updated 2/28/2005 8:43:01 AM ET 2005-02-28T13:43:01

Guest: Wendy Murphy, Thomas Reese

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

A dying California grandmother moved out of a hospital‘s primary trauma facility to make room for Michael Jackson‘s flu case.  That‘s the charge by one family.  They are suing Jackson and the hospital. 

He had a latte and biscuits.  The pope, hours after the tracheotomy, said to be well, and hungry.  But what does the church do if he gets sick and loses consciousness for a long time?

Vox populi.  The polls showing Americans with increased hope for Iraqi democracy, decreased belief that going to Iraq was a good idea, and even less support than before for the president.  Well, at least his European tour went well. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s late—it‘s late—it‘s late in the trip, so...

OLBERMANN:  We will review it. 

And those car chases you so enjoy, what happens at the end?  Well, after the end, really.  Why are some prosecuted and others allowed to drive away? 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

OLBERMANN:  Good evening. 

This is not a newscast during which you will hear nightly the words “Michael” and “Jackson” in the opening 20 minutes.  Not as long as I can help it. 

But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, a California family says it will sue both Jackson and the Marion Medical Center in Santa Maria.  It claims that the hospital big footed 74-year-old Manuela Gomez Ruiz, pushing her out of its primary trauma room, even though she had just suffered what would prove to be the first in a series of fatal heart attacks.

The hospital moved her out of the facility, the family says, so that Michael Jackson and his flu could be treated there. 

“Celebrity Justice,” “Entertainment Tonight,” NBC News, all reporting a Manuela Ruiz, mother of eight, grandmother of 24, great-grandmother of 26. 

Her family claims that when Jackson walked into the hospital on February 15, having vomited with a temperature of 96.9 degrees, Ms. Ruiz was disconnected from the machine ventilator in a trauma room, moved to a smaller room nearby, her breathing aided in the interim by only a hand pump.

Her daughter, Maria Elena Ortiz, told ABC she was in the main room when Jackson walked in, and she objected as hospital staff tried to move her mother out. 

The family says that the second trauma room was so small equipment had to be squeezed in and they were limited to two visitors at a time. 

Manuela Gomez Ruiz had two subsequent heart attacks and died later that day. 

Marion Medical Center‘s statement “expressed our deepest sympathy to the family” but claims “patient privacy laws and strict hospital policy protecting the privacy of our patients preclude further comment.” 

Jackson‘s spokesman, Raymone Bain, accused ABC of being absurd in its reporting, sending his condolences to the family and adding, “It is outrageous that Michael Jackson‘s name would be invoked into a situation of which he had no authority or control.  It appears that ABC is deliberate in its attempt to circumvent Michael Jackson from receiving a fair trial.”

That‘s not really what circumvent means, but certainly the story does not reflect well on Jackson.  Is that unfair?  Was the hospital unfair?  Did he really have anything to do with any of this?

To help sort out those questions, I‘m joined now by Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, now law school professor and victims rights advocate. 

Wendy, good evening. 

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is there blame here?

MURPHY:  You know, it‘s hard to know.  We‘re hearing one side of the story, but I‘ll tell you this much.  I‘m only a jurist doctor and even I know that you don‘t unplug a dying patient so you can service a famous one.  And if that‘s the only truth to this story, that‘s pretty outrageous behavior on the part of the hospital. 

I just don‘t know you can lay blame at Michael Jackson‘s feet.  You know, the fact that the hospital personnel were a bunch of sycophants isn‘t necessarily Michael Jackson‘s doing, and it‘s not his fault, necessarily. 

OLBERMANN:  And again, we have to remember where we are when we‘re talking about this.  I was thinking about this this afternoon. 

Once in Los Angeles when I lived there I needed an eye exam, an ordinary check of my glasses.  And I asked the doctor, who is based at UCLA, to recommend somebody.  He said, “Come in to the medical center.  I know just the guy.  He‘s here.” 

I go to the desk.  The receptionist escorts me, not to some place in the patients‘ waiting room but through a private door into a private waiting room, and the eye doctor who comes to see me is the chairman of the department. 

And I was impressed and embarrassed simultaneously.  They did this solely because I was on television.  Is it...

MURPHY:  You‘re a powerful guy, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but I‘m not.  But the point is, is this a situation that we‘re talking about here with Michael Jackson?

MURPHY:  Yes.  Of course. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘re expecting a world famous person, with all the good and bad that that implies to say, “Hey, don‘t move that other patient attached to those machines just because I‘m here.”  And is that expectation unrealistic?

MURPHY:  Well, you know, a reasonable human being certainly should have and would have said that, especially when you have the fake flu.  I mean, he had a 96.9 temperature.  That‘s lower than average.  Not your typical flu-like symptom, which is 103.  And he had tears in his eyes. 

You know, my definition of the diagnosis, and again, I‘m not a doctor, but I describe him as having cold feet.  He was supposed to be on his way to the courthouse.  He banged a left and went to the hospital.  He wasn‘t even sick enough to merit a real doctor, and he got that level of care. 

You know, it‘s one thing for a celebrity to get an extra pickle on their hamburger or, you know, a private booth at a restaurant, but health care is supposed to be the thing we‘re all entitled to on equal footing. 

And, you know, hospitals give special care to people with certain amount of power and influence.  And usually you don‘t hear about it because it‘s a mother giving birth in a special wing of the hospital.  This is a life or death case.  She was about to die, and they unplugged her.  That‘s not acceptable on any level.  And I don‘t care if it was Michael Jackson or some old, rotting movie star who showed up.  That‘s bad behavior. 

OLBERMANN:  So speaking legally, does that family of the dead woman have a case against the hospital or against Michael Jackson or against anybody?

MURPHY:  I‘m not so sure there‘s a case against Michael Jackson.  There may well be a case against the hospital.  The problem is proving causation.  It looks like she was pretty ill, and if they can‘t show that the unplugging literally caused her to die, then they‘re not going to win much money, but they‘ll probably get something for the emotional distress, which they deserve. 

OLBERMANN:  Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, now a professor at the New England School of Law.  As always, Wendy, great thanks for your perspective. 

MURPHY:  You bet. 

OLBERMANN:  A different kind of family tragedy playing out tonight in Florida. 

Mark Lunsford returned home yesterday to find his 9-year-old daughter, Jessica, gone.  Her school clothes still neatly laid out from the evening before, no sign of forced entry into the home, nothing apparently out of place. 

Authorities issued a national missing child alert for her, exonerated the father and the estranged mother and continued to search the home in Homosassa, Florida. 

In that town, our correspondent is Stephen Stock from the NBC station in Orlando, WESH. 

Stephen, good evening. 

STEPHEN STOCK, WESH REPORTER:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Give us the latest on this situation.  I understand we had a false alarm, essentially, today that was in good news for the family. 

STOCK:  That‘s right.  It was really an emotional hour and a half right before sunset as they were starting to wind down the all-day search that had been going on since daybreak. 

Essentially, they found the body of a young lady, a young girl in a lake about 60 miles from here in North Hillsboro County.  That‘s where Tampa is just to our south, but it turned out it was not Jessica.  And of course, there was a very emotional time. 

In fact, Sheriff Jeff Dawsy here in Citrus County had actually approached Mark Lunsford to tell him to be prepared for the worst.  They did not want to tell little Jessica‘s grandmother, who was the last one to see Jessica alive on Wednesday night when she went to bed, because they were afraid the grandmother would literally fall to pieces.

For the family, the Lunsford family, it was good news.  For some other little girl‘s family, of course, it‘s very tragic news.  But the search for little 9-year-old Jessica goes on. 

Now, earlier today the biological mother of Jessica was located by the FBI at her home outside Cincinnati.  And she poured her heart out, worried about her daughter‘s safety. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA BRYANT, MISSING GIRL‘S MOTHER:  I hope that she‘s not dead and that somebody hasn‘t taken her and done things they wanted to her. 

I know me and her dad love her and everybody around her, you know.  I just—I just want them to find her. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOCK:  And you know, it‘s, as you mentioned, Keith, been a long search, a very frustrating search. 

Sheriff Dawsy told me late this afternoon this has been the most frustrated he‘s been in about 30 years of law enforcement, because there literally are no signs of Jessica anywhere.  It‘s almost as if she vanished from her home, which, by the way, is back out there in the trees in the dark.  You can‘t see it.  It was lit up until about 15 minutes ago, the family wanting to go to bed and try to get some rest. 

Essentially there are no tire tracks out in the front, no footprints.  As you mentioned, her clothes were set out on her bed.  They weren‘t even touched. 

There was, however, one doll that was missing from her bedroom, and the officials are hoping that that doll might be a clue to finding where this 9-year-old little girl is. 

But right now they‘re saying she may have just walked away or she may have been abducted.  They just don‘t know. 

That‘s the latest from Homosassa.  I‘m Stephen Stock.  Keith, back to you. 

OLBERMANN:  Stephen, thanks very much. 

STOCK:  You‘ve got it.

OLBERMANN:  One more story of little permanent consequence but which serves as another reminder of how violence can enter our lives at almost any moment at any time, anywhere. 

A warning that some of the next video is graphic and potentially disturbing. 

Members of a camera crew from a station in Tyler, Texas, KLTV, were inside the city‘s courthouse covering a story when it and others in the courtroom heard an unfamiliar sound. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, sir, I am. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Not until two women came in running yelling did everyone realize something was going on.  Court officials hustling everybody behind furniture and the witness stand, pulling out their weapons, trying to figure out what it was that was going on in the corridor.  Others crouched in doorways listening to a barrage of shots coming from outside the building before they finally ran for safety. 

The shooter was David Hernandez Arroyo Sr.  He showed up outside the courthouse wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying an assault rifle. 

His ex-wife had taken him to court, seeking child support for their three children.  Instead, he showed up and shot and killed her in the courtyard.  He also killed a bystander who had returned fire. 

Then Arroyo wounded four others, including his own 21-year-old son.  Finally, he took off with police in pursuit.  And as one patrol car pulled up behind him, firing shots, he stepped out of the car, raised his rifle.  And that is when police took their shot and fatally wounded him. 

The attorney for his ex-wife said she probably didn‘t know any of this was coming.  She was too busy trying to support herself and kids to have thought about it. 

Also tonight, the Bush whirlwind tour of Europe is over but not forgotten.  A lasting impact. 

And when was the last time you saw a secretary of state in an outfit and heels like these?

Also the latest on the pope‘s condition.  The Vatican says John Paul is progressing well.  But is the church prepared, were he were to suddenly become incapacitated?

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A suicide bomber striking tonight in Tel Aviv.  Will it dash renewed hopes for the Mideast peace process?

And a president back from Europe and greeted with some not so welcoming poll numbers.  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s been 17 days since the informal cease-fire was declared between the Israelis and the Palestinians, weeks longer since a suicide bombing in Israel. 

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the international picture beginning with the end of that in Tel Aviv tonight. 

Along the beachfront promenade just past 11 p.m. local time, as the clubs were opening, a suicide bomber, now reported to have been carrying 20 pounds of explosives, blew himself up as he stood alongside at least 20 young people in line to get inside The Stage nightclub. 

Reports of 30 to 50 casualties, at least four confirmed deaths. 

The chief Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has tonight condemned the attack, quote, “in the strongest possible terms.”  New Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas convened an emergency hearing of his security chiefs.  And the Palestinian Authority says it will pursue whoever was responsible.

Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and all the usual suspects have all issued denials that it was them.  Sources telling the Associated Press, though, that Hezbollah had hired a Palestinian from the West Bank to carry out the attack.  Hezbollah denying that. 

Also on the international front, President Bush is back from his European charm offensive.  If it‘s true that a president‘s journey abroad can boost his approval at home, Mr. Bush must be hoping to see better poll numbers next week. 

A Pew Research Survey completed largely before the president‘s trip showing a drop in his approval rating to 46 percent, down from 50 percent in early January.  And if that fall seems counterintuitive so soon after the president‘s second inaugural, the explanation might be found in part in the mixed message the public is delivering about Iraq. 

A healthy plurality now believing the elections there will make Iraq more stable: 47 percent, up from 29 percent who believed that before the elections on January 30. 

Still, the public‘s overall view of the war continues to decline: 47 percent saying military action there was the right decision, down from 51 percent in January. 

There‘s even polling data about the trip itself, sort of.  Yesterday in Bratislava, thousands of Slovaks stood for hours in the cold to hear the president speak briefly. 

One of them, a 25-year-old artist named Thomas Polander (ph), told the Reuters news agency that he was delighted by Mr. Bush‘s presence, mostly.  Quote, “Ninety percent of me is in favor of him, only 10 percent is against.” 

No reaction from the president himself.  But then again, this was a long week for him, and it was hardly a European vacation. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Belgium, Germany, Slovakia, each destination more important than the last. 

After the rift about Iraq, repairing relations with France came first, the president changing shock and awe into something closer to Chirac and awe.  He even invited “Monsieur le president” back to the ranch in Crawford. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m looking for a good cowboy. 

OLBERMANN:  If that wasn‘t awe enough, there was also the meal they shared: a plate of French fries, not freedom fries, French fries, and not the last munchies on this trip. 

BUSH:  Laura and I are looking forward to eating lunch with you and Doris. 

We just had a good breakfast. 

Some of you Iron Soldiers might have seen me before.  I was the guy serving turkey. 

OLBERMANN:  On to Germany.  The last time Mr. Bush looked to that country, he could not find an ally.  This time he could not find stemware. 

BUSH:  Gerhard, before I raise my imaginary glass...

OLBERMANN:  The president also popped in on these troops in Viesvaden (ph) Army Airfield Base.  And don‘t look now, but here comes the secretary of stilettos. 

(MUSIC)

OLBERMANN: Well, there had to be some reason the president was in a hurry to get out of there. 

BUSH:  I look forward to continue to articulate how we can work forward to keep freedom on the march.  Thank you all very much.  Appreciate it.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER, SECRETARY-GENERAL, NATO:  Let me...

BUSH:  Oh, I‘m sorry. 

He gave me a handshake when he said he didn‘t want a handshake.  I don‘t know what this means. 

OLBERMANN:  It was at another news conference with the leaders at the European Union that the biggest news was made.  And we were all reminded to wait for the full statement. 

BUSH:  This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. 

OLBERMANN:  Two, three, four...

BUSH:  Having said that, all options are on the table. 

Bob.

OLBERMANN:  Bob was no doubt exhausted by all the traveling. 

Ultimately, in Slovakia the president would admit to that. 

BUSH:  It‘s late—it‘s late—it‘s late in the trip. 

OLBERMANN:  So the president turned to his old Russian friend. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Pootie Tang.

OLBERMANN:  Not Pootie Tang.  Nobody was that tired.  Pootie Poot.

And their meeting produced an agreement on agreement.

BUSH:  And yes means yes, and no means no.  And this is the fellow who when he says yes, he means yes.  And when he says no he means now.  All I can tell you is he said yes meant yes. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, a trip in time.  The Stone Age meeting the computer age.  Rare dinosaur fossils up for grabs on eBay? 

The COUNTDOWN regulars know our affinity for the car chase.  We always see the bad guys going to the big house.  But tonight, we‘ll look at how many actually end up there.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and we pause the COUNTDOWN of the day‘s important news and current affairs, for a brief segment of weird stories, dumb criminals and beer, beer, beer.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in Thailand, where if you were hoping to pick up some dinosaur bones on eBay, you missed your chance, pal.  Thai police have arrested a man who had stolen thousands of priceless fossils and had been selling them on the Net at bargain prices, some as low as $1,000 each. 

No word on how many of them bones were eBayed, though we understand the suspect‘s line of defense would be, he stole nothing.  He is actually four million years old and is the original owner. 

Traveling east to Japan, where real estate has become so scarce in the land of the rising sun, they have begun farming in the basement.  The prime minister, Koizumi—no, Koizumi in Japanese made a visit to this underground farm, a converted bank vault in Tokyo, growing rice and vegetables under hot grow lights. 

You know, Mr. Prime Minister, you stole the idea from Cheech and Chong. 

To Halifax, where students at the Nova Scotia Community College were using grow lights in their dorm room but booze is part of the curriculum. 

A new course on beer will be offered this semester through the Labatt Institute, teaching students everything from the history of suds to the proper way to pour it.  The course has been wildly popular so far, though officials say most are surprised at just how difficult it is, especially after a few beers. 

Also the final exam is a problem.  In that one, students must chug 10 beers and then pick a fight with a Canadian moose. 

Also tonight, the pope is said to be joking with church officials, but for now his only means of communicating those humorous reposts is by writing.  What happens if he‘s permanently disabled or incapacitated?

The same issue facing courts in Florida and Texas tonight.  The case of Terri Schiavo, you know about.  That of this six-month-old boy, you probably do not. 

These stories ahead.  Now here is COUNTDOWN‘S top three newsmakers of the day. 

No. 3, the geniuses at the European Union.  A new law may have to be changed.  It sounded like a great idea.  Airlines have to compensate passengers for any delays.  So when one of the engines on a British Airplanes flight from London—when one of them conked out right after takeoff, the pilot just kept on flying.  It was that or compensation fines of nearly $200,000.  One engine short, the plane just barely made it across the Atlantic. 

No. 2, Raymond Rashawne Carter, our unintentionally dumb criminal of the week.  He robbed a jewelry store in Charlottesville, Virginia, took an engagement ring and his and hers wedding bands so he could propose to his girlfriend, who promptly said yes, and then promptly took her new rings to be resized at the same jewelry store. 

Thanks, hon.  Thanks a lot.  Write to me in jail. 

And No. 1, the geniuses at Sony.  They have now installed a new button in an online multiplayer game, which allows you to order a real pizza to be delivered so you don‘t have to stop playing. 

Experts say this could expedite your heart attack by three to five years. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Inside one of the largest cathedrals in Rome stands a monument to Sylvester II who was pope from the year 999 through the year 1003.  Legend has it that whenever one of his successors is about to die, the carving in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran will start to sweat or cry.

Today, with Pope John Paul II still hospitalized after his tracheotomy last night, a priest, identified by the Reuters News service only as Father Eduardo, pressed his palm to the carving and declared, “The stone feels cold but dry, so the pope will live.”

Now our third story in the COUNTDOWN, would that it were that simple?  On the other hand, the Vatican says this morning the pontiff had a latte, some yogurt and some biscuits.

A spokesman insists that John Paul did not undergo an emergency procedure, is breathing on his own without a respirator, does not have pneumonia, that he was writing jokes longhand within moments of coming out of anesthesia last night, and they said nothing to support the analysis of outside medical experts, those physicians predicting the tracheotomy tube could be in place for several weeks.

Some suggested that the two breathing crises in a span of 24 hours means John Paul is now not getting enough air into this lungs and now is at risk for heart attack or suffocation.

Alone among grim language, that word found its way into statements of Vatican officials today.  The highest-ranking American there, James Cardinal Stafford, told an Italian newspaper, “To die of suffocation or even to experience the sensation of suffocating is something we can all identify with.  That‘s why a deep empathy with is suffering is spreading among us.”  The cardinal added they all hope John Paul “won‘t suffer.”

Officially, the Vatican insists the surgery yesterday was elective, that its principal sequelae has been that he‘s been ordered not to talk for several days and adds there will not be another briefing on his health until Monday.

No pope has resigned since 1415.  Pope Paul VI was once asked about that and insisted it would be a bad precedent because it could lead to factions to pressure future pontiffs to abdicate for reasons other than health.

Yet the subject has been raised repeatedly of late, in no small measure because of the advances in life-extending science.  What would happen if a pope were to be on life support or otherwise be incapacitated?

To ponder these issues with us, I‘m joined by Father Thomas J. Reese, editor in chief of the national Catholic weekly in this country, America magazine.

Father Reese, thank you for your time tonight, sir.

FATHER THOMAS J. REESE, AMERICA MAGAZINE:  Certainly.

OLBERMANN:  At the outset, I assume we have to view this topic, at least for now, as an entirely academic issue.  People know of his illnesses, of the assassination attempt, but what they may not know is that this man survived the Nazis, the Communists and getting hit by a truck in 1994.  This is some durable individual.

REESE:  Absolutely.  Yes, he‘s very tough.  I mean, he—he survived all of these incidents and he‘s outlived some of his biographers.

OLBERMANN:  Scholars and those who know him and some of those biographers you refer to say it‘s pretty obvious that he would not retire.

But, with the nature of his illnesses now, the breathing problems that owe to or are made worse by Parkinson‘s, there is sadly an array of outcomes that could leave him—maybe we‘re talking 10 years from now, maybe 20 years from now, but could leave him eventually in that kind of life-support situation that I was referring to earlier.

Are there provisions made for what to do in that event either about his life or his continuance as pope?

REESE:  Well, there really—if the pope is still able to communicate, the pope, of course, could resign.  The real problem comes in if the pope is so disabled and cannot function and cannot even communicate.  Then the church doesn‘t have a procedure for dealing with this.

We don‘t have anything like the 25th Amendment to the U.S.  Constitution which provides for dealing with a disabled president.  We don‘t have that in the Catholic Church.

OLBERMANN:  Probably the best known of your many books on the church is entitled “Inside the Vatican.”  So I assume this thought has crossed your mind, even if it has not been officially considered or structured within church councils.

What about the scenario that is next on the nightmare list, beyond the one we‘re just talking about, that science‘s efforts can unfortunately contribute to this, similar to what we‘re seeing in Florida to the case of Terri Schiavo, not merely a life-support situation, but one in which there has been no provision made for resignation, there is no consciousness, and it goes on for months or for years.

What does the church do then?

REESE:  Good question.  And, frankly, we don‘t know.

The 1983 Code of Canon law asks that there be special legislation that would deal with this kind of problem.  That legislation has never been written, sadly to say.  We need it.

The modern medicine is going to make it inevitable that some time in this century we probably will have a crisis where we have a pope who continues to live, but is incapable of governing or communicating.

OLBERMANN:  And on the subject finally of communication, how important is it that speaking still be a part of the pope‘s means of communications because, obviously, in the short term, that‘s not going to be a realistic thing, and, obviously, in the last few weeks, that has been increasingly a difficult thing.

REESE:  Well, the—you know, it is extremely important that he be able to communicate at least some way, even if he can just nod yes or no.  I mean, if it got so bad that they could—they had to come in and say, Your Holiness, do you want to resign, if he nodded yes, then he has resigned, and the College of Cardinals could elect a new pope.

But, you know, you couldn‘t govern the church that way, of just having a pope nod yes and no periodically.  I think that this pope has seized this job as a mission, a vocation from God.

But he also is very committed to the good of the church.  This is a man who served the church all his life, and, if he comes to the conclusion that, for the good of the church, he needs to step aside, I‘m quite sure that he will.

OLBERMANN:  Father Thomas Reese, editor and chief of American magazine.  Great.  Thanks for your time and your insight tonight, sir.

REESE:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  And that case of Terri Schiavo I must mentioned continues and will continue for three weeks more at least.

Our correspondent, Mark Potter, has been following the latest round of legal machinations and joins us now from Pinellas Park, Florida.

Good evening, Mark.

MARK POTTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening to you, Keith.

For Terri Schiavo‘s parents, who received the news while visiting their daughter in the hospice facility behind me, it was a bittersweet day.  A Florida circuit judge ruled that their daughter‘s feeding tube could be removed in three weeks on March 18 at 1:00 p.m. leading to her death.

The parents, while disappointed, said they were at least glad that the tube was not removed immediately, and they and their lawyers vow to appeal this ruling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GIBBS III, SCHINDLER ATTORNEY:  We are 110 percent committed and absolutely resolved to saving the life of Terri.  We are feeling good about the order today in one respect in that it has given us 21 days where Terri‘s life is protected and nothing can be done to end her life in that time period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER:  Now, today, ironically, is the 15th anniversary to the day of when Terri Schiavo collapsed and suffered massive brain damage.  That‘s how long this case has been going on.

Terri‘s husband and legal guardian Michael Schiavo has fought for years to remove the tube, claiming that his wife would not want to live on life support.  He today issued a written statement praising the judge‘s decision.

The judge himself, George Greer, said that he was no longer comfortable issuing delays in this case which has been argued for so long and so bitterly.

But the attorney for the parents says he still has many legal options which he will pursue vigorously and now very quickly trying to keep Terri alive.

Keith, back to you.

OLBERMANN:  Mark Potter in Pinellas Park, Florida.

Thanks very much.  At first blush, a story in Houston sounds extraordinarily similar to the Schiavo case, a mother asking the judge to not let a hospital disconnect her son from a ventilator, except her son is 6 months old.  Our correspondent in Houston is Janet Shamlian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Sun Hudson was born six months ago today with the odds stacked against him.  With a rare form of dwarfism, his lungs are too small to support his body, a usually fatal genetic deformity.

Since September, Hudson has been here at Texas Children‘s Hospital in Houston tethered to a ventilator and feeding tubes.  He is sedated and unconscious.  Doctors say there is no hope and want to remove him from life support.

His mother believes otherwise and wants to force the hospital to keep her son alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I love my son and I‘ve been speaking about this for a long time.  I want my son to live because there is a bond there between me and my son that no one knew about.

SHAMLIAN:  Texas Children‘s Hospital says it would be unethical to continue with care that is futile and prolong Sun‘s suffering.

Last week, a judge ruled the hospital could determine the infant‘s fate, but an appeals court quickly issued a stay, and now both sides await a ruling.

(on camera):  It is a potentially history making case.  If the appeals court agrees with the lower court, it will be the first time in the nation‘s history that a judge has allowed life support to be removed while a baby is still alive.

(voice-over):  At the core of the case, who makes the decision on withholding or withdrawing treatment of a child when the parents and doctors disagree?

Dr. William Winslade is a medical ethicist.

DR. WILLIAM WINSLADE, MEDICAL ETHICIST:  There is a value conflict between the mother‘s right under Texas law to request life support, even though her son is dying, and the right of the physicians to refuse to perform procedures which they think are medically and professionally inappropriate.

SHAMLIAN:  Texas Children‘s Hospital has offered Hudson the opportunity to transfer Sun to another facility, but none will accept him.  The court is still deliberating with no indication when an opinion will be issued.

Janet Shamlian, NBC News, Houston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, you‘ve seen them here time and time again. 

What kind of time will they see when a judge looks at the videotape?

And another entertainer has been hacked.  This time, it‘s the computer of the leader of the band, Limp Bizkit, and they‘ve stolen his X-rated films of himself.  I don‘t even have to say the joke.  You can just imagine the punch line, right?

Those stories ahead.

Now here are “Countdown”‘s top three sound bites of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHIRLEY SCHICHTEL, BUFFALO LOVE:  I love him because, I mean, he is a prehistoric beast, but we have a connection with him, and I know he‘s to be respected and to be feared because he can be—he can hurt you, but we love him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You can see the sun was shining, but still having problems with mudslides.  We may see the odd shower run through the area today as we are looking at some light shower activity into Southern California.

OMAROSA, FORMER COMPETITOR, “THE APPRENTICE”:  And that‘s what I‘m talking about, taking a realistic look at this.

LINDA VESTER, FOX CORRESPONDENT:  Well, actually, I am taking a realistic look at this, and I‘ve been in TV longer than you have, dearie, and, if you look at...

OMAROSA:  Are you sure?  Do you know my credentials?  Let‘s go toe to toe on credentials, honey.  I guarantee you‘d lose.

VESTER:  Prepare to lose and then you‘ll be buying me dinner.

OMAROSA:  I‘m sure I get paid more than you do.

VESTER:  First of all, you‘re not my friend.  Second of all, please don‘t interrupt.

(CROSSTALK)

OMAROSA:  Thanks so much for having me on your show.

VESTER:  It‘s been a treat.

OMAROSA:  What an idiotic person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why can‘t we be friends / Why can‘t we be friends / Why can‘t we be friends...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It seems as if every other week at least we fill part of this news hour with the inexplicable, but inevitable decisions by criminals and sometimes people with neither records nor good sense to try to outrace the police.  Often this ends in tragedy, but the cops have now gotten this down to such a science that usually it‘s just low comedy.

But, in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, what happens, as the old-time song asks, after the ball is over.  When the copters leave and the cameras are turned off, what do the courts do about these madmen with licenses?

Answers tonight from our correspondent, George Lewis, in the birthplace of the high-speed chase, Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It‘s the old game of cops and robbers played out on television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, the cops have him.  He‘s down.

LEWIS:  After the chase is over and after the police arrest those they‘re pursuing...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get down!  Get down now!  Get down on the ground!LEWIS:  ... what happens then?

JOHN SPILLANE, ASSISTANT LOS ANGELES DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  For the past five years, we‘ve been prosecuting approximately 1,000 felony evading cases within Los Angeles County in our office.

LEWIS:  And 95 percent of those prosecutions usually end up with a suspect being convicted.

One of the most notorious pursuits was this one where a man hijacked a bus and rammed it into other vehicles, killing a woman.

SPILLANE:  That particular individual is now facing life without possibility of parole.  He was charged with felony murder and convicted by a jury.

LEWIS:  Throughout the country, there are tens of thousands of police pursuits each year with no exact count.  California keeps tabs, and, in the most recent statistics for the year 2003, the state had 7,203 car chases.

(on camera):  And Los Angeles, with 533 miles of freeway, has been dubbed the car chase capital of the country.  Half of California‘s felony pursuit cases are in L.A. County.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Look it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you guys watching this?

LEWIS (voice-over):  But, surprisingly, the vast majority of people the cops chase are not charged with serious crimes.

GEOFFREY ALPERT, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA:  Less than 10 percent of the pursuits are for violent felonies.

Professor Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina who has trained thousands of police officers favors restricting police pursuits because of the dangers.

ALPERT:  Our research has shown that approximately 40 percent of all chases result in some sort of a crash, at least one person a day is going to die.

LEWIS:  And critics like Professor Albert say if 90 percent of chases are for misdemeanors, it isn‘t really cops and robbers, but rather a very dangerous game of trivial pursuit.

George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  So we careen at high speed into the world of celebrity and gossip news, and “Keeping Tabs” tonight begins with grim, but entirely consistent news about the suicide of the writer Hunter S. Thompson.

His wife saying now she was on the phone with him when he shot himself.  He set the receiver down, and he did it, she said.  I heard the clicking of the gun.

She said her husband had spent recent months talking of suicide and that since his death she had come to accept it as a triumph of his, not a desperate, tragic failure.

At Thompson‘s suggestion, a small group of friends gathered around him in the kitchen after he died and drank scotch, all of which will make the second development seem almost mundane.

The family says it is still working on fulfilling his other last request, that he be cremated and his remains shot off like fireworks out of a cannon.

And the hacker who stole hundreds of phone numbers from Paris Hilton‘s cell phone and pager device has now one-upped himself in terms of content.  Tech news sites reporting the so-called T-Mobile terrorist has now hacked into the personal computer of Fred Durst, lead singer of the band Limp Bizkit, and he has snagged the rocker‘s amateur porn video of himself with an unknown woman.  Limp Bizkit indeed.

A Phoenix, Arizona, publicist says the thief tried to sell him the B-grade XXX flick claiming to be the same culprit who raided Paris Hilton‘s A, B and C lists.  The porn video was instead released to the welcoming arms of the Internet, but it may leave a trail helpful to investigators.

And, lastly, Sunday night will be the occasion of the 77th Academy Awards, the Oscars.  Nothing I hate more than previews about the Oscars.  So we‘ll move on.

It‘s that time again.  The envelope, please.  Not an award, but more like a smack across the forehead from an old used shower curtain dressed up as art.  Will this videotape have anything to do with our weekly news quiz?  How many will I get wrong this time?  Stand by for the quiz.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Usually, I use these few brief moments here before the week comes to a close to complain about the traditional Friday “Countdown” news quiz.  Truth be told, it was my idea to begin with so most of my sour words are a put-on.  Most of them.

Though I‘m on a winning streak, there is always that tantalizing prospect of making a huge jackass out of myself in front of hundreds of thousands of people instead of one at a time.  So it is always with some trepidation that I say it‘s time to play “What Have We Learned?”

Then here now, who else but the genial and lately not-heavily-armed-with-tough-questions emcee  of “What Have We Learned?” “Countdown”‘s Senior Correspondent Monica Novotny.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC SENIOR CORRESPONDENT:  Do we have a junior correspondent?

OLBERMANN:  You‘re also that.

NOVOTNY:  OK.  I simply ask what our viewers ask me to ask.  Those are the rules, and I‘m sticking to them.

But, before we get to that, if you would like to play along, you can find the news quiz on our Web site, that‘s countdown.msnbc.com.

As always, we‘ll begin with two minutes on the clock.  I will ask as many of your viewer questions as time allows.  For every question answered incorrectly, the anchorman will shell out $50 for charity, and he will whine about it.  If he answers at least half correctly, he wins a prize.  So far, you, the viewer, have helped raise $800 for the “Countdown” news quiz charity fund.

Sir, are you ready?

OLBERMANN:  How many in a row have I won?

NOVOTNY:  I don‘t—I don‘t keep track of that.

OLBERMANN:  Twenty?  Twenty-five?  Something like that?

NOVOTNY:  You do the gloating.

OLBERMANN:  This is where—this is, by the way, where it comes to an end.  I have nothing to my name.  Nothing!  We‘re going for—Monica‘s going to pitch a shutout.  OK.

NOVOTNY:  Are you ready?

OLBERMANN:  All right.

NOVOTNY:  Two minutes on the clock, please.

And number one, from Cheryl in Rhode Island, in homage to Christo‘s “The Gates,” how many peanut-butter-and-cheddar-flavored crackers were used in “The Crackers?”

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  How many?  I don‘t remember ever seeing how many of them.  Just take a wild guess of 26.

NOVOTNY:  There are three dozen, 36.  Sorry.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  There‘s—you see?  Half right.

NOVOTNY:  From a different Cheryl, what is Christo calling his next planned artistic outing?

OLBERMANN:  More crap.  No, it‘s called—it‘s called—no, it‘s—he‘s got to cover part of that river—the Arkansas River in Colorado called the roofing—river roof?

NOVOTNY:  It‘s actually called Over the River.

OLBERMANN:  Over the river, through the woods to grandmother‘s house we go.

NOVOTNY:  Number three from Michelle, why was President Kennedy reluctant about having his golf game being filmed?

OLBERMANN:  Because he thought Christo was going to turn him into some sort of art.  No, as a—he had criticized Eisenhower during Eisenhower‘s presidency for playing golf.

NOVOTNY:  Oh, we have one.  Excellent.

From—number four, from Caroline as edited by one of our senior producers, what did Jack Hannah suggest to his wife when one of his chimpanzees wasn‘t eating back in 1971?

OLBERMANN:  They had a daughter, see, and she was breastfeeding the daughter.  Perhaps they could show this to the chimpanzee who didn‘t know how.

NOVOTNY:  Indeed.

OLBERMANN:  And she smacked him a good one for that.

NOVOTNY:  Yes.  You paid attention to that one.

From Maggie in New Jersey, what are the four steps to a good handshake?

OLBERMANN:  I always listen to my guests.

NOVOTNY:  What are...

OLBERMANN:  The four steps to a good handshake?

NOVOTNY:  But do you listen to your correspondents?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Four steps to a good handshake are taken to the left or westerly direction.

NOVOTNY:  Engage, pause, observe and remember.

From Deborah in New Jersey, who is Rita Duffy?

OLBERMANN:  I do know Rita Duffy‘s name.  She‘s the daughter...

NOVOTNY:  A lovely woman.

OLBERMANN:  Daughter of Frank Duffy, the former infielder of the Cleveland Indians.

NOVOTNY:  You‘re just going nowhere.

OLBERMANN:  I told you shutout.

NOVOTNY:  He‘s an Irish artist who wants to move an iceberg to Belfast.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes.  He wants to take the iceberg to Belfast?

NOVOTNY:  From Jill in Ontario, Canada, how many...

OLBERMANN:  Well, to hell with her.

NOVOTNY:  How many years would it take two unneutered cats to produce more than 80 million offspring.

OLBERMANN:  Ten.

NOVOTNY:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  I got something out of this.

NOVOTNY:  And also, from JoAnne in Brussels, what did President Bush say he was looking for?

OLBERMANN:  Looking for?  When?  Where?  In Brussels?

NOVOTNY:  That was the question.

OLBERMANN:  But I get to answer the last one...

NOVOTNY:  Time is up.

OLBERMANN:  Wait.  I get the answer to the last one on the clock.  In Brussels?

NOVOTNY:  When in Brussels what did President Bush say he was looking for?

OLBERMANN:  Brussel sprouts.

NOVOTNY:  A new you cowboy.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.

NOVOTNY:  And so I believe you got them all wrong or something...

OLBERMANN:  There was an earlier—no, I got—I got three right out of nine, I think.  Is that right?

NOVOTNY:  Yes.  Out of eight.

OLBERMANN:  Three out of eight?  It seemed like nine.

NOVOTNY:  Five?  Five for charity.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, OK.  So it was $800.  Now it‘s $1,050 in the charity kitty.

NOVOTNY:  That‘s right.  $250...

OLBERMANN:  You know, that bit about the cowboy?  That was in the show earlier today.  I read it aloud, and I forgot about it between now and then.

NOVOTNY:  You‘re exhausted.

OLBERMANN:  So do—what do I get now?  Do I get something?

NOVOTNY:  This is your punishment.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s not my punishment.  Who is that supposed to be?

NOVOTNY:  This is the new Condoleezza Rice doll, I believe, and actually sporting the boots.

OLBERMANN:  Well, no, it‘s sporting Frankenstein‘s boots.  Look at this.  Look at this.  These are bigger than the head.  If I‘m Condoleezza Rice, I sue, right?  Because that doesn‘t look anything like her.  That looks like James Brown more than Condoleezza Rice.

NOVOTNY:  I agree.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s also got—remember the Howard Dean action figure from last year?

NOVOTNY:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s the same—the same body.

NOVOTNY:  OK.  Well, there you go.  Don‘t do any damage to her, please.

OLBERMANN:  I—please.  I don‘t need the State Department on top of everything else.

Thank you, Monica.

Thank you, questioners.  I told you I was going to tank.

Thank you for indulging this stuff again until once more we play “What Have We Learned?”

And not a moment too soon, that‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thank you for being part of it.  Keith Olbermann reporting.  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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