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Countdown with 'Countdown'

Simultaneous 'Countdown' of the top news stories exclusively  at

Television — Generalizations are dangerous.  But, without fear of contradiction, everyone watching — or hosting — this program, has cable or satellite, and is a consumer of news. With less than 24 hours until his final night anchoring "The CBS Evening News," Rather has insisted his on-air farewell will be neither "ego-centric" nor "narcissistic".  "I don't want it to be about me," he told the Boston Globe.  CBS, of course, is nonetheless going to broadcast an hour-long special on Rather's career tomorrow night.  As , the actual anchor chair has been left to Bob Schieffer on an interim and indefinite basis.  But instead of the lionized farewell that greeted Tom Brokaw, and which will eventually accompany Peter Jennings, this anchor change is an entirely different story, largely in part to the Killian memo scandal… And from a Rather departure to a rather strange announcement, the Walt Disney Company has come out in favor of the proposed extension of so-called "decency regulations" into cable television.  That is the same Walt Disney company that owns the ESPN networks that have been regularly pummeled by critics over language and violence, the same company that owns Soap-Net, which re-runs often bawdy day-time programming and which is a part-owner of the "E!" network, which brings you such family fare as "Howard Stern," "The Gastineau Girls," and the series "Wild On..."   (No comment).  In trying to explain its support for the cable regulation idea floated last week by Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, Disney's executive vice president for government relations, Preston Paddon said "It would be our hope that a common indecency standard for the expanded basic bundle would lessen the pressure to legislate on a la carte or tierng."  In cable-speak, what he means is, Disney would rather have cable language and content regulated broadly than make cable customers choose their channels one-by-one.  We can see the show now: “Girls Gone Politically Correct.”  That sounds fun.

Jackson bombshell — It's your entertainment and tax dollars in action: Day 477 of the Michael Jackson investigations.  There was a “Perry Mason” moment in court today, highlighted by an apparent triumph by Defense Attorney Thomas Mesereau against the younger brother of the boy accusing Jackson of child molestation.  The brother had testified that Jackson had showed him a specific issue of a pornographic magazine.  But Mesereau punched a big hole in that testimony today.  Under cross-examination, the boy admitted that the pop star didn’t actually show him a sex magazine that the prosecution used as evidence. The young in a separate lawsuit.

The big guns — On the counter-terrorism front, we are apparently giving Al-Qaeda suspects guns and job interviews... while they were apparently planning to kidnap Russell Crowe as part of a scheme to de-stabilize... something?  First, the less-crazy news.  President .  In Washington, Mr. Bush again demanded that Syria pull its troops out of Lebanon, to allow free elections.  The center of the Bush foreign policy universe moves west from Baghdad to Beirut.  As goes Lebanon, so goes the World….So far as we can tell, the Bush Doctrine is largely lacking when it comes to the safety, freedom, and big-screen appeal of Australian movie stars.  Russell Crowe is now being mentioned as the target of a potential al-Qaeda plot.  Back in March of 2001, when Crowe was winning awards for his performance in Gladiator, news broke that the FBI was protecting Crowe because of a kidnapping threat. At the time, the FBI refused to specify the nature of the threat.  But by saying that kidnapping him was part of an Osama bin Laden cultural-destabilization plan..., right here in the U-S.  Justice Correspondent Pete Williams reports a Congressional investigation shows that dozens of potential terrorists have already taken advantage of the loophole.

BREAKING NEWS: A huge plume of ash and steam has been spotted above Washington's Mt. St. Helens, possibly reaching 25,000 feet in the air.  .

Happy landing — It is easier to get yourself killed by falling out of bed, slipping in the bath-tub or getting hit by lightning, than dying in an airplane crash.  But you don't have to go sit around an airport, pay a lot of money, possibly get cavity-searched, and have all that time to worry about any of those other means of shuffling off this mortal coil.  Plus, there's a reason 2004 was the safest year ever in the skies.  There are now design elements in planes to reduce fatalities.  Our correspondent , there are also survival tips now for air travelers — and they do not include the ridiculous phrase "in the event of a water landing."

CSI: Ancient Egypt — For his last tour of this country, the over-kill of promotion was such that Steve Martin ended up mocking him in a song on Saturday Night Live.  Ending one of the oldest murder mysteries in the history books, , but may have suffered from a badly broken leg shortly before his death at age 19.  Most likely, this led to an infection, which later took his life.