updated 2/25/2005 10:51:22 AM ET 2005-02-25T15:51:22

Guest: Richard Smith, George Weigel, Jose Canseco

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

The pope is hospitalized.  Again.  He undergoes a tracheotomy requiring general anesthesia.  What is next for his health?  His papacy?  His church?

Secular matters.  Very secular.  Jeff Gannon speaks. 

CAMPBELL BROWN, HOST, “WEEKEND TODAY”:  Did you advertise yourself as a gay male escort for hire on a web site?

JEFF GANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I cannot go into those specifics.  I can tell that you there is a lot of misinformation out there. 

OLBERMANN:  He speaks.  His news agency speaks no more.  The web site, taken down pending a, quote, “top to bottom review.”

Jose Canseco live.  Tonight.  That‘s the plan, anyway.

And Wild Thing, the trooper terrorizing turkey, is dead. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The reason it was Wild Thing, we used to sing and it would strut.  He would sit on our lap. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think he likes you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s good.

OLBERMANN:  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening. 

For the second time in 24 days, Pope John Paul II has been hospitalized, and this breathing crisis has required a tracheotomy, the cutting of a hole in the pontiff‘s throat and windpipe to insert a breathing tube. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the latest from Rome.  After the 30-minute surgery tonight, the pope raised his hand and tried to speak to the doctor but was told not to try.  He was described by a spokesman as serene. 

It was an epic day, as what the Vatican first distributed as a precautionary measure, turned into an operation requiring general anesthesia.  The recurrence of the pope‘s flu-like symptoms, fever and larynx spasms first caused him to cancel his attendance at a consistory, a meeting on new candidates for sainthood.  He sent a note and was to watch the proceedings on the Vatican in-house cable system. 

Then at 10:45 this morning, prevailing local time, another sudden decision was made to take the pontiff to Gemelli Hospital.  The eighth time since his election that has happened. 

A security guard at the hospital said John Paul was both conscious and sitting partially upright as he was admitted.  And a witness told an Italian television network that the pope waved to onlookers. 

At that point, the Vatican insisted there would be no further medical bulletins until tomorrow.  But the Italian news agency, Onsa (ph), reported in early evening that a tracheotomy was being contemplated.  And then just before 10 p.m. Rome time, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls confirmed the operation and deemed it a success. 

The pope had been released from his first hospital stay of the month two weeks ago today.  He remains at Gemelli at least overnight in a regular hospital room, not ICU. 

I‘m joined now by Dr. Richard Smith, head and neck surgeon, vice chairman of the otolaryngology department at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York. 

Dr. Smith, thanks for your time tonight. 

DR. RICHARD SMITH, MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER:  My pleasure.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Put all these pieces together.  Eighty-four-year-old man, Parkinson‘s Disease, two apparent incidents of laryngeal tracheitis (ph) in 24 days, and now a tracheotomy.  Medically, what‘s happening to him?

SMITH:  I certainly think they‘re seeing a deterioration in his status both related to his lungs and probably the voice box, too. 

OLBERMANN:  If he‘s your patient, what are you telling his family and friends right now?

SMITH:  Well, I think that the tracheotomy was performed really to ease his comfort and take care of his pulmonary symptoms and his lung condition. 

OLBERMANN:  And his long-term prospects are what?  Is there a way to assess that from this distance?

SMITH:  Well, the tracheotomy itself really doesn‘t have a long-term problem with it.  It‘s meant to really make him more comfortable and safely care for his lung disease.  So really, the issue is what caused the tracheotomy and how bad is his lung disease?

OLBERMANN:  Is there any way of measuring at this point how long that tracheotomy tube is likely to remain in there?

SMITH:  Well, if indeed, as we think, it‘s related to the lung disease, it may be several weeks.  I think it‘s probably not related to voice box problems, which we were thinking about, perhaps, initially. 

OLBERMANN:  So a matter of weeks in the best set of circumstances? 

Could it be faster?  Could it be out faster than that?

SMITH:  Certainly possible if he has a very quick recovery.  It could be out faster.  You know, an 84-year-old who‘s otherwise compromised, it may take quite some time, however.

OLBERMANN:  The deterioration of the power of his voice.  We talked about his voice box, both recently and in the last few years.  Does that fact by itself give you any additional insight as to his illness?

SMITH:  Well, I think that‘s probably related to his Parkinson‘s Disease in general weak status right now.  And that could certainly mean that they will leave it in for a longer period. 

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Richard Smith, vice chairman of otolaryngology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.  Great thanks for your insight and your time tonight, sir. 

SMITH:  Thank you very much. 

OLBERMANN:  When the pope was first hospitalized at the beginning of this month, we were fortunate enough to be joined by one of his biographers and confidantes, the author of “Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II,” George Weigel.  He joins us again tonight from Washington. 

Mr. Weigel, good evening.  Thanks again for your time. 

GEORGE WEIGEL, AUTHOR, “WITNESS TO HOPE”:  Thank you.  It‘s nice to be with you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you know?  Can you interpret from what the Vatican is and is not saying just how sick the pope is this time?

WEIGEL:  This is obviously a very difficult day.  The pope has lived a very dramatic life for a better part of eight decades.  And it seems that he‘s going to live a dramatic life till the end. 

This is not good news, obviously, what we heard today.  But I think we have to hope that this tracheotomy will ease his breathing, will allow him to get over this flu, which seems to have come back. 

But it looks like it‘s going to take a bit longer this time to get back into—into something resembling his normal condition, which he was in Monday and Tuesday.  He had a very strong day Monday and Tuesday, meeting the Spanish bishops, meeting with the prime minister of Croatia.  So this is something of a surprise.

OLBERMANN:  But as you say, the drama here.  We just heard Dr. Smith talk about the possibility that that tracheotomy tube could be in there for weeks.  Does this make more realistic this subject of retirement or, in technical terms, abdication? 

Cardinal Sardano (ph), who would be listed second on the death chart at the Vatican, if such a thing existed, was asked about this when John Paul was first hospitalized.  Ordinarily he dismisses retirement stories or questions out of hand.  No chance. 

But at that time, the cardinal said it was a matter for the pope‘s conscience.  Do you think he could be considering resignation?  Or do you think that there might be those around him in the Vatican who are suggesting that?

WEIGEL:  I certainly don‘t think anyone is pressing the pope to abdicate.  I think the pope himself has said on numerous occasions, over the past, what, four or five or six years, that he believes it to be his responsibility, his duty, to see this mission, this ministry of his through to the end.  And I believe that‘s still his intention. 

OLBERMANN:  What happens logistically in these health crises?  Something like this, which might be a short stay in the hospital that clearly resulted in him being conscious at the end of the surgery?  But who is running the Vatican? What autonomy do they have?  What do they defer until and unless he regains full health?

And what happens if you have one of those middle situations, where he can‘t speak for the next three weeks?  He‘s incapacitated?  He‘s in and out of consciousness?  What happens to the entire running of the Vatican?  And of the church?

WEIGEL:  Well, let‘s—let‘s start with the least draconian scenario.  The holy city is probably running today and tomorrow and the next day pretty much as it always runs.

John Paul II has not been a micro-manager for the past 26 years.  He has people in place in whom he reposes confidence.  And the ordinary business of the church goes on. 

There are certain things that only popes can do.  You mentioned at the beginning of this segment, this consistory today for the—to consider the canonization of new saints.  He participated in that by mail, so to speak, sending his consent to these canonizations in the form of a letter.  That may be the way that he communicates in other circumstances for the next little while. 

Another thing that only popes can do is appoint bishops throughout the Latin rite Catholic Church.  So that will be on hold temporarily until he recovers the capacity to manifest his will in these matters. 

OLBERMANN:  George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, author of “Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II.”  Great thanks again for joining us tonight.

WEIGEL:  Thank you for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  John Paul, of course, rightly claimed large credit for knocking over the dominoes in Poland that eventually knocked down the Berlin Wall and, ultimately, the Soviet Union. 

But Russia‘s transition from communism to democracy has not been a smooth one.  Many now concerned that Russia may actually be backsliding on that path.  Democratic reform on the agenda at today‘s summit in Slovakia between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Bush. 

Day five of the Bush continental charm offensive.  Touching down in Eastern Europe with Mr. Bush saying he raised his concerns with the Russian president in a, quote, constructive and friendly way.  Mr. Putin reassured his American counterpart that Russia has made its choice for democracy and there is no turning back. 

The two finding some common ground on the spread of nuclear weapons, agreeing on steps to keep nuclear arms away from terrorists and that Iran and North Korea should not have nuclear arms. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We agreed that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon.  And I appreciate Vladimir‘s understanding on that issue.  We had a very constructive dialogue about how to achieve that common goal.  We agreed that North Korea should not have a nuclear weapon. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The effort to build democracy in Iraq confronted with more resistance and more violence today.  A series of deadly attacks across that country, killing as much as 30, including two American soldiers.  The largest and deadliest of those incidents taking place in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. 

A man wearing a police uniform driving a car loaded with explosives into a police station parking lot this morning.  The explosion, powerful enough to set 20 cars afire.  Witnesses say the attack came during a shift change when dozens of policemen were arriving to relieve colleagues who had been working all night. 

Elsewhere in the world tonight, first Jeff Gannon threw in the towel.  Now Talon News is no more.  But Mr. Gannon will be here for an interview, as will Jose Canseco on the day a California Democrat suggests there should be congressional hearings into his accusations and he and Mark McGwire should testify under oath. 

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Another great resource of American journalism has gone dark.  Talon News is no more.  It now belongs to the ages.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, Jeff Gannon and James Guckert and maybe both of them speak here in a moment. 

First the Talon News, news.  Its owner taking the web site down pending, in his own priceless words, quote, “a top to bottom review.” 

Talon was the offshoot of the pro-Republican but evidently not party affiliated web site GOPUSA.  It consisted of Bobby Eberle, who owned both sites, a few unidentified volunteers and Washington bureau chief Jeff Gannon, since famously identified as a gentleman with a dubious past, none of which included the slightest bit of journalism before he suddenly and mysteriously showed up in the White House press briefing room, starting early in 2003. 

Today, owner Eberle posted a message on the Talon News site, reading in part, “The recent public focus on Talon News, while much of it malicious, has indeed brought some constructive elements to the surface.  We feel compelled to reevaluate operations in order to provide the highest quality, most professional product possible.  Thus, Talon News will be offline while we redesign the web site, perform a top-to-bottom review of staff and volunteer contributors, and address future operational procedures.”

Eberle gave no indication of if or when the site would again be up, but in any event, temporal predictions in this case have been meaningless so far. 

Ten days ago, Jeff Gannon told “Editor & Publisher” magazine that he would not again speak to the media.  Last Friday, he complained that—complained that the media was not trying to contact him for his side of the story. 

Early yesterday, we received from him his fourth rejection of our invitation to him to tell his side of the story on COUNTDOWN.

“I left you a message while Monday‘s show aired,” he e-mailed one of our staffers.  “I don‘t know how Keith would think that I would ever come on his show considering how he has dealt with this story thus far.  I did appreciate the replay of some of my questions, however.  If there were any conservatives watching I‘m sure they were cheered that someone would ask those kind of questions.  Take a look at the red/blue county map from the 2004 election for a clue.  Best to you, Jeff.”

Guckert won‘t talk to us, but he might wind up talking to the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame case.  Two member of Congress asking that his office subpoena the diary that Guckert kept of his White House days. 

And a senator writing President Bush to ask him to open an investigation into the potential security breech presented by Guckert‘s admission into the White House. 

All of that may happen, but something else extraordinary already has.  Guckert has spoken with the co-host of “WEEKEND TODAY” and former NBC News White House correspondent Campbell Brown. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN:  At White House briefings, Jeff Gannon was known for his friendly questions. 

GANNON:  I have so many questions about what the president was doing over 30 years.  What is it that he did after his honorable discharge from the National Guard?  Did he make speeches alongside Jane Fonda denouncing America‘s racist war in Vietnam?

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Go, Jeff.

GANNON:  I would like to comment on the angry mob that surrounded Karl Rove‘s house on Sunday. 

The president said Thursday in his press conference that he was reaching out to the press corps.  Why—what did he mean by that and why would he feel the need to reach out to a group of supposedly nonpartisan people?

BROWN:  But his trouble started when he was called on by the president at this news conference and took a swipe at Democrats. 

GANNON:  ... reach out to these people.  How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

BROWN (on camera):  Were you in that press conference as a plant by the White House?

GANNON:  Absolutely not.  I mean, look at it, Campbell.  If the White House was going to use a plant, wouldn‘t they pick a better one than me?

BROWN (voice-over):  Meaning someone without Gannon‘s past.  Because when the liberal bloggers went digging to find out just who this guy was, they turned up some eyebrow raising material. 

(on camera) You had said that you registered a number of pornographic web sites.  Is that accurate?

GANNON:  Well, I registered a number of domain names that some have suggested are...

BROWN:  Pornographic web sites. 

GANNON:  Well, yes. 

BROWN:  Did you advertise yourself as a gay male escort for hire on a web site?

GANNON:  I cannot go into those specifics.  I can tell that you there is a lot of misinformation out there.  There‘s a lot of fabrication out there and a lot of misinformation. 

BROWN:  Why can‘t you, then, clear it up right now?  Cameras are rolling. 

GANNON:  And as I said, I‘ve been advised not to get into the specifics out there.  Is there some truth out there?  Yes.  Is there a lot of falsehood out there?  Absolutely. 

BROWN (voice-over):  Aside from his private activities, Jeff Gannon isn‘t really Jeff Gannon.  He uses the pseudonym, he says, because his real name is difficult to pronounce. 

GANNON:  My name is James Guckert. 

BROWN (on camera):  James Guckert?

GANNON:  Yes. 

BROWN:  It‘s not so hard to pronounce. 

GANNON:  Well, when you read it, you always—it is always pronounced some other way. 

BROWN:  So who was the White House clearing in to those briefings every day?  Was it James Guckert?

GANNON:  Yes. 

BROWN:  Or was it Jeff Gannon?

GANNON:  I go to the gate.  I give—I show my driver‘s license, which I showed you.  It has my given name.  And that‘s how I gained entry. 

BROWN:  A quick check for a criminal record is all that‘s required.  Gannon avoided the extensive FBI background check most reporters go through for permanent access. 

The White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, has said he did know Gannon wasn‘t using his real name but that, quote, “He, like anyone else, showed he was representing a news organization that published regularly.” 

But was Gannon working for a real news organization?  His employer?  An Internet site called GOPUSA, funded and staffed by Republican activists to promote a Republican general.  He then worked for an offshoot site of GOPUSA called Talon News. 

The White House press secretary now says, quote, “In this day and age, when you have a changing media, it‘s not an easy issue to decide or pick and choose who is a journalist.” 

(on camera) You haven‘t denied you were writing news with a perspective, with a partisan perspective? 

GANNON:  Absolutely. 

BROWN:  Some might say, how does a guy who works for an obscure Internet publication with a background that is linked to Internet porn in some fashion, get into the daily briefings and get to ask the president a question at a news conference?

GANNON:  Well, I—I asked to come.  They allowed me to come.  And apparently, there isn‘t a very high threshold as far as somebody‘s personal life to gain access. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  You think?  Campbell Brown reporting for us, if that is her real name. 

From the stylings of Jeff Gannon to the underwater punch lines of Japanese comedians.  Is it me or is this stage a little damp?

And we‘re about to have the opening gavel in the Michael Jackson trial.  Already there are appeal rumors flying.

ANNOUNCER:  You‘re getting your news Olbermann style.  COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN, part of the best prime time in cable news, MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back and we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s news for a brief trip around the world in 79 seconds.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in Tokyo, where technology has advanced so far, they can now actually do comedy underwater.  Yes, these two Japanese comedians have the blowfish in the aisles as they perform their unique brand of sea urchin related comedy twice daily at the Tokyo Hotel aquarium. 

Thank you.  We‘re here all week.  Tip your servers.  Don‘t forget to try the sushi.

To Oregon in the USA, where the University of Portland this week played host to its annual—the second annual rock paper scissors championship.  More than 100 competitors came from as far away as the Haggerty (ph) Hall dorm building, clear on the other side of campus, for their chance at this most hallowed trophy in all of rock paper scissors. 

Is there—Is it just me, or is there something obscene about that thing?  Just keep that away from me, pal. 

Finally to Blue Ash, Ohio, for the COUNTDOWN car chase of the week.  It is our fifth of the year.  Checking the “Oddball” scoreboard, we can see that so far the police are throwing a no-hitter: cops, 4; guys who think they can escape the cops, nada. 

But keep your eyes on the white Dodge Neon, because this guy is swinging for the fences.  Police stay the driver violated a restraining order, having approached his estranged wife.  But when police approached him, he took off on a chase to rush hour traffic at speeds nearing 100 miles an hour.  Now he‘s looking at felony evasion. 

He hit a few other cars along the way, but no one was injured.  It was a Neon, after all.  And the whole thing ended on I-71, thanks to the good old spiked strips. 

So this retreating violator is headed off for a long stay where he will be ordered and restrained.  But hopefully, not violated.  The big house!

It spawned skepticism, denials, now a death threat.  And now it is also currently topping “The New York Times” nonfiction bestseller list.  The author of “Juiced,” Jose Canseco, joins us live in a moment. 

Plus the turkey that took on not one but two Ohio troopers is with us no more.  Now it turns out he might actually have been somebody‘s pet. 

These stories ahead.  Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day. 

No. 3, Larry Lucchino, the president of the Boston Red Sox.  He announced today that his team will give its players their world championship rings before their opening day game of April 11 against the New York Yankees, against whom they rallied from three games to—you know. 

Angry Yankee fans should remember that the only other time the Red Sox beat the Yankees in such a head to head battle was in 1904, so they can endure this once a century. 

No. 2, the Kraft Foods Company, manufacturers of gummy fish and gummy bears and gummy whatever.  And also a new candy that has animal rights activists up in arms with some justification: gummy road kill.  Good old candy animals with tire marks on them. 

OK, that‘s marketing. 

And No. 1, Jack Pacheco of Chowchilla, California, accused of methamphetamine possession.  That charge he denies.  He did what they always joke about doing in the movies and on TV. 

He went out and bought every copy of the local newspaper that he could find: 500 to 600 copies of the “Chowchilla News” at 50 cent each.  He was considered buying 500 more copies that went on sale this morning, but he couldn‘t get to them in time.  He says he‘ll use the ones he bought to train his shih tzu puppy. 

You big pup.

(MUSIC:  “I Want My Own Headline”)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Unless you are just returning to the planet after a couple of weeks studying the largest of the moons of Jupiter, you already know about the Jose Canseco book, “Juiced.”  Our third story on THE COUNTDOWN, the former Major League Baseball star joins us, gets a few questions he probably hasn‘t heard before, from somebody who largely thinks he wrote the truth.  Me.  And we‘ll see what happens. 

There are some new developments today.  Another player that Canseco fingered as a steroid user, his former Texas Rangers teammate, Rafael Palmeiro, has denied he used the performance enhancing drugs, and now he has left open the prospect of suing for libel. 

“The one thing I can say is,” he told reporters late this afternoon in spring training, “I have the best law firm and the best lawyers standing in the wings in Peter Angelos.  I have options available for me.  He stands behind me and he‘s ready.  I will look at all my options and I will decide.”

Meanwhile, Representative Henry Waxman of California has suggested to their chairman that their congressional committee on government reform conduct hearings on steroid use.  Waxman said, calling Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire and others—he didn‘t mention Palmeiro by name—that having them all testify under oath would be a useful thing, considering baseball has said it would not investigate the charges in Canseco‘s book. 

And the author‘s attorney told “The New York Daily News” that his client has received a death threat by e-mail to his Web site.  Attorney Robert Saunooke says, we alerted the FBI, and they believe it was a credible threat. 

On that grim note, we‘re joined from Tampa by Jose Canseco.  Good evening, sir.  Thanks for your time tonight. 

JOSE CANSECO, FORMER MLB PLAYER:  How are you doing, Keith? 

OLBERMANN:  Not bad.  Let me start with that last story.  Did you get a death threat?  About what? 

CANSECO:  I think we received one on my Web site regarding something with a gun involved, and all you‘re going to hear are certain pops to your head and that‘s the last thing you‘ll see.  But my attorney, Robert Saunooke, contacted the FBI, they investigated where the actual e-mail originated from.  I think now local authorities are handling it. 

OLBERMANN:  OK.  Well, it brings up the reaction to the book.  I think it is safe to say there‘s been a lot of hostility.  There‘s been name-calling.  Have you been surprised that the reaction has been as strong as it‘s been from players and ex-teammates and ex-managers and even the media? 

CANSECO:  No.  I have not been surprised.  I knew a lot of people were going to deny this book.  I knew the players that I had mentioned were all going to deny this book vehemently.  I‘m pretty much amazed that Rafael Palmeiro would even deny this or try to sue me, because he‘s going to open up a whole new can of worms. 

OLBERMANN:  But he said he was going to leave his options open.  He didn‘t actually—he didn‘t actually sue you, which brings me to one of the things that I have from my own experience dealing with this topic.  Years ago, there was an Olympic athlete—and I‘ll leave the name out just because it is irrelevant here—but I reported on TV in Los Angeles that a lot of this athlete‘s rivals believed this person was using steroids.  And later on, Carl Lewis said exactly the same thing on tape.  And then a guy went on “The Today Show” and said he had gotten human growth hormones for the athlete.  And this athlete threatened to sue me, threatened to sue Carl Lewis, threatened to sue the guy on “The Today Show.”  Made a huge stink.  And then the athlete came back from these Olympic Games, never sued me, never sued Carl Lewis, never sued the guy on “The Today Show,” never sued anybody, and instead just retired at the age of 28. 

And what I‘m wondering is, if you‘ve said this about Mark McGwire, and he denies it, and you said what you said about Bonds and Sosa and Palmeiro, and they denied it.  It‘s very serious stuff.  And Palmeiro says he is leaving the options open about suing.  Why do you think nobody has sued you? 

CANSECO:  Well, it‘s the obvious.  I mean, the public—just use some common sense, it‘s the obvious, because what I‘m telling is the truth.  And if you‘re going to sue me and lie, you can get yourself in a whole lot of trouble. 

OLBERMANN:  So you don‘t expect to be sued by Palmeiro or anybody else?  Do you think they‘re just blowing smoke? 

CANSECO:  I would think it would be the biggest mistake they ever made. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, give me a reaction to a couple of the other specific reactions.  Tony LaRussa was your manager in Oakland for the first eight years about of your career.  And he seemed to be saying, look, it is absolutely impossible that Mark McGwire or anybody else on the A‘s at that time could have used steroids, that all the strength gains the A‘s players made were the result of hard work, careful supervision.  Everybody knew no one on the A‘s was taking steroids. 

But you were taking steroids.  I see some contradiction in that statement.  Even if he‘s right that it was just you, why didn‘t he blow the whistle on you in 1990 or 1991? 

CANSECO:  Again, common sense must come into play here.  There‘s a huge contradiction from his first statement to his second statement.  Obviously, in his first statement, he says, no, I believe no one on the Oakland A‘s was using steroids.  Then his second statement was that, well, I do believe that Jose Canseco was using steroids, and I do believe he was the only one using steroids.  Sandy Alderson then came out saying, well, I suspected that Jose was taking steroids. 

Nonetheless, not one of them did anything about it.  That just goes to show you, there was a huge cover-up. 

OLBERMANN:  What did you think of what Dave Stewart that, your former teammate, the great pitcher, the very determined guy with the A‘s who said he did not particularly care for you as a teammate, but he never thought you were a liar, and he figured that somebody who used steroids would know who the other users were. 

CANSECO:  Well, he‘s absolutely right.  I think in general, in baseball, I mean, players may not have liked me in general.  I had the highest respect for all players, though, whether we got along or not.  I respected them as athletes. 

But I don‘t think there‘s any one player out there that can come to the forefront and say, even someone in the media can say, Jose Canseco is a liar.  I‘ve always been very honest and very truthful, and a lot of times that has gotten me into trouble. 

OLBERMANN:  One thing about all these denials from people that you named, they all seem to be based on this idea—and this was true I think in LaRussa‘s particularly—it‘s an either or.  Either somebody works out and builds muscles, or somebody takes steroids and they just get muscles like a Popeye cartoon.  That if you have been working out, if people have seen you working out, that means you did not take steroids.  That was essentially what LaRussa was saying about McGwire.  And just explain this to people who aren‘t familiar with it.  That‘s just wrong.  Isn‘t it?  I mean, steroids do not mean equal instant muscles.  They mean that you can work out longer and more intensely and more frequently, right? 

CANSECO:  Keith, you‘re absolutely right.  Athletes don‘t just take steroids and not work out.  To get the maximum effect from steroids, you actually have to use the steroids, have a tremendous diet, you have to get the right amount of sleep, and you have to work out to maximize the steroid. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Baseball on the field this year.  They‘re going to test for steroids with suspensions if somebody tests positive for the first time.  They aren‘t necessarily going to be long ones, but are we going to see a changed sport on the field this year?  Is this the year that the guy who leads the American League in homers is going to hit 30 of them and Barry Bonds is going to dry up and blow away?  What is going to happen this year? 

CANSECO:  Keith, there‘s a major problem with testing these athletes right now, because I‘m a perfect example.  I was on house arrest.  I was tested for steroids.  I was then incarcerated again, put in jail because they found a metabolite of a steroid in my system.  I spent three months in jail before they figured the timeframe of it.  Steroids can stay in your systems for a very long time.  For example, if you test for steroid today, you may find a very powerful metabolite in their system.  When this athlete actually used the steroid, sometimes are possible to tell.  And they‘re going to have a large, large amount of trouble trying to figure out, you know, OK, we found this in the system.  Did he take it before this actual steroid testing is taking place now?  It‘s too difficult to tell.  They‘re going to run into major, major problems. 

OLBERMANN:  But do you think players will be scared away and not use them at all? 

CANSECO:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I think with this book coming out now, if not 95 to 100 percent of these players are saying, wait a minute, this stuff has to stop.  This stuff is going to stop.  I‘m not good to go get caught with this in my system.  The only thing I‘m worried about, is these players now who are clean or have been clean even for a year and a half, the testing may find a metabolite (ph) in their system and they‘re going to be found guilty. 

OLBERMANN:  You heard about this Congressional hearing possibility.  I mean, testifying under oath in Congress.  Would you do that?  Would you welcome that? 

CANSECO:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I think this issue has to come to the forefront.  I think people have to realize, who were involve in this and why?  I mean, Major League Baseball and the Player Association were definitely involved in this.  They allow it.  They instigated it.  They just turned their heads and said listen, we are making so much money.  The players are making so much money.  I mean, everyone is benefiting from this.

I remember when I spoke to Donald Fehr.  I said Don, I‘m being black balled from the game of baseball.  I‘ve been told by other players.  I been have a been told by Alex Rodriguez, Alex Fernandez.  Internally, we all knew as athletes what was going on.  And Donald Fehr basicly said, let me look into it.  He did nothing about it.  Did he zero about it. 

OLBERMANN:  I believe the commercial used to go, chicks dig the long ball.  One final thing, I can‘t not ask this.  This lie detector story, that you‘d go on TV and take a lie detector test on—maybe on pay-for-view.  Now, I know the networks made offers.  You don‘t to have talk about the business end of this.  But going on TV wired up to a lie detector, do you worry about the dignity involved in that? 

CANSECO:  I mean, the networks, I mean, I‘ve been approached by many, many networks.  And you know, I think it is about time that I go out of my way and prove what this book says is 100 percent accurate.  And something major is going to happen the next month. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, if you can‘t get money for it, you can always come here and do it for free, because We Work cheaply.  Jose Canseco, the book is “Juiced.”  There‘s a long subtile.  Bottom line the book is called is called “Juiced.”  Stay tuned for the movie and the pay-per-view special and for all we know the opera. 

All right, Jose, thanks again.

CANSECO:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Be well.

Also tonight, nearly two months after the tsunami, new photos have been released.  Photos from a couple who did not survive, but captured the moment.  And the Jackson trial hasn‘t even started yet, and already, an idea for an appeal is being floated.  Will this long national nightmare that hasn‘t even begun yet never end?

Those stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.   

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN:  A big story, the jury for the Michael Jackson trial was selected.  And it‘s two third—two thirds of the jury are female.  Yes, Michael is very pleased with jury, because he‘s also two-thirds female. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A cocker spaniel bladder stone.  People are selling body parts.  We‘ve even had people selling ghosts and devils, and the cheese sandwich with Jesus on it.  So, I said, you know, this would be something different.  A nice conversation piece for somebody‘s mantle. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The summary statement that I think is important for people to hear in our country, precisely his opening statement to Ken‘s question, speaking about monarchies.  Get it?  It‘s was --  it‘s late—it‘s late in the trip.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Ahead, it is beyond belief.  A Canadian couple engulfed by December‘s tsunami.  In their final moment, they photographed the wave.  Their camera survived, they didn‘t.  Their pictures next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is so counter-intuitive to as to invite skepticism.  The last act of two Canadian victims of the Christmas time tsunami, was to photograph that which would kill them.  Weeks later, their camera, found by a Baptist missionary.  The pictures then forwarded to the victims family, then publicly released. 

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN.  We have not ruled out with total certainty that this is like those heartless faked Photoshopped images of a man supposedly standing on the observation deck of the World Trade Center, just as the first plane approached.  But all evidence suggest, these photos from Thailand are legitimate.  And the that the story beggars description. 

Our correspondent is Alan Waterman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALAN WATERMAN, CBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Patrick and Christian Knill pour over snap shots from Thailand.  Pictures of the on coming tsunami.  Taken by their parents, John and Jackie Knill, seconds before they were killed. 

CHRISTIAN KNILL, SON OF VICTIMS:  When I saw them, I couldn‘t believe it.  You know, I was a shock. 

WATERMAN:  The bodies of the Knills were only identified last week.  The pictures found their ways into their son‘s hands a day later.  While the photos are amazing, so is the story of the good samaritan who found them. 

CHRISTIAN PILET, FOUND THE PHOTOS:  This is the last picture. 

WATERMAN:  Christian Pilay (ph) is the man who found them.  He was working in Thailand as part of the relief effort, when he came upon the Knills digital camera on the beach.  The camera was broken, but the memory card was not. 

PILET:  The amazing part of the story to me is that, I told my wife Nicole (ph), look, you‘ve got see these pictures.  And I showed her the pictures.  So she didn‘t want to see more.  She wanted to looked.  And so she went to the Internet, and a few minutes later, she comes and she says, “Oh, wow!  I think I found a guy that looks just like it.  Like the guy in your pictures, just like him.   

WATERMAN:  Pilet tracked down the Knill‘s son and drove sell hours north to deliver the picture in person. 

PATRICK KNILL, SON OF VICTIMS:  It gives me a lot of closure, knowing that they were together.  I know they were together looking at the wave, taking pictures.  And probably just by the time they realized what was coming their way, it was too late.  So, they just probably hugged each other and hoped that someone was going to get those pictures. 

WATERMAN:  Alan Waterman, CBC News, North Vancouver. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Making the abrupt turn tonight into the world of celebrity and gossip news, the one we like to call keeping tabs.  And it‘s all over except for the actually trial and appeal.  Your entertainment and tax dollars in action. 

Day 465 of the Michael Jackson investigation.  Eight alternate jurors picked today, opening statements slated for Monday.  We‘re all ready to go. 

But of course, this is the Jackson case, so there‘s still trouble brewing already.  None of the jurors is African-American, a discrepancy that could, according to jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, give the defense grounds for appeal.  Appeal already!  The defense has already filed some kind of motion about race.  Details are sealed. 

We are getting more details about Martha Stewart‘s future.  Two new TV shows and a bid to get her old job back.  The bid in a moment.  More immediately, the high doyen of household hints is trying to improve her impending house arrest, by hiring Pierre Shadlin (ph), the former chef at the famous restaurant Le Cirque, to be her personal cook there.  And by being nicer to people, as a close friend who recently visited her in the big house today attested. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD FEIGEN, FRIEND OF MARTHA STEWART:  I got the feeling down there that she‘s listening to people.  And I think it is going to make a big difference. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Her lawyers are now hoping the Securities and Exchange Commission is listening, if it will settle her insider training case, she could regain her former position as head of Martha Stewart Omnimedia, and of course, the nation of Martha-Stewart-sylvania. 

And never have the words “aye caramba” have had more meaning.  The voices of “The Simpsons” are on strike.  No, not our friends Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria and company.  The voice actors who record the Spanish version, “Los Simpsons.”  The actors portraying the likes of Lisa and Homero say the studio at which they do their dubbing in Mexico City used non-union actors.  So they‘re on strike.  It‘s not about the money.  They each get about $50 per episode and are satisfied with that.  The only comment from the lone Mexican native on “The Simpsons,” Bumblebee Man, told reporters, quote, “Yo-yo es grande,” unquote.

Not bumblebees but turkeys.  If you saw this one, you‘ll never forget him.  But the story of when turkeys attack has a tragic although not a cranberry sauce conclusion.  Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The British have a reminder about kids wanting pets.  It‘s not just for Christmas, it‘s for life.  Remember that the next time you try to domesticate a tiger or a turkey. 

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, two not-so-wild animal stories of different degrees of seriousness.  The sadder one first.

Proving there was indeed a tiger loose in Southern California, and as our correspondent Mark Mullen reports, largely because of the insensitivity of its owner, the big cat is now dead. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK MULLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  A nearly two-week hunt around the Reagan Presidential Library for a huge creature with six-inch paws, much bigger than those a mountain lion would leave.  They discovered a male tiger, weighing as much as 600 pounds, roaming near a neighborhood of families. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It worked its way over to the house over there, where they have a couple of small dogs. 

MULLEN:  Wildlife agents were called, and fired four shots, killing the tiger. 

TIPPI HEDREN, ANIMAL ACTIVIST:  I‘m angered by all of this. 

MULLEN:  Actress and animal activist Tippi Hedren runs a sanctuary for big cats. 

HEDREN:  They didn‘t try to tranquilize it.  I think it‘s absolutely unconscionable.

MULLEN:  But officers defended the kill, saying the cat was moving too close to people. 

MARTIN WALL, CALIFORNIA FISH & GAME:  We just couldn‘t take a chance of the cat running across the freeway. 

MULLEN (on camera):  But police now want to track down the owner who failed to alert the public and in turn sentenced this beautiful animal to death. 

(voice-over):  There‘s a nearby resident who owns other big cats.  He says the tiger wasn‘t his. 

LT. JORGE GROSS, CALIFORNIA FISH & GAME:  But there‘s no other big cat permitee in the area. 

MULLEN:  It‘s not the first trouble with privately-owned big cats.  Like the tiger found in an apartment in New York City.  Ming was tranquilized and moved to a sanctuary in Ohio. 

In Florida, a tiger owned by an actor who once played Tarzan was killed, after it lunged at officers. 

Wildlife agents in California say whoever owned the 600-pound cat on the loose is the real bad guy.  Now, the hunt is on for him. 

Mark Mullen, NBC News, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And then there‘s the death of a not-so-beautiful, not-so-exotic animal, who is nonetheless grieved tonight.  A turkey from Ohio.  Constant viewers will recognize this in an instant.  Last Friday‘s video of a state trooper in Finley, Ohio, on the run.  A wild beast at his heels and staring him down through the car window like a character from “Night of the Living Dead.”

Two days later, one of his colleagues was similarly stalked.  Our correspondent Marc Reinicke of NBC station in Lima, Ohio, WLIO, reports we now know this was not just any turkey. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yeah, the reason it was (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we used to sing and it would strut.  It would sit on our lap.  But we raised them as babies. 

MARC REINICKE, WLIO-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Mary Shepherd (ph) has spent a lifetime raising ducks, chickens and turkeys.  But in December, one of her turkeys, named Wild Thing, came up missing.  And the Shepherds (ph) had been searching for the tom turkey ever since. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘ve looked up and down.  We‘ve walked the roads.  We thought maybe he got hit or something.  We never found him then. 

REINICKE:  When Mary (ph) had heard the story of the turkey terrorizing troopers in Hancock County near her home, and thought maybe they had found Wild Thing. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Then seen on TV, then they got him.  So we called over to Finley.  Left a message.  We would like to be able to see him so we can identify him from (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  And we never got the opportunity.  They never notified us.  And when we called back, they said they euthanized him!

REINICKE (on camera):  The euthanization of the turkey in question was according to wildlife life management an effort to preserve the wild turkey population. 

JOHN DAUGHERTY, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE:  It‘s very important that pen-raised birds aren‘t introduced into the wild, because of disease and parasite problems which could damage the whole population. 

REINICKE (voice-over):  Even though Mary isn‘t sure that the turkey was hers, she wishes she had a chance just to see if the turkey was, in fact, Wild Thing. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I just don‘t know why I still couldn‘t have saw the turkey to see it was mine or not.  If they didn‘t want me to have it and they were going to put it away, they could have told me.  But it would have put me to rest, knowing that if it was Wild Thing, or to keep looking.  I think I had that right to check and see if it was my turkey. 

REINICKE:  Reporting from Hancock County, Marc Reinicke, for NBC Lima. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  The Department of Wildlife spokesman added that Wild Thing was simply delicious.  Pardon me, simply malicious.  OK. 

Stay with MSNBC for updates throughout the evening about the health of John Paul II, hospitalized tonight for the second time in 24 days, reported to be recovering successfully from a tracheotomy, the insertion of a breathing tube through his neck and into his windpipe. 

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

Good night and good luck.

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

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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