Guest: Dave Edmonds, Laura Trevalyan
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? More disasters. An avalanche in Park City, Utah. A dam threatened at Corona, California.
On the other hand, evidence of dry riverbeds and maybe not-so-dry lakes as a space probe lands on one of the moons of Saturn.
The self-fulfilling prophesy, when the president said we should fight the terrorists in Iraq instead of here there weren‘t many of them there. Today, the CIA says Iraq is the new top breeding ground for terrorists.
The Prince Harry controversy continues. Now, complete with his brother William who was reportedly with him as he picked out the Nazi outfit. Could have been worse.
He could have listened to the career adviser who told girl students in California that they could make a lot of money stripping. The girl students who are in the 8th grade! All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening. As television commercials when it was ridiculous. An ad in which Mother Nature couldn‘t tell the difference between butter and margarine but 30 years later its tagline and final scenes still ring out. It‘s not good to fool Mother Nature followed by lightning and all forms of cataclysm.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, there have been times in the last few weeks where it felt like we‘re enacting that stupid commercial. Tornadoes in the south, flooding in the east, mudslides in the west and tonight an avalanche in the ski country of Utah all caused by the same set of storms. Authorities around Park City began warning of the prospect of an avalanche there this morning. 14 inches of snow had fallen there in just the past 48 hours. By 1:30, prevailing local time this afternoon, their prophesy proved correct. A massive snowslide south of the Canyons Resort boundary in the Wasatch Cache National Forest. Reports of how many people were caught in the avalanche has swung back-and-forth wildly. The latest report as many as four trapped there.
Witnesses reporting seeing around 30 rescue workers with dogs digging in at least two separate areas of the slide. The slide took place in an area that‘s supposed to be off-limits to skiers. One veteran of the sport told our local station in Salt Lake City, KSL, that to reach the area of the avalanche, a place locals call Dutch Draw, you have to hike 12 or 15 minutes to get there. but it‘s marked with what you just saw, a sign that had a skull and cross bones and a warning that you could die. Sheriff Dave Edmonds of the Summit County, Utah sheriff‘s department is heading up the search and rescue operation. He joins us by phone. Thank you for your time. Especially right at the moment. We appreciate it.
Have you determined exactly how many people have been caught in that avalanche?
DAVE EDMONDS, SUMMIT COUNTY, UTAH: No, it‘s very difficult for us to say with any degree of accuracy, but we do believe that it‘s multiple people from the witness statements we‘ve received thus far.
OLBERMANN: And you are as the reports indicate digging, searching or have been searching in multiple areas?
EDMONDS: We have. It‘s important to note that this slide is extremely big. Anywhere from 400 to 500 yards across and as much as 30 feet deep in some locations. Because of that, it‘s going to be very difficult search. It‘ll take some time.
OLBERMANN: What became of your search and efforts as of nightfall there?
EDMONDS: Nightfall is currently happening right now. I just recently pulled my search and rescue operators off the hill. The danger of a secondary avalanche is far too great at this point. We don‘t want to endanger searchers because this is increasingly becoming a recovery operation.
OLBERMANN: By morning, by the time the sun rises, if some miracle hasn‘t intervened between now and then, is it just that? Is it only a recovery effort at that point?
EDMONDS: I believe we‘re safe to assume that at this point, unfortunately.
OLBERMANN: There‘ve been some reports from witnesses who say that the avalanche was actually caused by skiers and snowboarders. Things obviously get exaggerated at a time like this. It there any accuracy or germ of truth in that?
EDMONDS: We‘re trying to sort through all of that right now. We don‘t know what‘s accurate and not accurate. We do believe it was triggered out of bounds. I should clarify and say we know that to be a fact. The slide was triggered out of bounds. It‘s difficult to say exactly where the skiers or snowboarders came from. We don‘t have that information at this time.
OLBERMANN: And to clarify for the audience, when you say out of bounds, you mean it‘s a part of the terrain that not even the most experienced skiers should be dealing with, is that correct?
EDMONDS: That‘s absolutely correct. It goes a lot further than that. Regardless of your degree of experience if you go into an area with the avalanche conditions that we have currently that‘s not avalanche controlled, you are doing so at the peril of your life.
OLBERMANN: As we‘ve just seen. Sheriff Dave Edmonds of Summit County, Utah. Thank you for joining us tonight. We wish you the best of luck with your continuing efforts there.
EDMONDS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: When Mother Nature is not wreaking havoc directly, she can make man nervous enough to do some of her work for her. Engineers in charge of the 63-year-old Prado Dam near Corona, California and just outside the Orange County border decided a while back to improve its flood control capabilities. Then came the record rainfall the last three weeks and the area they were upgrading began to leak. Nearly 1,000 homes in the area were evacuated early this morning. But after engineers relieved the pressure by draining out thousands of gallons of water, they determined the dam wasn‘t in imminent danger of collapse. They let the residents back later in the afternoon. 135 people living in the Fallows Camp near Asuza, California weren‘t so lucky. The rain washed out all three bridges leading to the area effectively stranding the people there. Rescue workers are now airlifting food and medical supplies to the camp.
Life‘s most painful axiom may be its oldest one. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. A large house on the beach in Santa Monica, California will cost you at least $2 million. After a 1995 mudslide there, at least one house near the beach 87 miles north in La Conchita, California cost someone $4,000. It was too good to be true. Officials are now saying what a lot of people thought they should have said a decade ago, it‘s simply too dangerous in La Conchita for anybody to live there ever again. Residents were allowed to go back to their homes today despite warnings from geologists that the hill above them is still extremely unstable. Many of them planned to stay in town permanently despite the likelihood of another fatal mudslide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to stay?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course. This is my home!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It may not be possible right now. It‘s private property. Property owners have the responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: California is asking for federal money to help rebuild the town, but some consumer advocates say after two mudslides in ten years, the Owners for Protecting La Conchita should devolve entirely to the homeowners and not the taxpayers.
Remnants of the same massive weather system continued to cause serious damage in the south and the east. In Arkansas, a force 3 tornado ripped through Junction City and the surrounding area. Two people were killed. As many as 30 homes were damaged or destroyed. The tornado played a factor in a fatal small plane crash nearby.
Just outside Washington, D.C. heavy flooding submerged cars in northern Virginia and sent local wildlife running for higher ground there.
All too reminiscent of the unending nightmare in the Indian Ocean. Sunday morning will mark three weeks since the tsunami hit. If there‘s been one bright spot, it was the virtual absence of evidence of epidemic disease until today when an ominous warning was sounded from Indonesia.
First, the number of unresolved inquiries about Americans who may have been in the affected areas is now down to 416. It was once over 2,500. 17 missing Americans are presumed dead. 18 Americans, ten of them in Thailand, eight in Sri Lanka, have been confirmed to have been killed by the tsunami. Now, the new health concerns from Indonesia, that the death toll there could double because of disease. Health officials are warning that 100,000 people would die or could die from malaria. Mass workers armed with mosquito-killing spray guns is have already started moving through refugee camps and houses in the Aceh province hoping to stave off malaria epidemic.
In Thailand, another newly-obtained home video showing the moment of impact on December 26. Paw tong Beach (ph) literally washed out as the tsunami pushed up the sand. Tourists and locals caught off guard by the strength and extraordinary reach of the extraordinary waves.
Back here, the government has anew plan to protect the eastern seaboard from a similar disaster. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will deploy 32 new deep ocean buoys to register currents and wave height in the Atlantic Ocean and warn of possible tsunamis there. The system should be up and running by 2007. A reminder to help victims of the Asian tsunami, the NBC telethon is tomorrow night, tsunami aid, a concert of hope, airing live at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. All proceeds going to the Red Cross.
Obviously, these three weeks wouldn‘t have been good ones to have been public relations director for planetary physics but the study of soil and seismological movement does not produce tragedy exclusively. Sometimes like today, 746 million miles away it can produce startling perhaps even world changing news. There appear to be dry river beds on Titan, the largest of the 19 or more moons of Saturn. Also large frozen chunks of something. Maybe even a lake, an active lake.
All this from just the first three hours and ten minutes of data sent back today from Titan as the Huygens probe landed there this morning. Three-quarters of a billion miles away. Those curved carved lines on the moon‘s surfaces. So far, at least, scientists have never come up with a plausible explanation for what could create them other than erosion caused by flowing liquid. There‘s no idea if the presumed liquid on Titan was or is water but the probe will get some clues about the atmosphere on that moon and maybe even an idea of what the fluids consist of.
And as natural phenomena can inspire awe sometimes, it could also propagate comedy. Much of the northeast, the last 24 hours have gone thusly. Starting clear with temperatures in the 30‘s, moving to heavy fog to 65 degrees and almost muggy to 45 degrees with heavy rain to 30 degrees and snow showers to sunny and 28. This caused what should have been foreseeable problems at the Aquaduct race tracks in Queens, New York except by the time of the 6th horse race there, nothing was foreseeable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they‘re off, and so they are. Try to pick them up here when they come out of the—oh, oh, yes, there they go—it‘s just so thick, they crossed under the finish line. I couldn‘t tell one from another. But they‘re going fast. 22:2. Around the park here it looks like Bortz (ph) is in front with Niadhas second. I did catch the gray horse, Champagne who was last. I think it was Bortz in front. They have Coeus in front, Niadhas second and Owns The Place third. Keeping quiet fourth. So they‘re on the back stretch somewhere. And they‘re nearing the finish and here they come. It‘ll be close. I think it was number 4. I‘m not sure. It was a hell of a race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And down the stretch they come! It‘s horse with another horse and 17 gray horses behind them.
Also tonight, yesterday this story was just about one Nazi outfit and one British prince. Now it‘s about one Nazi outfit but two British princes.
A little late for the guy who asked the questions in the second debate. The president tonight is admitting he made some mistakes in his first term, mostly of the spoken variety. You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Before you dismiss as trivial the blazing controversy over a photograph of England‘s Prince Harry wearing a Nazi swastika, consider our 4th story on the COUNTDOWN tonight. Had Hitler actually invaded Britain as planned in 1940, he would have deposed King George VI, Harry‘s great grandfather and probably replaced him on the throne with Harry‘s great grand uncle the former King Edward VII. And they would have taken British Jews off to concentration camps on the island and continent. They had a 400-page list of other people to be arrested ranging from Winston Churchill to Noel Coward. So as awful as the symbol of the swastika is the flap about it is a lot about reality too. Think about it this way, the child of an American president going to a party 60 years from now dressed as Osama bin Laden.
More tonight on where Prince Harry got the outfit. It seems to make things appreciably worse. The London newspaper that first printed the photo, “The Sun” reporting that Harry‘s older brother Prince William was with him when he picked it up at a costume shop and went with him to the party where he was photographed wearing it. Then there is the continuing for a more fulsome in person apology. The leader of the opposition party in parliament, Michael Howard of the conservatives, lost relatives in the Holocaust. Howard today again urged Harry to appear before cameras and own up to it meaning a little bit more than just a poor choice of costume.
Several British newspapers are reporting that the prince‘s father, Prince Charles, agrees no further apology is necessary. His aunt certainly sees it that way, Sarah Ferguson, Fergie saying, “I hope the world accepts his apology. He deserves a break really. I know what‘s it‘s like to have a bad press. I had it for a quite a long time. The thing is he has apologized.”
Then there‘s the timing. Two weeks ago, Britain will participate in the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the infamous death camp at Auschwitz. That British paper “The Sun” reported that Prince Charles has ordered both of his sons to go to Auschwitz but not as part of the ceremonies. A rival paper, “The Evening Standard” reports that Charles has ordered them not to go to there which exhausts the possibilities.
To try to analyze what seems like a fairly black-and-white situation here, it‘ll all go away if he apologizes in person, it‘ll all continue if he does not, I‘m joined by BBC political correspondent Laura Trevalyan. Thank you for your time tonight.
LAURA TREVALYAN, BBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you for having me on, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Why is it not that simple? With all of their various experiences with the British media and given the success that Harry and William had four years ago when they came out and talked to reporters about the book that had blasted their mother. What would make members of the royal family assume that if they just hold their breath and stick their fingers in their ears, this will all go away?
TREVALYAN: I think the answer to that is it‘s the royal family you‘re dealing with. Not any other British institution. They‘re not directly accountable in any way. Although technically they‘re a constitutional monarchy. They‘re not elected. Not even politicians regard the role of the royal family being accountable to them. What is happening now is what happens so often with the royal stories is that something goes wrong and the royal family blame the press. That‘s what you‘re seeing at the moment. The royals are saying there‘s no reason for Harry to apologize. He has apologized, which is true in a written statement. They don‘t want him to go on home camera because they feel it‘ll give this story even more legs. It would run even farther. But what they fail to understand is that whereas the British public hitherto has had some sympathy with Harry‘s escapades, after all he lost his mother tragically when he was only 13 and his previous escapades have been some—possibly some explanation for them. Smoking cannabis, punching a photographer, but this, this is really beyond the pale and for many in the British public it reinforces the impression of the royal family as being to some extent overprivileged and not understanding how their actions appear to others.
OLBERMANN: Is there the proverbial tipping point approaching here sometime passed which even that kind of apology that‘s being clamored for would do no good. And the prince would get stuck with this as part of his permanent image, say the way his father will not ever really quite shake those reported comments Camilla Parker Bowles.
TREVALVAN: It‘s approaching that point. The only thing that is in Harry‘s favor is that the British government itself has said that his written apology is sufficient. What you have is the leaders of the opposition parties, Michael Howard, the leader of the Conservatives and Charles Kennedy, the leader of the Liberal Democrats saying that he needs to go further.
But also some Jewish groups in Britain are being a bit more sympathetic to Harry and saying that a written statement is sufficient. But I think the wider subtext, really, is about the popularity of the royal family. And while the queen is tremendously popular in Britain. People think she‘s doing a great job. And nobody could tell you what she thinks about anything not even fox hunting, which of course, is being banned.
But young royals, generally, are regarded as flakes. And William so far, so good. But when the pressure is on, who knows how he will react?
OLBERMANN: And who knows how Mr. Howard will react since he‘s always looking for an issue.
But let me ask you one last question here, perhaps the only real news of the day, it was almost predicted on this program last night when we interviewed Dickie Arbiter, the former assistant press secretary to the queen. Let me play a segment of his remarks and then ask you what you think.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICKIE ARBITER, FRM ASSISTANT PRESS SECY TO QUEEN: The question that hasn‘t been asked is, where did the costume come from? I can‘t believe that Prince Harry had it hanging in his wardrobe waiting for the day to wear it at a fancy dress party. So somebody would have got it for him.
Now, if it was one of the palace staff, then that person should be looking for a job. If it was one of his friends, then perhaps he should be looking for another friend, because with friends like that, who the hell needs enemies?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So, Ms. Trevalvan two press reports today indicating that his older brother was with him there when he picked up the Nazi outfit from the costume shop, went with him to the party, did nothing to, at least successfully, divert him from doing this. So, let me rephrase Mr. Arbiter‘s question, with brothers like that, who needs enemies?
TREVALVAN: Well, I think the answer to that is that the royal family is thanking their lucky stars that at least it wasn‘t Prince William who was wearing the swastika arm band. Because when all is said and done, Prince Harry is third in line to the throne. He‘s very unlikely to ever be king. He‘s going off to the Sandhurst military academy in May. The royal family are desperately hoping that he‘ll be a good boy and be kept under wraps for 2 years. Meanwhile, they can work on further burnishing Williams‘s image.
OLBERMANN: Of course, the last time there were two brothers, I believe they both wound up becoming king. But we‘ll see how it turns out. Laura Trevalvan, BBC political correspondent, great thanks for being with us tonight.
The daily dance between good and bad returns, this time with a twist we had not previously noticed. Police car but not a police driver. You‘ll like this one.
But when you get 8th grade girls thinking about careers, should you get them thinking about going into stripping? You‘re not going to believe this story.
OLBERMANN: Back with you now just in time to pause the COUNTDOWN to bring you those stories that don‘t exactly alter or illuminate our times, but sure do provide us with another scary snapshot of them night after night. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
So if this is a car chase, why is there no car in front of the police car? Well, Deputy Matt Mixon (ph) was arresting a Mr. Billy Gurney (oh) when Mr. Gurney slipped from his grasp and stole the squad car. So, this would be the suspect, Mr. Gurney, driving the police car being chased by the deputy driving Mr. Gurney‘s car.
Notice that Mr. Gurney that was doing 120 in a very expensive piece of police equipment and occasionally making it going airborne, Deputy Mixon decided to spin him out. Even that wasn‘t good enough. Gurney fled on foot. Mixon says he wound up using his Taser on everybody. And of course the farmers showed up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEPUTY MATT MIXON: Ended up tasing him. And myself and this farmer got him handcuffed. And the farmer sat on him until we can get everything organized as best we could.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As to the farmer‘s wife, she showed up and cut off Mr. Gurney‘s tail with a carving knife. Have you ever seen such a sight in your life?
Well, they‘re always the pink inmates of Maricopa County, Arizona. Sheriff Joe Arpaio has some novel ways to cut pilferage by inmates and others. First there were those pink shirts the arrested have to wear, a few chose to try to keep them. Then the pink boxer shorts, the pink bed sheets. And newest in the Arpaio collection, pink handcuffs. Talk about prisoner abuse.
Iraq meantime is now the world‘s exercise ground for terrorists. That‘s the take from the CIA. Is the president‘s prewar justification coming true?
And the week that was in news, time for my weekly grilling. All that ahead.
Now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top 3 newsmakers of this day.
No. 3, Jonathan Sharpton of Sheffield, Alabama, our dumb criminal of the week. Police went to his house, searched everywhere. Finally heard a crashing sound from the living room. It was the alleged perpetrator falling through the floor of his attic onto a beam. The police captain added the piece of color here, he landed groin first.
No. 2, Pavel Bem, the mayor of Prague, Czechoslovakia unsettled by reports that the city‘s cabbies are ripping off tourists. The mayor dressed up as a visitor from Italy, called a cab, did an accent and wound up getting charged 26 Euros for a two-mile trip that should have cost 4.3 Euros.
And No. 1: Piotr Pac of Prospect Heights, Illinois. He his girlfriend were driving back from a party in Wisconsin. Evidently, they were late. The owner got pulled over for speeding three times in 90 minutes. Then he took a nap and the girlfriend got pulled over for speeding. The next day back in Illinois he got pulled over for speeding again. Turns out those were moving violations numbers 22, 23, 24 and 25 in the last 4 years. I‘m a good driver, he says.
OLBERMANN: When asked during the debates if he made any mistakes while in office, President Bush said everybody makes mistakes, but he could not exactly name his at the moment. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, he has now named a couple of them. And the CIA‘s National Intelligence Council has named one more for him. His preinsurgency remarks about fighting terrorists in Iraq rather than say here.
First, the president‘s self-criticism, his own oft-criticized tough talk. Sometimes, he told reporters from 14 regional newspapers, words have consequences you don‘t intend them to mean. The first example he gave from 6 days after September 11 about Osama bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There‘s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said wanted, dead or alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Says the president now, “I can remember getting back to the White House and Laura said, why did you do that for? I said, well it was just an expression that came out. I didn‘t rehearse it.”
Second example, just as the insurgency made itself known in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring ‘em on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The president now calls that one the quote, “classic example when I was really trying to rally the troops, some interpreted it to be defiance in the face of danger. That certainly wasn‘t the case.
Mr. Bush may have nominated those 2 comments, but the CIA‘s National Intelligence Council might select 3 others. It has issued a report saying that Iraq has now replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of quote, “professionalized terrorists.”
The council chairman Robert L. Hutchings said Iraq has become a magnet for international terrorist activity that kind of terrorism and terrorists basically did not exist there before the toppling of Saddam Hussein. But repeatedly in 2003, the president seemed to be daring them to move there.
BUSH: We will meet that threat now with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.
The best way to secure America is to get the enemy before they get us and that‘s what is happening in Iraq.
Our military is confronting terrorists in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in other places so that our people will not have to confront terrorist violence in our own cities.
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, counterterrorism expert, former director on the National Security Council staff Roger Cressey. Good evening, Roger.
ROGER CRESSEY, FRM. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me ask the obvious question about the National Intelligence Council assessment of Iraq in a nonobvious way. If Saddam Hussein had been toppled by a revolution in Iraq in 2002 rather than what we did there in 2003 would Iraq still have become the new primary terrorist training ground that the CIA sites?
CRESSEY: The answer is no, because there wouldn‘t be this large-scale deployment of American military there. We have to keep in mind, the reason why this is the No. 1 jihadist battlefield is because the U.S. military is there. That‘s drawing the jihadists in to fight. So, of course, if it was an internal revolution, we would not have the same type of problem.
OLBERMANN: So have the president‘s remarks about we want to fight them in Iraq and not here in the U.S., has that actually been a self-fulfilling prophesy?
CRESSEY: Yes, it‘s a great argument. Except it‘s wrong, because the terrorists we‘re fighting in Iraq right now, Keith, are not the ones that are trying to attack us inside the United States. That‘s the core al Qaeda. They still exist. They want another attack inside the United States.
What we‘re dealing with in Iraq are part of the global jihadist movement. It‘s the affiliates and individuals.
So you‘ve really got 2 problems. You have got the jihadist battlefield in Iraq that we have to deal with and you‘ve got the remnants of core al Qaeda still trying to put together an attack inside United States.
OLBERMANN: I‘m trying to look for an upside here in this having happened this way. Does it mean we know where all of those members of all of those groups are? Does it mean other countries are no longer the training grounds? Throw me a silver lining here, Roger?
CRESSEY: Throw you a bone?
CRESSEY: There‘s plenty off training grounds, be it Chechnya, Central Asia, Indonesia, other parts of Southeast Asia, the horn of Africa. Remember, we‘re now dealing with a global jihadist movement. There‘s a global presence, which means there are training camps around the world. They‘ve all not come to Iraq. So, we can‘t kill them all there and thereby protect the United States. This is only one part of the puzzle, and it doesn‘t solve it.
The former director of staff for the NSC and now MSNBC analyst Roger Cressey. Great. Thanks, Roger have a great weekend.
CRESSEY: You too, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
Another global conflict has been all but lost amid the war in Iraq, but when it comes to lives lost in Iraq, the war against drugs emerging as a bigger problem. That the conclusion reportedly reached by General Barry McCaffrey, drugs are during the Clinton administration and of course a very familiar face to regular viewers of this network. When speaking to reporters in Mexico City on Wednesday, he said that 52,000 people die from drugs each year compared to the 12,000 American troops who have been killed or wounded in Iraq since the war began.
But in that headline, former U.S. drug czar says drugs are bigger problems than terrorism, something that appears to have been gotten lost in the translation.
Joining us now MSNBC analyst General Barry McCaffrey.
Thank you again for your time, sir.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, MSNBC ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I understand you didn‘t say that exactly. And since there‘s not a direct quote in the Associated Press story from you that says anything like that, I gather you‘re right. What did you say in Mexico City?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I think first of all, it‘s probably comparing apples and oranges. We had this huge struggle against 37 foreign terrorist organizations of vital importance to the United States. But what is clear is that we got 15 million Americans who are impaired by alcohol abuse and illegal drugs that kills 52,000 or more, up to 100,000 a year. It‘s a huge problem. It‘s a blowtorch on democracy. It‘s a huge factor in Mexico.
We have to keep it mind—I actually hit it D.E.A. and Arcaren Tandy (ph) is doing a terrific job. And the Mexican government, you know, is by and large continuing to struggle, but it‘s something we have to keep in mind. And it‘s a huge threat to the American people.
OLBERMANN: And also sometimes, it‘s not either/or. You‘ve got the war against terrorism and the war against drugs going on simultaneously as in Afghanistan. Now, what‘s going on in Afghanistan relative to these interaction between these two conflicts, if you will?
MCCAFFREY: Well, first of all, no question. There‘s a convergence between the drug problem, terrorism and international crime. And it fuels literally billions of dollars into these terrorist organizations and criminal outfits.
Afghanistan is a 2.3 billion dollar heroin/opium production per annum. It‘s fueling the militias, the warlords, it‘s undoubtedly seeping into al Qaeda. It dwarfs any other foreign aid or any chance of a centralized democratic government until we confront the issue.
And I think we‘ve been reluctant to take it on. We‘ve got to face up to it, or we will not achieve our purpose in Afghanistan.
OLBERMANN: If, as a veteran of dealing with both of these wars, even though, as you said at the beginning, their apples and oranges, can they both be handled? Can they both be fought simultaneously?
MCCAFFREY: Well, we don‘t have any choice. You have got to take on all the areas of challenge to the nation. I would argue that prevention of alcohol and drug abuse among adolescents is the central problem facing the American people. But at the same time, you know, we have got an international struggle against terrorism that is going to go on for 20 years. The armed forces, the CIA, the FBI, are all involved in it. And on the home front, the most important people are teachers, parents, pediatricians, people who can form strong anti-drug values among America‘s kids.
OLBERMANN: Is there a way to get that message out in places like Afghanistan? Is there something to do that has a similar impact?
MCCAFFREY: Yeah, I think so. I think we have to face up to it. Hamid Karzai has probably been a little bit reluctant to take it on. They will fight over drugs. There‘s no question. It‘s worth fighting and dying for, literally hundreds of millions of dollars. But I think the U.S. authority has got to face up to it too. We have got a terrific ambassador there, 20,000 U.S. troops, 7,000 NATO forces. If we ignore this thing, it is going to roll over us in the coming two or three years.
OLBERMANN: Retired U.S. Army general, MSNBC analyst Barry McCaffrey.
General, as always, our great thanks for your time.
MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There‘s no dispute over the reaction, the overwhelming revulsion prompted by the prisoner abuse photographs taken in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Tonight, the reputed ring leader of American soldiers who carried out that abuse will soon be finding himself behind bars. Army Specialist Charles Graner, convicted by a military jury earlier this evening, on all the charges he faced. Conspiracy, assault, maltreating prisoners, dereliction of duty and committing indecent acts. Specialist Graner was the first soldier to be tried in connection to this scandal. He now faces up to 15 years in prison.
And then there‘s a problem that threatens to outlast Abu Ghraib, terrorism, drugs combined. Armstrong Williams. Yesterday it was the secretary of education promising a full investigation into his department‘s contract with the commentator, and bipartisan calls from Congress for such a review. Now it‘s the FCC. A day after one Democratic member of the Broadcasting Commission said the Williams situation merited an investigation, rMDNM_Chairman Michael Powell said his enforcement bureau will begin one. In explaining why, he used a word that does not augur well for how things will turn out for Mr. Williams. Powell says it‘s “in response to recent reports regarding potential violations of the ‘payola‘ and sponsorship identification provisions of the Communications Act.” Payola, huh?
Thinking of things you do not want to hear, imagine your eighth grader coming home from career day and telling you how lucrative a life as a stripper could be? It has happened in California.
And Randy Moss, the man behind the moon that wasn‘t, now with some choice words about the impact of the fine leveled against him. Nice do.
OLBERMANN: Stripping as a career. That‘s the advice some eighth grade girls were given in California.
And more moves of questionable taste. First there was Randy Moss‘ end-zone tail end display. Now his response to the punishment and the bleeps therein. Oh, boy.
OLBERMANN: Have you ever asked yourself why young women might wind up as exotic dancers? Of the myriad answers might be because back in the eighth grade, a career adviser came to Jane Lathrop Stanford middle school in Palo Alto, California and told the girls just how well stripping paid.
Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, no, I‘m not kidding. This actually happened. Full details in a moment.
One preamble: When I was in the fifth grade, we all went up on a field trip to West Point. There, on a bright spring day, one of my teachers pointed at the mushrooms growing at the base of a huge tree, looked at us kids and said to me, “Keith, you should go eat some of those.” Couple of us mentioned this to our folks and they mentioned it to the school. It turned out this teacher used to say things like that to the kids a lot. It also turned out that a week later, somebody else was teaching his classes and he was staying with family in Seattle.
We were always told they wound up putting him in a classroom with rubber walls, if you know what I mean.
Back to the career counselor and the eighth graders. “It‘s sick but it‘s true,” Bill Fried has told the Associated Press. He‘s not talking about the speech. He‘s the counselor. “The truth of the matter is,” he continues, “you can earn a tremendous amount of money as an exotic dancer if that‘s your desire.” Probably more than you can earn giving speeches to eighth graders, especially if that little fact is included in those speeches. Your career is over. Our correspondent is Ethan Harp of NBC station KNTV.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought it was belly dancing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, mom.
ETHAN HARP, KNTV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No, mom, indeed, because when this man, Bill Fried, owner of Precision Selling Management Consulting, came in to motivate the kids with his presentation, “The Secret of a Happy Life,” he gave students dozens of ways to turn their dreams into careers.
LOLLIE GILBERT, MOTHER: Maybe this is somebody‘s dream, but I feel it‘s a little inappropriate.
HARP: Along with everything from attorneys to wrestling, his list had two other professions, exotic dancing and stripping. That sparked the eighth grader‘s curiosity at a Q&A where Michael Gilbert says he and his classmates learned...
MICHAEL GILBERT: If a woman, like, gets her breasts enlarged, her salary is definitely going to go up.
HARP: He also told them exotic dancers could make upwards of a quarter million dollars a year.
Fried declined a recorded interview, but says he‘d still give the presentation to adults, and that he didn‘t mean to cause the parents or students any harm. He doesn‘t plan to answer students‘ questions about those fields anymore if he returns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, I‘m not going to have him back. I‘m disappointed that he didn‘t see that this could have been an issue.
HARP: Gilbert says the substitute teacher overseeing Fried‘s talk eventually shut it down and sent the next group away.
M. GILBERT: And he was ready to start his thing, and then all of a sudden the substitute came in and said, all right, it‘s over. You can go home now. He let the guy just sit there. You don‘t need to listen to him.
OLBERMANN: So if you wonder why would anybody do that for a living, now you know. Mr. Fried‘s unusual lectures to eighth graders might also explain the first item in our nightly roundup of celebrity and stuff. The blowback from the fining of the football player who pantomimed mooning the crowd last week in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Randy Moss is his name, and he was given something back to Green Bay fans, who are themselves notorious for actually mooning the visiting team players as their team bus passes by.
Moss was fined $10,000 yesterday by the National Football League, and clearly, as you‘ll hear in his comments, Mr. Moss got the message and the league‘s ability to maintain a deterrent against bad conduct by its employees is undamaged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Randy, were you upset about the fine?
RANDY MOSS: No, it ain‘t (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Ain‘t nothing but ten grand. It‘s only 10 grand. It‘s amazing. Next time I might shake my (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Shake his hair. Right? Just take the helmet off and give it a little flip?
Here‘s an idea for the league: Next time, how about fining him $10 million, banning him for life, and then letting him spend the next decade suing to get back in and going back to court again and again and again.
Speaking of wearing somebody down, could CBS be firing Dan Rather via passive aggressiveness? While four producers and executives were dismissed, Mr. Rather came out almost unscathed in Monday‘s Boccardi-Thornburgh report. March 9th, he is to give up the anchor chair for “CBS Evening News” and become a reporter for the Wednesday edition of “60 Minutes.” But now “The New York Times” quotes CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves as saying that‘ll only happen, quote, “provided the show continues. They‘re not exactly tearing it up in the ratings over there.”
News industry watchers had already noted that when CBS axed the top two producers on “60 Minutes Wednesday,” they were not replaced. Their jobs were simply folded into the positions held by the top two producers on the original Sunday edition of the program. Does not speak well for the chances of the Wednesday edition of “60 Minutes” continuing, nor Mr. Rather finding a home there. Passive aggressive job change perhaps indeed.
Unfortunately, nobody around here will cancel our weekly segment, “What Have We Learned?” So here comes the pillaring for charity yet again. This videotape would suggest there might be a question about hair length in Korea. North Korea to be particular. You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Well, it‘s Friday again. And Friday means there‘s no No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, just my opportunity to turn my own stupidity into charity. I answer your trivia questions about the week‘s news. You get to see if I remember anything or if my mind is just a complete sieve. And for every question I get wrong, another $50 goes into my charity till. That‘s the long version of it. The short version, it goes like this: Time to play...
ANNOUNCER: What have we learned?
OLBERMANN: And here‘s the genial emcee of “What Have We Learned?,” COUNTDOWN‘s own Monica Novotny. Good evening, Monica.
MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. Pleasure as always.
OLBERMANN: As always.
NOVOTNY: And I will begin by reminding our viewers, if you‘d like to take this week‘s official MSNBC News quiz, you can find it on our Web site, at countdown@MSNBC.com.
And now we‘ll put two minutes on the clock. The questions for the most part come from you, our viewers, via e-mail. For each question Mr. Boss man answers incorrectly, he now doles out $50 to charity. Last week, the total came to $150, if you‘re keeping, and if he answers at least half of the questions correctly, he wins a prize. That‘s usually the point when all heck breaks loose, but you‘ll just have to wait and see that for yourself. Are you ready, sir?
OLBERMANN: Fortunately we already reached that point, so it‘s not going to happen again. Avanti! Let‘s go.
NOVOTNY: Two minutes on the clock please. No. 1 from Tom. What helped to save a drunk man in Switzerland who was hit by a car after napping in the road?
OLBERMANN: He was wearing a dog suit.
NOVOTNY: Indeed, and he‘s fine.
No. 2, name three of the four North Korean government-approved hair styles. Three of the four.
OLBERMANN: Medium or middle, I think is the term.
OLBERMANN: And high.
NOVOTNY: Yes. From Anthony...
OLBERMANN: That was tough, wasn‘t it?
NOVOTNY: You struggled a bit, though. Other than those with NBC in their names, name three of the NBC Universal networks broadcasting the tsunami aid concert.
OLBERMANN: PAX, Telemundo and the Sci-Fi Channel.
OLBERMANN: Although within the Sci-Fi Channel are the letters NBC.
But I think it still counts.
NOVOTNY: OK. Fine. And also Bravo.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
NOVOTNY: The FBI paid $175 million for customized computer software that doesn‘t work. What was the software called?
OLBERMANN: Muammar Sharif (ph) is what was it was called. It was called—it was called—now, I know this. It was called Virtual Case File?
NOVOTNY: Yes! Muammar (ph)? From another Tom, what‘s the name given to the tumor in the little boy from Virginia, the base of his skull. What did they give that name—or why did they give that name?
OLBERMANN: Why? It was Frank, because he was scared of Frankenstein, and they thought they could personalize it and get him over his fears.
NOVOTNY: Indeed. From Michelle, No. 6, now you‘re just showing off, what was the final bid for the Frankenstein bumper sticker on Ebay?
OLBERMANN: It was $19,000.
NOVOTNY: It was not $19,000.
OLBERMANN: It was $20,000?
NOVOTNY: It was $10,700.
NOVOTNY: No. 7, from Jan...
OLBERMANN: Now, if I can corpse five more of these in a row, it‘s just even. Go ahead.
NOVOTNY: Something like that. From Jan. Name the number of fruit and vegetable servings now recommended in the new fruit pyramid.
OLBERMANN: A million per day! No, it‘s 13. That‘s the maximum.
Five to 13.
NOVOTNY: Yes. Number eight, the Ohio secretary of state, Ken Blackwell, running for governor there now. He sent a fund-raising letter out which said what?
OLBERMANN: Corporate donations are—corporate checks or personal checks are welcome. Which is unfortunate, because that‘s against the law, corporate donations in Ohio.
NOVOTNY: All right, now you‘re really showing off. Two seconds left.
Seven, you got them right.
OLBERMANN: I mean you ran out of questions?
OLBERMANN: I get seven—I get seven...
NOVOTNY: They are yelling in my ear, we didn‘t want to see you gloat anymore. That means you win a prize.
OLBERMANN: You know, I have lost this previously.
NOVOTNY: Oh, we do—I do know that.
OLBERMANN: I‘ve lost this. I mean it‘s...
NOVOTNY: I replay those at home.
OLBERMANN: That‘s very sad, Monica.
NOVOTNY: You want to see your prize or not?
OLBERMANN: Yeah, sure, why not? What is it? What can I destroy this week?
NOVOTNY: You had so much fun with the doll last week, the Ann Coulter doll. This is a...
OLBERMANN: I did want to...
NOVOTNY: ... talking Dennis Miller doll.
OLBERMANN: I did want to explain something about the Ann Coulter doll. I want to make sure people knew that I‘m opposed to violence against woman, but I approve violence against Ann Coulter dolls. There is a distinction between these two things. And I‘m not going to go and destroy this Dennis Miller doll, because as you can tell, it will eventually do itself.
OLBERMANN: So, so, I owed $150 last week, which means now it‘s $200 because I only got the one wrong, right?
OLBERMANN: So only 50 weeks to go, but I think we‘re going to get that price up at some point, because there‘s some days when I‘m just exceedingly stupid.
NOVOTNY: We‘re going to be a lot meaner next week.
OLBERMANN: Good, make ‘em tougher.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Monica. Thank you, viewers with questions.
Thank you, orchestra. Tune in next time when we once again play...
ANNOUNCER: “What Have We Learned?”
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thank you for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night, good luck and thank goodness it‘s the weekend, eh?
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