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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 15

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Mike Allen, Joe Darby, Thomas Forqueran

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

The British arrest another suspect in the purported liquid bomb plot, while video of another suspect is released.  He‘s picking up a payment owed to the family candy company.  The customer, a family friend, with the dubious conclusion that this doesn‘t look like he‘s about to blow himself up.

Fortunately, nobody would ever use terror for cheap political gain.


JOHN SPENCER:  I‘m John Spencer, and I approved this message, because I won‘t play politics with our security.


OLBERMANN:  Well, not counting that time.  If New York Republican Senate hopeful John Spencer really just compared Hillary Clinton to Osama bin Laden, why has he not withdrawn from the race yet?

The man who withdrew the veil of secrecy from Abu Ghraib, his motives, his reasons, his reaction when, after being guaranteed anonymity, he was outed to the other troops in Iraq by Secretary Rumsfeld.  Joe Darby joins us.

And just when you thought fantasy sports leagues were for us loser no-life aging sports geeks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If Charlize Theron wears Dior to an Oscar show, then you get points, 50 (INAUDIBLE) on your teeth.


OLBERMANN:  It‘s the fantasy fashion league.  Ladies and style-conscious gentleman, congratulations on being as equally nerdy as us baseball and football goofs.

And dude, you‘re getting a Dell, and it‘s timed to blow up in exactly four seconds.  Sure, recalling 4 million computer batteries because they might explode and catch fire is not funny, except if there are pictures, or a guy whose Dell detonated and blowed up his pickup truck, blowed it up real good.  He will join us, if we can find him.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dude, you‘re getting a Dell.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening from Los Angeles.

If we‘re not going do anything about a political arena so devoid of ethics, a bottomless pit of un-Americanism, if another man who actually believes he should be in the Senate of this nation, can put together a commercial with Hillary Clinton‘s picture right next to Osama bin Laden‘s picture, without at minimum being forced to withdraw from the race, then at least we ought to be able to prosecute him, because the ad misspells the word “fascist.”

Memo to John Spencer of New York, the boss is calling them Islamic fascists, not Islamic facists.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, in the nexus of politics and terror, there is a typo.  The president‘s latest visit to that nexus in a moment.

But we begin with a Republican candidate whose bid to take on Senator Clinton this fall could have been served, if not saved, by spellcheck, the campaign of the former mayor of Yonkers, New York, for the Senate producing a new TV attack ad linking Senator Clinton to bin Laden.  It has not hit the airwaves yet, the campaign no doubt counting on the fact that news outlets like this one will often run political ads first for free.

But it was not counting on that it would release an ad with an obvious spelling error right off the top.


ANNOUNCER:  Islamic fascists still hate us.  They still want to attack us.  But the recent terrorist plot to destroy American airliners headed for New York was detected and defeated.  National Security Agency wiretaps of terror suspects were vital to stopping this attack.

But Senator Hillary Clinton opposes the PATRIOT Act and the NSA program that helped stop another 9/11.  She‘d leave us vulnerable.

SPENCER:  That‘s wrong.  I‘m John Spencer, and I approved this message, because I won‘t play politics with our security.


OLBERMANN:  That‘s wrong.  He got that right, the Spencer campaign releasing a corrected version of that ad a little bit more than an hour after the original one.  Well, they corrected the spelling of “fascist,” not the emulation of fascists.

The damage, however, already done.  Never mind the damage of pairing a photo of Clinton and bin Laden, not to mention claiming at the end of the ad that she is the one politicizing security, or that she opposed the original PATRIOT Act or its renewal, which she did not.  She voted for each, an adviser to Senator Clinton today deeming the ad factually inaccurate, saying, quote, “Mr. Spencer‘s history of making wild-eyed angry falsehoods like these are among the many reasons why no one takes him or his campaign seriously.”

The president today continuing his eternal political campaign, day two of the summer 2006 terror tour, bringing him to the National Counterterrorism Center outside Washington.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Because of the good work in Great Britain, and because of the help of the people there at NCTC, we disrupted a terror plot, a plot where people were willing to kill innocent life to achieve political objectives.

And that plot is, and this building, and the work going on here, really is indicative of the challenge we face, not only this week, but this year, and the years to come.


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s now call in “TIME” magazine‘s White House correspondent, Mike Allen.

Good evening, Mike.


OLBERMANN:  If “politicize” is the dirty word, once again, of this election cycle, why are those are actually do the politicizing, the ones who‘ve been bringing it up, (INAUDIBLE), are they hoping we wouldn‘t notice that they‘re politicizing when they accuse others of politicizing?

ALLEN:  Well, Keith, they know that you‘ll notice, if you‘ll notice their spelling errors as well.  But for viewers who‘ve seen “Talladega Nights,” they know that if you ain‘t first, you‘re last.

And there‘s a very Darwinian process going on here.  For us, it‘s something to cover, something to speculate.  But in the next couple of months, there‘s a lot of jobs, a lot of power, a lot of prestige that‘s on the line.  And people that you and I know well are fighting this out.

And so they‘re going to do what they think will work.  Now, there‘s a

big question, will the Republicans be able the run the national security

play one more time?  And they‘re fighting hard and very aggressively to

keep their advantage in that area.  But as you‘re seeing with some of the

clips you‘ve been showing your viewers, Democrats are not seeding that this

time.  Democrats, for obvious reasons, are not afraid to talk about Iraq,

and Democrats are also willing to take on the broader issue of the broader

of the war on terror.

So you‘re going to see Republicans this week releasing a Web ad that they hope will spread virally, going on the attack against Democrats, pointing out Democrats who voted against the PATRIOT Act, who have opposed the president‘s surveillance program, as they like to call it, and going ahead.  And they‘re figure they‘re in for a dime, in for a dollar.  And are going to try to keep this issue on their side.

It obviously it helped them in ‘02.  In retrospect, it clearly helped them in ‘04.  I think one of the reasons the president was (INAUDIBLE) elected was, we are at war, and so can they keep that going one more time?  Nobody knows.

OLBERMANN:  As to the president‘s visit to the National Counterterrorism Center and that exact topic that you (INAUDIBLE) up, broke up there, the analysts here and in England say the administration didn‘t have a lot to do with unraveling the alleged British terror plot, although we will get to this in a moment.  It appears the administration‘s push to arrest everybody right away may lead to the unraveling of the prosecution.

If the president claimed (INAUDIBLE) credit in that sound bite (INAUDIBLE) we played a little bit earlier, as does Mr. Spencer in the Hillary Clinton attack ad, are the Democrats going to hit back on this?

ALLEN:  Well, of course, they‘re free to hit back.  The question of the U.S.‘s role in the plot, in unraveling the plot, Keith, something I do know from my reporting in the West Wing is, the U.S. was supplying intelligence to both Pakistan and England during the time that these people were under surveillance.  And, you know, I was told the National Security Agency, NSA, was very involved, which is their way of telling us that there was signals intelligence that was supplied.

But exactly what role that played, we don‘t know.  The administration has not claimed a lot of credit for this so far.  I guess when the president talks about we, they were very—you know, had hour-to-hour contact with the British on this.

On the question of whether—of the U.S. push to arrest everybody, we‘re told that from the very beginning, you know, Keith, on your air, you showed the video of the president with his Katrina briefings, internalizing them, not asking questions.

And so they were very clear to us that the president was aggressive during these briefings about the England plot, and he said every day, every hour, they should reevaluate the question of, is there striking the right balance between continuing to collect intelligence that is letting the surveillance go on, and protecting the public?  That is, rolling up the plot.  And so I think that‘s the sort of argument that you‘re seeing played out in those questions.

OLBERMANN:  Back to this bin Laden and Hillary Clinton ad, it was obviously the bin Laden photograph has been used previously to help sandbag Max Cleland in Georgia in 2002.   Why is this considered, that particular thing, images of bin Laden, considered acceptable?  A Democrat who put up a ad with a picture of Dick Cheney next to a picture of Osama bin Laden and had a voice-over who would say, Who‘s hurt this country more? would be run out of town on a rail.  why is one OK and not the other?

ALLEN:  Well, Keith, I don‘t know that it is considered acceptable.  And I think the fact that you‘re bringing it to people‘s attention answers that question.  I think this ad is almost so ridiculous to even talk about.  If you‘re 30 points behind, you‘re also last.

So, you know, this put out an ad with a couple of factual inaccuracies, as you mentioned, Senator Clinton did vote for the PATRIOT Act in ‘01 and ‘02, (INAUDIBLE), and to (INAUDIBLE), and to renew it in ‘06, but, you know, this is a market-oriented business.  And when the Bush campaign put out videos showing images of the World Trade Center, they took a lot of heat for that.  And they will tell you that in the end, the benefits outweighed the drawbacks.

And Keith, I think that‘s what you have a lot of times with these is, when you have an ad like this, people know they‘ll get some criticism, but they think that maybe the whatever emotional benefit they get outweighs that.

OLBERMANN:  Well, let‘s see maybe if the Democrats will try that, an ad of Osama bin Laden and Dick Cheney.

Mike Allen of “TIME” magazine, as always, great thanks.

ALLEN:  Have a great week, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The campaign of the Republican incumbent in Virginia tripped up not by a spelling mistake nor even by politicizing terror, but instead by the senator putting his foot in his mouth and then failing to adequately explain what it was doing there.

Senator George Allen, also believed to be positioning himself for a possible run for the presidency in ‘08, first has to survive reelection in Virginia.  To that end, the senator was at a Republican rally near the Kentucky border last Friday when he decided to single out a young man of Indian descent in the crowd, S.R. Sidharth.  Sidharth had been videotaping the campaign for Mr. Allen‘s opponent, the Democratic challenger, Jim Webb.


SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  This fellow here over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is, he‘s with my opponent.  He‘s following us around everywhere.  And it‘s just great, we‘re going to places all over Virginia, and he‘s having it on film, and it‘s great to have you here.  And you show it to your opponent, because he‘s never been there and probably will never come.

So it‘s good for you (INAUDIBLE).  So welcome.  Let‘s give a welcome to Macaca here.  Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.


OLBERMANN:  The problem with that welcome, the senator‘s use of the word “Macaca,” twice, as it is a term that can refer either to a genus of monkey found mainly in Asia, or to a town in South Africa, or, according to several Web sites that track ethnic slurs, a derogatory racial reference for African immigrants.

Yesterday, Senator Allen‘s spokesman said the senator was referring to a variation of the word “Mohawk,” a type of haircut that Mr. Sidharth does not seem to have.  Today, Senator Allen himself told the Associated Press the word “Macaca” was just made up, and he had no idea what it means.

Quoting the senator further, “In no way was it meant to demean him, and I‘m sorry if he was offended,” which is also not exactly the same as saying, I apologize.  The senator is till (INAUDIBLE) putting the burden on the recipient and not on himself.

Also here tonight, did the bottom just fall out of the purported liquid bomb plot?  The British said they needed another week to gather more evidence, we said, Arrest them now.  Lisa Myers with the latest on how the U.S. rush may have hamstrung British prosecutors.

And inside the story that triggered a tidal wave of anti-American sentiment in the Arab world and revulsion here.  The abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, the U.S. soldier who blew the first whistle on the misconduct joins us here.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  From the get-go, there has been concern about how far along the purported plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners actually was.  The suspects had no tickets.  There was no go-date set.  They‘d only just started to search flight schedules.  Many of the alleged plotters would have been prevented from boarding not because they had explosives, but because they did not have passports.

Now, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, a 24th suspect, and a new claimed connection to al Qaeda notwithstanding, the actual case against the British terror suspects is looking thin, a local supermarket owner, a long-time friend of the chief suspect‘s family, providing security camera video of one of the alleged plotters in his store just hours before his arrest, and echoing the sentiment of dozens of people who say they knew the suspects, telling the Associated Press, quote, “Does this look like the kind of a person planning such a plot?  He doesn‘t look like he‘s about to blow himself up.”

The quote may be as dubious a defense as a similar one, Oh, yes, he does, would be to the conspiracy theorists.  And either may have become impossible to prove now, because, as our senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers reports, prosecutors now fear that because the U.S. pushed to arrest the suspects early, there might not be enough evidence to convict them.



LISA MYERS, NBC SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, Western intelligence sources tell NBC News there is growing evidence tonight that the alleged ringleader in this plot had contact with senior al Qaeda figures.

(voice-over):  This is the first video to emerge of the cell‘s alleged point man in London, Tayib Rauf (ph).  Authorities say his older brother, Rashid Rauf, was the ringleader of the operation, calling the shots from Pakistan.

Intelligence sources tell NBC that there is now information that Rashid Rauf had contact with al Qaeda‘s director of international operations sometime prior to May 2005.

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  If true, this means al Qaeda probably had some operational control in this plot.

MYERS:  Today, forensic teams searched a wooded area for the fourth day, and Scotland Yard announced another arrest, bringing the number in custody here to 24.

Privately, some British officials express concern about the strength of the evidence against some suspects.  Authorities say there is plenty of evidence that the plotters discussed carrying out attacks.  Several also made martyrdom videos.  But there are no plane tickets, and some plotters didn‘t even have passports.  Also, so far there appears to be no evidence that a bomb was tested in Britain, or that materials were prepared.

SHAZADI BERG, BRITISH HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER:  I think that there are a lot of holes, potential holes, in the prosecution.

MYERS:  Also, the British have had a tough time getting convictions in terror cases.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Some people have been let off with very light sentences, or let off completely, in terrorist cases that have shocked American officials, that we thought they had enough to put people away for a long time.

MYERS (on camera):  Still, U.S. officials insist they were right to push to roll up this plot before concrete steps were taken to launch an attack, Keith.


OLBERMANN:  Lisa Myers in London.  Lisa, great thanks.

And this will be news to you, unless you were in a major airport, as I was, last March in which half the passengers waiting for security screening were randomly funneled into a line in which they had to take off their shoes, and the other half were randomly funneled into a line in which they did not have to.

But apparently none of us had to, at least none of us had to until last Sunday, when the TSA made it mandatory.  That decision a response to the threat of liquid explosives, even though a Homeland Security report concluded last year that standard scanners cannot actually find explosives in hand luggage or in shoes, because X-ray machines do not have explosive detection devices, that report prompting the TSA to declassify some of its material today in order to try and prove it can find bombs like the one shoe bomber Richard Reid carried on a plane, not because of the explosive itself, but because of the shape an explosive makes in the shoe.

Here is the show and tell.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What you have here is a pair of photographs of a shoe with explosives in it, and a shoe without explosives in it.  And this is taken with the X-rays that we use at checkpoints.  And you can see very clearly the difference between a shoe with an explosive and one without.  And here‘s a side view as well.  You can see that it does pop out at you that there is, in fact, something in there that you need to look at.


OLBERMANN:  Your tax dollars in action.

As for liquid explosives, the TSA is working on scanners to detect that danger.  Right now, though, they have no practical way, they say, of scanning every bottle that might be brought on a plane, which you already knew, if you were on the L.A.-bound flight last Friday, in which one of the passengers made it all the way through security and on board with an empty water bottle sticking out from his carry-on bag like a sore thumb.

Also tonight, a law enforcement operation of a much different variety, giving chase to a naked burglar.  Either that, or we‘ve found the Loch Ness monster.

And what‘s all this, then?  Nothing but the naked truth about this picture.  Yes, it‘s Prince Harry, all hands.  Yes, it‘s Prince William seemingly drunk in the background.  But a royal rationalization of this you will not believe ahead, here on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Three hundred and eighty-six years ago today, on August 15, 1620, a converted merchant vessel that had been used to transport barrels of wine left the docks at Southampton, England, with 102 passengers aboard, destination, the New World.  The passengers were pilgrims, the ship was called the “Mayflower.”  Actually, they had originally set sail on July 22, but they got turned back by homeland security after some reported suspicious chatter by the Wampanoag natives in Massachusetts.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin on another boat in Kansas City, where we‘ve got a developing situation in a police vessel, sort of a catch-and-release kind of thing.  A robbery suspect on the run from the law dived into the Kansas River to get away.  Cops had him in the boat till he made another escape attempt, wriggling out of his pants and back into the river.  Marco Polo.

You can just tell the cops were thrilled.  Are you going to come and take me gets you (ph), huh?  Then you‘re going get the flying elbow chop.  Chicken fight.  The naked suspect was finally brought under control.  No word on where he was hiding the booty.  Oh, oh, let me correct myself.  I think I see it right there.

To India, and the town of Sialia (ph), where every home is wide open every day, every night.  It is an entire village without doors.  It is also an entire village without toilets, but that‘s not the big news right now.  Residents say they have no fear of thieves, attackers, home invaders, Jehovah‘s Witnesses, salesmen, because the goddess of the village will protect them.  Those who dare put a door on their home risk facing the wrath of that goddess, that wrath usually manifesting itself as a (INAUDIBLE) bag of dog-do on the front porch.

Finally, to the sewers underneath the city of Kyoto, Japan, where—oh, here we go.  We‘ve seen this before.  A giant lizard is lurking in the pipes, eluding city authorities who‘ve been tracking him for days.  It is a desperate race against time as officials try to catch the beast before he emerges from underground to lay waste to the city, to say nothing of Raymond Burr and Matthew Broderick.  The only hope, a grizzled military chief and a handsome biologist from --  Oh, look, he‘s just a little guy.  Never mind.

This looks like it could be an Oddball story, but actually it is serious business for Dell, the problems of exploding laptops.  It now triggering—triggers the biggest electronics recall ever.  We will introduce you to one man who lost a lot more than just a computer.

And the abuse at Abu Ghraib, the soldier who exposed the wrongdoing now telling his side of the story.  He will join us.  Details ahead.

But first, time now for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, David Copperfield, the magician telling the Reuters news service he has discovered the fountain of youth in a small cluster of islands in the Bahamas.  Quote, “I‘ve discovered a true phenomenon.  You can take dead leaves.  They come in contact with the water, they become full of life again.”  Scoff if you will, but remember, you also scoffed when he claimed he‘d gotten engaged to supermodel Claudia Schiffer.  OK, never mind about that part.

Number two, transportation officials in southern Wales in the U.K.  They have put up a temporary sign at a construction zone near the city of Cardiff in two languages, of course.  In English, it reads, “Cyclists Dismount.”  For some reason, the Welsh version right below translates as, “Bladder disease has returned.”

Number one, though, zookeepers in the Netherlands (INAUDIBLE) to hook up some of their single orangutans with partners in Indonesia through online dating.  The two apes would be able to see each other over the Internet, then get to know one another.  If they find the other ape attractive, then can press a button that would give their date food.  They say they‘re also going to install a slap button, a throw-a-drink-in-his-face button, and seven separate levers that send the message, “It‘s not you, it‘s me.”


OLBERMANN:  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, an old lesson still unlearned in the fable of the bad apple.  Thirty-five years ago yesterday, the Stanford University prison experiment began.  Student volunteers randomly chosen to play prisoners, stripped of incivility in name and in dress or playing guards given carte blanche, sort of violence.  Thirty-five years ago today, it went horribly wrong.  The guards began sadistic abuse of the prisons.  It got so bad with forced nudity and sexual acts, that they shut the experiment down only six days.  The moral, under the wrong circumstances without the right supervision, even healthy, educated American young men who were screened for their stability, can go wrong.  Which brings us once again to Abu Ghraib.

The Army reservist, who tipped investigators to these photos, thus tipping the first domino of the prison scandal, is speaking publicly for the first time, telling his story in the latest issue of “GQ” magazine.  That man, Sergeant Joe Darby, says he is no angel, that he exceeded proper use of force a couple of times, but Charles Graner asked him to make a copy of a CD and Darby saw the pictures on it, he says he had to come forward then because a line had been crossed and as he puts it, he had a choice between what was right and loyalty to fellow soldiers.  He also says one reason he‘s coming forward now is that the full story about Abu Ghraib has not been told until now. 

Sergeant Joe Darby of the Army Reserve joins us.  Thank you for telling your story.  Thank you for your time tonight, sir. 


OLBERMANN:  Two years ago and here tonight you told this story, but let‘s start with the main point that maybe new to people.  You say that the country does not know the full truth behind Abu Ghraib? 

DARBY:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s hear the worst of it? 

DARBY:  Well, the country thinks, for the most part, that it‘s been a conspiracy with uppers echelons of government ordering this to take place, when in reality it wasn‘t, it was, as you said in the opening, it was a lack of supervision.  The soldiers had no supervision at the times when it took place, and they took it upon themselves to elaborate with forms of torture. 

OLBERMANN:  Did you have a sense that this was because it was carte blanche that it had been these things had been authorized without anybody ever telling you what sort of things those sort of things were? 

DARBY:  Well, at the prison, the only thing we were supposed to do is house the prisoners.  Any type of interrogation or anything that could even remotely be construed as abuse of any kind was not in our realm of normal duties, so is soldiers took tier took it upon themselves, give the lack of supervision, to just try new things. 

OLBERMANN:  You told the magazine, “GQ” that the world does not know the real story behind that one infamous photo Charles Graner and a dead Iraqi.  Tell us what you know, please. 

DARBY:  The dead Iraqi was actually a inmate who was brought in that morning by three non-military civilians who brought him into Tier 1 where Graner was to question him.  They—after questioning for about two hours they came out and said that he has died and had died of a heart attack, asked for a body bag and ice, packed him ice and said, you know, we were never here and you take care of the body. 

OLBERMANN:  On May 7, 2004, as far as you knew, only Army investigators knew your identity in all this.  You‘re sitting at lunch at Camp Anaconda with 400 other soldiers watching the secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld on TV.  Let me play again what you and your fellow soldiers heard the secretary say and then I‘d like you tell us how you reacted.   Here‘s the tape first.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF STATE:  There are many who did their duty professionally and we should mention that, as well.  First Specialist Joseph Darby who alerted the appropriate authorities that abuses were occurring... 


OLBERMANN:  What happened then? 

DARBY:  It was a moment of sheer shock, it wasn‘t something that was expected.  One of the soldiers who I was with at dinner actually knew that I was involved and he said that we needed to leave.  So we got up and left the dining facility and within about three hours, via, you know, e-mails and people calling home to see how the families were, everyone in my unit knew that I was responsible for turning in the photos. 

OLBERMANN:  How did you survive the rest of that tour in Iraq? 

DARBY:  Actually the reaction was not what I expected from my unit. 

Ninety to ninety-five percent of the unit was very sportive over what I had did in turning in the photos.  And the small minority that had a problem with it didn‘t speak out. 

OLBERMANN:  Who do you think—in trying to summarize this thing over the course of two years, who is responsible?  Do you want to use that term?  Who is at fault?  Is it the soldiers who committed the abuse, supervisors who did not supervise?  I know we touched at this at the beginning, civilian leaders?  Where would you point and say you didn‘t do your job? 

DARBY:  I‘d say the blame lies both in the supervisors who—one of the supervisors was involved, Ivan Frederick, and in the command for not providing proper supervision over top of them to make sure that they were doing the job and doing it professionally. 

OLBERMANN:  Extraordinary story.  Sergeant Joe Darby, great thanks for your time, great thanks for your honesty, great thanks for your service to this country. 

DARBY:  Thank you, sir. 

OLBERMANN:  Controversies over photographs, of course, are not limited to life and death reality, like Joe Darby‘s story.  Prince Harry and Prince William and beverages and the fast hands that show regal breading and an extraordinary defense of this photo from Buckingham Palace, today. 

Also tonight, another example of gender equality.  Men and some women have fantasy leagues for sports, now women and some men, have fantasy leagues for—well you won‘t believe for what the grisly details head here on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  A real-life threat that sounds like something out the next warning from Homeland Security, you‘re laptop could kill you.  And the fantasy that sounds like a collision between “Women‘s Wear Daily” and “Sports Illustrated.”  Inside the Faraway Fashion Fads League.  That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  For me the end of the line came in 1995.  For 10 years I had played rotisserie baseball where the real-life performances of major league players are translated into points for a team you assemble and juggle like a guy in hock juggles collection agencies. 

Our league had moved from teams of 23 players each to teams of 23 players plus two minor leaguers to full 40-man rosters, to player auctions to farm system drafts to expansion drafts and finally to a special draft wherein we each selected two guys who were still in high school or college in anticipation that they would be drafted the following month by the big-leaguers. 

That‘s where it hit me, I was so deep into the addiction I was in the tertiary syphilis stage of fantasy baseball or maybe the crystal meth stage. 

In our No.  2 story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, and now women can enjoy this mind addling disease too.  As they said 40 years ago in the ads for the first cigarettes designed and marketed to women, “You‘ve come a long way, baby.” 

COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny joins me now from headquarters with news of Fantasy Fashion Leagues.  Good evening, Monica.

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  My dream story.  Keith, good evening. 

While many women love sports there are also at least a few out there who find themselves a slave to the seasons as their significant others lose themselves in hours of fantasy leagues.  So what are these sports widows to do?  Well, create a league of their own, of course.


ERICA SALMON (ph), FANTASY FASHION LEAGUE FOUNDER:  If Charlize Theron wears Dior to an Oscar show, then you get points if Dior is on your team. 

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  If you fantasize about fashion, there‘s finally a team with your name on it, the Fantasy Fashion League, turning celebrity-style gossip into competition.  Founder Erica Salmon (ph) inspired by her husband‘s Fantasy Football League fetish. 

SALMON:  I kept thinking there could be a came about this if it was about something that I was passionate about, so I sort of toyed with the idea of a Fantasy Fashion League. 

NOVOTNY:  Now it‘s a reality.  An on-line game focused on the details of celebrity fashion.  For about $20 a person each league is made up of about six members, like these ladies, the Faraway Fashion Fabs. 



NOVOTNY:  Each member logs in and drafts a team of 10 designers and celebrities as their players, scoring points throughout the season as those players earn magazine covers and red carpet mentions. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We have to focus on the Emmys at first, that‘s going to be our first point garner. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That will be TV shows.

NOVOTNY:  The Fabs are the reigning champions of the fashion leagues inaugural season.  Angela Obzud (ph), their team captain. 

ANGELA OBZUD, FABS‘ TEAM CAPTAIN:  My husband is a big supports guy. 

He loves football, hockey, anything and he‘s just truly a sports addict. 

So, it was nice to have something that was mine to do. 

NOVOTNY:  Clearly for the women, it‘s more than just fun and games. 

(on camera):  How competitive is this? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Very competitive.

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  Holding their own draft parties, coming up with a strategy. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You look a lot at what‘s in the news, like it could be what movie‘s out or, you know, what fashion events are occurring and who you know‘s going to be appearing there. 

NOVOTNY:  Even staging a red carpet event for the super bowl of fashion, the Oscars.  And after a high-scoring first season, the ladies explained why they deserved the Fashion League‘s equivalent of the Vince Lombardi trophy, a week-long spa trip. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This genuine collection has traits that never go out of style and that‘s what makes the Faraway Farm Fashion Fads so deserving of the star treatment as the ultimate league. 

NOVOTNY:  As they prep for the new season‘s Emmy Awards kickoff, they‘re not alone.  More than 8,000 fashionistas in almost 40 countries are playing, hitting the website 22 million times a month. 

(on camera):  The way you talk about it, it sounds like men talking about sports. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was never into sports, so I don‘t really know. 

NOVOTNY:  But now you get it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But now I definitely get it.

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  And with their intense fashion focus, they‘re now looking for new ways to relax. 

SALMON:  I can take a break and enjoy my time in front of the football game. 


NOVOTNY:  As she whispers that.  Now the women who play this game tell me it is saving marriages and they don‘t sound like they‘re kidding. 

If you‘re interested in unleashing your own inner fashionista, you can find out more about the league on our website, that‘s  And hurry up, the second season begins on August 27 with the prime time Emmy Awards.

Keith, what do you say? 

OLBERMANN:  To which I will be wearing my brand, Omar the Tent Maker. 

Are an men playing this league? 

NOVOTNY:  Yeah, actually they say about two percent of those 8,000 players are men, so, about 160 players, I guess if my math is right.  But apparently though, they‘re very competitive, the men, and they‘re very vocal, so they mean business. 

OLBERMANN:  Can you trade your fashion designer for somebody else‘s fashion designer? 

NOVOTNY:  It‘s not that you‘re trading.  You‘re not limited in that way, but there are certain days during the season where you are allowed, and you have a set amount of hours, where you can do on-line and drop or add a certain designer, so you can strategize throughout the season and make some changes, but no trading, per se. 

OLBERMANN:  What‘s the point of fashion without getting a deal? 

NOVOTNY:  Come on.  You know, it‘s not quite as competitive, these women, it‘s more about bonding, you know. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, there‘ll be a knife fight at one of these drafts, you watch.  COUNTDOWN‘s senior Mark Jacobs correspondent, Monica Novotny.  Great thanks.

NOVOTNY:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  Moving from celebrity fashion to celebrity and entertainment news, we begin our nightly segment “Keep Tabs” with the latest scandal involving the Royal Family.  There‘s a new one.  It‘s a new week, after all. 

The font page of the British tabloid, the “Sun,” headlined “Dirty Harry,” showing Prince Harry drunkenly groping a girl while Prince William, in the background, is apparently getting sauced.  The paper gleefully pointed out that Prince Harry‘s girlfriend can‘t be too happy about the pictures, that‘s not here in there.  The “Sun” claims they were taken in a nightclub this summer, but the boy‘s father, Prince Charles, says the pictures were taken nearly three years ago in a different nightclub when Prince Harry wasn‘t even dating his current girlfriend.  Well, that makes the groping all right the, huh? 

Long before he got the reputation for the couch-jumping, love-

spouting, baby-hiding creature we now know, Tom Cruise was apparently

guilty of another creepy and crazy characteristic, celebrity stalking.  A

source telling the “New York Daily News” gossip pages that Cruise, already

famous for movies like “Top Gun” use to show up at baseball autograph shows

in the mid ‘90 waiting for the legendary Joe DiMaggio to arrive, but the

“Joltin‘ Joe” was unflattered by all the attention.  The same source

suggesting DiMaggio called Cruise a “short little guy” and that “Joe said

to me, ‘This guy is following me around everywhere I go.  Next time I‘m

going to call the cops.‘”

Remind the cops if this happens to you, do not run to your laptop and try to log on to the Dell on-line help center.  The largest consumer electronics recall ever.  We‘ll talk to one customer who lost a lot more than a laptop.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The Bronze tonight, the government of Iran.  A web monitoring site quotes a human rights attorney who says the country is pressuring, even arresting bloggers.  This as the President Ahmadinejad has just launched his own blog which a tech website reports, doubles as the source of a virus that tries to hack in and control the computer of anybody reading the president‘s blog from Israel. 

Our runner-up is Lee Wilson of Lancashire in England, he‘s going to jail for two and a half years successfully convicted by the prosecutor, Tim Ashmole, yeah I know—Ashmole, that‘s only part of this story.  Mr.  Wilson has gotten the time, convicted of vandalizing his girlfriend‘s Peugeot automobile.  Did about $20,000 in damage, among other things he spray painted one derogatory term on the car and sent her a text message using the same word, the word was “bitch” the word was also misspelled, b-i-c-h.  You know sir, when you get out of jail, the New York Senate campaign of John Spencer might have a job for you.

But our winner, NASA.  The original videotape of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, remember, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?”  They don‘t know where it is.  They remember the event, they filed the tape somewhere and it‘s just that the NASA guys who knew where they filed it have either retired or passed away.  There is good news, however.  Conspiracy theorists will point out that NASA can always go record a new tape of Armstrong in that secret soundstage hidden in the New Mexico desert. 

NASA‘s archivists, today‘s “Worst Persons in the World.” 


OLBERMANN:  It is one thing to be so in the zone, so full of ideas when you‘re working on your computer that you and your machine are virtually on fire.  Its quite another thing when the machine is literally on fire.

In our No.  1 story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, after reports that some Dell laptop computers were overheating and catching fire, the companies instituted a recall that would make the auto industry blush.  Turns out the Sony battery is the culprit, but now more than four million laptop owners are on notice, switch out those batteries or risk a computer meltdown and we‘re not being metaphoric. 

In a moment a man to whom this happened while the laptop was in a truck.  Truck that had ammo inside.  First the recall details from our correspondent, Peter Alexander.


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The risk has been rumored for weeks after a Dell laptop computer burst into flames during a conference in Japan.  The startling pictures posted online.  There have been at least six separate incidents in the U.S. since December where Dell laptops caught fire, allegedly because of their lithium ion batteries.  Dell is the world‘s largest PC maker. 

ALEX GRUZEN, DELL COMPUTER SR.  VP:  The chance is extremely small that this could happen to our customers, but you know, one more incident in the field is too many and therefore we‘re taking this broad customer reaction seriously. 

ALEXANDER:  The recall affects 4.1 million laptop computer batteries sold by Dell between April 2004 and July of this year.  More than half were sold in this country.  The batteries were made by Sony, they‘re designed to power off if there‘s a short circuit, but it‘s possible the battery can overheat. 

(on camera):  Here‘s what you‘ll need to look for, the battery is found on the bottom of your Dell laptop.  To see if you‘re affected, you‘ll need the serial number.  It‘s right here beneath the barcode.  Dell has set up a special website and a toll-free phone number.

(voice-over):  Both the government and Dell are urging consumers to stop using the recalled batteries immediately, take them out and use AC power.  But they problem may not stop with Dell.  Many other companies including Hewlett-Packard and Apple use the same lithium ion batteries. 

BOB SULLIVAN, MSNBC.COM:  What we are asking more and more of our technology gadgets, the limiting factor in all electronics is often heat, and so I wouldn‘t be surprised if in the coming years we hear more and more about heat problems, about fire problems and about electronics recalls.

ALEXANDER:  Dell hopes to distribute the new batteries over the next four weeks, promising the replacements are safe and the problem solved. 

Peter Alexander, NBC NEWS Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN:  And joining us now, Thomas Forqueran, whose computer caught fire under unusual circumstances.  Thank you for your time tonight, sir. 


OLBERMANN:  Having once watched in disbelief as smoke poured out of the ports of one of my own laptops, I approach this with total empathy.  Tell us what happened to you and your Dell.

FORQUERAN:  OK, well we were out on a fishing trip getting ready to load up the truck, get ready to get out of there.  I put my laptop on the floor on the passenger side and went back to the tent area.  All of the sudden we heard a popping noise and smelled smoke, and I looked over and there was flames shooting three, four feet out of the passenger window.  I ran over here to the driver‘s side and opened the door, hoping to grab my Dell laptop, because that was the most expensive thing in there, but it had flames shooting out of it.  And half the cab was already encompassed in flames and I looked down at my glove box and remembered I had three boxes of ammo in there so, I just jumped and ducked and hid behind my quad and the guy with me, he hid behind a boulder and the ammo started going off, then the gas tank blew up, then the other gas tank blew up and just sat there and watched it for about 10 minutes, burn to the ground.  You know?  What could you do? 

OLBERMANN:  Probably would have been funny if it hadn‘t been your truck, right? 

FORQUERAN:  Yeah, could have been.  It was kind of a fire show.  But, half hour later we‘d have been in the truck on a cliff-side road, you know, getting out where we would have had no place to jump, you know.  So that was kind of scary. 

OLBERMANN:  But you‘re convinced that it was not that ammo in the glove box had nothing to do with the gas tanks blowing? 

FORQUERAN:  Oh no, not at all, it was purely from the flame.  Because, you know, when the ammo blows up it kind of—when it is not in a barrel, you know, it‘s not actually coming up at high speeds, it is popping, you know. 

OLBERMANN:  Had you been using the laptop before you put it in the truck? 

FORQUERAN:  No, not that morning.  I‘d used it the evening before.  I was using it with my GPS, you know, checking out how to work my GPS, basically. 

OLBERMANN:  Have you reached Dell?  Did you tell them about this? 

FORQUERAN:  Yes.  They finally got back to me today, actually.  They old me I can go rent a truck and send them the bill and then we‘ll negotiate further, you know. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, that‘s awful nice of them. 

FORQUERAN:  That is what I thought. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, what about the truck getting burned in the fire.  Do you see that as bad luck?  Are you trying to—do you want some sort of compensation from the company for that too? 

FORQUERAN:  Yeah, I do.  You know?  I basically have told them and the others, I want equivalent of a new Ford F250, top of the line and then the same amount of cash on top of that. 

OLBERMANN:  And on top of everything else, you‘ve got an irony here, you keep seeing this Dell computer ad on TV, is that right? 

FORQUERAN:  Yeah, about a half dozen times a night and they always say, well, “welcome to Dell, what can we build you today?”  And I just holler.  “Grandpa‘s truck” you know, every time. 

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t mean to laugh, but there‘s a part of this that just defies belief.  Thomas Forqueran, best of luck with your next computer and hopefully your next Dell-purchased truck.  Thanks for your time tonight, sir. 

FORQUERAN:  OK.  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,202nd day since the decoration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.

From Los Angels, keep your knees loose and stay away from your Dell laptop.   I‘m Keith Olbermann, with a Dell laptop, goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  

Joe, I got to turn this thing off.  Good evening.    



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