Guests: Ken Bazinet
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The president goes full court defending the NSA spying, visiting that agency to raise spirits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The good folks out here understand we are at war. And they know what we know. And they know what I know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: What do you know about the words “domestic” and “international”?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you look at how that is billed on your phone records it‘s billed as an international call, it is charged the international rate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The White House charges taxpayers for this, an actual press release, giving examples of what the words mean, and why this is international spying and not domestic spying, even if half of it happened here.
What happened here defies description. A Kentucky mine so dangerous, a miner sneaks a camera in to document the conditions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you hear what Charlie told you? You‘re definitely too ugly to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That miner did die in a cave-in that day.
And remember Richard Hatch from the original “Survivor” series? Found guilty of not paying taxes on his winnings. A judge today orders him, Go directly to jail, do not collect $1 million. In other words, Survive this!
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SURVIVOR”)
RICHARD HATCH: I really want (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
His Republican critics, who sincerely believed, seven and a half years ago, that President Bill Clinton should be impeached, in part because of his unforgettable rationalization, It depends on what the definition of “is” is, warned they if such tortured semantics went unpunished, they would become an indestructible element of camouflage in the American political way of life.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, they were right. The current president of the United States, and many of his employees, spent this day insisting that whatever spying they might have done on U.S. citizens was not domestic, because it involved international phone calls, that that made all of it all right, and they‘d keep symbolically hitting the rest of us over the head with a dictionary until we say uncle.
The president dropping in on NSA headquarters in Fort Mead, Maryland. For those who were absent on days one and two of the lecture series, the administration‘s lesson plan zeroing in on three key points. One, stop calling it domestic spying program. Two, warrants? We don‘t need no stinkin‘ warrants. And three, anyone who believes otherwise is all but inviting Osama bin Laden to attack again.
Something new, though, in today‘s presentation, the suggestion that former presidents may have authorized such wiretaps too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: My predecessors have used the same constitutional authority on numerous occasions. I have the authority, both from the Constitution and the Congress, to undertake this vital program.
The American people expect me to protect their lives and their civil liberties, and that‘s exactly what we‘re doing with this program.
I‘ll continue to reauthorize this program for so long as our country faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A trick question. He did not say what those predecessors authorized, or whether any constitutional lines had been crossed.
In a different classroom, the president‘s press secretary, Scott McClellan, doing some lecturing of his own.
Our White House correspondent, David Gregory, bringing his A-game to that class.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president argued, asserts, that he has the power to unilaterally authorize this wiretapping, OK? It‘s not—he doesn‘t have the monopoly on the truth of what power he has and he doesn‘t.
MCCLELLAN: All the courts have upheld it, and previous administrations have asserted it as well.
GREGORY: Well, that was different, and this, again, is your position...
MCCLELLAN: Same authority, same authority, David.
GREGORY: That‘s in dispute.
MCCLELLAN: ... that‘s not—hang on, that‘s not in dispute. And look at the associated attorney general under the Clinton administration. The courts have upheld this authority in the past. Look at the federal courts. The president talked about it, and we provided it, we provided it in a document, so that‘s wrong.
GREGORY: We‘re not -- No, I don‘t think that‘s wrong. And we can go into that. But I don‘t think (INAUDIBLE)...
MCCLELLAN: Did the courts (INAUDIBLE) upheld it?
GREGORY: ... can‘t do that. But my question is, instead of spending time trying to fine-tune the rhetoric over what you want to call this program for political purposes, why not seek to amend FISA so that it can better suit your purposes, which is another thing the previous administration did, when it wasn‘t considered to be agile enough.
MCCLELLAN: Let‘s look at a practical example. Do you expect our commanders in a time of war to go to a court while they‘re trying to surveil the enemy? I don‘t think so. This is a time of war. This is about wartime surveillance of the enemy. That‘s what this is about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: To others, this is about the literal meaning of those words, “domestic” and “international.” More on that in a moment. Still others insisting this is all about accountability.
Senate hearings on NSA wiretapping scheduled to begin in less than two weeks, with a preview popping up today in Washington. Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter writing the attorney general, Mr. Gonzales, laying out a series of subjects he wants to see addressed before his committee, what can be seen either as a warning, or a really excellent study guide.
Some of the senator‘s questions for the AG, Why did the administration not go to the intelligence court to get approval for that wiretapping? Why did the White House not just ask Congress for changes to the 1978 foreign surveillance law? And will the White House consider doing the latter now?
Democrats on the committee, already underwhelmed, saying they‘d like to call more witnesses than now planned, including former deputy attorney general James Comey, who reportedly had misgivings about the program.
The wait time practically nonexistent, though, when it came to grilling the White House on why it appears to be stonewalling the Hurricane Katrina investigation, while simultaneously rejecting a Gulf Coast homeowner bailout plan as too expensive. Instead of the $30 billion Louisiana says it needs to get its residents back on their feet, the White House is instead offering $6 billion, with the provision that only homeowners without insurance who live outside the flood plain would qualify.
That means most everyone who was either poor, black, lived on low ground, or in the city of New Orleans need not bother applying. No controversy there.
At the same time, members of Congress in both parties are complaining that the president is holding back key information about the federal response, such as it was, to the hurricane, specifically who knew what and when.
The senator Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, saying he may try to subpoena the administration for documents, the White House citing executive privilege, and our White House correspondent Mr. Gregory saving his second question at today‘s media briefing for the Katrina mess.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCLELLAN: Now, the issue that you bring up goes to separation of powers issues. The president believes that Senator Lieberman ought to have the right to confidential conversations with his advisers, just like all presidents have asserted they ought to have that same right. That‘s what this is about. That‘s the bottom line here.
GREGORY: Well, you always fall back on that. But the president also made a promise to report to the American people about where the ball was dropped. And if it was in part dropped within this White House, doesn‘t he have an obligation to forego the crutch of privilege, and tell people what the White House was told, when it was told it, and where the ball got dropped?
MCCLELLAN: But that‘s good rhetoric too, that‘s ignoring the facts, though, because we are doing a comprehensive lessons-learned review within the White House and the administration, headed by our homeland security adviser. It‘s nearing completion. It is taking a broad look at issues and looking at where we need to improve things for future responses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time now to call in Ken Bazinet, White House correspondent of “The New York Daily News.”
Nice to have you with us again, sir.
KEN BAZINET, “THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: My pleasure, sir.
OLBERMANN: That most recent story first. Less than five months removed from the huge outrage in this country over the Katrina response, at least much of it aimed at that White House, the White House would then not only appear to stonewall the investigation, but also propose this legislation that would fail to help most of the people crippled worst by the storm.
Is there is a rationale for that latter part being offered?
BAZINET: Well, I think that what‘s interesting is, it‘s also suggests that for the first time, or certainly never before at this level, do you see this White House sort of putting the impetus on the insurance industry regarding the legislation, simply because if the government doesn‘t help bail these folks out, then presumably those who are insured will have to, you know, be reimbursed by insurance companies.
So I think that‘s sort of a first, and has sort of been lost in this debate at this point.
OLBERMANN: Regarding the debate, regarding the stonewalling, or the purported stonewalling, the White House, obviously, has its own rules. And it decides what it will answer and then if you ask it why it will not answer, it decides whether or not it‘s going to answer your question about why it will not answer. How does this means of dealing with questioning continue without some puncture somewhere?
BAZINET: Well, I mean, first of all, they‘ve had a lot of success doing this. But I think in this case, you have to remember a couple of things. Number one, you‘ll probably find if you put top-level administration officials in front of a congressional committee under oath, you may find that there are an awful lot of people on vacation when Katrina hit, and no one of substance, if you will, was at home watching the store.
The other issue, I think, and maybe it‘s more important to this White House, there was no single issue or single event that occurred last year that did more damage to the president, his job approval rating, and just the overall view the American people had of this White House.
And I don‘t think they want to go back there at this point, especially as they‘re trying to once again get above the 50 percent level in terms of job approval rating, favorability, et cetera. They‘re still quite—they still have a ways to go in terms of climbing in the polls, and they know that. This can‘t help them.
OLBERMANN: Trying to turn to something here that we‘re—certainly they‘re trying to help themselves, the domestic-slash-international-slash-both spying PR blitz reeducation campaign. Is day three the last day, or is there more of this to be coming, with statements from the president and the attorney general and others, or are we at the climax, or has that not yet been decided?
BAZINET: I don‘t think we‘re at the climax. I think that we‘re going to definitely hear this theme early next week, Tuesday, in the State of the Union address, certainly. But also, I think that there‘s a little bit of a strategy here that‘s worth paying attention to.
These hearings are, in fact, going to happen in the Senate next month, and I think that what you‘re seeing here is a real attempt to try and get ahead of those hearings and go in with an advantage. I think that you have volatile polls right now. The American people are still—they haven‘t really firmed up their opinion on whether or not this is (INAUDIBLE), depends on which question you ask.
If you ask the question, Are you willing to give up your civil liberties in order to go after terrorists? majority of the American people say no. If you ask the question, Well, do you think it‘s wise for us to tap phones of suspected terrorists, a majority of the American people say yes.
So I think what we‘re seeing here right now is really an attempt to try and firm up, you know, support for the president, and I think this is what they think is the best way to go about it.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, we did not get to this beforehand, but over at the Pentagon today, the administration was dealing with a report that it commissioned that said the Army is stretched way too thin, in real trouble. And then in a briefing today, the defense secretary, Mr. Rumsfeld, claimed he had not read the report and (INAUDIBLE) and continued to dispute the report.
Is there an explanation as to why the military would have commissioned a report that it was, its head was not to read?
BAZINET: Well, I think you probably saw the secretary‘s answer, which was, Well, this was a draft, and a reporter pointed out, Well, it was a draft that presumably had come off of your desk.
But I think it goes back to some of the questions you‘ve have already asked, and that is, you know, this administration, across the board, is trying to turn really stonewalling into an Olympic sport and really going for the gold.
OLBERMANN: Thank you for the plug for the NBC coverage of the opening games from Italy.
Ken Bazinet, the White House correspondent of “The New York Daily News.” Thanks for joining us, Ken.
BAZINET: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: While his boss got to inform the media about his perception of that NSA spy program, White House press secretary McClellan got interrogated about it, specifically over why the administration absolutely insists that spying on someone domestically is not, quote, “domestic spying,” unquote.
The answer, if the person on the other end of the line is out of the country, that means they are spying on an international call. That‘s a definition to which another old colleague of mine, Martha Raddatz of ABC News, took issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Isn‘t one end of that phone call on domestic soil? Why is the charge of it being domestic spying so far off?
MCCLELLAN: Yes, for the (INAUDIBLE), for, for the same reasons that a phone call from someone inside the United States to someone outside the United States is not a domestic call. If you look at how that is billed on your phone records, it‘s billed as an international call. It is charged the international rate. And so that‘s the best way to sum that up.
RADDATZ: But (INAUDIBLE)...
MCCLELLAN: Because one, one communication within this surveillance has to be outside of the United States. That means it‘s an international communication...
RADDATZ: Right, but—but—but...
MCCLELLAN: ... for the very reason I just said.
RADDATZ: ... one of the people being eavesdropped on is on domestic soil.
MCCLELLAN: I think it leaves an inaccurate impression with the American people to say that this is domestic spying. And for the reasons that General Hayden has said, for the reason that others have said within the administration, and for the example I just provided to you. You don‘t call a flight from New York to somewhere in Afghanistan a domestic flight. It‘s called an international flight.
RADDATZ: Right, but...
MCCLELLAN: This is international communications that are being monitored, if -- Well...
RADDATZ: (INAUDIBLE), I mean, whatever you call it, and you‘re trying to call it, someone...
MCCLELLAN: It‘s what it is.
RADDATZ: ... domestically is being spied on...
MCCLELLAN: It is, it is...
RADDATZ: ... someone‘s communications...
MCCLELLAN: It is what it is.
RADDATZ: ... on domestic soil are being...
MCCLELLAN: If there‘s a...
RADDATZ: ... (INAUDIBLE)...
MCCLELLAN: ... al Qaeda operating inside the United States and talking to someone outside the United States, you bet we want to know what they‘re saying. Could be outside the United States...
RADDATZ: (INAUDIBLE) the United States?
MCCLELLAN: ... talking to someone inside the United States too.
RADDATZ: But the person inside the United States, there has to be a reasonable basis that they‘re connected...
MCCLELLAN: Look, if there‘s someone who try to defend it and say that it is domestic spying, they‘re leaving the American people with an inaccurate impression, just like they would be if they called an international call a domestic call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You think Mr. McClellan was pounding this issue, the White House is trying to sell this so hard that it actually issued an official press release titled, “Setting the Record Straight, Charges of Domestic Spying.”
Look, your tax dollars in action. Word wealth, SAT training class. As a public service, COUNTDOWN will now read, and, where applicable, provide translations of the White House take on what “domestic” means versus what “international” means, and then we‘ll add a few bonus examples of our own.
Quoting, “Deputy Director Of National Intelligence General Michael Hayden,” semicolon; “One End Of Any Call Targeted Under This Program Is Always Outside The United States.”
This is the glass-is-half-full view of warrantless eavesdropping, much as if a U.S. soldier, who, like the average human male, has about 12 pints of blood in his body, would lose six of those pints.
Critics of the NSA terrorist surveillance program would say, That soldier is half empty. The White House would remind you that that soldier is half full.
Anyway, the press release actually gives several examples of the differences between the meanings of these two words. “Definition, Domestic Versus International. Domestic Calls are calls inside the United States. International Calls are calls either to or from the United States.”
And don‘t forget to deposit $2 for the first five minutes, and an extra $2 to cover the cost of the guy listening in at the NSA.
“Domestic Flights,” the White House reminds us, “are flights from one American city to another. International Flights are flights to or from the United States.”
So what happens if I call a domestic airline about a flight to Europe, but they‘ve outsourced their reservation agents to India? Is that a domestic call about an international flight, or an international call about a domestic flight?
Wait, there‘s more. “Domestic Mail consists of letters and packages sent within the United States,” the press release reads. “International Mail consists of letters and packages sent to or from the United States.”
And don‘t forget, we can not only open either kind, kind if we damn well feel like it, but if you‘re using an international stamp and we need it for our collection, we‘re keeping it.
One more item from the press release, “Domestic Commerce involves business within the United States. International Commerce involves business between the United States and other countries.”
International commerce. You know, the kind of stuff Jack Abramoff did for the -- Huh, leave Abramoff out of it? Gotcha, sorry.
Well, anyway, if you‘re still not clear on this domestic-versus-international stuff, as promised, a couple of more definitions to help pull you through.
Domestic is an adjective describing your dog or cat or any other animal you have as a pet, like a tiger or a boa constrictor. “The Internationale,” meanwhile, is the worldwide anthem of those socialists and communists.
Internationals are soccer players who play in countries in which they were not born. Domestics is an old-timey kind of term for people who cleaned your house.
International is the kind of law that lets us take terror suspects to old Soviet-era gulags in Eastern Europe and beat the crap out of them, while domestic is the kind of wine they bottle in California.
Thank you for your attention. Please pass your examination papers forward.
Also tonight, a new and more poignant look at the crises faced every day by American miners. This attempt to document unsafe conditions was the last thing the man holding the video camera ever did.
And a family tragedy in Massachusetts leading the news in England. A mother and her baby found shot to death. The British husband now a person of interest in the case.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It is, we hope, not too cynical to assert that they have been one of the flavors of the month for the kind of hand-wringing tabloid reporting that so dominates journalism today.
But the dangers of mining go back a lot farther and are far more widespread and far less publicized than just the Sago disaster in West Virginia might suggest.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, we did not send crews and cameras rushing to Kentucky 20 months ago when a man named Edwin Pennington was killed in a cave-in there. As chief investigative correspondent Lisa Myers reports tonight, we probably should have.
LISA MYERS, MSNBC CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
This is the inside of Coal Creek mine in southeastern Kentucky, videotaped by a miner who smuggled a camera into work in June 2004 to document what he said were dangerous conditions. Twenty-five-year-old Edwin Pennington told his wife he had had a close call the day before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He acted really scared, and he, you know, he said that he almost, you know, got hit by the rocket, and had barely missed him. It‘s hard.
MYERS: Hard, because when Pennington went back with his camera, he ended up taping the final minutes of his own life. His family sometimes watches the tape, even though they know how its ends.
DARREN PENNINGTON, BROTHER: I would give anything in this world if there was some way that he could pause it and tell him to get out.
MYERS: Here, miners in a space only four feet tall work to shore up the timbers that brace the roof. Bits of rock dribble down. A miner nervously tests the roof with his hammer, aware they‘re working directly underneath a giant seam in the rock. They joke about death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you hear what Charlie told you? You‘re definitely too ugly to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EVERETT PENNINGTON, FATHER: They‘re laughing and joking, trying to hide their fears.
MYERS: At about 7:30, a rock falls. The roof seems to be bulging.
They try to scramble away. At 7:31 p.m., the tape abruptly ends. Pennington is crushed under this slab of rock 200 feet long. The other miners escape.
A federal investigation found high negligence on the part of the company, Bell County Coal, and that a mine foreman knew about giant cracks in the roof, but did not warn the men or get them out of the area.
(on camera): Documents show that the company had been cited for more than 60 safety violations in the five months before the accident, half labeled “significant and substantial,” one of the most serious. Allowing miners to work under an unsupported roof included a $3,600 fine.
(voice-over): A former federal mine safety official who investigated Pennington‘s death for the state says this tragedy underscores a widespread problem in mines across the country. He says fines are too small to induce companies to fix hazards, and the entire mine safety system has no teeth.
TONY OPPEGARD, FORMER MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:
The company‘s been going on about its business for the last year and a half, basically, without any consequences thus far.
EVERETT PENNINGTON: Nobody‘s been held accountable for his death.
It‘s just as if it just never happened.
MYERS: Bell County Coal Corporation refused to comment. The company is challenging $154,000 in fines for safety violations associated with Pennington‘s death, calling them “unsubstantiated and excessive.”
Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, a mystery in California half solved by police. This man is no longer considered missing, but nobody knows why his friends tried to convince his family and girlfriend that he was dead, and the victim of an extreme sports accident.
And who‘s the mother in the robe and the veil at the mall? Michael?
OLBERMANN: Back now, and we pause the COUNTDOWN, because every now and again, a monkey will do something. One time we showed you a monkey riding a dog, another time we had a monkey smoking a cigarette. Tonight, we have a monkey doing something no monkey has ever done before. And if there are any Fox executives watching, speaking of monkeys, we‘ve got your sequel to “Skating with Celebrities,” no charge.
Let‘s play Oddball.
It‘s a monkey on ice skates. Do you believe in miracles? This is Gunmo (ph), and he‘s part of South Korea‘s Animal Academy Show, Annual Animal Academy Show, where they force animals to do things you‘re not supposed to do.
Here he is, pulling an orangutan in a sled wearing ice skates.
Now, I know what you‘re thinking. You‘re thinking, Yeah, all you got are these still pictures. What about ice skating monkey video, we want video. Well Dorothy Hamel, stand back. If you think this is ugly, you should have seen what all the fur on the ice did to the zamboni machine.
Staying at the countdown zoo you‘ll remember last night we showed you the hamster and the snake living together in a cage in Tokyo. The snake was supposed to eat the rodent but he got all soft and nostalgic and now they‘re buds. Today‘s odd couple, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zellick and some large Chinese panda bears. I‘m not sure who was supposed to eat who in this particular case but its clear Mr. Zellick has taken a liking to the pandas.
Zellick‘s visit to the Chin Du Panda Center was designed to ease sign of American tension and apparently also the tension in that panda‘s neck muscles. Say Mr. Deputy Secretary, you may have a future in massaging pandas. It might be Richard Hatch‘s next gig if he‘s lucky. From survivor to law and order criminal intent, or maybe Oz, so says a judge today. It looks like an ordinary iPod except you‘re buying it preloaded. Oh, bet the music and movie producers are just thrilled with this idea. These stories ahead, but first, your countdown top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, the unidentified 16-year-old in Boston who got off to a bad start in his career as a car thief. He allegedly swiped a 2005 Honda, then promptly crashed it into the police car parking lot. Number two, another anonymous gent, this one 57-years-old living in Tokyo, claims he had a dream in which he was told that, “I would become attractive to women if I recited a particular incantation.” The Kyoto News Agency reports the guy now lives with 10 women in their 20‘s and 30‘s. Say, you wouldn‘t happen to remember that incantation by any chance, would you?
The number one, Stewie Griffin from the (inaudible) TV series “Family Guy.” If you think that series is strange stay tuned for the just announced internet virtual talk show Stewie will host in between his attempts to take over the world. It‘s me and a bunch of (inaudible), what more do you need to know? Just remember Stewie, don‘t quote Christopher Hitchins on your show.
Rachel Entwistle and Scott Denham never knew one another, they lived at opposite corners of our country, 2,600 miles apart. But tonight, those who care about them are sharing the same emotions, shock and mystification. Now our third story in the COUNTDOWN, Mrs. Entwistle‘s friends and family are so moved because she has been found dead. Mr. Denham‘s because he has been found alive. The first of these mirror image mysteries explained tonight by Robert Moore of our affiliated British network ITV.
ROBERT MOORE, ITV NEWS REPORTER(on camera): It is not only deeply distressing it also appears to be utterly baffling. A British man and his family out here living the American dream until one horrific moment that dream was shattered.
(voice-over): If photographs can capture the happiness of a young family it would appear the Entwistles had everything to live for. A marriage that seemed blissful, a young daughter age just nine months they adored and a life in America that held out so much promise.
But a brutal reality descended on the family this weekend, when police found Rachel and her baby Lillian shot dead in their house outside of Boston. A neighbor we spoke to today said people here were simply stunned.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s the first homicide in this town in 11 years. Stuff like that just doesn‘t happen here.
MOORE: Neil Entwistle has disappeared, although police say they have been in touch with him.
MARTHA COAKLEY, MIDDLESEX COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Investigators are still obviously involved in a very active investigation relative to these very sad and puzzling deaths. They have determined that the car that Neil Entwistle was driving has been found. The police have that vehicle at this time. Investigators also have learned that Neil Entwistle is out of the country and in fact have been in contact with him.
MOORE: The couple had a website on which they posted their family photographs. It‘s now being flooded with messages of sympathy. And among the condolences, advice to Neal the missing husband. One reads, to run like this does nothing but reinforce the impression of your guilt. Walk into the nearest police station. Another says simply, please give yourself up.
(on camera): The family were due to hold a party here on Saturday night, but when guests arrived and knocked on the door, nobody answered. And it was 24 hours after that, at 6:30 on Sunday evening that the police broke in and found the bodies of Lillian and her mother Rachel, up there in the master bedroom. The crime scene so orderly that at first, investigators thought the two had died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
(voice-over): Inexplicably, it was only later that police realized they had been shot. Rachel through the head, Lillian killed with a bullet to her tiny body. A family that seemed so happy now destroyed. And police on both sides of the Atlantic trying to unravel what happened and why.
(on camera): It seems that very few people here knew their British neighbor, but it has left the community in shock. It has also left the biggest mystery of all, a motive for this double murder. Robert Moore, ITV News, Massachusetts.
OLBERMANN: It is hard to imagine that a story of survival might be nearly as shocking as one of murder, yet thus is the case in Southern California. A mother there told that her son was dead, the victim of an extreme sports accident. But as Patrick Healy from our Los Angeles station KNBC reports, it is some kind of elaborate hoax.
PATRICK HEALY, KNBC REPORTER: Valencia‘s Town Center apartment complex, which the LA sheriff believes to be the most current address of 22 year old Scott Wesley Denham, the itinerant parachute jumper whose purported death has been exposed as fiction, though his whereabouts remain cloaked in mystery.
BRIANNE KIRK, BASE JUMPER‘S GIRLFRIEND: I just want to know where he is.
HEALY: Tearful girlfriend Brianne Kirk on Monday night, pleading on TV news reports for help in locating the young man she‘d been led to believe had been killed while taking part in a dangerous extreme called base jumping.
Base jumping often is done in secret because it at times involves committing trespass and other crimes. The girlfriend of eight months said Denham‘s mother had called her after getting a call.
KIRK: I was told he went with saying Scott had died, but he would not release where the body was.
HEALY: The sheriff‘s department put together a missing person bulletin and launched an investigation. Channel 4 News has learned Denham‘s anguished parents traveled from their Oregon home to the LA Sheriff‘s homicide bureau in the city of Commerce to meet with detectives. While they were there, the parents somehow reached the son by phone, and a detective got on the line long enough to determine that Denham had gone missing voluntarily.
OLBERMANN: Patrick Healy from KNBC reporting. Police consider that case closed, no charges are pending. At this point, they‘re not even seeking reimbursement for their time on the case. A potential crime of a much different variety. bootlegging. Now updated for the age of the iPod. Why download when you can buy it fully loaded. Speaking of which, who‘s that behind those foster grants and in that abaya? The words woo-who-who give you a hint? Details ahead, but first your “COUNTDOWN‘s” top three sound bites of today.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The Q-D-R recommends that the Navy --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you know, there‘s nothing to be released --
RUMSFELD: A draft‘s a draft, it‘s on your desk. Think of all the fine tuning it‘s given. The broad point is this, why don‘t you just report the news instead of what might be the news?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You told the Pacers you didn‘t want to go there, basically?
RON ARTEST, NBA PLAYER: No, no, I was in my house asleep and I just woke up.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you do, you‘re going to play basketball?
ARTEST: As a matter of fact, I‘ve got this macaroni and cheese for you too. You want to beat me and get it?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I might can play, let‘s go shoot around somewhere.
ARTEST: Want some macaroni and cheese? I was in the house all day, I made macaroni and cheese and stuff.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: At 82 years old, Bing Poon‘s body is going downhill literally.
BING POON: I put skis on in 1952. I like to keep active and don‘t be (inaudible) with your credit cards.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A couch potato?
POON: A couch potato.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Boon is proof that getting older doesn‘t mean slowing down.
POON: I ski and I fly down, I like to look at pretty ladies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s a bachelor. Why not say hi to the ladies on the slope?
OLBERMANN: News again. movie producers are happy to buy or have you buy iPods until they discovered these iPods were preloaded with music and movies. So we hope Richard Hatch has his fill, because after a judge‘s ruling today he‘s got a lot of time listening to it. Those stories next here on COUNTDOWN.
The music industry and its consumers would have you believe that illegal sharing is an invention of this 21st century. Ask your great grandfather who could buy cut rate reprints of sheet music to songs like “Hello My Rag Time Gal”, or your elders who remember the record players in the early 50‘s that could record music off the radio. Or anybody my age who could buy cheap bootleg cassettes of the early hits of “Blood, Sweat, and Tears.
All that‘s new is the technology. Our number two story on the countdown, of course the technology does affect how much illegal sharing can be done and how fast. Our correspondent Peter Alexander tonight with the latest iPods for sale already fully loaded with music and movies. What a time to be alive.
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Witness the evolution of a revolution. First it played songs, then added photos. Fans took it up a notch with homemade radio shows called Podcasts. Now it‘s a video sensation. The iPod, changing the way we hear and watch almost everything and everyone wants in on the action.
JOE LEVY, ROLLING STONE: Here‘s yet another thing for the record industry to be worried about. And not just the record industry, now the film industry can start being upset too.
ALEXANDER: The latest iPod offer doesn‘t come from Apple, instead its enterprising entrepreneurs who‘ve realized the people who love their pods don‘t always know what to do with them. Now on the market, brand new iPods, preloaded with thousands of songs and hours of movies already installed. The cost, just a few hundred bucks more than you‘d pay for an empty iPod at the store.
ANDREW BRIDGES, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWYER: There are two big questions here, is this legal or not? The other question is, will it be challenged? In Hollywood, it‘s not about the money, it‘s about all the money.
ALEXANDER: But there may be no stopping the music. Some music websites already offer iPods with customized play lists, they‘re common on eBay. So far it‘s unclear whether it‘s legal to sell these preloaded players, but powerful music labels and movie studios could lose a fortune.
LEVY: The record industry and the film industry in particular are going to try to shut this down before it starts.
ALEXANDER: One more turn in the iPod revolution, but does it come too easy and at too high a price? Peter Alexander, NBC NEWS, Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: One more turn in the evolution of Michael Jackson topping our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news “Keeping Tabs”. Jackson dressing up in public again. Manama Bahrain, Jackson seen shopping at the Marina Mall wearing a black robe traditionally worn by women in the Gulf, the abaya. His head and face wrapped in a black veil.
But as you can see from this second photograph he did wear pants underneath and men‘s shoes. He appeared to be with all three of his children along with a female aide. Once recognized they all made a speedy retreat. Jackson‘s mall outing in Dubai last November notable because he used the ladies‘ rest room, confused he was since the signs were in Arabic. But on that occasion he reportedly applied make-up in that restroom and was wearing a full length robe and woman‘s scarf then too.
And he doesn‘t have to go to Bahrain but one of the most controversial American athletes of the moment does have to relocate to Sacramento. Ron Artest suspended by the National Basketball Association for nearly all of last season after he led the Indiana Pacers into the stands to fight the fans of the Detroit Pistons.
Suspended nearly two months ago after demanding the Pacers trade him, finally got his wish today, swapped to the Sacramento Kings for Peja Stojakovic. Just yesterday Artest had supposedly put the cubage on the deal and the Pacers may not be getting a barrel of laughs in Stojakovic either. He said he was that he had first heard of the tentative deal not from his Sacramento employers but from my radio partner Dan Patrick.
Also tonight, voted off the island, booted into the penitentiary. Richard Hatch, survivor winner, tax evasion trial loser. That story ahead, but first the COUNTDOWN list of today‘s three nominees for worst person in the world. The bronze tonight, Britain‘s Ministry of Defense, making a big deal today about the fact that with the younger of the British Princes Harry joining the blues and royal regiment, he could wind up being deployed to Iraq. They did not make such a big deal out of the other possibility of assignment for Harry, he could wind up being forced to guard Queen Elizabeth, his own grandma. The runners up tonight, the fashion industry in Russia, the Czech Republic and other eastern European countries, the British humane society says, its undercover investigation has produced videotape evidence that a lot of the fur in jacket collars and coats produced in those countries is from dogs and cats.
But the winners, the folks at the special interest group “Accuracy in Media.” Their latest harangue about a news organization that is not conservative enough for them, directed at an outfit they claim gave Robert Kennedy, Jr. a platform for a, “environmental propaganda piece about global warning, against a network whose reporters let New Orleans get to them, against people “drifting to the left”. Fox News channel. No, seriously. To the left of whom? Glad the Impailer, one of A.I.M.‘s e-mailers did however observe “O‘Reilly has really gone bonkers.” So any way, that‘s unanimous. Accuracy in Media, today‘s worst persons in the world.
What you probably don‘t want to do if you are on national TV on a reality show back when they were still novel and they drew audiences of 52 million and you became famous for walking around butt naked, is get yourself sentenced to prison for tax evasion. Our number one story in the “COUNTDOWN” tonight, yet that‘s exactly the fate that has today befalling Richard Hatch.
A court in Providence, Rhode Island has found Hatch guilty of trying to pull on the government, what he seemed to be pulling on his fellow contestants on “Survivor”, not paying his due, the taxes on his million dollars in winnings. He was handcuffed, taken into custody, immediately sent to jail. U.S. district Judge Ernest Torres agreeing with prosecutors that he was a flight risk. Hatch calmly waved good-bye to his mother, sister and husband.
The jury also found Hatch guilty of failing to pay taxes on the $327,000 he earned as co-host of a Boston radio show and for $28,000 he earned in rent. The convictions carrying a maximum sentence of 13 years, but the judge says he expects the sentence served will actually be between 33 and 41 months. Hatch‘s attorney never even got around to asking witnesses including series creator Mark Brunette to address Hatch‘s claim that he had caught other contestants cheating and to get him to keep it quiet, CBS had agreed to pay the taxes on his winnings.
Hatch and a batch of reality TV figures in trouble tonight. I‘m joined now by my old colleague Harvey Levin, managing editor of the entertainment breaking news website “TMZ.COM”. Harvey good evening.
HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ.COM: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Hatch‘s lawyer Mr. Minns told the jurors that Hatch was, “The World‘s worst bookkeeper.” That is the best defense he had for this guy, what happened to that fixed show CBS bribe defense?
LEVIN: You know he never brought it up obviously and then never asked Mark Brunette that question on the stand. But I can tell you something, what‘s interesting, I talked to a cameraman on that show Keith, and he told me that there were people who were cheating by getting candy bars and that‘s what Richard Hatch was talking about. But they were breaking into where the cameramen slept and they were finding these Werther Originals and Power Bar wrappers all over the place. But the cheating had nothing do with what Richard Hatch was alleging or his lawyer was alleging.
OLBERMANN: No, they never traced candy bars back to Richard Hatch.
OLBERMANN: He worked a plea deal out with the prosecutors about a year ago, but something intervened? Certainly not good logic that stepped in and sent him off to trial, what happened there?
LEVIN: You know it happens a lot. I mean he gambled and he gambled poorly. They were going to cut a deal and the prosecutors were going to say, look, we won‘t ask for more than 10 years, and that‘s no guarantee that he‘s going to go Scott-free. He just didn‘t want to risk it. And you know it‘s kind of like remember “Where‘s the beef?” then “where‘s the defense in this case?” He really gambled poorly.
OLBERMANN: As we said, more than one reality story here, this flap about “AMERICAN IDOL” which there‘s—is this a legitimate thing or—I mean an advocacy group for overweight people complaining because the contestant says I‘m going to be bigger than Janet Jackson and this guy Simon Cowell picks up the line and says, it look like you already are. Is it a publicity stunt or is there a real complaint here? Where is this going?
LEVIN: I‘ve got to tell you Keith, it‘s not just against overweight people but we‘re also talking about a feminine males on that show, they just get completely trashed. And there are now some gay groups that are speaking out and saying we want to find out more about this. But if you think about it, Keith, “FOX” is letting this stuff on the air.
Can you imagine if Simon Cowell had said something like you‘re too black to be an “AMERICAN IDOL” what would happen? So there are a couple of groups in this country that are just fair game on this show and “FOX” is allowing it to take place and a lot of families are watching this with young kids forming impressions. I think you really have to wonder about it.
OLBERMANN: But this is after all, Harvey, this program is the closest thing we have nowadays to human sacrifice. Is there not some caveat emptor for the contestants? Don‘t they sort of know going in they‘re going to be humiliated one way or the other?
LEVIN: They totally know. I mean I think that‘s an absolutely fair point. It‘s not about the contestants, it‘s about the 14-year-old girl who‘s sitting there watching with her dad and they‘re trashing fat people and this kid, where they‘re just tearing this kid apart on the stage because he‘s a feminine, telling him he should be a woman. What it‘s doing to kids watching the show, I really think you got to wonder about it because it is just brutal.
OLBERMANN: And lastly in 10 seconds, Donald Trump is suing somebody who wrote a book that says he‘s not something?
LEVIN: Unbelievable that they say they undervalue Trump‘s wealth. What Trump is doing is he‘s allowing himself to be audited, completely audited. I‘m not sure he wants to go there.
OLBERMANN: Just to prove when the guy wrote he‘s not a billionaire he‘s wrong that Trump really is one. We‘ll see. The investment in his hair must be worth at least $6 million. Harvey Levin, the managing editor of the entertainment breaking news website “TMZ.com”. Many thanks my friend.
LEVIN: See you Keith.
OLBERMANN: That‘s “COUNTDOWN”, I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose, goodnight and good luck. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Crosby “LIVE & DIRECT.” Good evening Rita.
RITA CROSBY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening Keith and good evening everybody. Tonight a new twist in our exclusive coverage of the battles at the U.S. Mexican border. Wait until you hear.
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