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THE WEDNESDAY LINEUP

We are debuting a new NBC News poll tonight containing some truly striking numbers about where our country is politically.  I think some will find the national opinion on the war truly surprising, along with the trendlines of the current crop of candidates for president in both political parties.  Tim Russert will walk us through the numbers and the analysis -- while we also track tonight's vote in Washington and what it means.  We have a superb piece by Mike Taibbi on the ground-level fight in Iraq. (Editor's note: Mike's piece has been postponed since the time of this writing. It will air at a future date.)  We're currently chasing after more than one story that has developed during the day -- and we left our afternoon editorial meeting with a few items up in the air. At this hour, Wall Street is also making news.

HITTING THE LINKS
Several items of great interest on the web, beginning with my favorite blogger on the Iraq war, Michael Yon.  Frequent viewers know Michael is a Special Forces veteran who is reporting on the war by embedding himself with U.S. units and often writes the story from the warrior's point of view.  I was traveling in Iraq with retired 4-Star General and former U.S. Special Forces Commander Wayne Downing -- who upon realizing that he was talking to Michael Yon (General Downing is a loyal reader of Michael's blog) reacted like meeting a rock star. Michael has made a special package of material available through our blog.


Ouch.  I noted that in its online edition of the David Halberstam obituary, the New York Times mention of David's early employment at the West Point Daily Times Leader in Mississippi is accompanied by a link to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. While the obituary was labeled as a collaborative effort and was written on a very tight deadline, perhaps David would have smiled at the notion of having put in time at West Point prior to playing such a prominent role in the coverage of the war in Vietnam.

Roger Ebert has written a courageous piece on his battle with cancer -- it includes pictures of himself at his current stage of treatment. It is written with his usual zest and candor, in a very up-front style, and it is a truly inspirational story, especially for anyone living with a serious illness.

Finally, a great yarn at latimes.com about the backstory of a viral video from an artist who has seen a bit of a career renaissance as a result of making a cultural and artistic statement. It is right out of the current, ongoing national conversation.

MEA CULPA
Every available minute I have is devoted to prepping for tomorrow evening's debate.  The rules, format and sheer number of candidates will make this an action-packed and informative evening, and it deserves all of my free time and attention.  I will anchor what I can of the broadcast from the venue tomorrow night before I have to peel off to get my head in the game.  I have a great team to rely on, and if all else fails, I've arranged a fast car to the airport afterward.  We really do hope you will watch this first-ever, full-blown debate among the Democratic candidates. It's early yet, it's true, but the calendar doesn't diminish the high stakes.

First things first: we hope you can join us for tonight's broadcast of NBC Nightly News from New York.