updated 6/9/2005 2:37:21 PM ET 2005-06-09T18:37:21

Guest: Jim VandeHei, Rod Nordland, Chuck Montano, Tom O‘Neil, Jim Thomas, Rebecca Odes

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The president and the prime minister, together again, and not for the first time.  Planned topic, hunger in Africa.  Unplanned topics, Iraq and the Downing Street memo.

He was to become a whistleblower to testify to Congress about financial waste at the nuclear research lab at Los Alamos.  First came the severe beating in the parking lot of the local bar.

The lactivists versus Baba Wawa.  Why breast-feeding moms say the view on “The View” was all wet.

Where does Michael Jackson go if he get convicted?  Does he get to wear the armband?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No armband.  And I can assure you, there be no deputy sheriff carrying his umbrella.

OLBERMANN:  Answers, including to the question, what about the makeup?

And they sunk his battleship.  The Battle for American Values Caribbean Cruise with Bill O‘Reilly, canceled due to lack of interest.  (INAUDIBLE)!

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shut up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You had your 35 minutes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

June 7 may be the most undercelebrated anniversary in our history, the foremost holiday that never was.  It was June 7, and thus 229 years ago today, on which Richard Henry Lee stood up in the Continental Congress and introduced a resolution that proposed that the Colonies should declare their independence from England.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, odd that this would be the day England‘s prime minister would come here intending to push a joint bid to forgive African debt and to address global warming, but wind up joining President Bush in having to address instead the so-called Downing Street memo.

Of course, they are all Downing Street memos where he comes from.  If you have missed it, and many have, it was a set of leaked notes from a British cabinet meeting in July 2002 indicating the U.S. was already trying to make the crime fit the punishment, already finding excuses, it said, to go to the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:  No one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me.  And the fact is, we decided to go to the United Nations, and went through that process, which resulted in the November 2003 United Nations resolution to give a final chance to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law.  He didn‘t do so.  And that was the reason why we had to take military action.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Somebody said, Well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam.  There‘s nothing farther from the truth.  My conversations with the prime minister was, How could we do this peacefully?

Both of us didn‘t want to use our military.  Nobody wants to commit military into combat.  The last option.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  Further.  Jim VandeHei was at today‘s news conference.  He, of course, the “Washington Post” White House correspondent.  And he joins us now.

Good evening, Jim.

JIM VANDEHEI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This was the first time the president had addressed this Downing Street memo, and the answer had something of what the math people call a tautology to it.  Of course we didn‘t decide to go to war in July before we went to the U.N.  We didn‘t even go to the U.N. till November.  Will that answer wash in Washington?

VANDEHEI:  Right.  This is the first time that he‘s had to address this issue.  The more these two guys try to get away from the issue of Iraq, the more they have to deal with it.  And this issue of the Downing Street memo was a huge issue in England, and a big issue in the prime minister‘s reelection.

For some reason, it has not been a huge issue in the United States.  “The Washington Post” has written about it several times, but we‘ve not heard a lot about it.  And I think the big reason is, is that people have already made their decision on whether they feel like Bush manipulated information to go to war or did not.

OLBERMANN:  As inconsistent as the coverage of the story has been, did they put it back on the front page?  I mean, did not Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair and their people know that they risked being asked that question, and that at the minimum, that the question would obscure, could obscure the intended focus today on Africa?

VANDEHEI:  It‘s a risk they had to take.  They had to know what was coming.  This was a huge issue, like I said, in England, and it has been talked about a lot in the blogs here in the United States.  So they had to anticipate it coming.

You know, when you have these open press conferences, you have to deal with what‘s tossed at you.  And I think both of them brushed it aside and tried to focus the attention on African aid, which is what the meeting was really about today, this idea of contributing more money, the United States and all rich nations, to helping alleviate poverty and AIDS in Africa.

OLBERMANN:  Give me your sense.  Is the memo story played out?  Is it now alive?  Was it a slow starter, like the revised rescue of Jessica Lynch?  What are your instincts?

VANDEHEI:  It has the feeling of a dying story.  And I think the reason is, is that that most people have made their judgment.  Now, with that said, if more and more people continue to see Iraq as a disaster, and sort of draw those parallels with Vietnam, we have a new poll coming out tomorrow that shows the public really growing more and more frustrated with Iraq, I think people might be more willing to revisit that question about, Why did we go to war?  Was the president truthful about it?

But it does seem like most people in the States have rendered a verdict on that.

OLBERMANN:  Some of those poll numbers in a moment.  Lastly, about the marquee item here, the debt relief initiative for Africa, was that a payback for Tony Blair for his support of the U.S. in Iraq?

VANDEHEI:  I mean, everything in this relationship seems to be a payback.  I mean, ever since Tony Blair became a forceful advocate of going to war, every time he comes to the United States, it seems like he needs something from Bush, something to take home and say, Look, I‘m getting something out of this relationship.

I think he got half of what he wanted.  I mean, he wants a very ambitious plan and a very ambitious commitment from the United States, you know, up to $50 billion total from all countries by the year 2015.  And the president said, Listen, I can do $676 million on top of what we‘ve already committed.  And if you do look at all U.S. aid to Africa, including to AIDS, through the Millennium Fund and direct foreign assistance, the United States does give a lot of money.

And I think that‘s why you saw some frustration on the president‘s face in today‘s press conference, because he feels like we‘ve tripled aid.  And if you look at aid to Africa, compared to what Clinton did, there really is a tremendous amount more going now.

OLBERMANN:  One of his pet subjects.

Jim VandeHei, White House correspondent of “The Washington Post.” As always, sir, great thanks for your time.

VANDEHEI:  Take care.

OLBERMANN:  The insurgency in Iraq is not going anywhere, either as a fact or a story.  In a moment, we‘ll be joined by “Newsweek”‘s Rod Nordland, who is just back from a two-year tour of duty as that magazine‘s Baghdad bureau chief.  And we will go in depth on the new “Post” poll, which, among other things, indicates that now 52 percent of Americans say they believe the war has not contributed to long-term U.S. security.

As to Iraqi security, at least 24 lives claimed in today‘s violence, 18 of them in a string of four apparently coordinated bombings that spanned just seven minutes in northern Iraq, the first caused by a roadside bomb in Hawija (ph), 150 miles north of Baghdad, then three suicide bombers waiting in lines of cars at Iraqi army checkpoints, attacking in rapid succession.  Ten civilians and a soldier killed at a checkpoint two mile west of Kirkuk.

More than 870 people have died during the six-week period, still shy of six weeks, actually, since Iraq‘s new Shiite-led government was announced.

Now, as promised, “Newsweek”‘s correspondent at large, Rod Nordland, joins us now from London, just back from two years as the magazine‘s bureau chief in Baghdad.

Rod, thanks for your time.  Good morning to you there.

ROD NORDLAND, CORRESPONDENT AT LARGE, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:  Morning.

OLBERMANN:  First of all, did you believe, when you first got to Iraq, that things would still be this bad two years later?

NORDLAND:  No.  I expected it would be difficult at first, and more difficult than it was, actually, the invasion part of it, and that Iraqis, once Saddam was toppled, would very quickly kind of rally around and be, you know, extremely grateful, and we we‘d all live happily ever after.

Like a lot of people, it was a rude surprise just how badly things went.

OLBERMANN:  Was there a turning point?  Or was there a lack of a turning point, in your opinion?  When did things start to go this way?

NORDLAND:  The real turning point, I think, was April 2004, one year into the war, when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke out.  I think that really turned the majority of Iraqis against the Americans and against the occupation or the American presence there.

OLBERMANN:  Is there any going back on that?  Is there anything that would eradicate that memory from Iraq and facilitate their stabilization and our ability to get out of there?

NORDLAND:  Well, I don‘t think there‘s anything short of our finally leaving.  On the other hand, you know, even most anti-American Iraqis, at least the most thoughtful ones, would not want to see us leave precipitously.  And I think once we do leave, and that‘s going to be a long, long way down the road, they‘ll finally believe that our intentions are serious about that.

Most—it‘s very hard to persuade Iraqis that we don‘t want to stay there, that we‘re not there for the oil, and so forth.

OLBERMANN:  Relative to the perception of the intentions here in the U.S., this “Washington Post” poll that is out tonight, that has the most pessimistic results that have yet been recorded on four key issues.  I‘m just going to run them here and then get your overall reaction.

Over half of those surveyed, 52 percent, believing the fight in Iraq has not made the U.S. any safer long term.  Six in 10, nearly 58 percent, now say the war was not worth fighting.  That‘s a remarkable turnaround in two years.  Sixty-five percent believe we are getting “bogged down.”  That was the quote they were asked to respond to in Iraq.  And 73 percent, nearly three quarters, saying the number of American casualties there is unacceptable.

Do you find it hard to believe that those statistics have become what they have become in this two-year span?

NORDLAND:  Well, no, I think that those viewpoints expressed are actually pretty accurate.  I‘m surprised, really, that it took the American public that long, as long as it did, to get around to that point of view.  I think, you know, coming up to the election last, you know, the—last year, it was really clear that most Americans either weren‘t paying very much attention, or were really buying into the administration‘s argument that things were getting better all the time.

And I think now, you know, finally, they‘ve come around to realizing that they‘re not getting better, and they‘re not going to get better very soon.

OLBERMANN:  The idea of things getting better all the time, or at least wanting it to be that way, certainly, I don‘t know what, if the question was actually addressed in the “Post” poll, but you would presume that 100 percent of American would want to it work, would want that country to have its freedom, would want it to have its reconstruction, and would want to hear good news about what‘s happened there in our time there.

Is it your sense that just the reconstruction issue, just the physical infrastructure issue, has been a positive, or has been a negative?

NORDLAND:  Well, it‘s really been a hostage to the security situation.  They really can‘t accomplish a major reconstruction in the kind of security environment that exists now in Iraq.  And that‘s not the fault of the American government.  It‘s not for lack of intention or will or even money.  I mean, we‘ve been unable to spend the money that‘s been allocated at anywhere near the rate that we expected to be able to spend it.

But—and that‘s mainly because of the security situation.

OLBERMANN:  Bob Nordland, “Newsweek”‘s Baghdad bureau chief these past two years, and now correspondent at large.  Great thanks for your time, sir.

NORDLAND:  Pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  To North Korea, another country in the Bush-designated axis of evil, the only one we know for certain actually has weapons of mass destruction.  North Korea apparently now willing to reenter talks regarding its nuclear program.  Those talks, should they in fact happen, tentatively slated for next week in Beijing involving six nations,  North Korea and South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia, and Japan.

Of course, the North Koreans are very iffy on this, and go back and forth on the issue.  But if it happens, it would be the first time all the nations have gathered at the bargaining table since this time last year.

Also tonight, a whistleblower preparing to testify to Congress, beaten seriously, his jaw fractured, in New Mexico.  One of his fellow whistleblowers will join us.

And while the jury deliberates, we estimate what Michael Jackson would have to endure if he ends up going to jail.  No suits, no makeup, no nose.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Even in these days of superheated politics and business, we still think of the risks of whistleblowers as being confined to those of finance and career, those who have told on big tobacco, those who have claimed they were telling on presidential administrations.

But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, every once in a while, there is a Karen Silkwood, a worker at an Oklahoma plutonium plant, herself contaminated, gathering evidence of safety violations for her union, and then suddenly dead in an inexplicable one-car accident.  That was in 1974.

Today, the name of the whistleblower, for whom the risk may have been far more tangible than just money, is Tommy Hook, an auditor at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  He was scheduled to testify later this month before Congress about possible financial waste and fraud at the lab.

Mr. Hook and his wife say on Saturday, he was lured to a nightclub in the town of Santa Fe, New Mexico, with the promise of being given further evidence confirming his claims.  When no one turned up, Hook went back to his car.  There, he and his wife say, he was pulled out of the driver‘s seat by several assailants, kicked, punched, and told to keep his mouth shut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN HOOK, WHISTLEBLOWER‘S WIFE:  He has a fracture down on his jaw down here, and under his eye.  He was swollen really, really bad.  His teeth are pushed back.  He has a therapist coming into help him talk.  And he has a loss of memory right now.  But, you know, it‘s starting to come back, because he‘s had a terrible concussion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Law enforcement sources are telling NBC News, though, that the FBI says it‘s already investigated, found an alleged perpetrator, who claims that he says it was just a bar fight.  Mrs. Hook says the assailants did not take her husband‘s wallet.  They did fracture his jaw.  The Los Alamos lab, which conducts classified work on nuclear weapons, released a statement saying it‘s outraged by the attack and is cooperating fully with the police.

Mr. Hook had also filed a lawsuit against Los Alamos, claiming that since he started voicing complaints in 1997, managers had created work conditions designed to make him and another auditor quit.

That other auditor, who joined Mr. Hook in that suit, is Chuck Montano, who joins us now.

And thank you for your time tonight, sir.

CHUCK MONTANO, LOS ALAMOS EMPLOYEE:  Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN:  The report here that the FBI says this was just a bar fight, unconnected to Los Alamos, your thoughts on that statement?

MONTANO:  Well, we haven‘t seen the report.  I don‘t believe it.  I believe what Tommy Hook said initially.  We were with him at 5:00 a.m. in the hospital.  There was no—he did not look like he was intoxicated.  That‘s not in his nature.  Anybody that knows Tommy Hook knows he‘s very credible.  And what he was telling me at the time was that, to be careful, because these people were telling him to shut up and to stay quiet if he knew what was good for him.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, Mr. Montano, it would be an extraordinary coincidence if, on the eve of his testimony, virtually, he had been beaten up in a totally unconnected bar fight, obviously.  But do you have any other evidence besides that logic that would suggest that these events were indeed connected, besides the logic of the thing and what he told you?

MONTANO:  Well, I think the logic is the big thing, because he had told me about a week ago that he had received a call indicating that there was an auditor that had some information, he was—that he had uncovered some fraud at the lab, but he was being pressured by his—by the lab management that he was under to not report what he had uncovered.

But he was scared for his job.  And he wanted to meet with Tommy in private so that he could provide him with the information.  Tommy is the kind of person that likes to help people if they—if he feels he can help them.  I‘ve had several calls as well, because I have been somewhat visible at the lab.  And I‘ve had calls from employees that have been concerned.  And I‘ve met with them.

And so to me, that‘s not unusual that he would get a call like that.

OLBERMANN:  Are you still going to testify, and is Mr. Hook going to testify?

MONTANO:  Well, I do hope that he testifies, because he wasn‘t just a mere auditor, he was the lab‘s whistleblower officer.  And he had daily interactions with the director‘s office, with lab legal.  He was the point of contact.  He was the person that basically had the staff that did the investigations related to fraud, waste, and abuse.

Those responsibilities were removed from him several years ago after he testified in another case and told the truth.  And basically, the truth that he told was what Walt (ph) and Dorn (ph) were saying.  These were the two investigators that revealed the procurement fraud.  Walt and Dorn were saying that they were being told not to reveal what they had found, because they didn‘t want to embarrass the university and put the contract in jeopardy.

Well, Tommy had testified in a related—in an unrelated case years earlier that he was being instructed to cover up problems for the same reason.

So Tommy has paid a very high price professionally, because he told the truth.  And so this doesn‘t surprise me, being that he is—he was at such a high level within the lab, that he would be targeted, that there would be people very nervous about his testimony.

OLBERMANN:  Chuck Montano, Los Alamos lab whistleblower, we thank you for your time, and good luck with this.

MONTANO:  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, taxi?  Taxi, please?  Four Cubans on board a converted 1948 Mercury taxi, off the coast of Florida, trying to get here.  We will cover them in Oddball.

And they‘ve been seen all over the country.  Now the lactivists have emerged in New York, protesting for their right to bear their nursing children in their arms, and protesting against Barbara Walters.

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and once again we pause our COUNTDOWN of the strange things people do in this country to look at the really strange things people do in other countries.

Let‘s play Oddball.

Breaking Oddball news off the coast of Miami.  That is a 1948 Mercury taxi that sailed—that‘s correct, sailed—from Cuba 24 hours ago.  Presumably the meter is not running.  The initial reports are that the four Cubans on board included two children.  The Coast Guard, as you see, boarding it.  All the four people on board have American visas, according to a report from our NBC affiliate WTVJ.

But one of the children is of military age, and the woman on board is a doctor, so the Cuban government does not want them—does not want to let them leave.

(INAUDIBLE) you‘ll remember, it‘s barely a year and a half ago, almost two years ago, July 2003, when several enterprising people converted a ‘51 Ford truck into a boat to try to get from Cuba to Florida.  This tape has been recorded in the last 20 minutes, by the way.  We know all this because a relative of the people on board told the Coast Guard that they were coming.  A little bit worried, he said, or she said.  The relative said, I‘ll read it directly, that he is worried about the family, because he doesn‘t know how well the vessel can float.

It set sail 24 hours ago.  The quality of the vessel is the least of the issues concerned tonight.

To China, where the latest infatuation among citizens, height enhancement.  Citing competition for jobs and marriage partners, more and more Japanese turning to wacky get-taller schemes advertised on infomercials for pills and painful-looking stretching machines.  But one Beijing hospital was saying, stay away from those too-good-to-be-true TV scams.  We‘ll do it surgically, the Gattaca way.  Yes, the hospital is offering height enhancement in one simple operation, and you‘re only off your feet for six months.

Of course, your feet are off you for a little while.  The doctors actually break the patient‘s legs, then keep them broken, hoping the bone grows back to fill in the gap—or not.  During the six months, the patient has to turn metal knobs to pull the leg parts further away from each other.  All this for up to a 15 percent increase in height.  Is it worth it?  Six words, Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets.

Well, that‘s the only kind of appearance-related surgery that Michael Jackson has not had.  What happens if he really goes to jail, and he really does have a prosthetic nose?  Will they let him wear it?

And what a great idea for an autumn vacation, cruising the Caribbean with the Big Giant Head.  Such a great idea, it‘s already been canceled, lack of interest. five months before the launch.

These stories ahead.  But first, now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, CVS, the drugstore chain, introducing another throwaway camera, the one that costs $29.95.  Twenty-nine ninety-five?  It‘s a throwaway digital camcorder.

Number two, unknown environmentalists in Santa Rosa, California, they have stopped a housing development there by planting wildflowers on the construction site.  The wildflowers are from an endangered species, and cannot be legally transplanted.  So, no housing development.

Next up for the protesters, they‘re going out to plant triffids.  Look it up.

Number one, Thomas Stefanelli, 37-year-old pizza delivery guy from Tampa.  He made four deliveries Saturday night.  So?  He made those four after he was shot by a holdup man.  Then he went to the hospital.  See, if he had got those pizzas there later than 30 minutes, he would have been in real trouble.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  And the long vigil continues.  Our number three story on the COUNTDOWN, yes, it‘s your tax and entertainment dollars in action, day 568 of the Michael Jackson investigations.

The waiting, of course, is for a verdict.  Tonight, we‘ll look at what would be waiting for Jackson in jail if he‘s convicted.  Today‘s big news?  Nothing, actually.  Six more hours of deliberations, fourteen total thus far.  Although NBC News has learned the identity of the foreman of the jury.  He‘s number two.  So if you had number two in your “Who‘s the foreman of the Jackson jury” wagering, you‘re a winner.  Number two‘s a 63-year-old Latino man, a retired school counselor and attendance (ph) director.  He‘s something of an artist.  He works in bronze with themes from the American West.  He watches a lot of sports but not a lot of news, and he is not the same number two as the character of that name in the old Patrick McGoohan series, “The Prisoner.”

What happens if Jackson becomes the prisoner?  You will recall that after he was charged at Santa Barbara County‘s jail on November 20 of 2003, Jackson and his associates made all manner of charges themselves.  Officers had locked him in a filthy toilet for 45 minutes, they said.  They had dislocated his shoulder.  They had put the cuffs on him so tightly that his wrists swelled.

Those charges were never proved.  One wonders to what degree they might have been true and to what degree they might have been exaggerations of Jackson‘s own sensation of being dropped down in the middle of any old jail anywhere.  Was the filthy toilet merely not steam-cleaned fresh?  Was the dislocated shoulder sore, the wrists chafed?  And perception was the problem during his few hours at the county lock-up, what would it be like if Michael Jackson actually had to go there for a few months?

Dan Abrams got the 50-cent tour from the former sheriff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, “THE ABRAMS REPORT” (voice-over):  It looks like the view you might see at a four-star hotel, California‘s scenic central valley.  But this is hardly four-star and it‘s hardly a hotel.  This is the Santa Barbara County jail, where Michael Jackson would likely be taken if convicted.

JIM THOMAS, FORMER SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF:  He‘ll come probably by himself in a vehicle with the detectives.  He‘ll come around this road, around to the back, and he‘ll go into the back of the facility and be booked exactly where he was when he was originally charged.

ABRAMS:  Jim Thomas was the sheriff for 12 years.

THOMAS:  You‘re brought in.  You do the paperwork that‘s necessary.  You get a medical evaluation.  Again, they inventory your property.  You sign for that.  They place you in jail clothing, and then they make the determination...

ABRAMS (on camera):  He would have to wear a particular...

THOMAS:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  ... uniform?  What would it look like?

THOMAS:  Absolutely.  He would probably wear a two-piece, which is a pair of pants and something like a sweatshirt.

ABRAMS:  No armband, huh?

THOMAS:  No armband.  And I can assure you, there‘ll be no deputy sheriff carrying his umbrella.

ABRAMS:  What would generally be the rules in terms of hours, et cetera?

THOMAS:  Well, normally, they‘re up at 5:00.  They go to bed at 9:00.  Most of them have television available, as well as telephones available—not for incoming calls, but they can make outgoing collect calls.  Visitation is fairly liberal.

ABRAMS:  So after he‘s booked, this is the facility where Jackson will be brought?

THOMAS:  Yes, Dan.  It‘s my understanding that they have a cell here ready for him.

ABRAMS:  Really?  They‘re already prepared?

THOMAS:  That they‘re prepared, that would have a full 24-hour camera.

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Twenty-four hours because Thomas believes Jackson would be a suicide risk.

THOMAS:  They would have a log, where they would log every 15 minutes or so what he was doing.  It‘s an area where there‘s a lot of access by officers who would be walking by and looking in, in a scenario that would be away from other inmates, who may taunt him or give him problems.

ABRAMS (on camera):  And how will it differ from the way other inmates are treated here?

THOMAS:  Michael Jackson, if he‘s convicted of child molestation, will not be a popular person just because of that charge, nor is anybody else that is booked here for that charge.  But because of who he is and the notoriety and the attention that he will be getting, they will make sure that they keep him separated.

ABRAMS:  You think the people here are dreading the idea of Michael Jackson living here for some period of time?

THOMAS:  Yes, I think they are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Dan Abrams returns at the top of the hour with a live special edition from Santa Maria of “The ABRAMS REPORT.”  Topic, Jackson, of course.

But before that, more on this question of how much Michael Jackson‘s life would differ behind bars.  You could answer probably it might be like dropping you back into the middle of the 15th century.  But to get a little more specific, I‘m joined by two guests from different fields.  Tom O‘Neil, senior editor of “In Touch” magazine.  Tom, good evening.

TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH” MAGAZINE:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And Jim Thomas, who you saw in Dan‘s report, the former sheriff of Santa Barbara County.  Jim, good evening to you.

THOMAS:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We want to test Michael Jackson‘s world against the world of the Santa Barbara County jail, using what Tom knows about Jackson, bouncing that off what Jim knows about the jail.  So Tom, start us off.  Outline what we might call Jackson‘s cosmetic issues—make-up, hair, even the rumors of prostheses.  What‘s him and what isn‘t?

O‘NEIL:  Well, certainly, that hair‘s not him.  We know that that‘s a wig.  We know that some of his make-up is tattooed on—for example, the eyeliner and the lip stuff.  But the rest of it‘s powder, and that may have to go.  What we have to ask Jim about is this nose.  As I understand it, if this fake nose he has is cosmetic, it has to go.  But if it‘s medical, it can stay.  Some people believe there is no nose there and there are just two holes in the front of his face.

OLBERMANN:  So Jim Thomas, what are the rules in jail there for make-up, wigs, and this borderline definition of what‘s a medically artificial nose and what‘s simply a cosmetically artificial nose?

THOMAS:  Well, the make-up goes, Keith.  The wig goes.  And the nose, who knows?  I‘ve never run into that before, so that‘s probably going to be a pretty good test on our medical staff to determine if, indeed, it is cosmetic or if it is medical.  If it‘s medical, he would be allowed to keep it.  If it‘s not, he wouldn‘t.

OLBERMANN:  Tom O‘Neil, in the report that we saw Jim in, he said his big fear about Jackson would be the prospect of being a suicide risk.  I take it that you think that‘s not as likely as his being a risk of a different kind.

O‘NEIL:  Right.  Remember that song he sang called “Beat It”?  Well,

when he arrived at that jail for sentencing, for charging, he was allegedly

·         when he arrived by plane, rumor has it that he told the pilot, Turn around.  We‘re going to Costa Rica.  Now, if that‘s true, there are a lot of legal authorities who say there will be a period of time between the verdict and the sentencing in which he will not be incarcerated.  I don‘t know if that‘s actually true or not.  And then some people say it may even extend while certain appeal issues are worked out.

OLBERMANN:  Well, let‘s talk about that with Jim, the flight risk idea.  What is in place to deal with somebody like Michael Jackson, who might try to escape and might be really unskilled at it?  And what—how quickly would he be in the court‘s control?  Would there, in fact, be some period of time where he might be able to make a dash for it?

THOMAS:  If he‘s convicted of the charges, Keith, what will happen is that the DA will say, I want his bail remanded.  I want him remanded into the custody of the sheriff.  And then he would go to the custody of the sheriff until sentencing, and then once sentenced, will go to state prison.  There would not be a time in between when he is sentenced and a time of when the verdict comes out.  Now, the only change to that would be if he were to be charged or found guilty of one of the misdemeanor counts of the alcohol.  Then they might let him go.  But if it‘s one of the molestation cases, he will not have a chance to flee.

OLBERMANN:  Tom, last thing, about his health or the degree that he has or doesn‘t have a back problem, that‘s one thing.  But what about, you know, nutrition, hyperbaric chambers, all that stuff?

O‘NEIL:  I know!

(LAUGHTER)

O‘NEIL:  I don‘t think he‘s going to get “Jesus juice,” either, at the jail.  He has one of the fussiest food habits of all.  He drives cooks at Neverland crazy.  He‘s not going to be able to get the menus the way he wants it.  And we‘ll really find out if he has a back problem or not because doctors who are not fans of Michael will actually be deciding whether he needs these painkillers or not.

OLBERMANN:  Jim, no hyperbaric chambers, obviously.  But to be treated differently in that jail because you have a medical or physical condition, to require medication, what threshold do you have to clear?  Can you get, in fact, special treatment?

THOMAS:  Well, you can get treatment, not necessarily special treatment.  Any of the treatment that he would receive would be through jail medical staff, perhaps with consultation of his doctors.  But it will be up to the medical staff in the facility to determine what kind of medication or any kind of hospitalization that he receives.  And I think I can say with some degree of certainty it would not be to the degree that he‘s receiving it now.

OLBERMANN:  Last question for you, Jim.  This is sort of a philosophical one, but I‘ll give you a shot at it.  For whom would it be a greater nightmare and difficulty, the people running the jail in Santa Barbara County or Michael Jackson, if he had to serve time there?

THOMAS:  Both.  The sheriff will be very happy when Michael Jackson is out of his custody, if, in fact, he is in his custody and moves on to the prison sentence period of it.  But Michael Jackson, I believe, will adapt.  When he‘s given a strict regimen, I think he follows it, and I think he‘ll be able to do it there.

OLBERMANN:  Goodness knows, we may get a chance to find out.  Jim Thomas, the former sheriff of Santa Barbara County.  Great.  Thanks for verbally taking us inside the jail.  And Tom O‘Neil, senior editor of “In Touch Weekly.”  Great.  Thanks for verbally taking us inside Michael Jackson.  Gentlemen, good night.

Also tonight, the Russell Crowe effect.  Bad boys in Hollywood.  Actually, it‘s the Marlon Brando effect, and it‘s not an effect, it‘s a tradition.  And Mimi Rogers, Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes, each Mrs. Tom Cruise, or is this just an increasingly incredibly annoying publicity stunt?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Not counting Russell Crowe—he‘s in trouble enough that, really, it is only fair not to—there has not been a single report of an actor being arrested since last Friday.  That‘s when police in Italy locked up Lorenzo Crespi (ph) -- that‘s a star in a police drama there—for allegedly beating up two truck drivers who had upset a woman friend of his.  Ninety-six hours without a non-Russell Crowe actor being arrested!  That‘s the modern record.

Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN: Yes, it‘s an entertainment tradition, especially a movie tradition, macho stars in mucho trouble.  But as our correspondent, Carl Quintanilla reports, the trend is clearly on the upswing, and these guys are clearly looking more and more like rebels without a clue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In custody, in handcuffs, and by some accounts, in a bad mood, Russell Crowe under arrest after allegedly assaulting an employee at this hotel in New York, in town to promote his latest film, “Cinderella Man.”  Crowe is just the latest Hollywood actor to get noticed for his bad manners.  Christian Slater last week was arrested for allegedly groping a woman.  Burt Reynolds recently slapped an interviewer for not knowing enough about his career.

JANICE MIN, “US WEEKLY”:  These are really rough-and-tumble guys.  That‘s part of the reason the public loves them.  You know, they say brash things.  They‘re not part of that whole scripted Hollywood world.

QUINTANILLA:  It‘s a tradition as old as Hollywood itself.  For every modern-day Sean Penn and Robert Downey, Jr., there was once a Robert Mitchum, who served time for drug possession in 1948, or Marlon Brando, who turned bad boy behavior into high art.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?

MARLON BRANDO:  What have you got?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MIN:  Sometimes for these celebrities, when they don‘t get what they want, they can throw a temper tantrum.

QUINTANILLA:  As Brando once said, the only thing an actor owes his public is not to bore them, something to keep in mind when Hollywood‘s most famous actors act out.  Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of people who fight for no reason, none other than the big giant head himself, Bill O‘Reilly, leading off tonight‘s edition of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  It had all the ingredients of a remake of “The Poseidon Adventure,” but tonight, the “Battle for American Values” Caribbean cruise, eight days adrift with O‘Reilly around the Caymans this November, is sunk, canceled due to a lack of idiots—interest.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Unfortunately, the cruise did not have the participation that all parties anticipated.  Although the guest appearance by Mr. O‘Reilly and the other speakers have been canceled, the ship will still sail and visit all the same wonderful places.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The cruise is priced from $1,099 to $1,629 per person.  It was part of Thomas More Law Center‘s effort, quote, “to combat the ACLU.”  No word as to how far short of the reported 800 reservations O‘Reilly fell despite extensive promotion on O‘Reilly‘s shows and Web site.  It might all be explained by the fact that since the Andrea Mackris story broke last October, O‘Reilly‘s audience ratings have fallen by 37 percent, by 56 percent among 25-to-54-year-old adults.  The O‘Reilly cruise will reportedly be replaced by Alan Colmes, up the creek without a paddle.

And from sinking ships to a cruise of a different kind, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.  There are only two options.  This high school puppy love stuff is a publicity stunt, in which case they must be stopped, or this high school puppy love stuff is not a high school publicity stunt, in which is case they must be stopped.  Ms. Holmes, asked by “Access Hollywood” if she and Mr. Cruise are engaged, replied, “Look, I can‘t lie.  We have to talk about that, Tom and I, but I—it just made me smile when you asked me about that.”  Presto, headline, “Holmes won‘t deny she and Cruise are engaged.”  She also said, “I miss him right now, and it‘s been, like, an hour.”  Or as we cynics would of it, four times the 15-minute limit.

The movie “The Miracle Worker” brought her her Oscar.  The movie “The Graduate” brought her her success.  Her marriage to Mel Brooks perhaps brought her much of her fame.  The great actress Anne Bancroft has died, a cancer victim yesterday in New York.  That‘s the only detail we have so far.  The role of Helen Keller‘s teacher got her first a Tony Award on Broadway, then the Academy Award for Best Film Actress of 1962.  The role as the seducer of the son of her husband‘s business partner got her a different kind of enduring legend in 1967.  Lights will be dimmed on Broadway tomorrow night.  Anne Bancroft was also nominated for Oscars for “The Graduate,” for “The Pumpkin Eater,” “The Turning Point” and “Agnes of God.”  She married Mel Brooks in 1964.  She had an acting career that dated back to the early days of network television.  Anne Bancroft, who was born Anna Maria Louise Italiano, was 73 years old.

Also tonight, do not tread on the rights of nursing mothers.  That is something Barbara Walters, the program “The View” and the people at ABC know all too well this evening.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  What is the most powerful lobbying group in this country at this moment?  I mean, now that the members of the baseball players union have stopped taking those steroids.  The answer is contained in our number one story in the COUNTDOWN tonight: nursing mothers.  Six states have of late passed laws protecting a mother‘s right to breast feed her baby anywhere, as Ohio put it, “she is otherwise authorized to be.”  Protest campaigns got both Starbucks and Burger King to switch from being lactate-intolerant to being pro-nursing.  And now on top of every one of their other recent accomplishments, they just flattened Barbara Walters in public.  More than 150 women showed up outside ABC‘s headquarters in New York yesterday because Walters had vented on the program “The View” and was critical of one  woman who had breast fed her child near her on a flight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW”:  And a woman came in and was breast

feeding her baby as we were, you know, taking off, and she didn‘t cover the

·         you know, the baby with a blanket.  It made us uncomfortable.

(CROSSTALK)

WALTERS:  I have to admit it.  Well, this woman said...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... people feel that way, Barbara.

(CROSSTALK)

WALTERS:  ... I feel so guilty about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Walters said she was accompanied by her hairdresser on that trip.  Sounds like somebody should have been protesting that, too, by the way.  In this case, though, the picketing was limited to the one issue, the mothers carrying signs reading, “Shame on View” and “Mama‘s latte is best.”  They are concerned that the remarks might discourage new mothers from doing this in public.  They want Walters to apologize.  She says she was just telling an anecdote, adding, “We are surprised that it warrants a protest.  We are totally supportive if an individual wants to breast feed.”  But the protesters, calling themselves “lactivists,” say that‘s not enough.

Joining me now, Rebecca Odes, the co-founder of Newmom.com.  Ms. Odes, good evening.  Thanks for your time.

REBECCA ODES, SUPPORTS PUBLIC BREAST FEEDING:  Hi.

OLBERMANN:  Run the logic for me.  Barbara Walters or somebody on “The View” says something stupid every other day.  Why is this one worth actual picketing?

ODES:  Well, because I think the problem is that breast feeding is actually a pretty difficult thing for a lot of mothers to do, and there‘s a huge amount of pressure on women now, new mothers, to breast feed.  And so anything that happens to discourage women from doing this makes it a lot harder for new mothers.

OLBERMANN:  But the short-term outcome here, the headline in that “New York Daily News,” was “Lactose intolerant,” with an exclamation point.  There was a commentary on a newscast in Seattle that was titled “I‘m all for this cover-up” and compared this to urination in public.  I mean, do you worry that what happened here, the protest of “The View,” is or was going to be made fun of and kind of minimize the actual issue behind what you‘re all about?

ODES:  Well, I think the issue is that people really are not that comfortable with breast feeding, and they‘re going to make fun of it because they‘re uncomfortable, in the same way that kids make fun of things that they—you know, that titillate them because it makes them nervous.  And you know, we really need to make breast feeding the normal activity that it is and have it be represented as such in the culture.

OLBERMANN:  But how do you that, other than—I mean, obviously, by exposing people to anything, their discomfort tends to go down over a long period of time.  But it is a long period of time, isn‘t it?

ODES:  Yes, and we have to just, you know, plug away at it until people start to realize that, you know, basically, what they have is a bias that comes from their discomfort.  And you know, it may be that people will be edgy about it in the beginning, but it will eventually create change.

OLBERMANN:  About the issue itself—when people give you dirty looks and describe themselves or act imposed upon, I think I hear you on it.  But is there not something to two specific kinds of discomfort from other people, one, when you‘re in, what would you call it, like a captive situation, breast feeding on a plane—I would respect your right do that, but if I didn‘t want to be around, it‘s not like I can get out of the plane.  The second one is, are there not probably some people who respect your right to do this but feel like they have interrupted a private moment, an intimate moment?  What about those two specific scenarios?

ODES:  Well, let me answer the second issue first.  I think that the assumption of it as a private moment is a projection because if women feel that it‘s a private moment between themselves and their baby and they‘re uncomfortable doing that in public, they can make that choice.  It‘s not really for the viewer to decide that they‘re interrupting.  And as for the first issue, it‘s much easier for a person to turn away and look elsewhere than it is for a mother with a new baby to pick up the baby and move, especially in an enclosed environment like an airplane.

OLBERMANN:  So ultimately, is there a compromise here between the uncomfortable and the breast feeding?

ODES:  I mean, I think the compromise really exists on the individual level, and it‘s really up to each mother to do what makes her comfortable.  I think what we need to do is to try to make it easier for each mother to feel comfortable in every situation.

OLBERMANN:  Rebecca Odes, co-founder of the Newmom.com.  Great. 

Thanks for your time.

ODES:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And that‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Good night, and good luck.

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

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