updated 5/18/2005 8:29:34 PM ET 2005-05-19T00:29:34

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Newsweek fallout — The State Department has cabled its embassies around the globe to alert the media: Newsweek has retracted its report.  And the White House Press Secretary today characterized that report by using the words "damage" or "damaged" 20 separate times.  Scott McClellen called the retraction "a good first step".  And he added that the magazine should "do its part to help repair the damage."  But, don't worry, Newsweek does not have its own bomber squadron, its reporters are not attacking Insurgent positions, and it isn't releasing a suddenly-discovered stash of armor plating for humvees.  For more than a week, the United States government said nothing.  The anti-American disturbances spreading from Jalalabad, Afghanistan, into other Muslim nations, got no comment.  Then, last Thursday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the after-action report, on the ground, in Afghanistan concluded that the violence owed not to a note about Qu'ran Abuse in Newsweek magazine, but to local politics.  The magazine had become the latest in a series of news organizations, over several years, to report that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated a Qu'ran by flushing it down a toilet. The difference in its report was that its government source claimed that the alleged act would be mentioned in an official investigation of events at Gitmo.  At some point over the weekend, Newsweek's government source "backed away" from his account, and the magazine first apologized for the story, and then, after the Press Secretary and the Secretary of Defense, said that the story had cost lives in the riots.  Late yesterday, Newsweek retracted the story .

Filibuster smack-down — It is not unusual for Judges to make eternal impacts on the fabric of American society.  Chief Justice Roger B. Tawney may have started the Civil War snowball down the hill in writing the Dred Scott decision in 1857.  We are still grappling with the consequences of the various courts who heard Roe v. Wade in the early '70s.  But it is rare that American life could be significantly changed by, not the decisions of judges, but the process of their confirmations.  Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas come to mind, Abe Fortas, perhaps.  And now, probably, Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen.  The Senate Judicial Filibuster Nuclear Option looms , and it's got the names "Brown" and "Owen" on it.

Skipping church can kill you — Other networks are devoted to the premise that they're going to tell you that something, someone, or some political ideology, is going to kill you — and they'll tell you how to avoid it if you'll just stick around through the next few commercials.  In our third story on the Countdown, we'll take a page from their book, but we'll be a little more honest about it.  Here it comes:  The "It-Could-Kill-You" segment.  Actually you can look at the first part of the story from the exact opposite point of view... this is something that could actually make you live longer.  New evidence suggests a clinical link between going to church and not dying so soon.  A group of doctors appointed by the National Institutes of Health spent two years looking at about 250 studies linking religion and health, many of which were done by secular institutions. What they found: religion can be good for you — very good for you.

Lost piano man — The odds are pretty good that you've never seen the movie "The Legend of 1900" starring Tim Roth and a bunch of other people you've probably never heard of.  Part of this improbable film appears to have come true in Great Britain.  The gist of the plot was that at the turn of the previous century, a boy was abandoned aboard a luxury cruise liner. Taken care of by the stokers, and raised in the engine room, he eventually became a concert-quality pianist, who has no memory of ever being on land.  Well how about the film "Shine"?  You remember that one?  About the Australian pianist who could perform before crowds but not tie his own shoes?  Well, never mind. Truth, as Don Teague reports from London , is far stranger than fiction — even in the dysfunctional concert pianist department.

Hall of fame: Animals — As you no doubt saw during the half-hour infomercial we bought on all the broadcast networks, and all radio stations, earlier today.  Place your bets now because our number one story all week with our tour of the Countdown Hall of Fame.  We've already shown you -- repeatedly -- the Apology wing.  Last night it was the Stupid Traditions Exhibit.  Tonight, Countdown's Hall of Fame visits the Animals Wing…But we always give you a little "added value"… Pigs!... Innnn!.... Caaaaaake!


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