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Simultaneous 'Countdown' of the top news stories exclusively  at

NYC bomb scare — If they were, as painted by at least one national news organization, the first "terrorist attacks" in New York since 9/11, there is this important development to consider:  .  Their yield in actual damage: a foot-long chunk taken out of a street-side flower box and a shattered window in the Manhattan office building that houses the British Consulate.  The two toy grenades — believed by the New York bomb squad to have been the size of a lemon and a pineapple, respectively — went off at 845 Third Avenue, between 51st and 52nd Streets, at 3:35 a.m. ET.  There were no injuries.  Whether the British were targeted is speculative — it was Election Day in the U.K., but the consulate staff doesn't see a connection.  And just how sophisticated the entire operation was is also speculative — police have the video from at least one security camera, to study.  Sources tell Reuters it shows the minimum-force grenades being thrown by a passing bicyclist.

DeLay on defense — Seems that the House Majority Leader has found a new way of dealing with the ever-present press cameras.  .  Two of the five Republicans on the House Ethics committee have now excused themselves from any probe of the leader.  Representative Lamar Smith of Texas and Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma made the decision because both of them, through their political action committees, have given DeLay's defense fund a nice financial boost.  Representative Smith, forked over $10,000.  Congressman Cole donated $5,000 to the cause.  Then there's ….  Already accused of illegally funding some of Tom Delay's travel expenses, his firm is now accused of paying at least part of the way for two of Delay's aides — and for two House Democrats: South Carolina's James E. Clyburn and Mississippi's Bennie Thompson.  As for the House Majority Leader, he made what is now a rare scheduled public appearance at the National Day of Prayer Gathering on Capitol Hill.

FBI blunder — The FBI's apparent malaise isn't just limited to , or analysis.  A suspected serial killer — though captured — managed to elude the Bureau simply by giving authorities a false name, and letting its computers do the rest.  The suspect was released 15 months ago.  And .

Fallen Idol — Well, cancel that Pulitzer Prize judging, thanks to the " by the TV show "Prime Time Live".  We now know that Paula Abdul's chihuahuas are called Tinkerbell, Tulip and Thumbelina — and, they have their ramp to climb up into her bed.  It's like reading them Watergate stories. We learned this information, along with saucier gossip, last night during the primetime special in which a former contestant alleged he had a relationship with Judge Paula Abdul.  Fox Broadcasting responded to the special today: "We have concerns about the motives behind last night's purported news special...As much of it was filled with rumor, speculation and assertions from a disqualified contestant who admitted, during the special, to telling lies."

No-show apology — It is, frankly, one of the greatest upsets in the history of the voting for the Countdown Apology Hall of Fame.  Jennifer Wilbanks was a lead-pipe cinch of a lock for election.  All she had to do was show up.  She didn't even have to cry.  A little nervous tremor would've been enough.  She would've gotten in, unanimously...No.  .  He read a statement about how she's getting professional help, how she was excited about the wedding, how it wasn't about her fiancée and about you at home can send her prayers by e-mail.  And as he explained in her written apology to everybody but the police and the searchers and the tax-payers, she was "running away from myself."