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Countdown with 'Countdown'

Simultaneous 'Countdown' of the top news stories exclusively  at

President v. primetime — His critics insist that President Bush is out of touch with the average American, tone-deaf to the day-to-day lives they lead, in the way Jimmy Carter would've been when he made the infamous so-called "malaise" speech.  It turns out that this kind of thing may only be provable outside the political process.  Like, for instance, when a President calls a primetime news conference on 25 hours notice.  And expects universal television coverage of it, " rating period.  And after first getting cold-shouldered by the networks, that President winds up honking-off the viewers of such hits as "The O.C.," "Without A Trace," and "Will and Grace," all of which get pre-empted and shows like "The Apprentice," "Survivor," and "CSI," which got delayed in most of the country.  And, oh by the way, that President holds his first prime time news conference in a year, smack-dab in the middle of "Turn Off Your Television Week."  The networks reversed plans — covered the conference after all.  But 75% of viewers bailed out early to make sure their 9 p.m. programs got to start on time.

Pre-9/11 tip-off — A false alarm in the middle east this morning.  A series weird postings on Islamist extremist websites today hinting at the possible death of Osama Bin Laden.  Supporters and opponents both rushed out denials.  Western intelligence still believes he's alive and holed up somewhere along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border... Pakistan's president has said he thinks he knows where Bin Laden was, about ten months ago. (Gee thanks).  The real news is not about what Bin Laden is doing now, but about what he was doing in the spring of 2001 — which terrorist suspect knew about it — and how much ...The man is Akmed Ressam... the Algerian who pleaded guilty to being the would-be Millennium Bomber who planned to blow up Los Angeles International Airport in December, 1999.  He was arrested when he tried to smuggle a rental car packed with explosives across the Canadian border.  According to Newsweek, once in custody, Ressam started providing American officials with very specific information about plans for a terrorist attack — three months before the 9/11 attacks.  Information includes plans to blow up airports and planes on U.S. soil.

Crime — If you hadn't heard, the presumed "bombshell" witness for the prosecution in the , his ex-wife Debbie Rowe, blew up in the DA's face yesterday.  Turns out there might be more to that, than met the eye.  The syndicated TV series "Celebrity Justice" reports tonight that yesterday, in another courtroom, Michael Jackson's divorce attorney re-filed an old court order, terminating all of the parental rights of Debbie Rowe.  Timing remains everything.  The second day of her testimony from — and the prosecution's closer looked more like she was pinch-hitting for the defense.  Called to corroborate the testimony of the accuser's mother and say that she too was allegedly coached and cajoled into doing a pro-Jackson video, Ms. Rowe instead saying, "I was excited to do it."  There were no scripts, no rehearsals and no threats.  And it only got worse for the prosecution, she went on to describe Jackson as quote, "generous to a fault, good father, great with kids”… And a bizarre case in Duluth, Georgia, continues to befuddle the authorities, to say nothing of the 600 people scheduled to attend the Wilbanks-Mason wedding tomorrow.  Even though , today, her family offered a $100,000 reward.

Treasure stunt — You've seen it in real life and on "Law & Order."  Detectives doubted the story told by a criminal, a witness, even a purported victim — using impeccable logic and remorseless analysis — breaking them down slowly, and finally finding that one almost imperceptible weak thread to unravel the entire case.  Or, one of them suddenly realized that the guy they're talking to, has given out two different spellings of his last name.  Last week, Barry Villcliff and a friend supposedly found $100,000 worth of vintage cash, buried near a house in Methuen, Massachusetts.  Then it turned out Barry "Villcliff" with a "V" as in “Victor” was actually Barry “Billcliff” with a "B" as in "Burglar." Oh and Mr. Billcliff has a federal counterfeiting conviction on his record.  Police say the money was stolen from a house they were repairing.  Then, they allegedly .  The story was a tip-off, too...  Billcliff-Villcliff and his partner in crime couldn't keep the sagas straight, and kept embellishing on them in interview after interview.

Boy saves Bugs Bunny — One 11-year-old saved, in part at least, one of America's most revered institutions.  You may remember seeing it here on Countdown.  In February, Warner Brothers announced "The Loonatics" — revised, ultra-sleek, sharp-edged, flatly frightening mutations of Bugs Bunny and company.  They were now super-heroes from the year 2772, like "Buzz Bunny."  This was quite a shock for old-timers (staffers at Countdown included).  As it turned out, it was quite a shock for some of the Looney Tunes' younger fans.  One of them, Thomas Adams, got a petition drive going to ask Warner Brothers to make their new characters entirely different for the "Loonatics" series.  And the company actually listened.  Warner Brothers announced that the "Loonatics" will consist, not of completely new characters, but at least ones that don't look like somebody's nightmares.