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M.J. P.J. party — Jacko goes wacko because of his backo.  Just when you thought the molestation trial of Michael Joe Jackson could not get any weirder, it did — making our life unbelievably easier here at Countdown.  The defendant came within a hair's breadth of going to jail, as a furious Judge threatened to issue an arrest warrant, because Jackson was late to court by more than an hour, purportedly after his "back gave out on him".  And, oh yeah, when he did show up, .  It’s you tax and entertainment dollars in action: Day 479 of the Michael Jackson Investigations.  Thomas Mesereau's hair will grow even whiter if the trial continues on like today.  As court convened this morning with the accuser on the stand, Jackson was a no-show.  Jackson's spokesperson insisted that he tripped while getting into his clothes this morning, threw out his back, and went to a hospital emergency room at 5:45 a.m.  The hospital said it was actually around 8:00 a.m. and he was only in the emergency room until about 8:40 a.m.  The was judge was not happy and threatened an arrest warrant if the singer didn’t appear in court within one after its normal start time.  Meanwhile, the now 15-year old boy told the court that he remembers Jackson fondling him, twice, to the unavoidable biological conclusion and that it may have happened two other times while he was sleeping….This morning's .  Okay.  That's the long version.  For the more insightful, shorter version, get Countdown’s very own, slightly factual nightly re-cap in Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre.

Suicide links Lefkow murders — The .  Yesterday at about 5 p.m. a police officer noticed a van — with a broken taillight — parked in front of a school in West Allis, Wisconsin.  As the officer approached in a routine traffic stop, the driver shot himself.  He has since been identified as Bart Ross of Chicago, Illinois.  Though, his sudden suicide appears far less sudden, based on a trail of evidence:  A suicide note found in the car claims responsibility for those murders.  And a handwritten confession sent to the NBC television station in Chicago, WMAQ, offered a chilling description on the murders.  The letter said he had broken into the utility room of Judge Lefkow's home with the intent of waiting until she returned, then killing her husband: "I had no choice... but to shoot him."  The letter continues, "then I heard the voice 'Michael, Michael'... and saw an older woman.  I had to shoot her too."  The presumed motive behind all this: Judge Lefkow was one of 11 judges he named who had ruled against him in, or dismissed, various lawsuits he had filed against an area hospital which Ross claimed had disfigured him.

Crowe & Al Qaeda — It was inevitable, really.  First, Aussie actor Russell Crowe mentioned that the FBI told him back in early 2001 that he was the target of an Al Qaeda kidnapping plot.  Aimed — in his words — at taking iconographic Americans out of the picture, as some sort of a cultural de-stabilization plan.  (But you’re Australian, Russ).  Then, in a matter of hours the FBI and others say not exactly.  Any wax in your ears, Russ?  Are you sure you heard that right — Al Qaeda?  Perhaps it was Al Gore — fresh out of work back then….  Not only does Russell Crowe appear to be safe from an immediate Al Qaeda attack.  A new report suggests that everyone living in the United States may be able to rest easier, at least when it comes to a sleeper cell attack.  , saying the Bureau — as well as the CIA — cannot find any evidence that Al Qaeda sleeper cells are currently operating inside the U.S.  Also in the report: Al Qaeda could be shifting tactics and agents by recruiting women and married couples with children because its leaders are aware of airport profiles singling out adult Arab males.  The fact that Al Qaeda still hopes to attack the U.S. is not in question, only its current capability to do so.

Subpoena shut-out — A week from today, two of baseball's former foremost home run hitters, plus five current stars, three executives, and the head of the players' union, will .  Or will they?  Major League Baseball, its union, and its players, vowed to go to court to fight the subpoenas issued by the House Government Reform Committee on what it called "First Amendment grounds."  A Washington attorney hired by the sport to answer the summonses, Stanley Brand, claims that the hearing would violate confidentiality agreements between the players and the owners — agreements about who used and who didn't use steroids and other drugs, illegally, without a prescription.  Former star Jose Canseco, whose book "Juiced" helped precipitate the hearing, says he will testify.

Spongey debut — The earth did not open up and swallow mankind whole this morning.  No plague of locusts swarmed the earth.  Even Mount Saint Helens wasn't gushing steam.  None of this happened — even though this was the day of  "We Are Family" video debut at thousands of American elementary schools.  If you've forgotten this story, the video, featuring just about every cartoon character ever made except "Itchy & Scratchy," became the focus of a controversy created by Dr. James Dobson of the group "Focus On The Family."  Citing one of the characters — Sponge-Bob Square-Pants — Dobson told a mostly congressional audience in January that the foundation that produced the video was quote "pro-homosexual" and that SpongeBob and other characters were being used to surreptitiously influence elementary school children.  Introducing SpongeBob into a dialogue about tolerance of gays and gay families made Dobson the subject of widespread derision, and he was forced to admit the video — and poor old Bob himself — were benign.  But his supporters rose up in self-righteous anger to spam the computers of as many columnists and reporters as they could think of  (Keith included) thanks to an e-mail generating device at Dobson's website.  So, we sent Countdown's Monica Novotny back to the First Grade to find out what — if anything — the fuss was all about….And the reviews are in. About 50 six and seven-year-olds at P-S 87, a New York City public elementary school, seem to love SpongeBob, they love their families, and yes, they even love disco.