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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 14

Read the complete transcript to Friday's show

Guests: Kathleen Hall Jamison, Al Franken


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The memorial service for Nicholas Berg: The FBI explains his alarming, but accidental connection to Zacarias Moussaoui.  And the questions arise, why have we not shown you the rest of that awful videotape?

The images here, mostly man versus Mother Nature, any similarity to the “Wizard of Oz” is purely coincidental.

Brown v. Board of Education: perhaps the most famous lawsuit in American history.  It won so much for so many, but also lost priceless years for students, black and white, in one small Virginia town. 

And inside the seamy underbelly of Power Players Jeopardy: all this embarrassment just so 20 grand could go to the charity of my choice. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Keith embarrasses himself nightly for far less. 


All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  In life, he was known to his family and his friends, and was at worst, thought a little idealistic and perhaps too trusting.  In death he has become known to most of this country and he has been a lightning rod for the many of the frustrations, most of the questions, all of the fears about this country‘s involvement in Iraq. 

The fifth story in the COUNTDOWN:  The memorial service for Nicholas Berg, the 26-year-old who had hoped to make some money helping rebuild Iraq, was remembered at a suburban Philadelphia synagogue today, before he was laid to rest.  Both services were private, and thought the media was excluded, wires service reports say, family and friends remembered Berg as an adventurous, outgoing soul, who also was intelligent and caring.  Neighbor and family friend, Bruce Hauser, described the scene at the Berg family home before the memorial. 


BRUCE HAUSER, BERG FAMILY FRIEND:  ...the family.  I walked in the back door, they were all standing in the kitchen and the father just grabbed me and hugged me when I walked in the door and they‘re—you don‘t want to see them, believe me.


OLBERMANN:  Remarkably, it turns out there was a remote and clearly coincidental connection between Nick Berg and the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui.  Moussaoui, the FBI says, had used Berg‘s e-mail account and had Berg‘s password.  The agency wound up questioning Berg about this in 2002 and determined he knew nothing about it.  The explanation, Berg was studying at the University of Oklahoma in 2000 and recalled being asked by another student on a bus to borrow his computer for a moment.  During that time, the other student excessed—or accessed rather, Berg‘s account and password and then gave that information to Moussaoui who was, at the same time, in Oklahoma trying to find a flight school.

Two radio hosts in a station in Portland are out of work tonight after running the audio of the tape showing Berg‘s beheading.  During Wednesday‘s morning show on KNRK, hosts Marconi, Tiny and Nick played the recording, provided a play-by-play and then laughed and joked about all of it.  The station, deluged with e-mails and calls of protest began airing an apology by its general manager as soon as that broadcast ended.  Within minutes it had suspended the three men, and yesterday they were fired.

All this while a news talk station, in the same city, was one of many radio outfits to run the audio, seriously, and ask the question:  Why are we not seeing the video, however graphic, on television.  Whatever your answer is, you‘ll have to agree the question is legitimate.  I‘m joined now by Kathleen Hall Jamison, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, author—or co-author of 10 books, plus an eleventh that is soon to be released, “The 2000 Election and the Foundation of Party Politics.”

Kathleen, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  This is not just about television.  Only one newspaper even went beyond the images before the murder.  The “Dallas Morning News” showing the head, but they covered Mr. Berg‘s face.  Summarize the principled journalistic rational for not showing more of this. 

JAMISON:  The news worthiness of the event does not require that you show the graphic image.  The important piece of information is that Berg was executed and that his captors made a statement about their intent in doing it.  There is no reason for news to bring the moment of death into people‘s living rooms through print or broadcast.  They—that would offend the sensibilities of the audience and isn‘t necessary to convey the story.

OLBERMANN:  There is a political undertone developing here, of course, many arguing that if the tape were shown it would help explain, if not, justify the events at the Abu Ghraib Prison or even the U.S. presence in Iraq.  Is it useful to compare this evidence, this videotape, not to the prison photos, but to the Zapruder film of JFK or the photographs of the assassins of Abraham Lincoln being hanged and say, we saw that, why didn‘t we like to see this?

JAMISON:  Well first, you can‘t justify what happened in the prison, and you can‘t justify what happened to Nick Berg, they are unjustifiable.  So, those who are arguing that one justifies the other, or that there ought to be some kind of a commensurability here, about what is and is not show, I think are falling into a very slippery moral argument.

The Zapruder film was not shown immediately after the assassination.  We now look at it in an historical context and even in that context, it‘s difficult to view.  Remember, that this young man was just killed, the family is still grieving.  The moment of death should not be the object of voyeuristic attention by the news media; we don‘t need it in order to convey the news value of that moment in is life and his death.

In the larger context, the important question here is twofold:  What does—what are we required to know as an audience in order to understand what happened?  That doesn‘t require the picture.  And secondly, news comes into an environment in which a family is potentially watching with children in an audience, this is inadvertent exposure, even if you say “graphic images are about to be forthcoming,” the fact that it‘s on the internet does not justify using it anywhere else.  The news judgment here is sound.  The papers in the country should be applauded for their restraint across the board in showing all of the horrific images of this past year. 

OLBERMANN:  Is this particular case different than just the standard judgment call about the nature of a particular image?  My question being created after most of the people here at MSNBC who saw it and said it is so grisly and so protracted that the reaction seemed to be almost uniform, people saying “I hope nobody else has to see this.”

JAMISON:  The news judgment of those who, across the board, as we‘ve seen these horrific images coming forward, from September 11 onward, remember the news judgment was not to show those in the act of jumping or falling from the building.  News pulled away from that very quickly and print reporters who decided and the editors who decided to put it in print experienced extreme backlash.  The reaction of the people in the newsroom is exactly the right reaction.

We also need to worry, as these kinds of things become accessible on the Internet and as people voluntarily expose themselves to them, they see them, whether that creates a numbing effect and some of the horror of these acts is, as a result, muted.  I think the news judgment here, is sound.  I think the news judgment across the board has been sound.  In general, the news outlets in the mainstream have been very responsible.  In an environment in which those who want to see it on the Internet can make that voluntary choice, one would hope, as a result, not become addicted to this kind of behavior and begin it search this sort of thing out. 

OLBERMANN:  Kathleen Hall Jamison, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.  As always, many thanks. 

JAMISON:  You‘re welcome. 

OLBERMANN:  Goodnight.

From the life and death of Nicholas Berg to that which his murder is claimed inspired it:  Abu Ghraib Prison.  It proved Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld‘s trip there yesterday, was not just a photo op.  Mr. Rumsfeld had encouraged its commandant to reduce the number of detainees.  Today, 293 were released, 475 more are scheduled to be freed next week.  Some prisoners complained they had been humiliated by the U.S. guards, said they had seen other inmates looking bruised and battered after sessions with U.S interrogators, others complained of psychological pressure from American guards shouting insults on the inside to Iraqi insurgents lobbing mortars on the outside. 

They will miss the first tangible results of this scandal.  Our Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski reports that tonight the Defense Department has banned most of the abusive interrogation techniques shown in so many of those photographs. 


JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was in Baghdad yesterday to try to tamp down the explosive controversy over prisoner abuse, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, tightened up the rules for prisoner interrogations.  Under growing criticism, the U.S. was not observing the Geneva Convention, Lieutenant General Rick Sanchez issued the order banning almost all forms of aggressive interrogations. 

Last September, under increasing pressure from the Pentagon to get more actionable intelligence out of Iraqi prisoners, Sanchez issued an order permitting aggressive tactics for interrogations, including:  Sleep and sensory deprivation for 72 hours, forcing prisoners into stress positions for 45 minutes and the use of dogs. 

The use of such tactics would have required Sanchez‘s written approval.  Approved or not, many military and legal exports believe the tactics are illegal. 

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  It opened up the physical and mental direct abuse of prisoners, which was in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Pentagon officials insist the kind of prisoner abuse seen in these photos was not permitted even under aggressive interrogation, but at least one picture shows military intelligence officers and one civilian interrogator, standing over several naked Iraqi prisoners in what is described as an interrogation. 

Critics claim the Pentagon‘s decision to use more aggressive techniques left the door wide open for abuses.

SCOTT HORTON, INT‘L LEAGUE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS:  I couldn‘t believe that a properly trained military lawyer, who understood the law of war and the Geneva conventions, would have approved this list. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Under the more aggressive tactics, Iraqi prisoners were held in extended isolation 25 times.  But three requests to subject prisoners to physical stress were denied. 

(on camera):  But, while at aggressive interrogation of Iraqi prisoners may end, serious questions about the Pentagon‘s overall prisoner policies are only beginning. 

Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.


OLBERMANN:  Some of the interrogation techniques the Pentagon insist it did not approve will be at the court martial of this scandal, at the center of it.  It‘s set to begin next Wednesday in Baghdad.  The man on trial says nothing he saw was ordered by higher-ups in the chain of command.  Specialists Jeremy Sivits will go on trial even though he insists he did nothing more than take photographs of other soldiers abusing prisoners.  He has been given a plea agreement, that plea has been accepted and Sivits has begun giving testimony about the horrors he claim he saw at Abu Ghraib. 

According to transcripts provided by another suspect‘s attorney, Sivits says he witnessed other guards forcing detainees to strip off their clothes, form human pyramids, and touch themselves.  He says he saw Specialist Charles Graner drop a sand bag over a detainee‘s head before delivering a knockout punch to the hooded man‘s temple. 

Whatever the truth of the American photo scandal, the similar one in England did a 180, today.  The newspaper that ran photos supposedly showing British troops urinating on prisoners on Iraqi prisoners, has declared those photos fraudulent and fired its editor.  Though that editor, Pierce Morgan, insisted the images were bona fide, the British government formally disagreed yesterday, and the paper‘s owners formerly disagreed today, apologizing to the regiment to which the atrocities were falsely attributed and firing their editor, Morgan.

Nonetheless, the American photos and state of events in Iraq have touched British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  A member of Parliament from Blair‘s labor part today said.  on the record.  that Blair should resign.  That member claims many other of his party members agree.  That resignation would still be considered unlikely. 

Also unceasingly unlikely, any deal between the Pentagon and militant Iraqi Shiite cleric leader Moqtada al-Sadr.  U.S. forces today, fighting a series of pitched battles with Sadr‘s militia, the so-called Mehdi Army in the sacred Shia city of Najaf.  And, one of the great fears there has now come to pass.  Commanders had to call in U.S. tanks into a holy cemetery.  Machine gun fire also damaged the holiest shrine in the city, the gilded dome of the Imam Ali Mosque, though the U.S. Army denies that American troops were responsible for that damage. 

Al-Sadr‘s troops rallied tonight to attack coalition positions in the nearby city of Nasariya.

And unlikely development today, regarding the U.S. exit strategy in Iraq:  Apparently, we will leave if asked, unless we don‘t.  The confusion coming when Ambassador Paul Bremer told Iraqi leaders that after the power handoff, 47 days hence, if the new interim government of Iraq says U.S.  forces should not stay, they won‘t. 


L.  PAUL BREMER, U.S. AMBASSADOR:  So if the provisional gov—the interim government were to ask to us leave, we would leave.  We don‘t stay where we‘re not wanted. 


OLBERMANN:  Bremer did say he thought that the question was academic, that the Iraqis want the U.S. to stay and would not ask the U.S. to go.  Still, his comments seemed to be at odds with those of Undersecretary of State Mark Grossman who told a House panel yesterday, that Iraq‘s interim constitution and U.N. resolution 1511, gave the U.S.-led coalition responsibility for Iraqi security for the immediate future, and that American troops would not leave if the new interim government so requested.

The COUNTDOWN opening tonight with the realities of war from the horrors of the slaying of Nick Berg to the new rules of interrogation.

Up next, No. 4 story:  Mother Nature‘s mean streak:  On the anniversary of the passing of the woman who played Glenda, the Good Witch, you know what this looks like.  Well, this no movie. 

And later, 50 years after the landmark ruling to integrate schools in this country, we‘ll tell you the story you have not heard.  A town so upset with the outcome of Brown versus Board of Education that it locked down schools for five years.  Stand by.


OLBERMANN:  Our No. 4 story is up next:  Man versus Nature and it looks like nature is winning.  Massive twisters, raging floods, more darkness, and armies upon armies of cicadas, at which kids are swinging baseball bats.


OLBERMANN:  Perhaps the explanation of why great fiction works can be found in the word “verisimilitude,” not reality, but the appearance of reality. 

Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, tonight: Mother Nature reminding us she‘s still around.  Beginning with the fact that there is a reason the plot of the “Wizard of Oz” turns on a twister touching down in Kansas. 

As many as a dozen tornadoes ripped through the south-central part of that state Wednesday night.  One reportedly was an F-4.  An F-4 measures 500 yards across with winds up to 260 miles an hour—this one lifting an entire house just like in the movies, everything but Margaret Hamilton and Toto.  While officials still have not been able to calculate the financial damage, the important part, only one minor injury. 

About 20 mile north of College Station Texas, more tornadoes and 12 inches of rain, and the tradition Texas drainage problem.  Roads were closed in four counties including this one, Milam, where 170 homes were damaged and a state of emergency was declared. 

Only minor injuries reported in Texas and in Minnesota, none.  Residents of Roseau, up on the Canadian border, this is, faced their river again.  Two years ago it flooded, causing damages of $120 million, but two additional feet of sand bags and a crest at 20-1/2 feet and no evacuations were necessary, although the Roseau river will run high, this high, for another day.

After all that we sure could use some sun, huh? 

Yeah well, about that, it seems that scientists have discovered the earth is actually getting darker, estimating that we have lost as much as 37 percent of the sunshine over the last half century.  Somebody switch to sun off like a floor lamp and not tell us?

No, it seems that pollution in the atmosphere is preventing the sun‘s worming rays from getting through to us, instead they are being absorbed by the haze and the smog, and evidently they have caused researchers to increase their rate of wacky metaphor usage. 


DR.  VEERABHADRAN RAMANATHAN, UNIV.  CALIFORNIA SAN DIEGO:  If indeed it is confirmed that this dimming is global, and it‘s large—as large as what‘s been speculated or suggested, then that is indeed a true gorilla and we have to figure out how to concur this beast. 


OLBERMANN:  Speaking of beasts, how about them bugs?  Cicadas.  In Cincinnati, these once every 17 years visitors have caused injuries to at least three kids.  A girl was fell off her bike while fleeing one, a boy whose hand was hurt as he was trying to squish one, when it was under an automobile tire.  And, another boy who got hit in the nose with a baseball bat swung by his friend who was trying to swat a cicada out of midair. 

Robert Hager reports now on a swarm we have not seen since Ronald Reagan was president.


ROBERT HAGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  They‘re loud.  They‘re ugly.  They terrify the timid, and dive-bomb yards.  If history‘s a guide, this latest swarm will blanket much of the Midwest and middle Atlantic.  But Gene Kritsky, who at Cincinnati‘s College of Mount St.  Joseph‘s who is the Indiana Jones of cicadas, says not to worry. 

DR.  GENE KRITSKY, MOUNT ST.  JOSEPH‘S COLLEGE:  Cicadas don‘t bite, they don‘t sting, they won‘t carry away your children or your pets. 

HAGER:  But they are weird.  After their first 17 years underground, they emerge for just six weeks.  And do what?  What else?  They look for love, in trees.

KRITSKY:  It‘s like a gigantic singles board.  The male cicadas gather in the trees, sing in hopes that they might attract a female.  If they‘re unsuccessful they get up and fly to the tree across the street, like it‘s the bar across the street, to see if pickings are better over there. 

HAGER:  A few brave humans claim actually cicadas are good to eat.  Washington‘s Ritz Carlton Hotel leaves guests a chocolate shaped like a cicada, serves a cicada appetizer, but with crawfish not cicadas, thank you, and mixes a cicada cocktail, again without the bug.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sure if a cicada had one, he‘d love it too.

HAGER:  But most dread the invasion, like Jody Lampe (ph) and Don Row (ph), planning part of their wedding outside. 

JODY LAMPE, BRIDE WITH CICADA WORRIES:  I‘m worried, I have a very

long veil that they‘re going to attach and stick in their claws and not get

off, so I‘m going to have to designate someone to pick them off my veil

HAGER:  Grin and bare it, by mid-July, they‘ll be out of here. 

(on camera):  And they won‘t be around to bug us again until the year 2021. 

Robert Hager, NBC News, Cincinnati. 


OLBERMANN:  Mother Nature gets freaky with us, our No. 4 story. 

Up next, we continue you on the freak parade, “Oddball” is next.  Another car chase to show you.  Is this the one that finally puts the dumb criminals in the win column? 

And later, another scandal in Washington—well, scandal might be an exaggeration.  Let me just put it this way.  Alex, I‘ll take highlights of Al Franken‘s career for 200. 


OLBERMANN:  We rejoin you now and immediately pause the COUNTDOWN to make way for the strange stories other news casts treat as real news, but we all know are just stupid.  Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

It‘s Friday, queue the saber dance.  Time for our COUNTDOWN car chase of the week, brought to you by the Utah Highway Patrol.  And checking the “Oddball” scoreboard for the year, we see it‘s cops 42, guys who think they can escape the cops nothing.

Then the young punks behind the wheel of this stolen car are about to get a history lesson.  A 15-year-old girl is driving; she took the car from her parents and led the cops on a 100 mile an hour chase.  Ah, but where parental controls fall short, spike strips always work.  All occupants miraculous escaping the crash, a little wet, but uninjured.  They‘ll have plenty of time to towel off where they‘re going—the big house.

Moving now to the Babies R Us store in Arlington, Texas and we‘re racing, racing, racing.  Off to an early lead it‘s Little Rugrat, followed closely behind by The Drooler, Poopy Diaper‘s in third, now Poopy Diaper‘s is making a move—no, no, he‘s wandering off the to side.  But, here comes The Drooler, and down the stretch they come, with a little help from mom, The Drooler by three lengths.  Give that kid a lollipop, 20 years of therapy.  He paid 320 to win, 220 to place, 110 to show.

Finally, on May 13, 8-year-old Cody King discovered this two-headed turtle living near his gamily home in Monicks (ph) Corner, South Carolina.  The young boy quickly fell for the creature, brought it home to keep as a family pet.  Veterinarian says the turtle is perfectly healthy and should live a long, happy life as long as Cody keeps feeding them. 

But can two turtle heads live together in one small shell without driving each other crazy?  Kind of an “Odd Couple” thing. 

COUNTDOWN picking back up with the No. 3 story, your preview:  The court ruling that was supposed to help black students learn.  We‘ll introduce you to the kids for whom Brown verses Board of Education meant no school for five years.

Those stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:

No. 3: Police in Edmond, Oklahoma, looking for the men who made another “Simpson‘s” episode come to life.  They went to three restaurants, and stole each places supply of grease. 

No. 2: Audie Carr and Benjamin Clarke, prisoners who broke out the low-security prison at Layhill, England and were found 18 hours later at the gate of Glouster Prison.  That‘s right, they escaped from one jail in order to get into another one, claiming that drugs were too easily available in the first one and they wanted to kick their habits. 

And No. 1: Jason of Fargo Perala North Dakota, who finally had enough of his bad phone cell service.  He walked into the Verizon store and destroyed the computers and the phones.  But that crime of passion defense may not work, Mr. Perala admits he had put on safety goggles before he went in. 


OLBERMANN:  It goes without saying that every decision of the Supreme Courts carries a remarkable variety of consequences.  Some of those consequences are unforeseeable.

Even in 1857, few thought the ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford would remove the stopgap, the next to last one, to the civil war.  No one can guess what today‘s court ruling will mean, the justices this afternoon declining to stop clerks in Massachusetts from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.  And so those licenses will be handed out beginning Monday.

And in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, there is perhaps the most famous decision the court ever made, Brown vs. Board of Education.  When it was handed down 50 years ago next Monday, Americans thought they could see the amazing sweep of the consequences of an order to dismantle segregated education in this country. 

But, as Matt Lauer reports, what they missed were consequences that would cost the students of one Southern town five years worth of education.


CHILDREN:  ... to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW” (voice-over):  Life in Farmville, Virginia, was separate, not equal. 

JOAN JOHNS COBBS, SISTER OF BARBARA JOHNS:  It was a very segregated society.  When we went to town, we could not go into the 5-and-10 store and sit at a counter and have a soda.  We could not go into certain places in town. 

LAUER:  White children went to good schools with excellent resources, while black children learned from tattered books in overcrowded buildings. 

JOHN STOKES, R.R. MOTON HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE:  They had put up three tar paper shacks to accommodate the overflow of students. 

COBBS:  In the winter the tar paper shacks were cold and we often had to sit in our coats.  And we would freeze. 

STOKES:  School was deplorable. 

LAUER:  On April 23, 1951, a 16-year-old girl named Barbara Rose Johns had had enough.  She thought long and hard about what she wanted to do and wrote about it in a journal. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  “And there were times I just prayed, God, please grant us a new school, please help us.  We are your children, too.  A plan began to formulate in my mind.” 

LAUER:  A plan her sister Joan now recalls. 

COBBS:  We went to school as usual and we were called to a student assembly.  Instead of the principal being at the lectern, my sister was there. 

LAUER (on camera):  You were 13 on that day.

COBBS:  I was 13 years old.

LAUER:  Sitting in that student assembly, what was going through your mind? 

COBBS:  I couldn‘t imagine what the consequences of what she was doing would be.  I just knew that it would be bad, so I was afraid. 

LAUER (voice-over):  Barbara Johns, with help from fellow students, led the entire student body out of the building that day on strike for the education they deserved. 

COBBS:  As simple as that, the bear came out of hibernation and we just had to do what we had to do. 

LAUER:  The students were the children of proud, hard-working people who valued learning above all else.  They called in lawyers from the NAACP. 

And their case, Davis et al. vs. the School Board of Prince Edward County,

Virginia, became one of five suits which together challenged segregation in

American public school.s

STOKES:  This was the only case that was led by children, by students. 

LAUER:  The Supreme Court ruled that separate was not equal.  And, with all deliberate speed, all public schools in America were ordered to integrate.  But justice eluded Prince Edward County.  Virginia Senator Harry Byrd orchestrated massive resistance to the court‘s decision. 

J. Barrye Wall, editor of “The Farmville Herald,” supported resistance, publishing scathing editorial after editorial.  In 1959, community leaders in Prince Edward County defied the ruling in an extraordinary way.  They closed and locked the doors to all public schools.  Monies earmarked for public education were used to create private schools for white children.  Some black children went to makeshift schools in local churches but for five years, 1959 to 1964, there were no public schools and many children got no education. 

JOHN HURT, FORMER STUDENT:  They locked me and my whole world out. 

LAUER:  Rita Moseley was in the sixth grade when the school doors closed. 

RITA MOSELEY, FORMER STUDENT:  What I knew for sure that was our schools were closed because the white kids didn‘t want to go to school with us.  And it was very devastating.  It changed our lives. 

HURT:  You know, nothing will take the place of the hurt and embarrassment that we had to go through.  When you don‘t have an education, you settle for what other folks don‘t want. 

MOSELEY:  It‘s something that you can‘t forget.  It‘s something that will always be with you for the rest of your life. 

LAUER:  Just last year, the state of Virginia made a formal apology to those denied their education and offered them honorary diplomas.  But the Ken Woodley, now editor of the same Farmville newspaper where his predecessor, J. Barrye Wall, championed segregation, decided that wasn‘t enough. 

He began to organize a quest for what he calls massive redemption.  At the end of April, many people from Prince Edward County finally boarded the school buses which passed them by years ago to get the education they wanted all along. 

KEN WOODLEY, EDITOR, “THE FARMVILLE HERALD”:  Together, uncovering and writing the history of today, repairing specific harm while we can, late, yes, very late, but not too late. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And I stand here today as a 54-year-old student that will be the first one to be on the bus if this bill is passed. 

LAUER:  Virginia Governor mark Warner did sign a bill which is a step for giving those left behind $2 million to use for whatever education they choose.  Their time to learn has finally come.

And as for that brave 16-year-old girl, Barbara Johns, who started their quest?  She left Farmville just after the strike for her safety, graduated from college, and lived a quiet life as a mother and librarian.  She rarely made the history books and hardly ever spoke of what she had done. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We asked her why afterwards.  And she said: 

Well, it was something I had to do.  I did it and it was over. 

LAUER:  Barbara Johns died young, but her dream for a new school has lived on. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: “People would hear us and see us and understand our difficulties.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “And would sympathize with our plight and grant us our new school building and our teachers would be proud.”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  “And the students would learn more and it would be grand.”

CHILDREN:  With liberty and justice for all.


OLBERMANN:  More on Brown vs. Board of Education 50 years later and the personal toll in that one town, Farmville, Virginia, here Sunday night on MSNBC.  Lester Holt hosts “The Battle For America‘s Schools: How Children Won and Lost,” 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Pacific Sunday.

Tonight‘s No. 2 story straight ahead.  And, America, in case you missed the lesson of interns in politics the first time around, there‘s a new warning out there from a concerned father.  Also, as Martha Stewart awaits her sentencing, she‘s had a meeting with a big-time reality TV producer.  Oh, no, what could that be about? 

First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day. 


KATE GOSSELIN, GAVE BIRTH TO SEXTUPLETS:  It was scary.  They kept counting and counting and counting and counting.  And I thought they‘d never stop.  They finally did. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But at 3, they get their permanent papers.  So 3 is when he would be eligible to go into “The Guinness Book.”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And these guys are actually bred to help with vision-impaired individuals, right? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They are.  In the United States they do have mini-horses working as guide horses. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m told when the name of your commencement speaker was announced on April the 1st...


BUSH:  A lot of students thought it might be an April Fools Day joke.  Some of you may still have doubts.  I saw a person in when I walked him said, is it him or is it the guy on “Saturday Night Live”? 




OLBERMANN:  Coming up on COUNTDOWN, a story about interns and politicians or a story about me.  Interns, me, which do you will be No. 1?


OLBERMANN:  If you happen to remember MSNBC‘s “THE BIG SHOW,” this is where we came in. 

Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, the district attorney of Albany County, New York, has accused the New York state legislature of running an internship program that is nothing less than awash with predatory sex.  Says D.A. Paul Kline, there is a—quote—“group of legislators who, quite honestly, are here to get paid $80,000 a year and party three nights a week.”

Although a 19-year-old intern has recanted a rape charge and admitted that sex she had with Harlem Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV was consensual, Powell is still under investigating for plying the girl with alcohol even though she was well below the legal drinking age.  “The New York Post” quoting unnamed sources who describe the intern program as essentially a canned hunt for desirable young women.  The paper also reports there is an annual January ritual where assembly members send out scouts to fill orders for the type of interns they want. 

D.A. Clyne went on record, warning parents of the danger, saying—quote—“Any father who would let his daughter be an intern in the state legislature should have his head examined.”

While New York Assembly‘s speaker, Sheldon Silver, says he will pursue new regulations about the hiring of interns, his promise echoes strangely.  A year ago, Silver‘s own chief counsel pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a young staff member. 

Back to the comparatively safe world of celebrities in the segment we call “Keeping Tabs.”  And a new member of the MSNBC family, network president Rick Kaplan is a grandfather for the first time, his daughter Robin (ph) delivering Jack Gregory Havridge (ph) at 8:54 this morning Eastern Daylight Time, artist‘s rendering, eight pounds, 15 ounces. 

Our congratulations to Robin and husband Greg and grandpa Rick and, of course, Jack himself.

And what would happen if the king of reality TV teamed up with the high doyen of household hints?  It‘s the end of the world.  Mark Burnett, the man behind “Survivor” and “The Apprentice,” says he has met with Martha Stewart.  No, he said, they did not discuss a Burnett-produced reality show called “Recipes Behind Bars.”  They visited the prospect that her current syndicators might not pick up the option on her TV show “Martha Stewart Living” and maybe Burnett could.

And one of the titans of television news has died.  Floyd Kalber not only served from 1960 through 1979 as an NBC News correspondent and later the newscaster on “The Today Show,” but he had two separate terms as the mandarin of local news in Chicago.  Kalber‘s no-nonsense, deep-voiced newscasts on WMAQ set ratings records in the ‘60s.  After his time on “The Today Show,” he retired from broadcasting, only to be coaxed back to Chicago‘s ABC station, WLS.

Within a year, his 6:00 p.m. newscast there was on top of the ratings again and it stayed there until his second retirement in 1998.  Floyd Kalber was diagnosed with emphysema in the late ‘90s, but he continued to work.  The disease finally claimed him yesterday in the suburbs of Chicago.  He was 79 years old. 

Still ahead of us here tonight, our No. 1 story.  Let‘s some this up simply, the “Jeopardy” experience. 


OLBERMANN:  We try not to be too self-reverential on this show, but when we are, we just really go. 

Thus, our first story on the COUNTDOWN, I was on “Jeopardy.”  Here are some of the facts.  There were 15 of us “Jeopardy” “Power Players” who gathered to tape five different shows last month in Washington.  My opponents were Gretchen Carlson of Stanford and Oxford and the weekend edition of “The CBS Early Show” and Al Franken, who will join me for an interview in a moment.

We played for charity.  No matter what the actual scores were, it was 50 grand each to the winner of the game, 20 grand each to everybody else.  And, yes, I know it‘s not the No. 1 story in the news tonight. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I know Keith.  He is great.  If it‘s a limited number of categories, mainly concerning Keith Olbermann‘s life, history, and accomplishments and ego, then he‘ll do very well.  Anything outside that, I think he‘s going to have enormous difficulties.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, “CROSSFIRE”:  I love Keith Olbermann.  I‘m a closet Keith Olbermann fan. 

TIM RUSSERT, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”:  I‘m willing to undergo the most acute embarrassment on national TV for the Boys and Girls Clubs.  Keith embarrasses himself nightly for far less.  I bet you that does not make the cut, Olbermann, huh?  I dare you to put that sound bite on. 

ALEX TREBEK, HOST, “JEOPARDY”:  Stop poking fun at Keith.  He‘ll get you for this, you know. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Mr. Trebek. 

ANNOUNCER:  This is “Power Players” week on “Jeopardy.” 

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR:  I‘d like to see a category, scandal. 

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Bob, be careful what you wish for.

TREBEK:  Two reporters unearth a political scandal that goes all the way to the top in this 1976 film based on a book.



TREBEK:  Oh, too much time, Peggy. 


CARLSON:  What is all the president‘s men. 

TREBEK:  You are right.

OLBERMANN (on camera):  You were born in this language and speak this language 15 percent of the time.  You can win this game, as long as you don‘t mishandle the buzzer.  It‘s all about the buzzer.

PEGGY NOONAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Keith looks like a guy who‘s a little slow on the buzzer, if you know I mean. 


(voice-over):  Though I was matched against Al Franken and Gretchen Carlson, there was a sense of competition with the week‘s other players, too, a kind of in-house, happy NBC family sense of competition. 

RUSSERT:  Bring on Olbermann.  There‘s a reason his initials are K.O., right?  Knockout, huh?  Keith Olbermann, bring him on. 

OLBERMANN (on camera):  I‘m ready to take Tim on.

(voice-over):  And then there were my opponents. 

AL FRANKEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  If I see sports, I‘m going to throw up.  And that will distract him. 

GRETCHEN CARLSON, CBS NEWS:  Olbermann‘s going to lose. 

OLBERMANN  Or we could let the luck of the draw decide things, like which categories just happen to show up, a “Saturday Night Live” category with a guy who spent 14 years as a performer, writer and producer on “Saturday Night Live.”  Total coincidence.  Al won 3,400 bucks in this category. 

FRANKEN:  We‘ll take—I‘m sorry—“SNL” presidential players 200. 

TREBEK:  Chris Elliott, Tim Meadows, Phil Hartman, and Darrell Hammond have all played this 42nd president.

FRANKEN:  Who is big Clinton? 

TREBEK:  That‘s right. 

FRANKEN:  Who is Gerald Ford? 

TREBEK:  Correct. 

FRANKEN:  Who is Jimmy Carter? 

TREBEK:  Correct. 

FRANKEN:  Who is Ross Perot?

TREBEK:  Correct.  You double your score to $2,400. 


MATTHEWS:  “Jeopardy” gave Al Franken, who made his name writing presidential satire on “Saturday Night Live,” the “Jeopardy” category of “Saturday Night Live” presidential players.  That‘s like giving Keith Olbermann the category of Keith Olbermann‘s COUNTDOWN.  Hah!

FRANKEN:  Can I just stall now? 




OLBERMANN:  Actually, not a bad strategy.  It would have prevented this new high in lows. 

FRANKEN:  Two hundred.  I don‘t know anything about women. 



TREBEK:  That‘s what your wife said. 



FRANKEN:  Come on.  Come on.  You want a piece of me?  You want a piece of this? 

OLBERMANN:  I almost held Al back in the game, too, came back from $5,000 down to lose by a dollar. 

TREBEK:  Al, you‘re the winner today.  Your charity gets $50,000.  And Gretchen and Keith, your charities $20,000 each. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s get away from this in a hurry.


OLBERMANN:  Ladies and gentlemen, joining me from New York, the winner of game four of “Power Players Jeopardy,” Mr. Al Franken. 

Hello, Al.

FRANKEN:  Hi, Keith.  Good to see you.

OLBERMANN:  When the one great scorer comes to write against your name, he marks not that you won or lost, but how you played the game.  And we all know that‘s crap.  You won.  I didn‘t. 

FRANKEN:  You know what?  It was a classic game, a classic game of “Jeopardy.”  I won by a dollar. 


FRANKEN:  Now, I could have won by more, but I knew how much I had to bet, so I won by a dollar. 

OLBERMANN:  Seriously, if they said to you when you were a kid you‘re going to be famous, you‘re going to be famous on television, you‘re going to be famous write books, you might have said, OK, maybe that‘s true.

But if they had said you‘re going on “Jeopardy” and win, would you have said no way? 

FRANKEN:  No, I probably would have thought that was more likely than any of the others.

I was a fan of “Jeopardy” with Art Fleming.  And this Trebek...



OLBERMANN:  Are you still doing this with Trebek?  Do I have to break up another fight the next time the two of you are in the same place? 


OLBERMANN:  As we record this, this is still in the offing, but how does it rank with how you‘re supposed to be spending your Friday night? 

FRANKEN:  I am debating Ann Coulter. 


FRANKEN:  I think that‘s going to be just as interesting, if not more.  It‘s going to be very interesting.  I‘ve met Ann once before.  And I‘ve seen her a lot on television, and I‘ve read her books.  And I think it will be fascinating. 

When my book came out, it would be dismissed people who hadn‘t read it.  It‘s sort of like the mirror image of her kind of book.  But it isn‘t.  Mine is accurate. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Thank you. 


OLBERMANN:  I was going to jump in and help up ought on that, but you

·         didn‘t jump in, but there it is. 

FRANKEN:  Yes.  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  How is the radio show? 

FRANKEN:  Radio show is really fun to do.  We‘ve had—well, today we had Joe Conason, who is a writer for “Salon” and “New York Observer.”  We‘ve had people like Richard Clarke and John McCain and David Kay and Hillary Clinton and Al Gore and Michael Moore.  And we‘ve just had tremendous guests.  And Katherine Lanpher and I are having just a lot of fun.  And it gets easier and easier every day. 

OLBERMANN:  That is genuinely true in terms of radio. 

FRANKEN:  Yes.   

OLBERMANN:  Al Franken of radio‘s “O‘Franken Factor” and the still furiously selling “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” and “Power Players Jeopardy.” 

FRANKEN:  And you have to please come on, on the show as soon as possible.

OLBERMANN:  Just pick a day and I‘ll be there. 


OLBERMANN:  Good to talk to you, sir. 

FRANKEN:  Thank you, Keith

OLBERMANN:  And one more thing about tonight‘s No. 1 story.  In deference to the fact that the last show in the series, the one Tim Russert is on, is still yet to air in some places, we can‘t give you the exact figures on how all 15 contestants did.

But I can tell you, Franken and I placed fourth and fifth respectively.  And on your NBC family and alumni scoreboard, boy, that‘s pretty ugly, $15,000 for me, $300 for Maria.  You don‘t get Russert‘s official score yet, but, trust me, if I could give it to you, it wouldn‘t look much different than those three X‘s there.

What is, that‘s the end of COUNTDOWN?  Thanks for being part of it. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Thanks for indulging me on that story.  It‘s Friday. 

Good night and good luck.


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