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Countdown with 'Countdown'

Simultaneous 'Countdown' of the top news stories exclusively  at

Charm Offensive — In the , charm played out today against some bizarre scenarios.  The President praised his fellow NATO members for offering to help train security forces in Iraq.  All 26-countries in the alliance pledged money, equipment and/or personnel to the effort — even if many of those pledges were small.  Mr. Bush simply said, "every contribution helps"... Mr. Bush added it would be absurd to assume the U.S. has plans to attack Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program.  The President, stopping short of the old adage... "Don't assume, it makes a… out of you and me." When asked if the U.S. has plans to attack Iran, President Bush said “this notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous.” But one man is reportedly unimpressed with Bush and his policies — so unimpressed that he allegedly concocted a .  A former Virginia high school valedictorian Akmed Omar Abu-Ali was charged in federal court on of volunteering to shoot the president — or blow him up — on a mission for al-Qaida.  There are no charges that the alleged plot ever made it past the talking stage, but the 23-year-old faces 80 years in prison, if convicted.  The man has been held as a terror suspect in a Saudi Arabian prison for two years on the basis of secret evidence without being indicted until now. 

California weather woes — For decades, Seattle, Washington has been the pop culture benchmark for the wettest climate.  It isn't necessarily statistically true — but it's in the collective mind.  Yet this winter, metropolitan Seattle got ten inches less of rain than .  To those of us who are not there, it is an amazing statistic.  To those of us who are there it’s, simply, hell between the tornadoes, landslides and avalanches and persistent rain that flooded freeways and sent mud roaring into homes.  Talk about bad beach weather.

'Roid rage — It’s a rite of spring: Baseball players report to training camp — that's the term, report.  Last week, pitchers and catchers reported.  This week, steroid suspects reported.  Barry Bonds arrives, Jason Giambi has already arrived, and Jose Canseco will not go away — until the next step of a possible pay-per-view telecast with a lie detector test...  Barry Bonds arrived at the San Francisco Giants' spring training camp in Scottsdale, Arizona.  He made his first public comments since the leaking of his grand jury testimony in December.  In the testimony, he purportedly said he took stuff supplied by a steroid manufacturer, but had no idea it was steroids.  Bonds wouldn't answer the question "have you ever used steroids" or any variant.  He was less circumspect about Canseco's claim that Bonds did use them….Yesterday, another Grand Jury witness returned to his other line of work — first baseman of the New York Yankees.  showed up to spring training in Tampa.  In exchange for immunity, Giambi had reportedly admitted to the Grand Jury that he used steroids.  But first at both news conference in New York and as he took the field, the word never came up never used the word.  We're guessing he probably can't — a public admission of steroid use and the Yankees might still be able to get out of the rest of the $82 million they contractually owe him…  For the first time, one of the 14 players Canseco either identified in his book as steroid users or as suspect in his mind, has addressed the question of legal action against the former slugger.  , a pitcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was Canseco's teammate with Tampa Bay in 1999 and 2000 — Canseco says he personally injected Alvarez with steroids while Alvarez denies it….In , Canseco offered to take a lie-detector test — possibly by Pay-Per-View — to prove his claims. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tragedy in Texas — On the surface, it seems another tabloid murder story has been swarmed over by a voyeuristic media.  But, this story appears to include a dynamic that could make it timeless, and make it resonate in every family in the country. A seven-year old-child, and his mother, seven-months pregnant, were found suffocated to death and buried in a shallow grave.  Police in Texas say Stephen Barbee killed her to keep her from telling that fact — to his wife.  Authorities also say that he killed her young son because he walked in on the crime.  with murdering the mother and son who disappeared from their home over the weekend.

Hilton hacking — One of the many cell phones of one of Paris Hilton's many semi-celebrity friends rang…The caller told DJ Samantha Ronsen that he didn't like the music on her website….Not recognizing the caller's identity, she asked "how did you get my number, Dude?"… The prank caller retorted, "Paris gave it to me."  The FBI is refusing to confirm or deny reports that it's investigating the cell phone hacking case of Paris Hilton, heiress and occasional sex tape star.  We first told you yesterday that   And over the weekend, parts of its phone number list, posted on an internet site in South Korea.  She's supposedly devastated and the Bureau is supposedly investigating.  Unfortunately, that might be a tad too late for Ms. Hilton's friends — or former friends, including rap star Eminem, actress Lindsay Lohan, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.  Each of who've no doubt spent parts of the past three days hearing that they'd better let Prince Albert out of his can.