  Never a good scenario.

Remember, Charley was blasting through Florida in excess of 20 miles an hour.  This won‘t be the scenario here.  So, in time, we are going to see it impacting Florida—most likely on the southwest coast starting Monday.  And that‘s going to be a nasty scenario as that sub-tropical high weakens.  We do think it‘s going to get picked up and eventually head off to the north-northeast.

Unfortunately, it‘s going to be a Category 3 or 4 hurricane by that point in time.  So, we‘re dealing with at least 111 miles an hour for the sustained winds with this, Alison.

And if that weren‘t enough, if Bonnie, Charley, and Frances do their knockout blow, Ivan most certainly will.  And it‘s not just for Florida—

Georgia, the Carolinas, the Virginias will also have massive flooding to contend with later next week, Alison.

STEWART:  Well, I know you have your work cut out for you, so thanks for taking the time.  Jim Kosek of AccuWeather.

Now to Florida, where the state‘s governor, who once was worried that his state citizens might have hurricane amnesia, now realizes they are more likely suffering from hurricane fatigue.  The Keys, already heeding a total evacuation order:  83,000 residents and vacationers hitting the only road out of town.

But now, all residents are able to make the journey—not all are.  The Air Force is sending in a C-130 to evacuate hospital patients from the island chain.  Surgical patients were flown to Alabama where they‘ll wait out the storm.  Those less critical transferred to a Miami hospital.

Now, officials are putting a dire spin on the evacuation efforts.  The senior director of emergency management for Monroe County says Florida is simply—lives are at stake.  Michael Brown is the undersecretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response.  He is the director of FEMA.

Undersecretary Brown, thank you so much. 

MICHAEL BROWN, DIRECTOR, FEMA:  Thank you, Alison. 

STEWART:  So, Ivan‘s going to mark the third strike this month.  How are you dealing with the strain on your resources and the strain on your people? 

BROWN:  Well, we‘re doing fine.  Our people are ready for action.  They‘re ready to get down to Florida and help these victims.  I‘m more concerned about people who live in Florida.  This is the third punch for them.  They‘re going to have to take a lot of effort to help us help them. 

STEWART:  And when you say help us help them, what do you mean? 

BROWN:  Well, when Governor Bush says to evacuate, they need to evacuate.  When any of the local authorities give the evacuation order, they need to heed those warnings and do so.  They need to realize that, in this storm, because power is already out in a lot of areas, there may be additional power outages that may take some time to restore.

And because of the size of the storm, it may take us a while to get our emergency responders in to help them.  So, they may be on their own for a couple of days.  They need to stock up on food and water.  They need to have a battery-powered radio and television.  They need to have all those things to sustain themselves for perhaps two days or longer.

They need to help us help them. 

STEWART:  When people don‘t evacuate, what reason do they give you? 

BROWN:  Well, I don‘t know.  But whatever reason they give is not good enough.  All they need to look at is the deaths we‘ve had from Charley and from Frances.  All they need to recognize is that this flooding can cause serious, serious repercussions for them.

They need to get out of there.  When Governor Bush says that, they ought to do it. 

STEWART:  You have damaged houses, people without power from Frances.  Ivan is on the way.  Right now, at 8:09 Eastern time on September 10th, what is your priority? 

BROWN:  Our priority right now is to have all of our life-saving and life-sustaining equipment and teams ready to go.  We‘ve prepositioned them throughout the southeast region.  They‘re ready to move in as soon as it‘s safe to do so. 

STEWART:  Now, earlier this week, you got a little bit of good news: 

The Congress and president approved $2 billion in relief.  But that‘s linked to Hurricane Frances.  Where will that money be funneled?  And can you use any of it in terms of Ivan? 

BROWN:  Well, we‘re going to use all of that money to do our response and to take care of those victims.  The president has assured me that he will go back to Congress.  I expect on Monday they‘ll be back up on the Hill.  President Bush has assured me that we will get whatever resources we need to respond to all of these hurricanes wherever they‘re going to hit.

STEWART:  And where is your biggest need, Mike?

BROWN:  Right now our biggest need is the people in Florida to take this seriously. 

STEWART:  Mike Brown of FEMA, we appreciate your time.  And best of luck to you this weekend.

BROWN:  Thank you.

STEWART:  COUNTDOWN opening up tonight with Hurricane Ivan.  Up next, tonight‘s number four story, the drama of the documents.  Are the new National Guard records for President Bush real or real fake? 

Listen up.  If you have some unrefutable proof Bush did his time in ‘Bama, someone has got a check waiting for you. 

And later, the house of mouse.  Some say it will be missing its top rodent soon.  Michael Eisner is no longer welcome at the happiest place on earth.  We‘re back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Fifty-three days to go until the 2004 presidential election.  It appears the fog of war has descended upon the campaign.  You know what I‘m talking about.  Talking health care, education, and jobs mostly lost to another round of rhetoric on the war on terror.  And, yes, that other war has returned to the conversation.  More charges about the Vietnam era service of the candidates. 

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN. the politics of war.  First up, the vice president.  Dick Cheney taking steps today to clarify his remarks earlier this week that electing John Kerry would invite another terrorist attack against the United States. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT:  It is absolutely essential that weeks from today on November 2, we make the right choice.  Because if we make the wrong choice, the danger is that we‘ll get hit again, that we‘ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  That was Tuesday.  Today is Friday.  Mr. Cheney attempted to soften his remarks today, telling the “Cincinnati Inquirer” that he wanted to clean up the controversy.

Quote, “I did not say if Kerry is elected we will be hit by a terrorist attack, whoever is elected president has to anticipate more attacks.  My point was the question before is will we have the most effective policy in place to deal with that threat.”  “George Bush,” says Cheney, “will pursue a more effective policy than John Kerry.”

OK.  And there are more developments tonight concerning those documents raising questions about the president‘s service in the Texas Air National Guard.  Tonight the documents themselves are the story because of charges they are fake.  White House correspondent David Gregory traveling with the president today examines the evidence. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 

Campaigning in West Virginia today with Democratic Senator Zell Miller, the president ignored the National Guard flap focusing his fire instead on John Kerry‘s opposition to the war in Iraq. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If he had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power and would still be a threat to the security and to the world. 

GREGORY:  Privately, however, White House officials were eager to see the controversy grow over the National Guard documents which purportedly show that then Lieutenant George Bush may have disobeyed orders and received preferential treatment to earn an honorable discharge.  Today CBS News stood by the authenticity of the memos it first obtained, but the question about whether the memos are fakes has sparked accusations of dirty political tricks between Republicans and Democrats. 

Today, NBC News consulted an FBI-trained document expert with three decades of experience who reviewed the documents and suspects they were generated by a modern-day computer. 

WILLIAM FLYNN, FORENSIC DOCUMENT SPECIALIST:  I don‘t believe that anyone in the forensic community that saw this document would have verified it as a genuine document.  There are just too many things that are wrong with the document. 

GREGORY:  For instance, Flynn says, the address of the fighter squadron is perfectly centered.  Difficult for a typist.  Two other red flags, the use of curly apostrophes and a reduced-size “th.”  Both markings were rarely available on early seventies‘ typewriters.  But tonight CBS points out that previously released Guard files from that era display similar reduced-size letters.  Authentic or not, Democrats today refused to back down. 

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DEMOCRATIC NATL. CMTE. CHAIRMAN:  It is clear that George Bush has lied to the American public. 

GREGORY:  Tonight White House officials who maintain the president fulfilled his duties in the National Guard cannot say whether the documents are fake.  But they argue that suspicions alone have undermined their importance.  David Gregory, NBC News, Chillicothe, Ohio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  And as David Gregory reported, CBS News is standing by their man Dan Rather, standing by the documents and by the story.  Issuing a statement that reads in part, CBS News states with absolute certainty that the ability to produce the “th” superscript mentioned in reports about the documents did exist on typewriters as early as 1968 and in fact is in President Bush‘s official military records released by the White House.”

As for the charges that the typeface used, Times New Roman also wasn‘t available back then.  CBS says the owner of the company that introduced Times New Roman tells them it was developed in 1931. 

For those who believe the proof to put this matter to rest is just out there somewhere, if only someone would come forward, if only someone was willing to look.  Tonight there is added incentive.  The best kind of incentive.  Ka-ching.  Money.  Sources say the so-called Texans For Truth, the group of Democrats launching attack ads against President Bush, will announce a reward for proof that Mr. Bush fulfilled his duty in the Alabama National Guard back in 1972.  The reward is expected to be in the range of $50,000.  The group is expected to announce its incentive program on Tuesday. 

And it looks like an incentive get-well program will not be needed in at least one household in Westchester County, New York.  Late word that President Clinton is back home tonight only four days after his heart surgery.  His office says he has even managed to take a few short walks down some hospital hallways and later in his house.  And let‘s face it, recuperating goes so much better when you‘re in your very own bed. 

COUNTDOWN now past the number four story.  Up next, a brief break from the hard news of the day.  “Oddball” is up next in case you hadn‘t noticed.  Remember this pooch?  Well, COUNTDOWN may have turned her into a movie star.  They‘re not exactly movie stars, but they‘re all fighting for a piece of fame and fortune.  “Apprentice” is back.  We‘ve got Nick and Amy to give us their take on this season‘s crop of Donald wannabes.

Those stories ahead, plus first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three “Newsmakers” of the day.

Number three:  Shawn M. Polley of Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Police say he was drunk last week when he passed out on the tracks and was run over by a freight train in Iowa?  Luckily, Polley was asleep between the rails and was unhurt by the train, though he ended up with one hell of a hangover.

Number two:  Margaret Brusso from Pottsdam, New York.  She was test driving a used ‘99 Honda Accord when she decided to, you know, take a look under the hood.  In addition to the 24-valve dual overhead cam engine, she also found a live eight-foot ball python.  The sheriff‘s deputy was needed to help corral the big snake.  The Accord, though, has never run better.

And number one:  Al Yeganeh—let‘s hope I got that right.  The New York City restaurant owner, who was the inspiration for the Soup Nazi character on “Seinfeld,” he‘s planning to expand his business and begin selling his soups in franchises around the country.

But there won‘t be any Soup Nazi signs or any “Seinfeld” references at all.  He tells “The Wall Street Journal” he was offended by the nickname, and he says he loathes Jerry Seinfeld.  But man, that guy‘s soup is good.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  I‘m Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.  And we pause out COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news to check in with the day‘s real strange news.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

And it was well over a year ago that COUNTDOWN introduced you to Faith, the little pup with no front legs.  There she is.  She learned to walk upright.  It seems Faith has become quite a celeb lately, so much so that her family says she may have landed role in the next “Harry Potter” movie.  Pup‘s going to need an agent.

No word on what part the dog will get.  She may be able to walk like a person, but speaking roles are probably out of the question.  And they already have someone to play Dobby the Elf.

To the southern province of China, where new mother panda Hua Mei is learning to take care of her cute, little twins.  Zookeepers have given the big bear—there‘s the little, cute twins; there you go—given the bear a doll with the hopes of reviving her maternal instincts so she can nurse the newborn cubs.

But as you can see, she‘s trying to eat the doll, which is why she‘s been separated from the twins for a while.  You may remember Hua Mei and her partner had to be shown some panda porn so they remembered how to make little baby pandas in the first place.  Has anyone considered that maybe these pandas just had bad headaches, or they‘re just not that bright maybe?

Finally, speaking of not too bright, we go to Corpus Christi, Texas—

I‘ll spit it out—where the driver of this car decided to ignore posted signs warning of a water main break.  The captain did not go down with the ship.  He escaped unarmed, but got to watch his Buick Sentry slip beneath the surface to the watery grave, as Celine Dion softly played on his car‘s tape deck.  This man was not king of the world.

“Oddball” is now in the record books.

Up next, the number three story as we near the third anniversary of the attack on America.  We get two very different assessments of the impact of our war on terror overseas.  Ask yourself this:  Is America safer today than three years ago?

And one family‘s personal battle to find a fitting resting place for the son it lost on September 11th.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  The 9/11 attacks may be the case where time does not heal all wounds.  Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of that horrible day.  And while the events of that day changed just about everything, how much has really changed to make sure it could never, ever happen again? 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, remembering 9/11 and reassessing where we are now.  First up, are we safe from terrorism at home?  Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, one of many Bush administration officials to address the war on terror today, reassuring Americans that, while the country is safer, it is not yet safe, using current events in Russia as a justification to stay the course. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  We witnessed the horror of terrorists taking Russian children hostages on their first day of school, resulting in the death of hundreds of children.  I don‘t suppose there‘s a mother or father in America or anywhere in the world who dropped a child off for the first day of school who did not wonder, could that happen to them.  The answer is, it could, which is why it is so important that, in the global war on terror, we recognize that we have to fight this battle where the terrorists are, rather than waiting for them to force us to fight, God forbid, in our own schools. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Now, no surprise that many Democrats have a different take on the war on terror, especially as it relates to the war in Iraq.  They believe the conflict there has had a destabilizing effect, turning the entire region into a breeding ground for more terrorists. 

Senator Ted Kennedy among today‘s critics. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Before the war, the administration mishandled the intelligence, causing great damage to U.S.  respect in the world, making the war on terrorism far harder to win.  It is preposterous for the administration to pretend that the war on Iraq has made America safer.  No president in America‘s history has done more damage to our country and our security than President Bush.  The American people know where the buck stops. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Now, for the families of 9/11, time stopped on that clear September morning because of the sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers who went to work that morning and never came home, how they‘re being remembered only deepening their pain and loss. 

COUNTDOWN correspondent Monica Novotny has more tonight on one family‘s struggle to honor their son—hi, Monica. 

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Alison, good evening. 

On September 11, Diane and Kurt Horning, lost their son, Matt Horning, who worked at the World Trade Center.  Like so many other families, they were faced with the reality that his body might not be recovered.  But what the Hornings did not expect, just how and where they would be mourning their son three years later. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANE HORNING, MOTHER OF 9/11 VICTIM:  Our own nation did this to us.  It is outrageous.  They call them heroes, but they‘ve left them in the garbage. 

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  For this family, it is the ultimate insult.  When Diane and Kurt Horning lost their 26-year-old son, Matthew, on September 11, they never dreamed his remains might today be part of a 53-year-old landfill on New York‘s Staten Island called, by awful coincidence, Fresh Kills. 

D. HORNING:  They dump them on top of household waste. 

NOVOTNY:  For 10 months after the attacks, recovery workers at Fresh Kills sifted through all that was left from the World Trade Center and the people inside, materials they called the finds. 

KURT HORNING, FATHER OF 9/11 VICTIM:  Only 292 full bodies were recovered of all the people that died.  That means everybody else, that‘s almost 2,500 people, were fragmented, pulverized. 

D. HORNING:  I realize my son‘s remains for the most part were there.  And we asked if we could have what we saw for burial.  And they said yes, but I would have to wait until it‘s no longer operational, because it was a crime investigation. 

NOVOTNY:  And so they waited.  But as time passed, something changed. 

D. HORNING:  I think it became very palatable then to say, well, what do we do with debris?  We put it in a landfill. 

NOVOTNY:  Where it remains today. 

In a letter to Mrs. Horning dated January 9, 2003, New York City‘s chief medical examiner wrote, “I believe it virtually certain that at least some human tissue is mixed with the dirt at the Staten Island landfill.”

K. HORNING:  We‘re not willing to accept a garbage dump as the final resting place. 

NOVOTNY:  So the Hornings have founded the World Trade Center Families For Proper Burial, hoping to move the Trade Center mound to another location, creating an international cemetery. 

D. HORNING:  People have said to us, how can we separate the human remain from the pulverized concrete?  And our response is, we can either bury them in a landfill because we can‘t separate them, or we can bury them with dignity because they can‘t be separated.  I think that is the more moral thing to do. 

NOVOTNY:  They have a Web site, a petition some 45,000 strong...

D. HORNING:  Every time I hear from the family of a particular victim, I put a tab. 

NOVOTNY:  And a billboard donated by its owner. 

K. HORNING:  We‘re hoping somebody somewhere will be just the one we need that will be able to get somebody‘s ear and say let‘s take care of this problem. 

NOVOTNY:  The city plans to turn all of Fresh Kills into a 2,200-acre park with a memorial at the recovery site, though it will take about 30 years before work can be done on the former landfill. 

Mayor Bloomberg‘s office gave COUNTDOWN this statement: “We will proceed with plans for a respectful memorial at the recovery site; 9/11 families are encouraged to participate in the design of this portion of the park.  We are the committed to the creation of a sensitive and appropriate tribute.”

D. HORNING:  It will be decades before it is finished.  I‘m 57.  I don‘t have decades to wait to visit my son‘s grave.  No matter how they wrap it up and turn it into a Christmas pack anger, it will always be that my son was left on top of household waste.  And that‘s just an outrageous thing. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOVOTNY:  Now, the Hornings tell me they visited Fresh Kills again this week to bring flowers.  And they say a foot of dirt has been placed over the mound. 

If you would like more information on their foundation, the World Trade Center Families For Proper Burial, you‘ll find it on our Web site at COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com—Alison.

STEWART:  Monica, so if dirt has been put on this mound, is there any possibility that it will be moved, as the Hornings hope? 

NOVOTNY:  Well, it‘s hard to say.  Cost is certainly a factor now.  The cost of moving the mound could be several million dollars.  The other factor is location.  They would like to create this international cemetery, but there is no spot set aside at this point.  And certainly from the city‘s perspective, this is a closed issue.  But the Hornings, of course, are not giving up yet. 

STEWART:  Monica Novotny, thank you for that really thoughtful report. 

Even for American blessed enough not to suffer personal losses on 9/11, it‘s hard to remember what life was like before the attacks.  Things may have returned to normal, but normal itself seems new. 

Correspondent Bob Faw takes a close look at then vs. now. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FAW, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Three years later, have we changed or just moved on?  From halcyon days when we thought we were safe.  September 10, 2001, that day, Attorney General John Ashcroft rejects an FBI request for more money to fight terrorism.  That day, a speech on problems ahead prepared for Condoleezza Rice doesn‘t even mention bin Laden or al Qaeda.  Back then, the media seemed obsessed with missing intern Chandra Levy and television newscasts prattled on about shark bites and sex trades. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In Portland, Oregon, runaway teens sell their bodies for drugs.  

FAW:  The next day, we learned we are vulnerable and we shuddered.  Politicians united.  Agendas were transformed.  Stunned, we were galvanized and became one, temporarily. 

ROBERT PUTNAM, PUBLIC POLICY SCHOLAR:  We‘ve talked about community more after 9/11, but we actually have not done the things that would have been necessary to translate that into an enduring effect. 

FAW:  Yes, the country looks different now, $33 billion a year spent on homeland security, 45,000 new agents screening at airports.  Washington hides behind blockades and bulletproof vests. 

(on camera):  But, slowly, new times begin to resemble the old.  Two-thirds in a recent poll say they‘re not too worried now about terrorism. 

(voice-over):  Nowadays, Chandra has been replaced by Laci Peterson, political cooperation by vicious partisan wrangling.  Then, firefighters were role models.  Now, Justin Timberlake sets the style. 

Virginia Bauer, then a housewife and soccer mom whose husband, David, was killed on 9/11, has gone on to become New Jersey‘s secretary of commerce.  But what has not gone is her pain. 

VIRGINIA BAUER, WIFE OF 9/11 VICTIM:  I not only lost my husband that day.  I lost my life.  Time does heal your wounds.  It never takes away that wound. 

FAW:  Three years later, we have learned to live with fear and not let it paralyze us.  Still, we are conflicted, determined, and confused, angry and wistful.  On an anniversary when we look back and rearrange priorities, we are, sadly, both different and the same. 

Bob Faw, NBC News, Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  And a programming note for you for tomorrow.  Saturday night at 6:00 Eastern, 3:00 Pacific, please join NBC‘s Lisa Myers for a very special program, “12 Ways to Make America Safer.”

Coming up next, tonight‘s second story.  It‘s been the story, the king relinquishing his grip on the crown,.  Michael Eisner‘s abdication from the Magic Kingdom, that‘s next.  Then later, it is not Arnold vs. the girly man.  It is Arnold vs. the ghoulie man. 

Some rather disgusting, yet fascinating explanations are ahead on

COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  OK, coming up on COUNTDOWN, the head of the original Mickey Mouse operation calls it quits.  The fallout from bowing out, that‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  A long ride atop one of the world‘s most beloved entertainment companies will be coming to an end.  Eisner out.  Embattled Disney chief executive Michael Eisner says he will be stepping down from the media giant when his contract expires in 2006.  The announcement comes just months after a nasty little revolt by shareholders. 

Eisner ultimately fended off the challenge, but came under great pressure to resign or at least identify a successor to replace him.  At the time, Eisner was also stripped of his title as chairman of the board, but was allowed to remain as the company‘s top manager.  Eisner was named Disney CEO in 1984 and ushered in a period of unprecedented growth.  During his leadership, Disney saw its overall value increase from $2 billion into a company valued at nearly $60 billion today. 

But some of Eisner‘s magical touch began to wane in recent years as the performance of its animated division, broadcast network and theme parks declined. 

Few people have followed the ups and downs of the Disney situation more closely than Michael Wolff, the author of “Autumn of the Moguls” and a contributing editor to “Vanity Fair.”  He joins us now from New York. 

Michael, Mr. Eisner fought really hard to hold on to his job, fending off all those angry shareholders.  Why the timing?  Why the choice to step down? 

MICHAEL WOLFF, “VANITY FAIR”:  Well, he actually succeeded.  Well, let me put it this way.  He both succeeded and he failed.  He succeeded in that they didn‘t force him out. 

The most vociferous corporate attack of all time essentially failed to dislodge him.  I mean, it really was unprecedented that, at the annual meeting, almost 50 percent of the shareholders voted against him.  This has never happened before.  But, nevertheless, he held on and he is leaving on his own accord.  That‘s the success. 

The failure is that Michael Eisner saw himself as—he saw himself as a—as coming very close to owning a company.  Or he saw himself as someone who come close to owning the company, someone like Rupert Murdoch or News Corp. or Sumner Redstone at Viacom, someone so identified with the company that you could never force him out.  And, at that, he failed.  He is, to some degree, being forced out, although he is being forced out actually on his own terms. 

STEWART:  The stock went up at the news.  Surprised about that? 

WOLFF:  You know, the stock went up.  It didn‘t move all that much.  I mean, I think it is—I think the stock reflects Wall Street saying, oh, this is an orderly transfer.  This is how things are supposed to be.  This is how it is supposed to happen. 

STEWART:  Why did that battle with the shareholders get so personal? 

WOLFF:  You know, Michael Eisner—this is an interesting media environment that we live in.  Essentially, five companies have come to control the media universe, arguably the most important universe of our public lives. 

And for a variety of reasons, Michael Eisner came to be the person, the mogul, if you will, who was truly the lightning rod, the guy everybody hated.  And I think that that was true because he was in the line of fire.  Most moguls live in New York and they become kind of corporate people hiding behind—not hiding, necessarily, but remote from the people who they boss.  They don‘t really individually boss people. 

Michael Eisner does.  Michael Eisner stayed in Hollywood.  He was involved in everything, involved in everything to such a degree that I think that people—if you needed to hate somebody, Michael Eisner was always there to hate. 

STEWART:  And we‘ll end on that thought. 

Michael Wolff, contributing editor at “Vanity Fair,” we thank you for your analysis on this Friday. 

WOLFF:  Thank you. 

STEWART:  A nice time to make the transition now to the rest of the day‘s entertainment news and stories you can chat about.  These are the stories we call “Keeping Tabs.”

And, psst, Oprah has got a secret.  The talk show queen returns Monday for the premiere episode of her 19th season on the air.  And she says she is so excited about her big secret that she has not slept in days.  The COUNTDOWN investigative team has done some digging.  It has narrowed down the secret of the secret to three possibilities. 

One, she has in her possession the body of a dead alien which she will reveal live on the Monday show.  Two, she‘s going to give away a brand new car to every single member of her live studio audience.  Or, No. 3, she‘s lost another 85 pounds during the show‘s hiatus.  Tune in next week to find out which one is true. 

Next, the tale of the best-paid paperboy in America.  Mark Guthrie of from Middletown, Connecticut, made a living just delivering the local newspaper, “The Hartford Courant.”  It is owned by corporate parent “The Chicago Tribune.”  Follow me here.  Among other things, “The Tribune” also owns the Chicago Cubbies. 

Last fall, after a clerical error, Mark Guthrie the paperboy received the paycheck of Mark Guthrie the Major League Baseball player for the Chicago Cubs.  He looks happy about it, $301,000 direct deposited into his bank account.  The company realized their error and they tried to withdraw that money back out, but not before Guthrie realized his good fortune and he froze his account.  “The Trib” is suing him for the balance.  Good luck. 

And, finally, strange news from the state of California, where Governor Schwarzenegger is finally following through on some of his preelection promises.  Well, actually, we‘re not actually sure if banning sex with corpses was a promise he ever made on the campaign trail.  But today, he signed legislation officially outlawing the practice of necrophilia.  That‘s very nice.  Apparently, it was not against the law in California before now.  Future acts would be a felony punishable by up to eight years in prison.  No word on why he felt the need to sign it now.  I‘m not sure I want to know anyway. 

Still ahead, tonight‘s top story, the brand new fight to be the top dog in a Trump world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Four months, 24 days, 22 hours and 15 seconds, exactly how long we went without seeing that swagger, that wave of the hair, those pouting lips, the finger-point affectionately known as “The Cobra.”

At No. 1 on COUNTDOWN, the wait is over.  Donald Trump returned triumphantly to the airwaves for the start of “The Apprentice” season two.  In a moment, we‘ll start grading the talent with two of the top finishers from last season.  But, first, a quick refresher on the basics, 18 contestants, nine women, nine men, two teams, one Donald Trump, and of course, the prize of a gig working for the Donald.  The downside, one poor sod per week who gets to hear the now legendary phrase:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE APPRENTICE”)

DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN:  I‘m going to say, Rob, you‘re fired. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  I‘m joined now by two people who remember those words all two well, former apprentices Amy Henry and Nick Warnock. 

Thanks for joining us. 

All right, we know it‘s reality TV, so there‘s absolutely no acting whatsoever.  COUNTDOWN decided to hand out an appropriate award to the wanna-be apprentices for their performance last night.

Amy, who gets the biggest suck-up award? 

AMY HENRY, FORMER “APPRENTICE” CONTESTANT:  You know, I think I‘m going to have to go for the suck-up award to giving it to Jennifer, based on that dining experience with Mr. Trump.  I could not believe the flirting going on.  So she‘s definitely the suck-up of the night. 

STEWART:  Nick, who do you think sucked up fabulously? 

NICK WARNOCK, FORMER “APPRENTICE” CONTESTANT:  Surprisingly, I‘m going to have to agree with Amy.  My office space red stapler award goes to this week‘s biggest suck-up, Jennifer C. 

Jennifer, if you don‘t know where the shrimp fork is, don‘t sit next to the Donald.  Did you see the way she was looking at him?  Woo. 

STEWART:  You guys are tough, man. 

All right, how about the scary, freaky award?  I have an opinion, but I want yours, Nick. 

WARNOCK:  The scariest, freaky award has got to go to Stacie J.  I don‘t know what she was thinking during that outburst.  We might have another Omarosa on our hands. 

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART:  What do you think, Amy?  I heard the O. word used a couple of times today. 

HENRY:  Believe it or not, two for two.  I‘m going to have to agree with Nicholas on that one.  I don‘t think we‘ll ever be able to compete with Omarosa, but that was a crazy, crazy scene. 

STEWART:  Now, does this situation make you crazy, or do you just already come to it bonkers?  What do you think, Nick? 

WARNOCK:  I think the situation made her crazy.  She was buckling under the pressure and she just—she had a panic attack or whatever she had.  I couldn‘t believe what I was watching. 

STEWART:  Yes.  Who is the most Machiavellian one?  Who would get our Machiavelli award, Amy? 

HENRY:  You know, I‘m going to have to give that one to Raj.  I think there‘s something a little sneaky going on with the bow tie. 

STEWART:  I keep saying Tucker Carlson calls and he wants his outfit back. 

(LAUGHTER)

HENRY:  I just—I can‘t get over this guy. 

STEWART:  What do you think, Nick?  Who‘s the most Machiavellian? 

WARNOCK:  Raj is magnificent.

But the most Machiavellian, the most manipulative, I think, is the beautiful Elizabeth.  Those pretty blue eyes could make me do anything.  She‘s a beauty, and I think we‘re going to see some great things from her. 

STEWART:  Do you think Mr. Trump has a weak spot when it comes to the lovely ladies, Nick? 

WARNOCK:  Absolutely.  Absolutely. 

STEWART:  What do you think, Amy? 

HENRY:  Oh, sure he does.  But you know what?  It didn‘t work for me last time.  So who knows how far it will take him? 

STEWART:  OK, the $24,000 question.  Who‘s getting the boot next week, Nick? 

WARNOCK:  Oh, boy.  You know, I think it‘s going to have to be Stacie.  She‘s in for it.  After that outburst, buckling under the pressure, I don‘t foresee her going another week.  That outburst really, really took me by surprise and I don‘t think she could run the Trump organization or any of his projects. 

STEWART:  Amy, you get the final word.  Who‘s getting fired? 

HENRY:  I‘m going to have to go for a guy.  Maybe Andy.  I thought he buckled a little bit under the pressure in the boardroom.  And I thought that he made some comments that were inappropriate about my lady, Pam.  And he‘s young.  He‘s young. 

STEWART:  Well, we will check back with you both next week.  Amy Henry and Nick Warnock, thanks for your time tonight. 

HENRY:  Thanks for having us. 

STEWART:  See you next Friday. 

And that is it for this Friday edition of COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Alison Stewart, standing in for Keith Olbermann. 

Thank you so much for watching us.  And, as Keith would say, good night, good luck, and please be safe. 

END   

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