updated 10/11/2005 11:55:41 AM ET 2005-10-11T15:55:41

Guests: Julie Reynes, Jim VandeHei, Michael Musto

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

After a tsunami, then a category 4 hurricane inundating the Gulf Coast, now a 7.6 earthquake and 30,000 feared dead in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.  And a prediction for something that could be like that here.

Not guilty.  That the plea of all three New Orleans policemen in the latest case of caught-on-tape.

The CIA leak case.  New evidence puts Cheney aide Scooter Libby and the White House behind the eightball.

The New York City subway terror threat.  The city winds up winding down its enhanced security.  And more tonight on the terror-political coincidences.

And bad news for Madonna from a top rabbi in Israel.  She‘s going to hell.  Madonna‘s publicist could not be reached for comment.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

Most of the communities around the Indian Ocean are still at best reeling from the tsunami from the end of last December.  New Orleans and much of the American Gulf Coast have pockets of normalcy and piles of broken towns and broken lives.

Now add to this exceptional year of trauma of natural disaster the still-unfolding disaster of an earthquake so powerful that it has destroyed parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India and may have killed more than 30,000 in the foothills and shadows of the Himalayas.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, first from the ocean, then from the sky, and now from under the ground.  Three days since that quake, a 7.6 on the Richter scale, rescue and recovery still barely more than chaos.  International rescue teams have reached Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan‘s portion of Kashmir.  It is the city closest to the quake‘s epicenter.

But smaller, remote towns in that region are digging out by hand, many villages simply obliterated.  The U.N. estimates that 2.5 million may be homeless now, and that number is only expected to rise, as is the death toll.  One estimate, by Kashmir‘s communications minister, puts it at 30,000 already.

India, at the edges of the 250-mile devastated region, has reported more than 800 deaths by itself.

And because of the impassability of the roads, most of the devastated areas are now passing through their third full day without food, water, or electricity.

Efforts to reach stricken areas by air now joined by the United States.  Eight American military helicopters arrived in Islamabad from Afghanistan, all part of an extensive airlift operation to provide humanitarian relief.

And it cannot come fast enough.  The quake struck at 8:53 Saturday morning, a weekday in much of the region, thus many children were starting just an ordinary school day.  At the ruins of one private school in Balakot, survivors heard the voices of trapped children under the rubble there today, even after hours of futile efforts to dig them out.

That just one example of this extraordinary devastation, as overpowering as it was instantaneous.

Mark Austin, of our affiliated British network ITV, saw much more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK AUSTIN, ITN REPORTER (voice-over):  In village after village, town after town, there is devastation on a scale that is difficult to comprehend.

But such pictures, dramatic as they are, disguise the real tragedy here.  The quake struck at 8:53 a.m.  In every collapsed home was a family sitting down to breakfast.  In every school, children at their desks.  In every hospital, patients waiting for the doctors‘ round.  All human life, and so much of it, snatched away.

The British rescuers surveyed all this with utter bewilderment.

Soon, we put down in a town that was no more, such was the destruction here.  The rescuers set off to begin their work, but where do you begin in a place like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s a lot of buildings collapsed, a lot of damage in the area.  And we‘re just trying to get the right parties now and search where it‘s most required.

AUSTIN (on camera):  And just looking at it, do you think there are people still alive in some of these buildings?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think there‘s a definite chance that people can still be alive in these buildings, yes.

AUSTIN (voice-over):  And some of the injured were soon clamoring to get on the helicopter, people desperate to get their children to hospital, and others for whom this airlift is the only hope.

The air crew took everyone they could.  Others were told to wait for helicopters landing soon behind us.

These were desperate scenes in a place full of desperate stories.

The story of 4-year-old Janzte (ph), who was trapped when his house collapsed, killing two of his brothers and two of his sisters.  His leg was smashed by the falling debris.

The story of Mohammed Rafik (ph), whose shop was demolished by the quake, with him inside.  Two of his brothers were killed.

And the stories of the children, too many to mention.  Too many left without parents.  What will these tiny minds make of all this?

(on camera):  Almost every helicopter landing in these small towns is filling up with the sick, the injured, and the dying.  And it is a scene being played out right across the devastated area of (INAUDIBLE) Kashmir.  And it is a huge area.

(voice-over):  So vast that there are thousands of people like this who haven‘t got a chance of being found, let alone airlifted out.

But these people have received a helping hand, survivors from just one town torn asunder by a catastrophe this country hasn‘t even begun to come to terms with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Officials there describing the generation lost in Pakistan.  Mark Austin at our affiliated British network ITV.

The intensity of the damage owes only in part to the magnitude of the quake.  The region affected is near the border of two tectonic plates.  Millions of years of pressure there is what created the Himalaya mountains, in fact.  And earthquake-ready construction is almost unheard-of there.

So what would happen with an earthquake of this size in a place like San Francisco?  A new study on that very question, just out, estimating that the chance of a magnitude 7 or greater earthquake striking the Bay Area in the next 20 years is 25 percent.  This, according to a computer simulation by scientists at the University of California at Davis.  They call the study “Virtual California.”  The odds that such a quake will occur in the next 45 years is double, half, 50 percent.

And the prognosis, as it looks out over the next 80 years, probability of a magnitude 7 quake or better, 75 percent.  Study will be published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”  It is virtually identical to studies that were released 20 years ago.

But a look to the future is not necessary in order to grasp the mind-boggling devastation of the recent past.  A slew of natural disasters, including another quite recent one in Central America.  Hurricane Stan made landfall along Mexico‘s Gulf Coast last Tuesday.  It helped spawn a week‘s worth of rains.  Those rains have now produced mudslides in Guatemala, El Salvador, and other Central American countries.  And that has pushed the death toll region-wide to more than 600.

It was just five weeks that Hurricane Katrina struck on the American portion of the Gulf Coast, the death toll from that storm hovering at nearly 1,300, more than 1,000 from Louisiana alone, the full ramifications still unimaginable there.

And, of course, the cataclysm that continues to shock, the Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26 last year, 220,000 people from 11 countries either killed or still missing.

And it does not take anything more than common sense to wonder, at what point do the relief organizations simply bottom out from these worldwide calamities?

Let‘s call in Julie Reynes, who is the executive director of international operations for the American Red Cross.

Thanks for your time tonight.

JULIE REYNES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS, AMERICAN

RED CROSS:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  How is your organization and others like it coping with such multiple large-scale disasters?

REYNES:  Well, it certainly has been a very challenging year.  We have been somewhat fortunate, however, in that the international disasters have alternated with the domestic disasters, and we have very different response models for each.

The response model for an international disaster is very much less people-intensive, because we provide targeted technical expertise.  Whereas you‘ve seen the thousands of volunteers that have been in the Hurricane Katrina-affected areas.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s talk about this one particularly and this one particularly in Pakistan.  Is the problem because of where this is simply, the principal problem, now still getting people there?

REYNES:  That certainly is a difficult challenge, in that it is a very mountainous region that is difficult to access for the Pakistani Red Crescent, who is taking the lead here, as well as the various Red Cross movement organizations that are providing support to them.

OLBERMANN:  The disaster, the human toll, the horror, the separation, all of these aspects to this—these grim scenes that we‘ve seen now in large scale three times in the last, oh, 10 months, not even that much, they all look the same.  Obviously the causes are different.  Are the efforts to aid victims differing dependent on what the cause of it is, depending on whether it‘s a tsunami or an earthquake, or, as we saw in this country, the arrival of a hurricane at a major city?

REYNES:  Well, as I mentioned, the response model is going to be very similar if it‘s a domestic disaster versus if it‘s an international disaster.  So two different models, yet every disaster has a very different personality.  With the tsunami, you have 12 affected countries, and you have the coast of each of those countries.  You have a lot of different variables that play in, in terms of whether there‘s conflict or not in each of these areas.

And then, of course, you have the terrain that‘s a challenge, and the weather that‘s a challenge as well.

OLBERMANN:  Had Katrina not hit, if it had blown off offshore, and this earthquake had not happened now, would the Indian Ocean tsunami still be giving you a full year‘s worth of work, a full-time job?  Was that not too much to begin with?

REYNES:  Too much is a relative term.  We have a whole part of the American Red Cross that is working very closely with our partners in the movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that is supporting the tsunami relief effort.  But we also do have the capability to continue to respond to domestic disasters and other international disasters, such as the Pakistani earthquake.

OLBERMANN:  Julie Reynes, executive director of international operations for the American Red Cross, great thanks for your time tonight.

REYNES:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  In a most unexpected aftermath to Hurricane Katrina, a decimated and fatigued police force in New Orleans now forced to face a scandal, a controversial arrest caught on tape, three police officers suspended and charged.

And more questions for Karl Rove tonight.  Why does it now appear that the White House was trying to rebut the article Joe Wilson wrote in “The New York Times” before it was even printed in “The New York Times”?

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Perspective is everything, thus the events that unfolded Saturday night in the French Quarter of New Orleans can either be viewed as the latest and least-expected sequel to the hurricane and the evacuation, or they can be seen as a very unpleasant return to normality.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, three policemen there in court today for repeatedly punching a man suspected of public intoxication as a video camera rolled.

In New Orleans for us tonight, correspondent Carl Quintanilla.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARL QUINTANILLA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Arraigned today in a makeshift courtroom, the officers pleaded not guilty to the alleged assault on Robert Davis, 64 years old, and punched in the head, authorities say, for resisting arrest.

The incident today put police on the defensive, criticizing the limits of video.

LT. DAVID BENELLI, POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NEW ORLEANS:  You see one angle of one small incidence of a larger situation.

QUINTANILLA:  But even the big picture here is controversial.  Officers under investigation for allegedly looting Wal-Mart, or commandeering Cadillacs from this dealership, some before the storm hit.

DOUG STEAD, SEWELL CADILLAC AND CHEVROLET:  To think that the police actually did it, that‘s not pretty.

QUINTANILLA:  Authorities have questions about what happened in this shootout the week after Katrina.  Police say they killed two residents, but in a statement, say they still have not established an exact motive.

EDDIE JORDAN, NEW ORLEANS DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  There is a very real concern on the part of many citizens that the police department may be taking a turn for the worse.

QUINTANILLA:  A turn that would recall the mid-‘90s, when officers were convicted of high-profile murders, and New Orleans became known as the Big Sleazy.

(on camera):  But with the officers making that arrest today suspended and charged, watchdog groups say they have higher hopes for police than in the past.

RAFAEL GOVENECHE, METROPOLITAN CRIME COMMISSION:  I don‘t believe that we‘re look at a repeat of an early 1990 New Orleans Police Department, particularly if these transgressions are dealt with effectively and harshly by the current administration.

QUINTANILLA (voice-over):  A police force fighting a storm of controversy, in a city recovering from a storm just past.

Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Controversy in New York, too.  The terror threat there, the feds told the city, the city told the residents, the feds then said it was bad info, but the security was ramped up anyway, nothing happened, and now New York is starting to wind it all down.  The anatomy of a terror alert.

And the controversy over the Harriet Miers nomination continues.

No, I‘m sorry, this is a mass pillow fight from the Oddball segment.  I‘m sorry.  I‘d like to apologize to everyone in the world.  It was just too easy.

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and we pause the COUNTDOWN now to dig a little deeper into the news and ask the tough questions that the other newscasts are afraid to touch.

No, I‘m sorry, it‘s actually time for our stupid video segment.  We‘ll get to those questions some other night.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Austin, Texas, where this family is wondering why it‘s always raining outside, even though the weather reports continue to insist it‘s sunny and warm in town.  Yes, that‘s about all I can say about that story.

So, to Blacksburg, Virginia, for yet another failed attempt at the Guinness World Record for the largest pillow fight, more than 1,000 students gathering on the campus of Virginia Tech to go to the record, or for the record.  It was not enough, but the fight went on anyway.  (INAUDIBLE), however, did get particularly ugly when the Virginia Tech Hokey mascot was surrounded by pillow-wielding thugs and pummeled to within an inch of his life.

Bethel, Maine, for the North American championships of wife carrying.  Eighteen couples competing in the event.  You don‘t actually have to be married, just sleeping together.  The grand prize, the wife‘s weight in beer, and a trip to Finland for the world championships.  The women appear to be active participants in this event, though, looking at this tape, you really have to wonder.  Why?

Finally, no, it‘s not a rare glimpse into sports in imperial Rome.  We‘re in China‘s Jen Tsu (ph) Zoo, where apparently, when it‘s feeding time, they just release a live buffalo into the lions‘ cage.  And all the kids love this, of course, but the problem is, the lions have been in captivity so long that these 500-pound cats have turned into scaredy-cats.  When the water buffalo decided he‘s not going out like this, it was not long before he had the male lion on the run and the lioness hiding in the corner.

Isn‘t that a cute story?  I‘m sure it ended well for all involved, like the running of the bulls and stuff.

How will the CIA leak investigation end?  As it enters its final days, supposedly the grand jury is expecting another visit from Karl Rove.  And already new evidence turns out to be still turning up more than two years later.

And Madonna, Madge, Material Girl, Esther, no matter what you call her, some Kabbalah rabbis know where she‘s headed, straight to hell.  Michael Musto on the song that‘s all sin.

These stories ahead.

First, now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, an unidentified 79-year-old retiree in Chiba (ph), Japan.  I was feeling lonely, he explained, in confessing to more than 100 crimes in the area, all of them the same.  He was going around letting the air out of bicycle tires.

Number two, Darrell Brown, arrested at his Lincoln, Nebraska, home, accused of theft and of being today‘s really dumb criminal.  Police allege he broke into a rural home last month, stole a laptop, and when he couldn‘t get the thing to turn on, he called the IBM customer service line.  He gave them the laptop‘s serial number.  It flagged the machine as stolen, and quicker than you could say Reboot, the helpful folks at IBM, the help desk, sent the fuzz over to Darrell‘s house.

And number one, Wallace and Gromit.  What should be a day of triumph for the animated characters is instead one of great loss.  Their new film is number one at the box office in this country, but back home in Bristol, England, their birthplace, their animation warehouse burned to the ground, taking with it all their history.  Investigators think it might be arson.  They are looking for two suspects, Davey and Goliath.

Whatcha doing, ba-by?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  For a long time, the biggest mystery of the Teapot Dome scandal was the how.  How could President Harding‘s new secretary of the interior, the aptly named Albert Fall, who had just nearly bankrupted himself winning election to the Senate from New Mexico, how was he suddenly able to buy large parcels of property?

That question seemed to be at the heart of the issue, until a larger picture emerged that Fall‘s spending spree had followed meetings he‘d had with oil tycoons Harry Sinclair and Ed Doheny.  Sinclair and Doheny had given Fall the money, about $300,000 worth, and he turned out to have given them the right to drill for oil on government property at Teapot Dome, Wyoming, a lease that the Supreme Court ruled was fraudulent exactly 78 years ago today.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, we may have hit a similar kind of watershed moment in the investigation into the CIA leak case, not so much a revision about the fundamental how, but certainly one about the fundamental when, Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, asking to meet with “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller again tomorrow, that meeting most likely focusing on the missing notebook suddenly no longer missing and found by Ms.  Miller, detailing a conversation she‘d had with her source, Vice President Dick Cheney‘s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on June 25, 2003, some two weeks before the Joseph Wilson op-ed appeared in Ms.  Miller‘s paper, the article that was thought to have triggered the leak in the first place.

Another belatedly discovered document apparently prompting grand jury appearance number four by Karl Rove, also scheduled for this week, “Newsweek” magazine‘s Michael Isikoff reporting that Rove‘s lawyer recently uncovered an e-mail from Rove to deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley on July 11, 2003.  It outlined his conversation with “TIME” magazine reporter Matt Cooper earlier that day, its discovery leading to speculation that the prosecutor may be focusing on discrepancies between Cooper‘s testimony about that conversation and Rove‘s testimony about that conversation. 

White House correspondent Jim VandeHei has been following this story from almost the beginning for “The Washington Post.”

Good evening, Jim.

JIM VANDEHEI, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good to be here.  How you doing?

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with the Judith Miller notebook.  Big picture, as I suggested as we stared this segment, this narrow timeline of what happened during that one week in July, that timeline just sort of got blown out of the water, didn‘t it? 

VANDEHEI:  Absolutely. 

I think everyone has always focused on that week in July where we know that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove were talking to reporters or columnists about Joe Wilson‘s wife and—and her status or possible status at the CIA.  People haven‘t thought about the two months before.  And the administration, folks in Dick Cheney‘s office, the CIA and the State Department, were looking into this as early as the middle of May, almost two months before everyone is focusing on this investigation. 

And if you think about what Joe Wilson was talking about, he was really going at the heart of the Bush-Cheney argument for going to war.  So, the vice president‘s office had every reason to be looking into his allegation that they were trumping some of this intelligence for Iraq.  And they needed to figure out what Wilson was up to. 

OLBERMANN:  So much of this story, maybe all of this at this point, is speculation.  If we‘re lucky, there‘s some extrapolation in there.  But this one thing seems to be unavoidable, this conclusion based on the development that there were conversations in June.

VANDEHEI:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  Whatever happened here started, obviously, before Ambassador Wilson‘s piece was published in “The New York Times.”  That—does that not change all this from White House damage control into White House preemptive strikes? 

VANDEHEI:  It‘s really important what exactly is in Judith Miller‘s notebook. 

Now, if it just says that there was a conversation about Scooter Libby about Iraq, about weapons of mass destruction and even about Joe Wilson, but does not mention his wife or her covert status, this could really be much adieu about nothing.  But if there is some evidence in there, in that notebook, that talks about a conversation with Scooter Libby where there was discussion about Valerie Plame or was discussion about her status at the CIA, that could be very problematic for Scooter Libby. 

So, until we know exactly what she‘s going to tell Fitzgerald tomorrow, it‘s almost impossible to discern the importance of it. 

OLBERMANN:  All of a sudden, this notebook turns up at “The New York Times.”  All of a sudden, an e-mail turns up in the White House computer system, to the attention of Rove‘s lawyer, or however it got that way.  And anybody with any imagination or any experience covering politics assumes, aha, conspiracy.  Are there not innocent or relatively innocent explanations for both these things? 

VANDEHEI:  Absolutely.  In almost every circumstance here, you can figure an innocuous explanation or one that could be quite severe. 

If you think about—about the e-mail turning up, A, that didn‘t just turn up this week.  It turned up some time ago.  And, basically, people close to Rove say that, when they did this initial search, that the White House database, people plugged in the wrong words and did not come up with this e-mail and that, initially, Karl Rove had not remembered the fact that he had this exchange, which is plausible. 

I mean, Karl Rove is involved in almost every issue that goes through the White House.  This was some time ago.  So, those that are familiar with Rove‘s thinking and those that are friendly to Rove would say, this is just a harmless oversight.  I think what Fitzgerald‘s trying to figure out is, were there discrepancies between what Karl Rove has told him and what Matthew Cooper of “TIME” magazine and other people who have testified in this case have told him. 

OLBERMANN:  So, give us the state-of-the-story report, if you will. 

Obviously, whatever we‘re trying to look at with some success, whether it‘s an iceberg or an ice cube, is 95 percent below water.  But is this thing going to become more tangible, more intelligible in the near future, do you think?

VANDEHEI:  I think so. 

I mean, the grand jury expires at the end of this month.  I think every—most of the lawyers in the case think we will have some kind of finality probably in the next two weeks.  I mean, if your viewers are confused about the case, there‘s good reason for that.  I mean, Fitzgerald‘s office, unlike many involved in white-collar crimes, has not been tipping off reporters about what‘s going on and what direction he‘s going in. 

So, all of the reporting or most of the reporting is really based on talking to lawyers who have had clients come before Fitzgerald and trying to discern from that which direction he may be going.  And there are probably 12 different directions that Fitzgerald could take this. 

I mean, we have all been focusing on the base crime of, did someone in the White House knowingly leak the name of a covert CIA operative, knowing that the CIA was trying keep it private?  But this could also be a conspiracy charge.  It could be looking at perjury.  If you think back to all the scandals past in Washington, it was often sort of the cover-up or what happened in the course of the investigation that got people in trouble.  It wasn‘t that root crime. 

OLBERMANN:  Jim VandeHei of “The Washington Post,” who has been doing such great work on this story as the crumbs come out, great thanks for your time tonight, sir. 

VANDEHEI:  Have a good night.

OLBERMANN:  And then there is the intersection, or at least the juxtaposition, between politics and terror.  We noted it here last week when, after a speech by the president about the war on terror and after the word that the special prosecutor would not guarantee to Karl Rove that he would not indict him, New York City suddenly announced there was credible, specific intelligence about a terror threat to its subway system. 

National intelligence agencies quickly dismissed the credibility of the information and revealed that New York‘s officials had known about it for about four days, but had, for some reason, chosen that moment to make it public.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent the next four days publicly defending the announcement and the subsequent ramped-up police presence. 

Well, today, it was all ramped down. 

As our correspondent Pete Williams, this morning, Mayor Bloomberg declared that the threat period now seems to be passing.  Thus, so too will the extra security. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Although the number of police assigned to the subways remained high for this morning‘s commute, New York‘s mayor says, by tomorrow, it will be back to normal. 

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG ®, MAYOR OF NEW YORK:  Since the period of the threat now seems to be passing, I think, over the immediate future, we will slowly be winding down the enhanced security. 

WILLIAMS:  Law enforcement officials say today that investigations in the Iraqi city where three men were arrested last week in response to a tip turned up no evidence whatsoever of any plan to attack New York.  That includes giving the three men lie-detector tests, searching their computers and checking their phone call records. 

RAYMOND KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER:  We responded appropriately when we got the information that we got.  Now, with actions overseas, we‘re encouraged by what they found. 

WILLIAMS:  The three in Iraq were arrested after an informant there told the U.S. military that they planned to go to New York and place bombs on the subways. 

But intelligence analysts had doubts about the credibility of the tip from the beginning.  The informant, while providing accurate warnings in the past about attacks in Iraq, had been wrong 15 times before about threats to the U.S.  He had trouble during his own lie-detector test when asked where the tip came from. 

He could not give any names of people he said were heading to New York.  And the informant‘s details seemed farfetched and overly dramatic, reminding some intelligence analysts of a scene from a movie, something like “Lethal Weapon 3.”  Still, because the threat included so many specifics, federal officials believed New York‘s response made sense.  And many subway riders today seemed to agree. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think, if they get a terror threat, they need to act on it, because I think it‘s safer for everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think they told everybody as much as they could tell them, and then you have to deal with it as best you can. 

WILLIAMS (on camera):  Now the U.S. military is trying to figure out whether the informant was passing on information he actually heard or whether he just made it up. 

Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Last Thursday, we spoke of at least 13 coincidences of timing between bad political news for the government and a terror or terror-related event.  We will be presenting a special report detailing those and other coincidences on Wednesday night‘s edition of this news hour, “The Nexus of Politics and Terror” on COUNTDOWN this Wednesday at 8:00 and midnight Eastern here on MSNBC. 

Ahead on tonight‘s big show, identity theft, identity theft involving kids, a trend that could go undetected for years and ruin your child‘s financial future as an adult. 

And who‘s behind the pie assault against the editor in chief of “Vogue” magazine?  When good tofu goes bad. 

That‘s when COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was only a matter of time, identity theft now hitting kids.  And it‘s often their own relatives behind the crime.  And, if that is not dastardly enough, Kaballah has turned on Madonna, saying she‘s about to get a bad review from heaven.  Uh-oh.

COUNTDOWN continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  For the first 50 years of the Social Security system, citizens were required to obtain a membership number on the occasion of their first formal paying job. 

But, in 1986, the Tax Reform Act mandated that anybody over the age of five claimed as a dependent had to have a number.  In ‘89, that was pushed back to age 2 or older, in ‘91, to age 1 or older.  As the Social Security Administration happily points out, your child does not have to have a number.  Of course, without one, it‘s almost impossible to get him or her savings bonds, medical coverage or government services, otherwise, not a problem. 

Unfortunately, there is a problem. 

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, who knew?  Kids are even less protective of their Social Security numbers than are adults.  And, thus, today, nearly two decades after we started sticking them with official government identities, those identities are now getting stolen. 

COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny joins me now with a surprising and disturbing story. 

Good evening, Monica.

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, about 10 million Americans are victimized by identity theft each year.  And now that most infants have Social Security numbers, thieves have discovered that they may be the easiest targets of all. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  By the time I was 10 years old, I was not only a convicted felon, but I had outstanding debt somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 to $250,000. 

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  And he didn‘t even know it.  For most of his 24 years, Randy Waldren (ph) was a victim of child identity theft, a series of crimes he discovered only when he tried to get his first credit card, his application denied.  And that was just the beginning. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The total debt in my name, between outstanding credit card bills, bounced checks, back taxes and civil judgments totaled $2 million. 

NOVOTNY:  Randy, one of thousands of victims of a crime committed by strangers or relatives who have access to a child‘s Social Security number.  Often, as in Randy‘s case, the perpetrator, a parent. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My father began using my Social Security number. 

He never, ever stopped. 

NOVOTNY:  According to the FTC, about 4 percent of all identity thefts reported involve children. 

But Linda Foley of the Identity Theft Resource Center believes the problem is much bigger. 

LINDA FOLEY, THE IDENTITY THEFT RESOURCE CENTER:  I think that‘s just the tip of the iceberg.  Based on the call volume we are getting here, I would say that children of identity theft is closer to 25 percent of the calls we are receiving. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This was the original court report I pulled that my friend had pulled for me. 

NOVOTNY:  Cheryl Leddy (ph) knew something was wrong when she received a registered letter six years ago addressed to her then 3-year-old son, Bryce (ph). 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It was from a collection agency saying that he owed about—over $2,000. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My dad used my identity, but I can‘t remember the rest.  My dad is paying it back. 

NOVOTNY (on camera):  Unfortunately, children are easy targets.  They typically don‘t use their Social Security numbers until their late teens, when applying for a first job, a student loan or a credit card.  So, thieves have years to do considerable damage.  And when families finally find out, they are left with the burden of proof. 

FOLEY:  They have to fight to prove that their children, who can barely hold crayons, are not ones who have opened credit card accounts or gotten cars or loans or have not driven the car and gotten a driving-under-the-influence ticket. 

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  And, as credit questions may haunt them for years, for children, the harsh reality of a stolen future. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m afraid that, when he goes to buy his first car or apply for college loans or even car insurance, is he going have a problem? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Unfortunately, a lot of people don‘t know about it.  They don‘t think it can happen to them.  And I‘m here to tell you that it can, and it can be absolutely devastating. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOVOTNY:  The best way to prevent this, experts say, of course, is, to guard your child‘s Social Security number just as you would your own.  Unfortunately, as many as two-thirds of child identity theft crimes may be committed by a family member. 

If that‘s the case, your first step is to report it to the authorities immediately.  And, of course, you can find out more information on our Web site at COUNTDOWN.MSNBC.com. 

OLBERMANN:  What about the people who rule the world in this, the credit reporting agencies?  Can you go to them directly if you think your 7-year-old‘s credit is no good? 

NOVOTNY:  You can.  You can file with Fraud Alert with the three agencies.  They have different protocols.  But, typically, if you do it by phone, it can last anywhere from 90 days to six months and they‘ll notify you in whatever way you‘ve asked that someone‘s trying to do something. 

But it‘s still not foolproof.  They don‘t have to notify you.  Things slip through the cracks.  You can write a letter and get them to try to protect you for seven years.  But, again, none of these things are law, so you‘ve really got to be on top of it. 

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny.

And it‘s a good time to remind everybody, 8 years old and otherwise, don‘t carry your Social Security card with you.  That‘s one way to cut down, at least, on the thefts. 

NOVOTNY:  That‘s right. 

OLBERMANN:  Great thanks.

NOVOTNY:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  From stealing somebody‘s identity to stealing somebody‘s dignity, that‘s the best I can do in terms of a segue into our news of celebrity and entertainment, “Keeping Tabs.”

And, yes, Madonna going to hell, it‘s not in “Keeping Tabs” tonight. 

It will be our number one story.  There.  I gave it away.

First, there‘s Anna Wintour, the editor of chief—or editor in chief of “Vogue” magazine.  And she‘d be modeling the latest for us in a tofu pie.  She was hit by one lobbed by protesters as she arrived at an event at Fashion Week in Paris.  The perpetrators, PETA.  The animal rights group says “Vogue” decided to run fur ads, but would not run PETA‘s anti-fur ads, even though PETA says it offered to pay the same price as the fur manufacturers did. 

That‘s two pies in one year from PETA to Ms. Wintour, possibly the celebrity record in the non-Soupy Sales category.

And, as there actually was a filmed called “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini,” starring Annette Funicello and Buster Keaton, no less, there‘s actually a news story we could call how to withdraw a $47,000 brassiere. 

That‘s how high the bidding got for a bra worn, game worn, as the sports collectors say, by Britney Spears before she stopped the charity auction.  We will let La Spears herself explain.  “I‘m concerned,” she writes, “that some of you might be confusing this bra with something it is not.  This bra was worn by me during promotion of my HBO special.  However, it is not the one I wore on stage during the “Baby One More” time performance.  I feel the correct thing to do is remove this item from the auction because I don‘t want any of you to feel misled.”

Well, thanks for clearing that up, Brit.  Nice to know that she changes jewel-encrusted bras recently. 

If you think Britney is in trouble, wait until you hear about her partner in lip-lock.  You think this was enough to send Madonna to hell?  No, not even close.  She‘s done something much worse, say the rabbis. 

That‘s ahead.

But, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted title of worst person in the world, beside Madonna, tonight.

Our first posthumous nominee ever, Robert Prosser.  Mr. Prosser of Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, died in 2003.  He was a collector.  He left his four nieces and nephews half-a-dozen buildings in Turtle Lake, and every one of them is filled with his collection.  He collected old telephones, 750,000 of them. 

The executor of the estate thinks the collection is worth $1 million. 

His eldest niece, she‘s looking for a landfill for it. 

Also nominated, the commissioners of Cameron County, Texas.  They have voted $24,000 of taxpayer money to restore a historic site in Brownsville, the bathroom in the courthouse.  They‘ll make it look exactly like it did in 1912, 93 years worth of cleaning ago. 

But the winner, the staffers at the Wisconsin newspaper “Fond du Lac

Reporter.”  In July, it published an article about a gas station complete

with a photograph and address that had formerly been owned by a man, it

said, the Department of Homeland Security agency had identified as—quote

“one of the plotters of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”

What the agent had actually said was that the gas station owner was an applauder of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, slight difference.  The paper, surprise, surprise, has been sued. 

Even so, the staffers of “The Fond du Lac Reporter,” today‘s worst persons in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  This just in:  Madonna is going to hell. 

The rabbis guarding the grave of the 16th century Jewish mystic  Yitzhak Luria didn‘t say it in so many words.  But in our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, when one of them says, “I can only sympathize for her because of the punishment that she‘s going to receive from heaven,” ah, close enough. 

The problem is a song in her upcoming album “Confessions on a Dance Floor.”  It is called “Isaac.”  And it supposedly a tribute to Yitzhak Luria, one of the pillars of the Kaballah faith that Madonna has embraced.  But there‘s a problem right there.  Jewish law forbids the use of the name of the holy rabbi for profit, says Rabbi Rafael Cohen.  He runs the seminary in Israel named after Luria and says, of Madonna, “Her act is simply unacceptable.”

Well, I mean, after 25 years, it‘s getting stale, but I wouldn‘t call her act unacceptable.  Oh, he means her actions.  Rabbi Cohen is the one who mentioned the part about the punishment she‘s going to receive from heaven.  He also adds that the sage Isaac is holy and pure and immodest people cannot sing about him. 

Immodest?  Madonna?  OK, I‘m giving you that.

A second rabbi, Israel Deri, added fuel to the fire.  “Such a woman brings great sin on Kaballah.  I hope that we will have the strength to prevent her from bringing sin upon the holiness of”—end quote.  He means upon the holiness of Yitzhak Luria.  Only, he really can‘t say that.  Other rabbis are saying Madonna should be excommunicated from her faith. 

If it‘s about a celebrity, an unacceptable act and going to hell, who better to ask about than Mike Musto, the one and only columnist of “the Village Voice”?

Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”:  Oy.  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So, first, the pope—she ticked off the pope 17 years ago, and now the Kaballah rabbis.  She‘s running out of religions, isn‘t she? 

MUSTO:  Absolutely not.

(LAUGHTER)

MUSTO:  She still has that Buddhalicious album coming out.  She had “Islam All There Is.”  She had “Hindu Do Do What You Done Done Done Before.”  And she has her big seller coming up, “Animism Crackers in My Soup.”

(LAUGHTER)

MUSTO:  I‘m kidding.  These are just jokes.

But, meanwhile, I‘m loving this song about Yitzhak Luria.  Oh, I‘m not supposed—this song about mmm-mmm, because, honey, oy vey, clear the dance floor, and I‘m boogying down and doing the hustle to that one. 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s not much to read between the lines here on what the rabbis think is going to happen.  I mean, when they say, I can only sympathize with her because of the punishment that she‘s going to receive from heaven.  He‘s not—he‘s not referring to a sore throat.  That‘s my interpretation of it.

MUSTO:  Well, what he doesn‘t seem to realize is, she already got the punishment.  It was called “Shanghai Surprise.”  Then the great lord got her again with “Body of Evidence,” and then the one-two-three punch with “Swept Away.”

Oh, I‘m kidding.  But Madonna‘s life is a living hell.  She‘s a bourgeois British housewife married a one-trick-pony director who ruined her acting career, which didn‘t take all that much.  But the whole thing of her using this name for profit.  Oh, shocking.  That‘s like saying her British accent is fake and she‘s not really Jewish.  And this is all a tempest in a crack pot anyway, because the song is about Isaac Mizrahi, the Target designer.

(LAUGHTER)

MUSTO:  He gave her—gave her a pair of designer shoes.  This has nothing do with Yitzhak—oh, sorry.  I‘m not supposed to say it.

OLBERMANN:  If—if you go into a religion of any kind and there is a name so holy, you‘re not supposed to use it for profit, as is this case, how—how could she have missed that?  Did she not go through the entire book carefully enough, the instruction manual?  Did she not get a good training in this?  How do—how do you miss something that large-scale?

MUSTO:  Just a wild guess, she caught that piece of information and thought, let me do a song about it.  Let me use the name for profit.  Let me get on the Keith Olbermann show, OK?  And it worked. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow.

But, you see, the ratio—I don‘t think the ratio of publicity that we can get for her, relative to an eternity in damnation, is worth it.  That‘s just my—I mean, maybe I‘m mistaken about that. 

But there‘s two parts of this.  I‘d like your opinion on which is better.  I‘m not sure which part of this is my favorite part of the story, the quote that her act is just simply unacceptable or the note that was appended to the wire story that said, her publicist couldn‘t be reached for comment. 

MUSTO:  I like, the act is unacceptable, because that‘s the highest praise you could give Madonna. 

(LAUGHTER)

MUSTO:  You tell her, you suck and she orgasms.  The woman is rolling around with a crucifix between her legs.  And if somebody says, oh, that‘s neat, she has a breakdown.

I mean, calling her unacceptable is like saying Britney Spears is mildly unkept.  I love the subtlety of these rabbis.  But I also love the whole—the idea of the publicist not being able to give a comment.  And you know the reason for that, Keith, is, you can‘t get a connection in hell, where the publicist is awaiting Madonna right now.  And...

OLBERMANN:  But if—if you‘re a publicist and your client is told she‘s going to hell, should you be reachable for comment, even on Columbus Day? 

MUSTO:  You cannot get a signal in hell, Keith.  Satan has made sure to that.  And so, the publicist can‘t make the obligatory, oh, “This is a wonderful, loving tribute to a great historic man” song, and the proceeds will go to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, blah, blah, blah, blah.  Satan made sure that she couldn‘t make that call.  And, for that, I praise Satan. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, that‘s—that will make a few headlines tomorrow. 

Now, the rabbis will be calling you next. 

But the—I think I‘m going to disagree with you on where cell phone service, particularly, its availability, I think, wherever that is, is often virtual hell. 

But last point here.  One thing we know about this woman, whatever the criticism has been, she‘s got a backup plan.  All the way through, from pop idol through nude posing, she‘s got something else going.  If she‘s out of Kaballah, she‘s headed to hell, what‘s the next self-reinvention for this woman? 

MUSTO:  I always said she should become a theme park.  But, if that doesn‘t happen, maybe grow her hymen back, become like a virgin again, maybe be an atheist and tick everybody off, because she will have no religion, maybe go into drug business with Boy George. 

But, whatever she does, definitely come out with that Buddhalicious record.  That‘s a winner.

OLBERMANN:  You gave her a whole—there‘s four hits on that.  There‘s four singles on that.  They‘re going to play that on all the disco stations in New York, those titles.

MUSTO:  And am I going to get royalties from profiting off these dead Jews?  No. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, rush out to the—rush out to the patent office and put those names in, Michael.  For God sakes, it‘s not that difficult.

MUSTO:  I would call them, but I can‘t get a signal for some reason.

OLBERMANN:  I know, because you‘re working—you‘re in an NBC facility.  I understand.

MUSTO:  It‘s hell.

OLBERMANN:  Michael Musto of “The Village Voice,” always more interesting than that topic he covers. 

MUSTO:  Oy. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you much. 

MUSTO:  Thanks, Keith. 

MATTHEWS:  Madonna is going to hell.  Well, we will all have company, I suppose. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Good night and good luck. 

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.”

Good evening, Rita. 

RITA COSBY, HOST, “RITA COSBY: LIVE & DIRECT”:  Good evening.  Thanks so much, Keith.

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

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