updated 6/9/2005 2:36:26 PM ET 2005-06-09T18:36:26

Guest: Howard Fineman, Barry McCaffrey, Raghida Dergham

ALEX WITT, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

A late-breaking admission from the Pentagon tonight.  The details are released of Qu‘ran abuse at Gitmo, including details that a guard urinated through an air vent onto a detainee and his Qu‘ran.

The Jackson jury.  The superstar‘s fate is now in their hands.  We‘ll take you inside the courtroom for the final moments and ask if Jackson is healthy enough to handle the stress of the verdict waiting game.

The mystery in Aruba.  A high school senior trip gone horribly wrong.  Natalie Holloway has been missing four days, and now the boys she was last seen with are being called persons of interest in the case.

And calling in the recruits in the battlefields of love.  Some guys now hiring gals, not as escorts, but as fake friends, all in an elaborate ploy to make the girl they really want take notice.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening, everyone.  I‘m Alex Witt, in for Keith Olbermann.

It is take-out-the-trash night at the Pentagon, the Defense Department deep-sixing information it does not want covered by after 7:00 p.m. on a Friday.  Luckily for us, this newscast does not start until 8:00.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, remember those allegations of Qu‘ran abuse at Guantanamo Bay?  The Pentagon is confirming tonight that some of the more salacious details are true.

It turns out that prison guards at the detainee center employed a variety of creative means to desecrate the Qu‘ran, including soaking them with water balloons, kicking them, stepping on them, scribbling obscenities inside them.  And while none of the incidents involved actual toilets, one prison guard, it is confirmed, used his own urine, splashing a copy of a Qu‘ran and a detainee.  For that you don‘t really need a toilet, do you?

The investigation that uncovered these details was triggered by the “Newsweek” magazine report that was retracted, amid much political pressure from the White House, among others.

And here to help us gauge the political fallout, “Newsweek” chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman, also an analyst for MSNBC.

Howard, welcome.  We‘re glad you joined us on the phone this evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE (on

phone):  Glad to do it, Alex.

WITT:  Do your colleagues, Howard, feel absolved by this disclosure tonight?  Do you think it, you know, almost does not seem to matter that there was not an actual toilet once urine is involved?

FINEMAN:  Well, we‘re getting, we‘re getting close here.  What we ended up standing down from was the notion that a specific incident of that kind, the toilet being (INAUDIBLE), the Qu‘ran being flushed down the toilet, had been confirmed by federal investigators, and would be in a report about Gitmo.  That is what we retracted.  And we‘re getting awfully close now, it seems, the Pentagon is, to putting back into place what it is we stood down on a couple weeks ago.

WITT:  So big picture here, Howard, does this even matter, really, at this point?  Do you think most people are going to only remember the retraction?

FINEMAN:  No, I don‘t think so.  I think while we said that we couldn‘t, because our source had changed his story, we couldn‘t stand by that specific aspect of the report, of our report.  We did say that we and other news organizations were going to continue looking into the whole question of how prisoners and their rights were being handled in places like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and so forth, that this was a big topic that we and the rest of the media worldwide were going to continue to look at.

And we are.  And I would say that the people under scrutiny right now, even though, as you pointed out, it is, you know, an 8:00 on a Friday night, after the usual news cycles of the week, the people under scrutiny right now are the Pentagon.  They came at us very hard on May 12, really came at “Newsweek” very hard and said, Look, there is no—and I think Lawrence DiRita, the Pentagon spokesman, said there was no credible allegation of Qu‘ran desecration of the kind that we said was going to be confirmed in the report.

Now the Pentagon has pretty much confirmed everything right up to the edge, literally to the edge of the latrine, if you will.  And I think it‘s their credibility that‘s now in question.

WITT:  And Howard, how much pressure the did White House put on “Newsweek” to make that retraction, if at all?

FINEMAN:  Well, they didn‘t put any pressure on, other than to angrily deny that the specific point we were making about federal investigators confirming this incident, and that it would be in the report, they took issue with that.  And when we went back to our source, that source was unsure, as unsure as he had been initially, of exactly where he‘d read that information.

So we had no choice, knowing what we learned, to retract that specific thing.

But all the rest of it, we were going to continue to work on, that we didn‘t retract, indeed, all the journalists around the world continuing to look at.  And I think the pressure is really on the Pentagon now.  We, you know, we weren‘t pressured other than to have our report challenged.  And when we couldn‘t back it up 100 percent, and that‘s the standard here, we had no choice but to retract.

I think we were being very careful, and I think the Pentagon needs to look at its own internal reporting sources now.

WITT:  And Howard, give me a sense of the tenor inside of “Newsweek” magazine in the wake of the retraction.  And what do you do now with this story?

FINEMAN:  Well, as I said, and as we said at the time, we will continue to look at it.  We will be as careful as we possibly can.  We sort of, you know, tightened the nuts and bolts of our procedural machinery a little bit.

But we aren‘t dissuaded from saying that these are important matters that need to be looked into.  And we‘re going to continue.  We‘re just going to continue to do it.

WITT:  Do you think any folks are breathing a sigh of relief there at “Newsweek”?

FINEMAN:  No.  I think it‘s a big, tense story that we need to continue to be on, and we need to be extremely careful about every step of the way, whatever happens over at the Pentagon.

WITT:  All right.  “Newsweek” chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman.  Always a pleasure to speak with you.  Thanks for joining us here on COUNTDOWN tonight (INAUDIBLE) breaking story.

FINEMAN:  Glad to do it, Alex.

WITT:  Appreciate it.

FINEMAN:  Bye.

WITT:  Well, for more now on the military angle of all of this, we‘re joined by retired four-star general Barry McCaffrey, now an MSNBC military analyst.

Good evening to you, General.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Hey, hi, Alex.

WITT:  Let‘s talk about this.  Pentagon officials have insisted all along that any incidents of desecration, what they referred to as “mishandling,” I put in quotes, were all relatively minor.  So do the details that we just described at the top of this hour, urine, water balloons, obscenities, how do those sound to you?  How do you categorize them?  Are they minor?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I think in the, you know, enormously inflamed and volatile situation throughout much of the Islamic world, no, they‘ll be used, exploited by decent Muslims, as well as the terrorist community.

Having said that, Alex, there‘s a bit of me that says this is sort of small potatoes.  You know, if we looked at Riker‘s Island over the last five years, I‘m sure they‘d have several incidents of misbehavior.

The bigger issue, by far, in my view, is, we had improper, probably illegal policies coming out of Secretary Rumsfeld, Steve Cambone, and others.  And so for the first year of this war on terror, I think there were widespread abuses by overwhelmed reserve units and some active units, intelligence, military police, et cetera.

That‘s the bigger problem.  We may have killed as much as, you know, 30-some-odd people under investigation for murder, and another 300 incidences of abuse of detainees.  That‘s the bigger problem.

WITT:  General, let‘s look at the timing of the release of this information from the Pentagon.  It is 7:15 p.m. when it is received—released, precisely, on a Friday night.  What do you think the military does now, sir, if this Friday document dump does not work, and this really gains some traction as a story?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, you know, the SouthCom commander, General John Craddock‘s a superb, balanced officer of great integrity.  I think they looked into it honestly.  I think we‘re hearing what‘s actually going on.  I do believe now, Alex, the place is absolutely cleaned up.  These policy misjudgments have been put behind us.

But this is spin control out of Secretary Rumsfeld and his people.  It‘s outrageous.  They need to face up to this, get transparent, get it behind us, and get on with the confronting the larger issues that menace the American people.

WITT:  General, you say this spin control is outrageous.  Sir, what do you think should be done?  Should somebody be held accountable?  And if so, who?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I think, you know, again, that‘s the job of the free media, it‘s the job of the Congress to try and buttress this kind of thing.  I‘m more interested, though, to be honest, Alex, again, the policy misjudgments that let us end up in a system where we—I think we were—there was widespread abuse of detainees under our control, I think largely, that‘s been corrected.

But I think we need to look at, you know, who gave those instructions?  And were they vetted, by who?  And who should be held accountable inside the civilian leadership of the Pentagon?  That‘s my concern.

WITT:  All right.  General Barry McCaffrey, if it‘s your concern, it‘s our concern as well, sir.  Thank you very much for your time with us on COUNTDOWN this evening.

MCCAFFREY:  Good to be with you.

WITT:  Of course, the other big question looming over this story is, how will these new details play out in the Arab world?

Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent for “Al Hayat,” also an MSNBC analyst, joins us right now.

Welcome to you, Raghida.  Nice to see you.

RAGHIDA DERGHAM, SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, “AL HAYAT”:  Thank you, Alex.

WITT:  As you know, there was violence, extreme violence in the wake of “Newsweek”‘s initial report, all these protests that had already been planned, but the report was said to play a factor in it.  Is there likely more violence to come now, as a result of this disclosure?

DERGHAM:  There will be demonstrations throughout the Muslim world, because their feeling would be, I told you so.  We knew it all along, that the pressure was on “Newsweek” to retract, whereas these practices have gone on.

I think what will avoid a spell of violence is the Pentagon coming clean big, if you will.  I think General McCaffrey is absolutely right.  The problem is with the policies.  There has been this ad hoc policies in the name of counterterrorism.  Everything is permitted.

But I think they need to really open up the investigations that they had before, come clean, share the investigations‘ results openly and publicly.  And I believe that it‘s about time to put the Guantanamo base and other prisons under the international laws, rather than, here we go, we just don‘t need that (INAUDIBLE) because we can do it in our own way.

I think it is very important right now to come out clearly with an apology, accountability, punishment for those who have done these terrible things, and accountability at the level of the civilian leadership in the Pentagon.

WITT:  Raghida, though, do you think this will appease the zealots out there in the Arab world, coming clean, as you say, with full disclosure?

DERGHAM:  I think, no, I think it‘s very important to undermine those who want to go—to use this to their advantage for their own political power struggle and political aim, so that they could incite people.  But in order to win against those who want to simply incite people for their own needs, for their own, you know, agendas, I think it‘s important for the Pentagon to come clean big.

WITT:  All right.  Our MSNBC analyst Raghida Dergham, thank you very much.  We appreciate your time with us on COUNTDOWN tonight.

DERGHAM:  Thank you, Alex.

WITT:  For those of you just joining us, a quick racap, that being the Pentagon about, oh, less than an hour ago released an admission that indeed there had been some desecration of the Qu‘ran, this inside of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  This was something that had been reported by “Newsweek” magazine.  They are admitting now that there were some desecrations, most notably, and perhaps most obscenely, that there was one particular guard who apparently had urinated inside of an air vent.  That move landed onto a guard, a detainee as well as one of the Qu‘rans.

Deliberation day now coming up in Santa Maria.  The jury finally gets to start deciding Michael Jackson‘s fate.

And day four in the search for Natalie Holloway.  The Alabama teen disappeared the last day of her senior trip in Aruba.  The popular island nation is now scrambling to find any clues to crack this case.

This is COUNTDOWN here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WITT:  A year and a half ago, he was a cashier who liked to watch “The Simpsons.”  She was teaching a classroom full of high school students.  And today, they are much more than that.  They are official members of the Jackson 12.

Our number four story tonight, day 564 of the Michael Jackson investigations.  His case, and his life, now in the hands of the jury.

Fourteen weeks of testimony, more than 130 witnesses, and over 600 pieces of evidence, weighing not only on the minds of those eight women and four men who will decide his fate, but also, no doubt, on that of the defendant himself.

Jackson arriving to court this morning with his family.  His attorney, Tom Mesereau, met them inside that courthouse, Mesereau concluding his closing arguments today, telling the jury that they were the only thing standing between the accuser‘s family and the huge payday they had been working toward.

Jackson‘s lead defense attorney directly attacked the testimony of the pop star‘s teenaged accuser, pointing out numerous inconsistencies.  He compared the family to sharks, saying, quote, “They‘ve been swimming around lawyers and swimming around false claims for years.”

Unsurprisingly, there was invective enough for both sides, senior deputy district attorney Ron Zonen, using the very same eccentricities the defense had used to bolster their argument and their client, this to knock Jackson down.  Zonen portrayed the entertainer as a serial pedophile, an alcoholic who fell in love with young boys and became their constant companion.

But the last word belonged to that of Jackson‘s accuser, Zonen once again playing a small excerpt of the boy‘s original interview with Santa Barbara authorities, where he first alleged abuse.

Our eyes inside the courtroom in Santa Maria today were those of legal analyst and “Inside Edition” senior correspondent Jim Moret.

Jim, good evening to you.  Welcome.

JIM MORET, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Thanks, Alex.  How are you?

WITT:  I‘m well, thanks.  I hope you are too.

Let‘s get to the story.  Mesereau began his closing argument today.  Many people thought it was not as good as he was capable of.  Then today he was quite emotional.  Do you think he hit it out of the park?

MORET:  I did at the beginning.  I thought he came out of the box powerful, focused, and very passionate.  He was talking so rapidly, it was frankly difficult to keep up, just taking the notes.  But he had the jurors captivated.

I‘ll tell you what was interesting.  His choice at the very end of his closing argument, he decided to replay a portion of these outtakes of the Bashir documentary, the “Living with Michael Jackson.”

And I think the point of it was to show that Michael Jackson sees the world differently from all of us.  And frankly, that‘s been one of the themes of the defense case, that, yes, Michael Jackson admits that he sleeps in the same bed with young boys, but it‘s not sexual, and it‘s not criminal.  He just sees the world differently.

And frankly, it was rather jarring to see it again.  I don‘t know how it played with the jury.  I think it was a rather risky proposition.  But overall, (INAUDIBLE) I think Tom Mesereau did an excellent job on the closing argument.

WITT:  You know, Jim, all along, another one of the main thrusts of the defense‘s argument has been that this is a family of grifters, those accusing him.  And today Mesereau really went after the accuser in a very direct way.  Got to keep in mind, this kid is a cancer survivor.  Do you think that was a huge risk?

MORET:  No, I think he had no choice, frankly.  You have to remember that there are several counts.  There‘s 10 counts in the indictment.  One is conspiracy.  That falls on the mom‘s shoulders, because she‘s the primary person making who‘s these allegations.  She‘s been vilified throughout the trial.

But with respect to the allegations of molestation, they all fall pretty much squarely on the shoulders of this now 15-year-old boy.  And as you say, he‘s a cancer survivor.  But he almost has to be vilified in the sense that his credibility has to be brought into focus.  And what Tom Mesereau has said is, This is a family of con artists, of actors and liars, and that mother-son team had basically set up various people in the past, and that the stakes kept getting higher and higher.

I don‘t think Tom Mesereau really had any choice but to go squarely after this young accuser.

WITT:  Jim, another part of the defense‘s cases here, you touched a bit on it, that Jackson himself is someone who sees the world differently.  He‘s very eccentric, so strange that he couldn‘t possibly be capable of this.  But then that cut both ways once Ron Zonen began his rebuttal.  Who do you think it worked best for?

MORET:  Well, frankly, I thought Ron Zonen was very powerful as well.  And he appealed to one thing all of the jurors seem to have, and that‘s common sense.  You go into that courtroom with common sense, wit your world experience.  And he said something very simple.  He said, How normal do you think it is for a 35-year-old man, a 45-year-old man, to sleep with 12-year-olds on a regular basis?  You‘ve never heard of it before.  You‘ll never hear of it again, because it‘s not normal.  It‘s wrong.

And he was appealing to our basic values, that something is wrong here.  There‘s been a parade of young boys have come in who‘ve basically admitted to sleeping with Michael Jackson, whether they claim any molestation or not.  And we also heard from a former accuser of Michael Jackson, who said Michael Jackson molested him.

And with all of that evidence, I think that you have an overwhelming sense that something is wrong with this picture.  And that‘s how Ron Zonen ended, on a picture, six-and-a-half-minute tape of an excerpt of that young boy talking to police investigators for the very first time, when he recounted the allegations of molestation.  And that was very powerful.

WITT:  And how do you think Michael Jackson himself is holding up through all this?  Because he certainly appears frail.  We know he visited the hospital again last night.

MORET:  Last night, he visited the hospital.  One of his advisers, a close friend of his family, Dick Gregory, a social activist and former comedian, had said to him that he looked like he was dehydrated and suggested that he go to Cottage Hospital, the same hospital he went to when he had the back problem.  And we were told that he was there for about a half an hour and received IV fluids.

And he appeared to be frail-looking today, to be quite honest with you.  You can see this picture of him here on the screen.

We‘ve watched Michael Jackson over the past three and a half months.  He seems to be getting thinner and thinner and weaker and weaker.  And if you think back to that videotape of the Martin Bashir “Living with Michael Jackson” documentary shot just a couple of years ago, he looks like a very different person.  He‘s lost at least 20 pounds since then.

So how he‘s holding up, I think it‘s anyone‘s guess.  But it‘s clear (INAUDIBLE) it‘s clear to see that this has really taken its toll on him.

WITT:  All right, Jim Moret, legal analyst and senior correspondent with “Inside Edition,” thanks so much for your insight on this.  We appreciate it.

MORET:  Thanks for having me.

WITT:  Well, no shortage of recruiting in this strange new sport.  Pork ball, anyone?  Yes, pork ball with Tabasco sauce, mmm.  Oddball‘s ahead.

And just when you thought the runaway bride story was (INAUDIBLE) behind us, one more update that we just couldn‘t pass up.  You‘ve heard the 911 call to police.  Now hear the first call Wilbanks made to her jilted fiance.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WITT:  I‘m Alex Witt, holding down the fort for Keith Olbermann this Friday evening.

And it‘s time to pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news for a brief segment of the day‘s for-real news, you know, like, for real.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Moscow, where the Russians appear to have figured out a way to make the game of soccer interesting.  They make pigs play it.  It‘s pork ball.  There‘s no scoring in this game, the pigs just kind of push the ball around.  Hey, you know, just like real soccer.

But it‘s good for gambling, I guess.  The winning team in this match moves on to the city championships.  The losers go home to roll around in their own filth.

To London, where earlier this week we told you about how Big Ben, the famous clock, mysteriously stopped for 90 minutes.  Well, they got it running again.  And three days later, the Tower Bridge got stuck.  What is going on in London?  Don‘t get in any elevators, mateys.  The bridge got stuck in the open position today, causing major traffic jams across the city.

Now, officials think the bridge should be fixed by morning, but encouraged drivers of really fast cars to go ahead and try and make it.

Finally, at a court in Madeira, California, a neighborhood so rich even the horses have their own pools.  Marco, Polo.  Actually, that‘s steed, named Zen, wandered into this yard and fell into the pool.  The cover was on.  He thought he could walk on it and did an accidental triple Indy into the shallow end.  Firefighters were able to get the horse out of the water no worse for the wear.  But Zen did leave a little something special behind for the pool guy.

Oh, man, the vacation getaway island of Aruba embroiled in a big mystery now.  An American teen disappears, and now authorities are scrambling to find out what happened to Natalie Holloway.  We‘re going to talk about the persons of interest being questioned in this case.

And what‘s going on with comedian Dave Chapelle?  There‘s been another sighting, and it‘s a lot closer to home than that retreat in South Africa.  Is he about to return to his show?

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, every runner who finished this week‘s Chicago Lake Shore Marathon, every single one of them, set a personal record, because somebody screwed up and made the finish line one mile too far down the course, 27.2 miles.

Number two, Greg Lundy of Knoxville, Tennessee.  He‘s a private investigator who was hired by the city to visit its strip club to make sure there wasn‘t anything illegal going on.  According to an affidavit, he was paid $100 an hour for his time and spent $300 on lap dances.  Ooh, those taxpayers are thrilled.

And number one, Derrick Sundquist of Orem, Utah.  Police say he thought he was having a heart attack.  So he jumped into his car, and he rushed to the hospital at full speed.  Along the way, he smashed into a fence, he knocked over a light pole, then finally crashed into the side of the hospital.

Now, doctors there said Sundquist was not having a heart attack.  He was drunk.  He‘s been arrested on a whole variety of charges.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WITT:  Send your child on a high school trip to an island paradise, and the worst thing most parents would worry about is sunburn.  But the parents of Natalee Holloway are facing their worst nightmare tonight.  In Aruba, a their 18-year-old daughter has simply disappeared.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the search for Natalee.  Three guys held for questioning in the case are now officially being called persons of interest.  But four days after she was last seen, there is still no sign of Natalee.  Kerry Sanders has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Dutch marines on the Caribbean island of Aruba have now joined police in their search for 18-year-old Natalee Holloway.  She disappeared Monday as she left an island nightclub with a man police believe she befriended there.  Laurie Maheer (ph) is the local NBC affiliate reporter on the island.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The teenager was last seen leaving this establishment on Monday morning at 1:30.

SANDERS:  Nicknamed Hooty (ph), Natalee went to Aruba on a senior trip with more than 125 other students from her high school.  Her parents flew there and are now appealing for help on island TV.

ROBIN HOLLOWAY, MOTHER OF MISSING GIRL:  She‘s approximately 5-5.  She weighs about 110 pounds.  She has blue eyes, and she‘s very petite.

SANDERS:  Despite those pleas, the lead detective says there are absolutely no clues.

JAN VAN DER STRATEN, ARUBA POLICE COMMISSIONER:  You know Aruba is a friendly isle, but it‘s a safe island, too.  And we can‘t accept that this happens in a crime form.  So we are hopeful that the girl is somewhere still alive.

SANDERS (on camera):  Government authorities and police on Aruba are taking this extremely seriously not only because there might be a crime here but because it could directly impact the economy of their island: tourism.

(voice-over):  The FBI has also dispatched a team to Aruba to help in the search.

CARMEN ADAMS, FBI:  Any time a child is missing, I‘m certain that‘s the parents‘ worst nightmare.  The longer they‘re gone, the more difficult it becomes for their family.  But I don‘t think you should give up hope.  I mean, you know, don‘t give up hope.

SANDERS:  This Caribbean island is about the size of Wichita, Kansas.  It‘s more than 1,800 miles from the United States.  Back in Natalee‘s Alabama home town, classmates who went on the senior trip are now holding prayer vigils.

MALLROY SYLVESTER, FRIEND OF MISSING GIRL:  I can‘t believe something like that would happen because we all went down there, I mean, to have fun.  And then, like, the next day, we come back, we‘re, like—we‘re about to leave and we can‘t find her.  And it‘s just—it‘s very shocking.

SANDERS:  Prayers and hope that the girl they call Hooty will turn up, no matter what the story of why she disappeared.  Kerry Sanders, NBC News, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WITT:  And for more on the search, we are joined now by former FBI profiler Candice DeLong.  Candice, good evening.  Thanks for being here.

CANDICE DELONG, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  You‘re welcome, Alex.

WITT:  These three guys are now being called persons of interest.

Does this development raise the possibility of foul play?

DELONG:  I think it does.  There‘s a few things about this particular report, the three men, that concern me deeply.  Several witnesses apparently saw her leave with them.  And they have apparently admitted to the police, yes, they were with her and they brought her back.  But there‘s no evidence that she ever made it back to the hotel or was in the hotel.  So I‘m deeply concerned about her safety regarding them.  They apparently were the last people to see her alive.  They were strangers to her.  They were local people.  They knew the island.  It‘s troubling.

WITT:  Do you think, though, there‘s a chance this could be another runaway bride kind of situation?  I mean, granted, she‘s not a bride, but could Natalee be running away, do you think?

DELONG:  You can‘t help but think about it after the recent events out of Atlanta.  And a couple of things occurred to me.  Number one, we‘re dealing with a fairly small island here.  There‘s only two ways to get off of it, by airplane.  One would think, if that were the case, it would have been reported.  Some pilot would know that his cargo, this young woman, is now the subject of an international investigation.  The other way, of course, being by boat.  Either of those things would have probably taken a lot of money on her part, and there‘s no indication—no one has certainly come forward and said, Hey, you know, she asked me to take her here, she asked me to take her there.  So I‘m tending to rule that out.

The person I would want to talk to most, if I was involved in this investigation, is her best friend.

WITT:  All right.  To try and get what kind of information?

DELONG:  Well, most women, and especially teenage girls, have somebody that they confide much of their life, if not every detail to.  I would want to know everything about her.  How did she normally respond around members of the opposite sex that she knew that she just met?  Was she a trusting individual?  We know she‘s bright, but that doesn‘t necessarily mean she had a lot of common sense.  I don‘t know if she did or not.  But going off with three people that you don‘t know well, and you‘re a woman alone...

WITT:  You‘re looking to see if there‘s any kind of pattern or history of this...

(CROSSTALK)

DELONG:  Yes, and I‘m looking—right.

WITT:  Now, Candice, also, does it hurt at all that this search is taking place in another country?  This is about 1,800 miles from U.S.  shores.  Does that make it more difficult?

DELONG:  Well, the fact that it is an island means the search is going to be finite.  That‘s the good news.  The bad news is...

WITT:  But in terms of working with authorities.

DELONG:  Right.  Working with authorities.  No, that‘s not really a problem.  The FBI has offices all over the world, and they have an office in the Virgin Islands.  They‘ve dispatched agents to Aruba.  They‘re used to working with foreign officials.  So in that regard, that‘s a good thing.

WITT:  What about Aruba itself, that island?  Does it have any of the concerns as a dangerous place, as we know some other Caribbean islands have had, certainly, in the past?

WITT:  Not that I‘ve heard of.  But Alex, any place can be dangerous.  Beverly Hills can be dangerous, the Upper East Side of New York.  People are people wherever they go, and young people need to be careful not to put themselves in harm‘s way.

WITT:  Very sage advice.  Point well taken.  Former FBI profiler Candice DeLong, thank you so much for your time tonight.  Appreciate it.

DELONG:  You‘re welcome.

WITT:  Meantime, back here, police are investigating an alleged kidnapping in Hollywood that sounds more like a movie thriller than real life.  No one reported a crime.  No one reported a missing person.  No one even suspected that anything had actually happened at the Chateau apartments last Thursday until security managers happened to review the surveillance tape and saw this: a man standing outside the door, making a call on his cell phone.  One minute later, a woman comes out.  They struggle.  He pushes her down the stairs.  Other witnesses have now come forward saying they saw the same woman struggling to get out of the man‘s car.  They eventually drove off, but without a victim name or a suspect, police are now turning to the public to try and identify either of them.

And speaking of strange cases involving missing women, authorities have released the first phone call made by Jennifer Wilbanks when she finally stopped running from her own wedding.  While she was still technically missing, her fiance‘s family asked police to put a recording device on their home phone just in case they got a ransom call from a possible kidnapper.  Well, instead, it recorded for all posterity Ms.  Wilbanks phoning her fiance, John Mason, and telling him some whopping fibs about how she ended up in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOHN MASON, FIANCE:  Jenny, where are you?

JENNIFER WILBANKS:  I don‘t know.

MASON:  Oh, my God.  Where...

WILBANKS:  I don‘t know where I am.

MASON:  Are you OK?

WILBANKS:  Yes.

MASON:  All right, sweetie.  Are you alone?

WILBANKS:  Yes.

MASON:  Are you hurting?

WILBANKS:  No.

MASON:  Are you hurting?

WILBANKS:  No, I‘m OK.

MASON:  Did somebody take you?

WILBANKS:  I don‘t know where I am.

MASON:  No, I know that.  But did somebody pick you up?

WILBANKS:  Yes (INAUDIBLE)

MASON:  I know.  We‘re just trying to figure out how to get to you, baby.  Are you sure you‘re not in Duluth?

WILBANKS:  No, I‘m not in Duluth.

MASON:  Are you in Georgia?

WILBANKS:  I don‘t know.

MASON:  OK.  It‘s OK, sweetie.  We‘re just trying to figure out how to come find you.

WILBANKS:  They cut my hair

MASON:  They cut your hair?

WILBANKS:  Yes.

MASON:  And that‘s all they did to you?  Well, that‘s great.

WILBANKS:  It was a man and a woman.

MASON:  It was a man and a...

WILBANKS:  It was a Hispanic man, a Caucasian woman.

MASON:  What?

WILBANKS:  It was a Hispanic man and a Caucasian woman.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WITT:  By the way, those two are still planning to marry.  Yes.  No date yet.

Not as scary as the whites of Ms. Wilbanks‘s eyes, but still pretty horrifying, we celebrate 30 years since that fake great white shark scared millions of us out of the ocean.  And scared of the singles scene?  Maybe it‘s time to hire a female friend to help steer you in the right direction.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WITT:  The poster said, “See it before you go swimming.”  Of course, a lot of us wish we‘d done the exact opposite and enjoyed one last dip—worry-free dip, that is—in the ocean before suffering from three decades of a shark-induced phobia.  Our second story on the COUNTDOWN:  “Jaws.”  Yes, this month marks the 30-year anniversary of the giant man-eating shark epic, and for some, that is a cause for celebration.  The movie was filmed entirely on Martha‘s Vineyard, where we find our own Alison Stewart enjoying the festivities.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALISON STEWART, MSNBC:  Greetings from Martha‘s Vineyard.  You might recognize the bridge from over my shoulder if you‘re a fan of the movie “Jaws.”  That‘s where you saw the shark go underneath and go after that little boy in the pond, just one of the many things that could scare the swim trunks off you after seeing the movie, “Jaws.”  Considered to be the first major summer mega-blockbuster movie, it broke $100 million, first movie to ever do that, and launched the career have a young man named Steven Spielberg.

The movie was filmed entirely here on Martha‘s Vineyard.  So this is why, 30 years later, they are celebrating “Jaws” Fest here, turning this island back on to Amity Island, as it was called in the movie, local businesses changing their names, the local paper also becoming “The Amity Gazette,” rather than “The Vineyard Gazette.”  Also, on the island this weekend, cast and crew, Peter Benchley, who wrote the screenplay, as well as the book it‘s based on.

And also on the island, a lot of artifacts and memorabilia from the movie, that buoy that young swimmer clutched to in that first scene, as well as a replica of that 26-foot great white shark called Bruce by the cast and crew.  That was actually the nickname of the shark because it was Spielberg‘s lawyer‘s name.  It‘s going to be going on all weekend, including a live screening of the film down on the beach, music and all, complete with that dunna-dunna that made us all so afraid to go back in the water.  And back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WITT:  It is an easy segue tonight into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  And Comedy Central‘s funny man may be working his way back home.  Dave Chappelle made surprise appearances at two Los Angeles comedy clubs last night, saying he had just arrived in LA and felt like performing.  All this according to “Daily Variety.”  Chappelle high-tailed it to South Africa last month just as Comedy Central postponed the premiere of the third season of Chappelle‘s show.  But Chappelle denied that he had checked into a mental health facility or drug rehab, describing his waylay as more of a spiritual retreat brought on because he wasn‘t happy with the direction of the show.  A Comedy Central rep says they‘ll be sitting down with Chappelle, quote, “really, really soon.”

And Cameron Diaz is really, really mad over a story in a tabloid magazine that says she was stepping out, so to speak.  The actress is suing “The National Enquirer” for 10 million bucks, alleging that the celebrity rag libeled her in its May 23rd issue.  The headline, “Cameron caught cheating.”  “The Enquirer” claimed Diaz was cheating on boyfriend Justin Timberlake with Shane Nickerson (ph), an MTV producer on her reality show, “Trippin‘.”  Diaz‘s lawsuit essentially said, You must be trippin‘ because all we were doing was giving each other a good-bye hug after work.  There was no kissing or making out.

Really?  Not either one of those things?  No trippin‘.

And Mike Tyson may be flipping out if a new ordinance in Phoenix, Arizona, is passed.  It would set a limit on how many pigeons a person can have as pets.  The upper limit would be 40.  And how many feathered friends does Iron Mike have?  Three hundred and fifty.  Not these pigeons exactly, but you get the idea.  You didn‘t know Tyson had pigeons?  Well, neither did fellow pigeon owner John Sanford until he decided to fight the proposed limit and discovered the once feared fighter‘s gentler side.  But Sanford‘s pigeon posse number‘s only 41.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re a little dirty, but compared to, say, a duck or a goose, they‘re very clean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WITT:  Well, the former champ could not be reached for comment, and his little rat (ph) birds had nothing to say, either, so get lost.

Trouble meeting women?  Can‘t start conversations with strangers?  Have no fear, lonely bachelor.   It‘s wing women to the rescue.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WITT:  Nightclubs and chat rooms, elevators and water coolers, tailgate parties and book stores, weddings and funerals.  What do they have in common?  They‘re all places you might meet someone, if you‘re single and looking.  Of course, there‘s also on-line dating, speed dating and looking for love in all the wrong places.

But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, what if you need a different kind of help.  Men, picture this.  You‘re alone.  She‘s there.  What do you say?  How do you say it?  How do you avoid looking like a creep?  And why is the 21st century so very complicated?  Well, we may not have answers for all of that, but COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny has the story of one new approach.  Monica, good evening.

MONICA NOVOTNY, COUNTDOWN:  Hi there, Alex.

You might remember the term, “wing man” from the 1986 Tom Cruise movie, “Top Gun.”  Well, in the dating world, a guy‘s wing man is his friend, a buddy, another guy who helps him look good in front of potential dates when they‘re out looking for the ladies.  But now there may be a better option, a wing woman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANIKA ALTMAN, WING WOMAN:  I‘ve convinced a lot of girls I went to high school with.  That‘s for sure.

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  She may stretch the truth, but she‘ll probably get you a date because that‘s her job.  Gentlemen, meet the wing woman.

ALTMAN:  If a girl sees a guy with another guy, they‘re immediately, like, Oh, they‘re out to pick up chicks.  But a guy with a girl is totally, like, this guy‘s cool because the girl‘s cool, so there‘s got to be something good about him.

NOVOTNY:  Yes, this is actually a business, the theory that women are more likely to respond to a man with a female friend, the wing woman, who breaks the ice, makes nice and then introduces him.  Founder Shane Forbes (ph) charges $50 an hour for the service, and though he can‘t guarantee you‘ll get a date...

SHANE FORBES, FOUNDER, WING WOMEN:  Anyone who the client wants to meet, the women will introduce them to them.  And we also guarantee that every guy (INAUDIBLE) going to have a great time.

NOVOTNY:  So we found our own volunteer to test it out with a hidden camera in his shirt, Brian, 24, single, successful and thus, by definition, always on the lookout.

ALTMAN:  So I guess right now, we‘ll just find out what kind of girls you‘re into.

NOVOTNY:  After getting to know her client, the wing woman takes aim.

ALTMAN:  (INAUDIBLE) my friend, Brian.  And we thought that we know from you somewhere.  I don‘t know.  My name is Anika.  You look so familiar to me.

NOVOTNY:  Success.  But why stop at one?

ALTMAN:  Let‘s go over there and order another beer, and I‘m going tell her I like the color of her shirt.  And you guys work together?

NOVOTNY:  Seems to be working, but how do the women feel?  After we told them they‘d been taped, they agreed to take part and weigh in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s a little bit pathetic that you have to go to these lengths to possibly meet a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He came across as, like, a really nice guy (INAUDIBLE) kind of—I don‘t know.  I was more interested in him because he was with a girl.

NOVOTNY (on camera):  So just how popular are the wing women?  Well, right now, they say they‘re expanding in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas and Miami.  But if you want to give it a shot, there is one risk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They seemed to be together.  I mean, that is—honestly, I didn‘t feel there was an opening.

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  But for our single guy...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It forces you to kind of be proactive about it, and you‘re out there, and before you know it, you‘ve met six women.  And I don‘t know.  All I can say is it was a good time.

NOVOTNY:  Mission complete, though a wing woman‘s work is never done.

ALTMAN:  I‘m, like, scoping out girls now all the time, you know? 

I‘ll be out on a date (INAUDIBLE) She‘s cute.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOVOTNY:  The business owner, Shane Forbes, says he‘s paying the wing women $20 to $30 an hour for their match-making services.  And he says he has far more applicants for the job than he needs.  Also, we should say thanks to our volunteer tester, Brian.  The wing women evaluated him, as well, and said that he didn‘t need her help at all, of course.

WITT:  Now, do these wing women—do they get free drinks?

NOVOTNY:  That‘s—you know, that‘s not part of the deal.  They just pay the flat fee, $50 an hour.  It‘s a three-hour minimum.  But there‘s no tipping, and they don‘t have to buy them drinks.  But they say, you know, it might help.  You know, she might be a little more helpful.  But their job is to introduce the women, so—not bad.

WITT:  Ahead of the curve, as always.  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, thank you so much.

NOVOTNY:  Thanks.

WITT:  And now to our top five favorite stories of the week.  And as always, when we say “favorite,” we mean dumbest.  Honorable mention this week goes to Gypsy, the orangutan in Tokyo‘s Tama (ph) Zoo who‘s been taught to clean her own cage.  She doesn‘t mind, though.  Next up, planting an herb garden and building her own home theater.

But that‘s not bad.  Here is Keith with COUNTDOWN‘s five favorites.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, COUNTDOWN HOST (voice-over):  Number five, Kaufman (ph) baseball stadium in Kansas City, the Royals getting set to take on the New York Yankees just as soon as this guy plays through.  It‘s PGA pro David Ogren (ph) going for the record of most golf balls struck in one minute.  And he got it, 77 balls in 60 seconds.  I thought we were trying to keep the steroids off of our baseball fields.

Number four: It takes more than style to be a great Mexican bullfighter.  The man in the funny suit is apprentice matador Luis Gaillardo (ph).  Ha-ha!  Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!  Wait a second.  Apprentice matador?  You‘re fired.  Nothing like a goring to humble a guy.  But at least his friends and colleagues there were to—look out, every man for himself!  Gaillardo will be OK.  The bull, not so much.

Number three: It was National Spelling Bee Week.  The winning word was app—appog—appoga-something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Apoggiatura.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What?

WITT:  All well and good for the winner, but I got the distinct feeling that some of these kids there were against their will.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD:  H-E-...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD:  ... L...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD:  ... P...

WITT:  Help me!

Number two, Miss Peru, Miss Frida Jimena Holer (ph).  That‘s her riding the horse at the fashion show.  Actually, she‘s the former Miss Peru, and she was formerly riding that horse at the fashion show.  Down goes Frida!  Down goes Frida!  I guess somebody thought that was a good idea.  I doubt it was the horse.

Number one is number one with a bullet.  The top song on the British pop charts this week, an annoying cell phone ring tone featuring a crazy frog and the theme from “Beverly Hills Cop.”  Number one song in Britain, a cell phone ring.  Then again, number two, not much better.  The bells, the bells!

I‘m Keith Olbermann, and that‘s the top five.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WITT:  And that brings this week of COUNTDOWN to a close.  Thanks so much for watching.  I‘m Alex Witt, in for Keith Olbermann.  He‘ll be back on Monday.  Have yourselves a great weekend.  Good night, and good luck.  And here we go!  Wish me 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.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,