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Back on the job

Today's news could easily fill up twice the time we are allotted for the broadcast.  There is the rather amazing testimony from the stand in the Moussaoui case: his assertion that he would have flown the fifth plane into the White House on 9/11... and who his co-pilot would have been. Pete Williams will report from the court. Pete described Moussaoui's demeanor in court today as "docile" -- and speculated that he was wearing a "stun belt" -- a device U.S. marshals sometimes use to control defendants (through the use of electric shock, or just the implied threat of it) who are given to violent outbursts in court.

Then there are the various moving parts on the topic of immigration -- the protests in California and the talks on Capitol Hill. On the plus side, our own Chip Reid told us earlier today that the scene at the Senate negotiations matched what many would define as the ideal for such a thing: lawmakers sitting across from one another with sleeves rolled up, negotiating compromises on a major issue. Tonight we'll look at the chances for real results.

And then there's Iraq -- today's page one story in The New York Times, since confirmed by NBC News, on the underpinnings of the war and the involvement and machinations of the United Nations. Today's story from the war zone has to do with accusations against U.S. troops following an incident at a mosque. James Hattori will report from Baghdad, Andrea Mitchell from Washington.

Elsewhere in the broadcast tonight, we'll have some exclusive reporting on national security, and health news that involves the intersection of nature and science. And on the topic of immigration, in addition to the news of the day from California and Capitol Hill, we'll kick off a week-long series of reports.

With thanks to Campbell Brown for so ably sitting in last week, tonight will find me back in the chair after a much-needed break with my family. I followed the news as much as I could from our family listening post to the south, and I must say I'm glad I was not here for the debate over war coverage in Iraq. I would only remind everyone that our colleague at ABC News, Bob Woodruff, is engaged in a personal and titanic struggle to fully recover from the wounds he received while trying to cover the "good news" in Iraq. That was exactly the mission he was on when his world was put on hold. Many of the journalists killed while covering this war were doing the exact same thing. The brave men and women who have volunteered for duty in our own NBC News Bureau in Baghdad put their own lives on the line each day. They will tell you -- as we have experienced for ourselves in Iraq -- that we'd like very much to beam home more stories of positive developments (especially the achievements of U.S. soldiers there, who I find are so mightily impressive when seen on the job) were it not for the palpable risk to life and limb that comes with each and every moment and movement on the streets. Yesterday's exchange on this topic among members of the roundtable on Meet the Press was particularly good, as was Tim's interview with Secretary of State Rice. (Click for MTP transcript.)

One final note on this topic: for those who missed it, Richard Engel's "reporter's notebook" story from last Friday's Nightly News was a gripping first-person video diary account of what life has been like during his years on post in Baghdad. We're always proud of Richard's work and in awe of his courage, but this broke new ground in terms of its honesty and emotion. It's great to be back in this newsroom, and we hope you can join us for tonight's broadcast.