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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Aug. 25

Read the transcript to the **day show

Guest: Laura McElroy

AMY ROHBACH, GUEST HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

How do you solve a problem like Katrina?


GOV. JEB BUSH ®, FLORIDA:  Well, It’s a hurricane.  And hurricanes are hurricanes.


ROHBACH:  Jeb Bush and the rest of Florida hunker down.  We’ll go there live and tell you who’s next after Florida.

In and out, 1,500 more troops to be sent into Iraq.  And the impact of the mother who sparked the movement to pull all the troops out.  Dwight Gooden’s three-day run from the law is over tonight.  Late word the one-time ace pitcher has turned himself in.  How much trouble is the former baseball star really in?

Van Der Sloot speaks.  Why the Aruban government doesn’t want you to see NBC’s exclusive jailhouse interview.

And the out-of-jail interview.  Martha Stewart’s show and tell, including the scoop on her new show and a peek at her old ankle bracelet.  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  I’m Amy Rohbach, in for Keith Olbermann.  Charley, Frances, Ivan, Gene, and Dennis, and tonight, joined by Katrina.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the Sunshine State getting hit by its sixth hurricane in just one year, and it’s already claimed two lives in Broward County.

That’s where we find our own Jay Gray, weathering the storm in Fort Lauderdale.  He joins us now with the latest.

Hello, Jay.


And I’ll tell you what, after a bit of a lull, we’re really getting a second punch from Katrina.  At this point, the backside of this storm really kicking our backsides here in Fort Lauderdale.  The winds picking up dramatically.  The rain is beginning to intensify.  The sea’s over my shoulder.  It’s too dark to see them now, but the waves were cresting at about 12 to 15 feet.  That should intensify just a bit here, as will the rain.

Now, the rain’s the most serious of the problems they face in the Fort Lauderdale area.  It’s already been a very wet summer here, and they could see some 15 inches of rain in some of the areas in Fort Lauderdale and Fort Lauderdale Beach.  That is not good.  There will be some serious flooding in this area.  In fact, we’ve already begun to see some flooding in some of the low-lying areas, and some of the streets.

We’ve seen palm fronds ripped away from the trees and pulled away.  We’ve seen the facing on (INAUDIBLE) fall down.  I’m just learning that we can now attribute two deaths to Hurricane Katrina here in the Fort Lauderdale area, two people apparently struck by falling trees, one a pedestrian that was out in the storm, the second, a driver whose truck was hit by a tree that fell as a result of these high winds.

We’ve seen gusts over 40 miles an hour here on the beach.  At the airport in Fort Lauderdale, they’ve recorded a gust of 66 miles per hour.  And again, we perhaps haven’t seen the worst that Katrina has to offer.  Another serious concern, this storm is going to cross across the Florida peninsula, could move into the Gulf, hit those warm waters, intensify again.  And most models show it turning very abruptly to the north and moving toward the Florida panhandle.  Of course, that’s an area that has been hit hard over the last year.  They don’t want to see Katrina visit them, Amy.

ROHBACH:  And Jay, clearly Floridians are hurricane-savvy, but because this was billed (INAUDIBLE) as a category one storm, do you think folks perhaps weren’t taking this as seriously as they should have?  GRAY:  Well, it’s interesting, there were no mandatory evacuations in this area.  But they did ask some people to leave in the low-lying areas, like the area that we’re in right now.  Again, I think a lot of people decided, Hey, we’ve been through worse, we’ve been through worse in the last year, so we’re going to stick it out.  We’re going to buy the things we need to hunker down.  And a lot of people have done that.  We lost power a couple of hours ago.  No indication of when it may come back.  And there are a lot of people who may be rethinking that decision right now.

ROHBACH:  And Jay, you’ve weathered many a storm.  How would you compare this to others?  I know the winds aren’t as high, but it certainly still pretty dramatic where you are.

GRAY:  Yes, I’ll tell you what, we didn’t expect to see as strong of winds as we’ve seen with this storm.  It’s grown in intensity pretty quickly as it’s moved ashore.  So, yes, the winds are pretty strong.  (audio-video interrupt) people really taking a soaking here.  It’s going to be very tough in the low-lying areas, especially as this rain continues through the night and into the day tomorrow.

And there’s every indication that it will continue raining for hours here.

ROHBACH:  All right, Jay, hope you make it through all right there.

Jay Gray in Fort Lauderdale tonight.  Thanks so much.

For a look at the path of Hurricane Katrina, let’s turn to MSNBC’s chief meteorologist, Sean McLaughlin.

Good evening, Sean.

SEAN MCLAUGHLIN, MSNBC CHIEF METEOROLOGIST:  Hi, Amy.  I tell you what, Jay’s microphone sounds like it’s been taking a beating all day long, because there’s a lot of rain.  This is a soaker.  Hurricane Katrina making landfall just before 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.  You talked about the path.  Where is this thing heading?  It’s been real interesting to watch on the radar loop here over the last couple of hours, and the path that it took right before it came on shore.  All indications were that it was going right for Broward County.  And then, just within the last couple of hours, it took a little bit of a dip to the south and west and made landfall right there on the county line between Miami-Dade and Broward County.

Let me get you a little bit closer and show what you I’m talking about.  You saw some drier air on the north side of the storm, and then some pretty heavy concentration of thunderstorms to the south part of the eyewall.  If I go ahead and start the loop, the concentration of those thunderstorms on the southern side of the eyewall drew the storm a little bit to the south.  And bingo, right in there was landfall, right there on the county line in between Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

More specifically, it was between Hallandale and North Miami Beach, Golden Beach, if you’re familiar with that area, landfall just before 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Still a category one hurricane.  And we expect it to remain at a category one for maybe about the next hour to two hours, and then it will probably be downgraded to a tropical storm.  Hurricanes do not like land masses.  It causes a lot of friction, it starts to tear up the convection and the rotation of the storms.  And then it will be downgraded to a tropical storm.

But the rest of the path is where the next part of the story, the next chapter of Katrina.  Take a look at what’s going to happen.  It’s going to go over the south central peninsula, exit about Fort Myers tomorrow late afternoon, tomorrow evening.  Then Saturday morning and Saturday night, boy, it is going to be loving life.  It is going to be out here in the Gulf of Mexico, extremely warm water temperatures, temperatures in the mid- to upper 80s for the water temperatures.

Could strengthen back into hurricane status.  And then it might be downgraded back to a tropical storm, or one out of the five computer models has it shooting up dramatically in strength, coming ashore again, a second possible landfill in the Florida peninsula area, or possibly down in through southern Alabama or southern Mississippi.  It’s a wide forecast cone projection here, so we’re going to have to keep an eye on it over the weekend.

And then it means a lot of rain for southeastern Georgia and in through the Carolinas.

Let’s talk about some of the wind speeds, currently 45 miles an hour in Fort Lauderdale, where Jay Gray is holding strong for us, 28 up in West Palm Beach.  But look at the wind gusts, 60 miles an hour in Fort Lauderdale.  If you’re a cruise ship lover, if you’ve taken any cruises, coming out of port here, Port Canaveral, does that sound-or Port Everglades, I’m sorry.  Port Everglades had a wind gust of 92 miles an hour when Katrina made landfall.

Right now, Miami clocking in at over an inch and a half worth of rain.  Three quarters of an inch in Fort Lauderdale, little bit less up in West Palm  Beach.  But again, this area, this is a slow-moving storm, south central Florida.  And we are talking a major rainmaker overnight tonight and through tomorrow.

And with a lot of these folks down along the Gold Coast without power, you’re going to have to keep an eye on your sump pumps if you have a basement, or you got to keep an eye on your drainage, your gutters and your storm drains out on your street, because we’re talking a lot of water overnight tonight.

ROHBACH:  And Sean, I’m sure you heard Jay Gray and I talked about how people potentially underestimate a storm like this, because it’s got the category one label on it.  And even as it turns into a tropical storm, potentially, give the people a sense of what you can anticipate.  This has already proven to be deadly.  And the flooding alone can wreak major havoc.  MCLAUGHLIN:  And what we haven’t touched upon is what a wet of a spring and summer south Florida has had.  Miami alone has had over seven inches above normal for their average rainfall since January 1.  They’re a little behind in August, but seven inches above normal for this time of year.  So they don’t need any more rain in Miami.  They were talking anywhere from six to 10 inches across a wide area of south central Florida.  But then locally, we could be talking 15-plus inches.  That’s a lot of water.  There’s about a 2,000-mile network of canals, and you’ve heard over the last couple of days the water district down there has been releasing a lot of that water out of those canals to help drain all of this water coming in from Katrina.  Hopefully that will be a good move to reduce the amount of flooding in that general area.

ROHBACH:  And Sean, as we saw the path is where Katrina’s heading, I mean, how long are we talking about it before it reaches up again at the panhandle?

MCLAUGHLIN:  Well, we’re talking overnight Sunday night.  As you can see, some of these pictures that are coming in from our affiliates down there, just amazing amount of water that’s moving through.  But that path is going to take it out into the Gulf of Mexico in a couple of different ways.

If we can come back here on the map, we’ll show you what we’re talking about.  That path is going to come right up in here, go right out into the Gulf of Mexico, and then probably right back into the panhandle areas, overnight Sunday in through Monday.  Remember, the panhandle areas right in here, that was the area of Dennis. So they could get hit with two hurricanes possibly within the same season.

It’s just about enough for these folks down in Florida, six total hurricanes just over the last year alone.  It’s been amazing down there.  ROHBACH:  Yes, Florida certainly not wanting to be known for that. 

But unfortunately, that’s the case.

MSNBC chief meteorologist Sean McLaughlin monitoring Hurricane Katrina for us this evening.  Thanks, Sean.

MCLAUGHLIN:  You’re welcome.

ROHBACH:  Well, a small comfort to Floridians, but at least they’re used to hurricanes.  Over in Central Europe, though, big weather like that is pretty rare, which is why a series of summer storms utterly devastated Central Europe.  Hundreds of people evacuated, dozens killed, homes and streets washed away as torrential rain flooded through half a dozen countries.

In Germany, the Danube burst its bank, and the water is now threatening an ancient monastery.  But the monks seem less concerned for their own safety than for the security of their prize attraction, the brewery.

Jim Maceda reports on ongoing effort of Operation Save the Beer.


JIM MACEDA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  This was no ordinary day, even for a Benedictine abbey that had survived 1,400 years, including damage in the Napoleonic Wars.

As Father Thomas walked through the cloister of the Weltenberg abbey today, he saw more firemen than monks.  Overnight, a new threat, the raging waters of the Danube River rising by the hour.  By noon, the rushing water had already flooded the ground-floor kitchen and dining rooms used by the monks.

Father Thomas knew a massive flood could destroy its famous church, full of Baroque masterpieces, and even worse, the jewel that attracts many of the abbey’s half a million visitors a year, its beer.

Since 1050, Weltenberg monks have been making beer to make money.  Today, Weltenberg beer has become one of Germany’s favorite brews, making the abbey a must-see stop on any Danube River tour.

But throughout the afternoon, the tide kept rising.

FATHER THOMAS:  We cannot still say, but we hope that it will not enter the building.

MACEDA:  So dozens of firemen and forklifts were quickly called in to fortify a makeshift flood wall with sandbags.  Despite the efforts, the Danube kept rising.

But then, finally, prayers seemed to be answered.

(on camera):  It’s 4:00 p.m., and the Danube River has now peaked at just over 24 feet.  It’s not enough to trigger a disaster here, but no one pretends to know what this abnormal weather will do next.  (voice-over):  Least of all, Father Thomas, who has more earthly concerns, like reopening the beer garden.

FATHER THOMAS:  The floods will not enter the brewery, so there will be no damage.  There will-the beer will have his same quality.  MACEDA:  And even if the forecast calls for rain, the priceless art and the beer are safe for now.  And that is worth celebrating.  Jim Maceda, NBC News, Weltenberg, Germany.


ROHBACH:  The message of a mother.  Cindy Sheehan’s impact on the war in Iraq, from politicians to ordinary people.  How has one woman ignited the war debate?

And more legal problems for Dwight Gooden after three days on the run from police.  Tonight, he’s turned himself in to authorities.  Why did he flee, and how much trouble could he be in?

You’re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


ROHBACH:  The only things we know for certain in Iraq tonight are that another deadline for the Iraqi parliament to reach agreement on a constitution has come and gone, that violence on the ground there is an everyday occurrence, and that the debate over the war here in the U.S. is more heated than ever.

Add it up, and you have our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN.  We begin with the constitutional conflict.  It’s no longer just Sunnis resisting Shi’as and Kurds.  Shi’as are now literally fighting each other, clashes between rival Shi’ite groups becoming increasingly violent, the radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, haven’t heard that name in a while, mobilizing thousands of supporters to protest the current draft, the Iraqi parliament announcing late today that it would be continuing negotiations for at least another day.

If and when the constitution reaches the referendum stage, more American troops will be heading to Iraq to keep the peace during another national election there.  Two battalions from North Carolina’s Fort Bragg are expected to depart within the week for at least a two-month deployment.  In addition, other units already on the ground in Iraq will be forced to extend their tours for several months, all to bolster security for constitutionally balloting in October and another parliamentary election at the end of the year.

Here at home, how Americans are feeling about the war is more fractious than ever, and nowhere is that more evident than in the president’s own back yard.  Cindy Sheehan is back in Crawford, Texas, resuming her demands to see President Bush, for whom poll numbers are at an all-time low.

There are those who wonder if attitudes toward the war could be reaching a tipping point, and whether the Gold Star Mom could be the driving force.

NBC’s Carl Quintanilla has our report.


CARL QUINTANILLA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Traci Metry (ph) is not a Gold Star Mom for Peace.  She’s not protesting in Texas.  But Cindy Sheehan...

TRACI METRY:  This is where she’s camped.

QUINTANILLA:  ... has her thinking.

METRY:  I think it’s important that in this day and age, we question things that don’t seem right to us.

QUINTANILLA:  Sheehan, say some historians, may be evolving as an icon and the war’s turning point, if this is one.  For three weeks, she’s dominated headlines, mobilized protesters...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She’s taking a stand.

QUINTANILLA:  ... both with and without relatives in Iraq.  CINDY SHEEHAN, GOLD STAR MOMS FOR PEACE:  They don’t have what I like to call skin in the game, but we are all affected.

QUINTANILLA:  Making it safe, her supporters say, to voice doubts about the war, just as Walter Cronkite did on the “Evening News” in 1968.  (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CBS EVENING NEWS,” February 27, 1968) WALTER CRONKITE, CBS NEWS:  To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, if unsatisfactory, conclusion.


DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  I think that’s what is possible, that somehow her protest and her vigil will make more people empathize with the casualties than have previously done so.  QUINTANILLA:  This isn’t Vietnam, of course.  There’s no military draft to spark campus violence.  But the dynamic is similar, two sides clustering around the unassailable, military families, and arguing to bring the troops home...




QUINTANILLA:  ... or warning that doubting the troops’ mission...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You’re killing the troops.

QUINTANILLA:  ... is what Vietnam taught us not to do.  HOWARD KALOOGIAN, PRO-WAR ACTIVIST:  But Cindy Sheehan’s protest drives us to a Vietnam-type state of fatigue.

QUINTANILLA:  Kathy Schroedel (ph) was inspired to protest against Sheehan.

KATHY SCHROEDEL:  I said, I have got to join this caravan.  She’s saying America’s not worth dying for?  I mean, what kind of a statement is that?

QUINTANILLA (on camera):  Sheehan’s legacy as an icon may be limited by this, while nearly half of Americans call the war a mistake, fewer than one in three say bringing all the troops home now is the answer.  Like John Bayarano (ph), a Republican who feels misled about Iraq but adds...

JOHN BAYARANO:  To leave now would just simply doom it to failure, I think.

SHEEHAN:  Have you ever heard the sound of a nation...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... being rocked to sleep?

QUINTANILLA:  A peace movement without a way home.  GOODWIN:  That’s the difficulty.  We don’t know what to do with the peace movement, and what does it actually mean?

QUINTANILLA:  Historians say we won’t know Cindy Sheehan’s place in the war until the war itself is history.  And whether you agree with her or not, she sits waiting for one conversation, and has unleashed another.


QUINTANILLA:  Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, Chicago.


ROHBACH:  From large international conflicts to small border incidents, one man, a cannon, and a dream.  That all adds up to Oddball.  And big changes for the readers of “Playboy.”  Now the centerfold of the month may only be a click away.

Stand by.


ROHBACH:  I’m Amy Rohbach, holding down the fort for Keith Olbermann tonight.

And we’ve reached that point in the show where we tackle the major issues, such as human cannonballs, elephant-moving companies, and the sensational snake surgeons of India.

Let’s play Oddball.

Taking out the Mexican border with America in Tijuana.  It is here that artist Javier Tayas (ph) plans to get inside a giant cannon and blast himself over the border into the United States this Saturday.  He is giving the exact time of the event too, in case the Minutemen want to catch him in a big net on the other side.  Actually, Tayas is American and has received permission from the Border Patrol to perform this stunt, which he hopes will bring attention to the idea of open borders.

As for the rest of the festivities surrounding Tayas’s big bang, well, I’ll like Monica Dean of station KNSE explain that to you.  (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONICA DEAN, REPORTER, KNSE (voice-over):  The other part of Tayas’s display involves 35 mental patients from Mexicali.  They’ll be dressed in circus costumes and performing on the beach alongside the human cannonball.  (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROHBACH:  Yes, that sounds interesting.

To the Shimba (ph) Hills National Wildlife Reserve in Nairobi, where the elephants are being evicted because of repeated run-ins with the locals.  Wildlife officials are relocating more than 400 of them to another refuge more than 200 miles away.  And as difficult a task as that might sound, it’s clear from this video they’ve chosen to do it the even harder way, one elephant at a time.  One down  399 to go.  At this rate, they should all be moved into their new home sometime in the next 50 years.  And finally to Madras, India, where surgeons have completed a tricky operation to save a 12-foot snake.  The 10-year-old python went under the knife so surgeons could remove an abscess so painful he hadn’t been able to move for two days.  Doctors say the snake will make a full recovery and should be up and around and eating family pets again in no time.  And the latest chapter in the Dwight Gooden saga.  Tonight, he’s turned himself in to police after being on the run for three days.  What’s next for the former baseball star?

And NBC’s face-off with the Aruban courts.  We’re allowed inside Joran Van Der Sloot’s prison, but now the warden that OK’d the visit is in trouble himself.  We’ll get the latest live from Aruba.

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are COUNTDOWN’s top three newsmakers of this day.  Number three, Sheri Yellowhawk, tribal executive of the Hualapai Indians in Arizona.  Her tribe has announced plans to construct a 70-foot glass sidewalk jutting out over the edge of the Grand Canyon, giving visitors a unique view of the Colorado River 4,000 feet below.  Supposedly, it’s perfectly safe.  But for some reason, they can’t find an insurance company willing to sign on to the deal.  Can’t imagine why.  Number two, five unnamed inmates at the Clark County Jail in Indiana.  All five got sick with an infection after using the same staples to give themselves homemade jailhouse tattoos, one so bad he had to be taken to a nearby hospital.  A sheriff’s deputy said the inmates just have too much time on their hands.  Yes, they’re in jail.

And number one, the unidentified batboy of baseball’s Florida Marlins.  He’s been suspended by the team for six games after he accepted a dare from pitcher Brad Penny to drink a gallon of milk in an hour without throwing up for $500.  He drank the milk and didn’t get sick, but it took him too long, so he lost the bet and got suspended.

To quote Brad Penny, “Kind of ridiculous that you get a 10-day, 10-day suspension for steroids, and a six-game suspension for milk.” (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBACH:  Welcome back to COUNTDOWN.  I’m Amy Robach, filling in for Keith Olbermann. 

And we are up to our number three story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, crime, the full gamut.  We begin in Tampa, Florida, where, after being on the run for what amounts to three days, former Major League pitcher Dwight “Doc” Gooden has turned himself in.  Gooden fled the scene of a traffic stop just outside of Tampa early Monday, police there observing erratic driving and suspecting he was under the influence.

Gooden twice refused to leave his BMW for a field sobriety test and eventually took off.  The Cy Young award winner has been plagued by substance abuse problems, suspended from the New York Mets in 1994 for cocaine use, sitting out the ‘95 season for failing a follow-up a drug test.  Gooden retired from baseball in 2001, the next year, arrested for drunk driving, but pleading guilty to a lesser charge. 

And, as recently as March, the man who showed so much promise so early again arrested and charged with domestic battery for hitting his girlfriend.  That case is still pending. 

So, what about this one?

Laura McElroy is a spokesperson with the Tampa Police. 

Ms. McElroy, good evening and thanks for being with us.


Thanks for having me.

ROBACH:  Did you have any indication of where Mr. Gooden had been prior to turning himself in this evening?

MCELROY:  Actually, we had been in touch with his family members, his former employer, the New York Yankees, friends of the family, and his attorney, but never actual contact with Dwight Gooden.  So, no, we don’t know how he spent the last three days. 

But, at this point, we’re just relieved that he has turned himself in, because this may be the first step toward him getting the help that he obviously needs. 

ROBACH:  What are the charges he’s facing right now?  MCELROY:  He is facing DUI, which is a misdemeanor.  And then, by choosing to drive away from the scene, he has just gotten himself into more trouble, because now he faces fleeing and eluding, which is a felony, and resisting arrest without violence.

MCELROY:  Why was the decision made not to pursue him when he took off in his BMW? 

MCELROY:  We believe at the Tampa Police Department that the most dangerous driver on the road is a drunk driver.  So, adding speed to the equation with a chase would just be too much risk for our residents.  So, we have a policy, we don’t chase.  No matter who’s behind the wheel, if it’s a drunk driver, we don’t chase.  We did try to track him down at his two homes in Tampa later that night, but obviously to no avail.  ROBACH:  Right, the officer got his driver’s license on the scene. 

Did he know who he was dealing with and the history there?  MCELROY:  I don’t know if he realized the history of Dwight Gooden, although he is a pretty high-profile member of our community, but he was standing there holding the driver’s license and it said Dwight Gooden on it.  So, he was clear that it was Dwight Gooden at that point.  ROBACH:  So what happens next for Mr. Gooden? 

MCELROY:  Well, tomorrow morning, there is a bond hearing to try and revoke his bond on the domestic violence charge of when he was accused of hitting his girlfriend back in March. 

Right now, tonight, he is at the central booking and being processed like any other defendant.  His bond will be set at $3,000.  If he is able to bond out tonight, he’ll still have to face the music tomorrow morning and show up in court and may have the bond on the other charge revoked, so he could still end up being in hot water tomorrow morning.  ROBACH:  All right, Laura McElroy, spokesperson for the Tampa Police Department, thanks for your time tonight. 

MCELROY:  Sure thing.

ROBACH:  And the legal wrangling between Aruba authorities and the parent of this network, NBC News, is just heating up, one of our crews there granted exclusive access to the prison housing of one of the suspects in the disappearance of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway, Joran Van Der Sloot.  Surprisingly, he spoke.  Not surprisingly, his attorney took issue with that.  So did a judge.  We can’t air it. 

Our correspondent in Aruba and at the center of this case is Michelle Kosinski. 

Good evening, Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Amy.  That’s right.  NBC is not showing that brief talk we had with Joran Van Der Sloot behind bars, because his attorneys took us to court here on the island, and a judge ruled that we should not air that video, based on Joran Van Der Sloot’s privacy rights.  And the judge did say in the first few words of his ruling that he did not question our integrity.  And NBC believes that we do have a right to air that interview, but we are abiding with the judge’s decision. 

We should also point out that, in court, Joran Van Der Sloot admitted that he saw our camera, that he never tried to stop us from talking to him, even though he said he knew that we were reporters.  He chose to answer our questions.  Now, despite the judge’s ruling, we can show you this, a rare inside look at the jail where he’s been now for three months.  (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI (voice-over):  The Aruba director of prisons invited NBC News to tour the jail where suspect Joran Van Der Sloot has been locked up for nearly three months.  The director allowed us to videotape as he showed us around in plain sight. 

This is where he exercises two hours a day.  This is his cell block.  The director offered to take us to the juvenile ward.  And we found ourselves face to face with Joran Van Der Sloot.  Again, we’re not showing you those pictures.  We found him sitting quietly, reading a book with his feet up in the small and smelly cell he shares with two other inmates.  He told us politely he was doing fine and could not talk about his case.  The prison director, Fred Maduro, used to work with Van Der Sloot’s father and knew Joran as a boy. 

(on camera):  Is it strange to see him in this environment?  FREDDY MADURO, ARUBA PRISON WARDEN:  Yes, strange in a way, in another way, not, because of his temperament.  When he doesn’t get his way, he gets very angry.  I know that before, that already he was a very angry person.  KOSINSKI:  And did you see some of his temper here in prison?  MADURO:  In beginning, yes, with the policemen.  But then, afterwards, the policemen really rough him up. 

KOSINSKI (voice-over):  And he says Van Der Sloot got into a fight with another inmate. 

MADURO:  and he kicked a guy, and then he kept kicking in the same place.  So, Joran’s pretty big.  So, but the guy is small, but smaller than he is.  But the guy (INAUDIBLE) hit him in the eye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Joran, were you beat up in prison?  MADURO:  Because general big, but this other streetfighter-the other guy is a streetfighter.  It makes a difference. 

KOSINSKI:  Van Der Sloot must get up at 6:00 a.m., but spends most of his day outside his cell, watching TV, playing games, exercising.  He can stay up until midnight, 1:00 on weekends.  He has a TV in his cell.  The warden says his parents have asked for more visiting time.  MADURO:  No, not getting no extra visiting time. 

KOSINSKI (on camera):  How has he been now, since he’s been here for a couple weeks? 

MADURO:  Now he’s normal.  He’s been normal now.  He has no problems with no one.  He has incorporated himself into the system.  (END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI:  Again, we did have permission to be there and to videotape. 

And a judge acknowledged that we did have the authority to be there. 

But, tonight, the prison director has been suspended from his job.  And he is standing up for his actions.  This is a man who has told us that he loves his job, and he believes that people should see things as they are and what the conditions are in the jail.  There’s also been some misconceptions out there, that we were just going to take this video and then throw it out on the airwaves.  Well, that’s not the case.  We always have that discussion with our legal team, amongst ourselves, and we didn’t even have time to have a start to that discussion before Van Der Sloot’s attorneys were calling us and calling us into court-Amy.  ROBACH:  Now, Michelle, we can’t see the video, but can you tell us a little more about your interaction, your conversation with Joran Van Der Sloot? 

KOSINSKI:  It was brief. 

We approached his jail cell, and he was sitting there in a chair with his feet propped up.  He was reading from a paperback book, and he looked up at us several times.  And when we got close to him, he looked at us and he talked to us.  He was very polite, very cordial.  In fact, all of our questions, he answered.  But they were very brief.

We basically asked him, how are you doing in there?  Are you OK there?  Are things all right for you here?  He said yes, yes, I’m fine.  Our producer also talked to him about a letter that he had written to his mother, some other things, connections that they had had.  And he was very polite the entire time.  He never tried to hide or anything like that.  ROBACH:  Michelle Kosinski, reporting live for us from Aruba-thanks, Michelle. 

And completing our crime roundup on another island, as bucolic as it is controversial, it’s McNeil Island, tucked just off the coast of Washington state, remote and relaxing, reminiscent of the kind of vacation destination that would be overrun with bed and breakfasts and quaint country inns.  No.  Even so, the visitors here don’t leave.  The razor wire stops them every time. 

NBC’s chief legal correspondent and host of “THE ABRAMS REPORT,” Dan Abrams, has an exclusive look. 


DAN ABRAMS, NBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It’s an environmental marvel, nestled in the Puget Sound off of Washington State, a wildlife preserve reachable only by an occasional ferry.  But think less Maui, more Alcatraz.  Two hundred and twenty-five of Washington’s most violent sexual predators confined on this remote island after a jury deemed them too dangerous to be released.

DR. HENRY RICHARDS, MCNEIL ISLAND SUPERINTENDENT:  Being on an island sounds like part of the magical solution to dealing with this severe category of offenders.

DOUGLAS MELTON, SECURITY SUPERVISOR:  We have 192 cameras within the facility that we can monitor at any given time, nine pan-tilt zoom cameras where we can actually panoramic.  We can zoom in on things.  ABRAMS:  But the special commitment center on McNeil Island isn’t a prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Really very important for us to keep in mind, for all of our staff, that people are not here for any form of punishment.  ABRAMS:  They’re called residents.  They’ve already served their prison time, sent here for treatment.  Superintendent Dr. Henry Richards says they allow the residents to make it feel as-quote-homey as possible.  But critics say it’s just another round of punishment.  Attorney Dennis Carroll represents more than 60 of the residents.  DENNIS CARROLL, ATTORNEY FOR COMMITTED SEX OFFENDERS:  The reality is nobody leaves.  There are very, very few people who leave.  No one’s gradually been unconditionally released.

ABRAMS:  That make it unique.  Fifteen other states allow for the confinement of violent sex offenders even after they’re released from prison.  McNeil is the oldest and the only one on an island.  CARROLL:  We’re locking people up under this law, not because of what they did, not because we think they’re definitely going to re-offend, because we think that they might re-offend.

ABRAMS:  Convicted pedophile Richard Scott has been at McNeil for two and a half years.

RICHARD SCOTT, MCNEIL ISLAND RESIDENT:  We have a whole bunch of guys here that are actually incapable of chasing someone that committed a violent offense because they’re bedridden or they’re in a wheelchair.  We have a treatment program that 75 percent of the population are not in so they really are just doing time here again for the same crime they already did time for.

ABRAMS:  The U.S. Supreme Court rejected that argument in 1997, ruling that states could keep dangerous sex offenders with mental abnormalities off the streets, even after they serve their sentences.

IDA BALLASIOTES, DAUGHTER MURDERED BY SEX OFFENDER:  I’ll tell you, they’re not going to get their lives together.  It’s not just going to happen. 

ABRAMS:  Ida Ballasiotes fought to help create the McNeil facility after her 29-year-old daughter, Diane (ph), was raped and killed by a released sex offender. 

BALLASIOTES:  People don’t want sex offenders in their neighborhoods. 

It’s just that simple. 


ROBACH:  Lance Armstrong lets his French critics know exactly what he thinks of the renewed claims he used drugs to boost his performance.  And what will prison do to Martha Stewart’s TV persona?  She was out there today pitching her two new shows and showing off her ankle attire.   That and much more ahead on COUNTDOWN.


ROBACH:  Lance Armstrong answer French allegations he took drugs to win the Tour de France.  And Pat Robertson’s apology, is it enough to earn him a place of infamy in the COUNTDOWN Apology Hall of Fame?  The votes are in.  Will or won’t there be an induction ceremony?


ROBACH:  Preposterous, that is Lance Armstrong’s reaction to allegations that he was doping when he won the 1999 Tour de France.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, Lance fires back in what he is calling-quote-“a long love-hate relationship between myself and the French.”

We begin with Armstrong’s comments today about an old urine sample one French newspaper claims tested positive: “To say that I’ve fooled the fans is preposterous.  I’ve been doing this a long time.  We have not just one year of only B samples;.  we have seven years of A and B samples.  They’ve all been negative.”

More on Armstrong’s vehement denial that he’s ever taken performance-enhancing drugs from our correspondent Keith Miller. 


KEITH MILLER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  He’s a genuine American hero, who just can’t get the French press to show him any he respect.  This time, the French sports paper “L’Equipe” declares Lance Armstrong is a cheat, accusing him of taking performance-enhancing drugs to achieve sporting history.  The newspaper claims a urine sample from 1999 tested positive for EPO, a drug-boosting oxygen to the muscles.  PATRICK LE ROU, CHIEF EDITOR, “L’EQUIPE” (through translator):  We were able to match the numbered analysis with the numbered documents, and we were 100 percent sure. 

MILLER:  The newspaper’s editor says there was no test for EPO in 1999, so frozen urine samples were tested and were found positive.  On his Web site, Armstrong called the story a witch-hunt.  He strongly denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs, describing the article as nothing short of tabloid journalism. 

The Tour de France vice director calls the claim of doping disturbing, but without legal value. 

CHRISTIAN PRUDHOMME, VICE DIRECTOR, TOUR DE FRANCE (through translator):  It’s his word against their word.  It looks like “L’Equipe” carried out a serious investigation, but there is no absolute proof.  There is no legal value. 

MILLER (on camera):  And other officials say it is highly unlikely any action will be taken against Armstrong, because the alleged offense happened so long ago and the reliability of the samples is suspect.  (voice-over):  Accusations of doping have followed Armstrong up one hill and down another.  “Today”’s Ann Curry has covered Armstrong’s career for years. 


ANN CURRY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Have you ever, ever, in the history of this race, used performance-enhancing drugs?

LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST:  Absolutely not.  Never. 

CURRY:  Not once? 

ARMSTRONG:  Never.  Not once. 


MILLER:  Everybody likes a winner, but it appears some in the French sporting world can’t get over an American winning the Tour de France, and not just once.  Lance Armstrong captured the premier cycling event a record seven times, before announcing his retirement from the sport last month.  Keith Miller, NBC News, London.


ROBACH:  Turning now to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” 

And Russell Crowe’s pricey phone bill about to get paid.  The actor is close to a settlement with Nestor Estrada, the Mercer Hotel clerk at whom he allegedly hurled a telephone on June 6, this according to “The Daily News,” which put the payout in the low six figures, not the millions that had been rumored.

Crowe reportedly had only one reservation about the settlement, whether he would have to pay it himself or whether it would covered by insurance.  Crowe is also reportedly close to reaching a deal with prosecutors.  He would plead guilty to the misdemeanor, which would allow him to work and travel in the United States, as long as he can keep his phones from becoming airborne.

And Martha Stewart is roaring back to the airwaves just as soon as she can lose a little something.  That would be her electronic monitoring ankle bracelet.  It’s set to come off next Wednesday.  The nagging accessory hasn’t kept Stewart from barreling ahead with two new TV shows, one a daily lifestyle program called “Martha,” the other, her version of “The Apprentice.”

She spoke with MSNBC’s Rita Cosby.


RITA COSBY, HOST, “RITA COSBY: LIVE & DIRECT”:  You’ve had your ups and downs.  And a lot of people say we’re going to see an even better and an even bigger Martha coming back.  Is this a more successful Martha Stewart?  And your experience, how has that shaped you personally?  MARTHA STEWART, MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA:  We want so much to be optimistic, to be-to have a good time, to build our business, to look to the future.  And what the last two years taught me is, always look ahead.  Don’t look back. 


ROBACH:  For more of Rita Cosby’s interview with Martha Stewart, stay with us for “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.”  That’s up next right here on MSNBC. 

And an entirely different kind of launch nearly ready, “Playboy Digital.”  The magazine’s online version will be available September 17, seeking, no doubt, brand new exposure.  Though the publication still has nearly three million subscribers, it lost money this year from lower advertising.  The digital version will mirror the monthly publication, bunnies and all.  Playboy Enterprises says its new product arrives after months of testing the technology. 

A defensive on-camera denial, followed by an online assassination apology, a pretty sorry performance from Pat Robertson, but is it enough to earn him a place in the hallowed COUNTDOWN Apology Hall of Fame?  Stand by. 


ROBACH:  It’s not every day that we get to hear an on-camera apology from a deeply remorseful public figure.  And televangelist Pat Robertson made sure we weren’t going to get one from him. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, sorry seems to be the hardest word.  Robertson’s apology yesterday for remarks about the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were posted on the Web site of his CBN network.  “Is it right to call for assassination?  No.  And I apologize for that statement.  I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him.”  That apology might have seemed sincere if it weren’t for Robertson’s on-camera denial the same day on his TV show, “The 700 Club.”  (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE 700 CLUB”)

PAT ROBERTSON, HOST:  I didn’t say assassination.  I said our special forces should-quote-“take him out.”  And take him out can be a number of things, including kidnapping.  There are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power, besides killing him.  I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time.


ROBACH:  As for his original remarks, it doesn’t sound like Robertson was talking about character assassination, but rather that other kind, the kind that winds up with a dead guy. 


ROBERTSON:  But if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. 


ROBACH:  And so, Pat Robertson will not be inducted into COUNTDOWN’s Apology Hall of Fame, where crying is always welcome, but certainly not required. 

We challenge you, Pat Robertson, it’s not too late.  Pull your apology up and out from the rabbit hole of the World Wide Web, because nothing less than a TV mea culpa can make you a proud part of this.  (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  If I read this to you and didn’t tell that you it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have happened by Nazis.

Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line.  To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies.  I’m sorry I did it.  I’m sorry it offended people.  I apologize to the people that this has offended. 


PAT O’BRIEN, “THE INSIDER”:  Let’s get crazy, get some coke, hire a hooker.   If you agree with this, just look at me and say yes.  (END AUDIO CLIP)

O’BRIEN:  I’m sorry I did it.   I’m sorry it offended people. 

And I apologize to the people that this has offended.

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS:  It was a mistake.  CBS News deeply regrets it. 

Also, I want to say personally and directly, I’m sorry. 

TERRELL OWENS, NFL PLAYER:  Personally, I didn’t think it would have offended anyone. 


OWENS:  Oh, hell.


OWENS:  And if it did, we apologize. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I’m sorry, so, so sorry that mistakes...  DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  For those Iraqis who were mistreated by the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology.  BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER:  I apologize to anybody that’s been brought into this unnecessarily.  (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)

ASHLEE SIMPSON, MUSICIAN:  I feel so bad.  My band started playing the wrong song.  I didn’t know what to do, so I thought I would do a hoedown.  I’m sorry. 


JANET JACKSON, MUSICIAN:  Unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end.  I am really sorry. 

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression.  I misled, including even my wife. 

KOBE BRYANT, NBA PLAYER:  I’m so sorry.  I love my wife so much. 


SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI:  In order to be a racist, you have to feel superior.  I don’t feel superior to you at all.  I don’t believe any man or any woman is superior to any other... 

ED GORDON, HOST:  Did you always hold that view? 

LOTT:  I think I did. 


TONYA HARDING, OLYMPIC SKATER:  I feel really bad for Nancy, and I feel really lucky that it wasn’t me. 


JAY LENO, HOST:  What the hell were you thinking? 


HUGH GRANT, ACTOR:  I think you know in life pretty much what’s a good to do and what is a bad thing.  And I did a bad thing.  And there you have it. 



STEVE IRWIN, CROCODILE HUNTER:  Sweetheart, who do you want to be when you grow up? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just like my daddy. 

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  Steve, let me...

IRWIN:  Poor little thing. 

LAUER:  Let me jump in here.

LAUER:  You know what?  I’m sorry, Matt. 


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA:  Yes, that I have behaved badly sometimes.  For those people that I have offended, I want to say to them, I’m deeply sorry about that.  And I apologize. 

RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That some of my judgments were wrong, and some were wrong.  They were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interests of the nation.  JIMMY SWAGGART, TELEVANGELIST:  Please forgive me.  I have sinned against you, my lord.  And I would ask that your precious blood...  (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBACH:  I’m sorry, but that’s all the time we have for COUNTDOWN tonight.  I’m Amy Robach, in for Keith Olbermann. 

Thanks for watching. 

Time to turn it over to “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.” 

Good evening, Rita.

RITA COSBY, HOST, “RITA COSBY: LIVE & DIRECT”:  Good evening.  Thanks so much, Amy.