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Sada, the tapes, and WMD

Saddam Had WMD
The first 12 hours of the tapes -- there are hundreds more waiting to be translated -- are damning, to say the least. They show conclusively that Bush didn't lie when he cited Saddam's WMD plans as one of the big reasons for taking the dictator out.

Nobody disputes the tapes' authenticity. On them, Saddam talks openly of programs involving biological, chemical and, yes, nuclear weapons.

Gunsmoke On ABC
WMD: Did Saddam Hussein possess weapons of mass destruction? We've always thought so. But proof positive may soon be forthcoming if secret tapes of the Iraqi dictator turn out to be real.

The tapes in question, 12 hours in all, represent recordings of Saddam Hussein discussing the possibility of a terrorist attack on Washington, D.C., and the use of WMD.

To Tell The Truth
It's now a matter of record that virtually every major Western intelligence service and the U.N. thought Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction. It's also clear that he did in fact have them -- since he used chemical weapons against his own people in a well-documented attack on the city of Halabja in the late '80s.

There's also a growing body of evidence Saddam held on to those weapons, hiding them until he was able to get them out of the country, probably to neighboring Syria.

Iraq's WMD Secreted in Syria, Sada Says
The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The flights - 56 in total, Mr. Sada said - attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.

Mr. Sada said that the Iraqi official responsible for transferring the weapons was a cousin of Saddam Hussein named Ali Hussein al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali." The Syrian official responsible for receiving them was a cousin of Bashar Assad who is known variously as General Abu Ali, Abu Himma, or Zulhimawe.



Poll: Americans See Iran As Enemy No. 1
WASHINGTON - Iran has replaced Iraq as the country Americans consider to be their greatest enemy, according to a Gallup Poll. Canada and Great Britain were ranked as America's best friends

Americans Say Iran Biggest Enemy
(AP) Iran has replaced Iraq as the country Americans consider to be their greatest enemy, according to a Gallup Poll.

Iranian advisor: We'll strike Dimona in response to U.S. attack
If the United States launches an attack on Iran, the Islamic republic will retaliate with a military strike on Israel's main nuclear facility.

Iran Has Started Producing Enriched Uranium
Only a month after Iran defied Europe and the International Atomic Energy Agency and declared it would restart what it termed research on enrichment, it has put 10 centrifuges into operation at the vast uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, according to the officials.

"A nontransparent society that is the world's premier state sponsor of terror cannot be allowed to possess the world's most dangerous weapons" -President Bush

Bush: World Will Not Allow Nuclear Weapons in Iran
President Bush says the international community will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Raed's amusing speculation

Raed Jarrar has made an appearance on Democracy Now to discuss the situation in Iraq following the al-Askari shrine bombing. Transcript and video are available HERE.

Raed uses a signal phrase used by many conspiracy theorists and those seeking to put blame somewhere other than where it belongs, he uses the "put things in context" line: "So let me put things in context before I say what I think about the explosion, per se."

He attempts to give some historical context which is supposed to demonstrate how the Sunnis and Shias are unified concerning the al-Askari shrine, and explains how the Sunnis couldn't have bombed the mosque. He seems to forget all about Al Qaeda, who seek to sabotage Iraq's political process by turning groups against one another. The disruption of unity benefits those opposed to Iraq's democracy, but Raed makes other suggestions...

Raed launches into a conspiracy comparing the US and coalition tactics to those used by Syrian President al-Assad: turning different groups against one another. Of all the mistakes made in Iraq, no one thinks that the US or coalition is intentionally trying to prevent unity, one of the most important goals. It's at this point that Raed is cut off, almost as if someone at Democracy Now realized that this was ridiculous and pulled the plug! Just imagine some control-person saying "uhhh kill the feed, this bologna doesn't help our agenda by making us look stupid."

And so that was the end of Raed. He was probably assured that there was some technical difficulty, given an apology and a thank-you and sent on his merry way.

On his blog Raed constantly calls for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq. He calls the Iraqi government a puppet government and says it is not legitimate. Apparently he longs to see Iraq's elected government overthrown and replaced by a regime which suppresses the Iraqi people through terror. Either he doesn't consider the consequences of this, or he is more diabolical than he is trying to appear. In reading his blog, it seems probable that Raed is a Baathist who enjoyed the rule of Saddam greatly and hated to see him go.

Pro-Denmark rally in Washington D.C.

On Friday a rally was held at the Danish Embassy in Washington D.C. in support of the Danes and free speech.


Al Qaeda chief killed in Iraq

al-Qaida in Iraq Chief Said Killed in Raid

Abu Asma, also known as Abu Anas and Akram Mahmud al-Mushhadani was killed in a raid by coalition forces and Iraqi police.


US and Britain to rebuild gold-domed mosque

Sectarian violence plagues Iraq after the bombing of al-Askari shrine in Samarra. At least 130 people have died so far.

Sunnis and Sunni mosques have come under attack in retaliation, causing the main Sunni party to withdraw from negotiations to form the Iraqi government.

Al-Arabiya reporter Atwar Bahjat along with cameraman Adnan Khairallah and soundman Khaled Mohsen were senselessly murdered by gunmen near Samarra. Atwar Bahjat had worked for both al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya.

Iran's maniacal president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blames the bombing on "Zionists and failed occupiers." Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also blames Israel and the United States.

3 Muslims arrested in US

Three men have been arrested and charged with plotting terrorist attacks against U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and other countries.

Mohammad Zaki Amawi, 26, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, 42, and Wassim I. Mazloum, 24, were charged with conspiring to kill or injure people in the Middle East and with providing the “support and resources” to do so.

Two of the men were arrested in Toledo, Ohio, and the third was arrested in Jordan and brought back to Ohio.

A federal grand jury has indicted Toledo-area residents Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, and Wassim Mazloum on a total of five counts for alleged terrorist activities. Here is a summary of the federal indictment:

• COUNT 1: Conspired to kill or maim people outside of the United States. Mr. Amawi, Mr. El-Hindi, and Mr. Mazloum watched, downloaded, and talked about “jihadist” training material. Mr. Amawi attempted to obtain chemical explosives and smuggle laptop computers into the Middle East. Potential sentence if convicted: Life imprisonment for conspiring to kill; 35 years in prison for conspiring to maim and a $250,000 fine. If convicted and released from prison, deportation of Mr. Mazloum, a Lebanese citizen.

• COUNT 2: Conspired to provide material support and resources for killing a U.S. national. All three defendants attempted to use “money, training, explosives, communications equipment, computers,” and themselves to wage jihad against the U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq. Potential sentence if convicted: 15 years in prison, $250,000 fine. If convicted and released from prison: deportation of Mr.
Mazloum, a Lebanese citizen.

• COUNT 3: Distributed information about an explosive device. Mr. Amawi downloaded a video for suicide bombers entitled “Martyrdom Operation Vest
Preparation” and distributed it via a computer disk.
Potential sentence if convicted: two years and nine months in prison.

• COUNT 4: Threatened to kill or inflict bodily harm upon the President. Mr. Amawi verbally threatened to kill President Bush in the presence of another person.
Potential sentence if convicted: one year and four months in prison.

• COUNT 5: Threatened the President.
Mr. Amawi threatened to kill President Bush in the presence of another person. Potential sentence if convicted: one year and four months in prison.

Also in Toledo, a charity called KindHearts had its assets frozen by the U.S. Treasury Department. The charity is accused of funneling money to terrorist organizations in the Middle East.


U.S.-Funded Power Plant on Line in Iraq

The plant is estimated to add electric power equivalent for what is needed for more than 220,000 households.

"We came here with a plan two years ago that we were going to do a lot of projects, but the insecurity increased and our priorities had to shift," McCallister said during a tour of the Khor Az Zubayr site. "We had to suspend some big water projects, but we have continued to push electricity."

Audit reports released recently by Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that guerrilla attacks have forced the cancellation of more than 60 percent of water and sanitation projects in Iraq, in part because American intelligence failed to predict the brutal insurgency.

Iraq's incessant insurgency absorbs as much as 22 percent of project costs, more than double the 9 percent originally budgeted.

Not only do the insurgents blow up the Iraqis in markets, on streets, or at mosques, but they also fight to deprive them of clean water and electricity.


Cartoon madness

At least 11 people have been killed and several injured in riots at the Italian consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, where rioters set fire to the consulate. Libya suspended its interior minister Saturday, citing an "excessive use of force." 5 people have been killed in Pakistan where police opened fire on a mob trying to set fire to buildings.

In Nigeria, Muslims have attacked Christians and burned churches, hotels, shops and vehicles, killing at least 16 people.
An Associated Press reporter saw mobs of Muslim protesters swarm through the city center with machetes, sticks and iron rods. One group threw a tire around a man, poured gas on him and set him ablaze.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called for Minister Roberto Calderoli's resignation after he wore a T-Shirt showing the drawings.

You can get your very own Muhammed T-Shirt HERE.

Hunting accident

On Saturday, February 11, US Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot Harry Whittington in a hunting accident at a private ranch owned by Katharine Armstrong. Cheney and Whittington were part of a quail hunting expedition at the Armstrong ranch. Quail hunting can be a fast paced sport, with birds flying quickly in different directions. Mr. Cheney followed a covey of quail that had flushed, picked a bird, followed it, and shot... accidentally hitting Mr Whittington in the face, neck, and chest.

Mr. Whitting was taken to a hospital in Corpus Christi, where Mr. Cheney spent Sunday afternoon. Katharine Armstrong released a statement to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on Sunday. Cheney visited Whittington in the hospital early Sunday evening and returned to Washington Sunday night.

On Monday hospital administrator Peter Banko said "It's not critical. It's not serious. It's just stable at this time."

On Tuesday Whittington suffered a minor heart attack due to the shotgun pellets in his body.

Whitting was released from hospital on Friday, February 17, stating that he had no ill will for Cheney and that he was deeply sorry for the trouble Cheney and his family had faced. "Accidents do and will happen, and that's what happened," said Mr. Whittington.

The venomous Democrat party and liberal media have tried to use this story to create all sorts of insinuations and conspiracies, but the facts are simple. Dick Cheney accidentally shot his friend: no more, no less.

"And it's not Harry's fault. Ultimately, I'm the guy that pulled the trigger and shot my friend."


Cyber Storm

Vital US infrastructure including power grids and banking systems have been put under simulated attack in a week-long security exercise called Cyber Storm.

Cyber Storm reportedly not only tested against attacks by hackers, but also by bloggers - who deliberately spread misinformation in the exercise.

It was carried out on secure computers in the basement of the Secret Service in Washington DC.

There was no effect on the internet.

Where did the Internet come from?

Jill Carroll is alive

Jill Carroll is still alive, after being held hostage for over a month. A new video was shown on private Kuwaiti TV station Al Rai TV in which she says that she is fine, and calls for help saying "please just do whatever they want," and "time is short."

Her abductors have set a deadline of February 26. The kidnappers are demanding the release of all female prisoners in Iraq. They say they will "implement punishment stipulated by religious law," which shows how irrational these people are. What has an innocent journalist done to deserve any punishment? How is she associated with what they are fighting against?

It is unthinkable that anyone would intentionally harm someone like Jill Carroll. In the video she says "I am with the mujahideen. I sent you a letter written by my hand by my hand, but you wanted more evidence, so we are sending you this letter now to prove I am with the mujahideen."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters "We continue to make every effort to secure her release, to see that she's back safe and sound with her family and her coworkers."

The United States has released five Iraqi women prisoners since Carroll's kidnapping, but say these had nothing to do with the kidnapping. Four others are still in custody.


Cartoon discussion

An interesting discussion on February 7 about the Muhammed cartoon issue is available at the liberal website Democracy Now. The Angry Arab As'ad Abukhalil, author and professor of political science at California State University and Irshad Manji, author and Visiting Fellow at Yale University feature in this debate hosted by Amy Goodman. Transcript and audio/video are available HERE.

The segment features an excellent quote from State Department spokesman Sean McCormack:
"We understood why many Muslims found the cartoons offensive. We found... we talked about the fact that we found the cartoons offensive. But we also spoke out very clearly in support of freedom of the press. As to what appears in newspaper and what is broadcast over the airwaves, those are decisions, in free countries, for free media."
As'ad Abukhalil begins with his assertion, which he has made repeatedly, that it is acceptable to mock religion, but in order to do so one must mock every religion. What isn't clear is how many religions one must include, as according to him must be done in order to be secular or to support enlightenment. Must the religion of say, ancient Aztecs and Mayas be included in order to mock Roman mythology? If one wanted to point out a fallacy or disagreement with Taoism, would one also have to include criticism of Scandinavian worship of Odin to make the point? Perhaps he means only Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Must Buddhism also be included to criticize any of these? This assertion is certainly very thin. He seems to support free speech concerning religion, but only under certain qualifying conditions.

As'ad also questions why Nazi propaganda isn't published today in the media. Besides not being newsworthy or having any relevance to anything today, maybe because it wouldn't interest the readers? Islam is in fact relevant to events today, as Islamic extremists are being fought against every day.

Irshad Manji points out that although she has written about the need for reform in Islam, it doesn't mean the other religions are problem free. But according to Abukhalil's theory, criticizing any religion requires criticizing all religions, although he wasn't specific about the number of religions which must be included.

Manji correctly points out that anti-Semitic programming is common in the Arab world, which the Muslims do not protest, and questions Abukhalil's idea that Islam is being singled out.

As'ad Abukhalil then amusingly launches into ad hominem arguments against Manji, but he is after all, the Angry Arab. Abukhalil affirms that although anti-Semitic items have appeared in the Arab media, these are the responsibility of the governments, and many of these governments are allies of the United States, implying that the U.S. shares some responsibility for anti-Semitic material in the Arab press. Does Abukhalil mean to imply that the U.S. has some sort of control over the state run media in the Arab world? Or is this just a red herring?

Abukhalil then refers to the big debate written in Arabic or Persian against the anti-Semitic material, which Manji may not be able to read. Does Abukhalil mean to imply that these writings somehow diminish the anti-Semitic material in the Arab press? Is he not aware of the plethora of writings in the US and Europe condemning the publication of the Muhammed cartoons? Why wouldn't this condemnation have the same diminishing affect on the Muhammed cartoons as the Persian and Arabic writing supposedly has on the anti-Semitic material? Double Standard?

Abukhalil makes an interesting point that depictions of Muhammed have been created in Islamic art throughout history. Then Abukhalil says,
"But you cannot, in the name of the freedom of speech, deny the Muslims and Arabs the right to be outraged about something that offends them."
I wonder who supposedly denied Muslims the right to freely express outrage at the Muhammed cartoons?

Abukhalil then implies that in the media, for example, comedians, do not mock other religions. He could not be more incorrect. Does he ever watch western stand-up comics? There is no shortage of mockery for Christians and Jews alike.

Manji draws a comparison, pointing out that FOX News showed some of the anti-Jewish cartoons which appeared in Arabic media, and that Jews aren't going to storm the FOX News offices or threaten the deaths of journalists or people with American passports.

Manji makes a good point that anyone denying that Muslims have a problem containing their violence is clearly living in the world of theory and not in the world of reality. The conventional wisdom of this statement is unmistakable. And it seems those who want to defend the attacks on embassies and threats of death or terrorism must create theories to explain why this is acceptable. The reality of the situation today is painfully obvious. How can denying the realities help in any way to find solutions?

When asked if he thinks that what is happening today because of the cartoons is an overreaction, Abukhalil says it is not up to him to decide, yet he states again that he feels there is some sort of hypocrisy and inconsistency, which suggests that he may feel the riots and attacks are justified. Abukhalil obviously means that the hypocrisy or inconsistency refers to the 12 Muhammed cartoons which have only recently appeared, and not the abundance of other offensive material which has appeared for decades, especially in the Arab press.

Abukhalil again mentions the Arabs and Muslims who speak out against anti-Semitism in the Arabic press, as if to offer some sort of defense. "Where are the protests, where are the ordinary people pouring into the streets," Manji asks, again pointing out the obvious.

Abukhalil claims that Manji criticizes Islam although she is not trained in Islam. But according to Abukhalil's own theory, in order to criticize any religion one would have to criticize them all. Would this mean that one would have to be trained in all religions then, if one cannot criticize without being extensively trained? If to criticize any religion one must criticize them all, and to speak about any religion one must be a specially trained expert, exactly how many religions must one be expertly trained in order to talk about any of them? The theory becomes even more complicated and less practical. Fortunately (or unfortunately) in most free countries free speech is not limited only to those who are qualified.

And why is it suggested that Manji is not qualified in Islam, when she claims to be a Muslim and has authored the book "The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith"? Apparently more of Abukhalil's ad hominem.

Abukhalil completely overlooks condemnation that has been published about the Muhammed cartoons, because this condemnation does not have the same cleansing effect he attributes the Arabic condemnation.

To be fair, it should be noted that in Europe and America more people support the publishing of the Muhammed cartoons than oppose it. Just as in the Arab world, support or indifference to the anti-Semitic material will certainly surpass the condemnation of it.

Manji asks a question which Abukhalil dances around and cannot answer,
"Where are the ordinary Muslims in the Islamic world pouring into the streets to demonstrate against Saudi Arabia's policy to prevent Jews and Christians from stepping on the soil of Mecca, merely because they are Jews and Christians? Tell me! Where are those protests? Answer!"
Irshad Manji is incredibly articulate and keenly intelligent. Abukhalil is also intelligent, and presents compelling arguments. Even if some of the arguments seem flawed, they present ideas which stimulate consideration and debate.

Abukhalil makes a very insightful observation:
"I totally believe that these demonstrations have been instigated and have been set off by the Arab governments and Muslim governments themselves. These are corrupt bankrupt governments that are very much aware of the anger of their people about Israel and about U.S. foreign policy in the region and about wars"
Abukhalil identifies that there is "hypocrisy going on now from many different places on this very issue," which is a very good point.

The debate veers into the Palestinian issue which is fascinating and should be viewed/read.

Irshad Manji makes an excellent point:
" What “Mr. Angry Arab” there doesn’t seem to appreciate or care to acknowledge is that in the past 100 years alone, more Muslims have been tortured, imprisoned, raped, maimed and murdered at the hands of other Muslims than at the hands of any foreign imperial power. This is not to deny Western colonialism, not at all. It is to point out that colonialism comes in many shades and many colors, and if we're going to have integrity as human rights advocates, then we also have to stand up on that front, and that's what he seems to be forgetting."

And As'ad Abukhalil makes an excellent point:
"But it seems to me, we should insist on the principle of freedom of speech and the right to offend people's beliefs and values"

As'ad then offers some qualifiers, perhaps because he is struggling to intellectualize the argument in his racial terms, but I think As'ad appreciates and understands freedom.


Cartoon frenzy

The madness over the publication of cartoons continues. Western embassies in Syria, Iran, and Lebanon have been attacked, and so far 12 people have been killed in Afghan protests.

You can view the 12 cartoons published in the Jyllands-Posten HERE.

The obvious double-standard has been pointed out, that the press in many of the countries where protests and riots have been carried out have regularly published anti-semitic and anti-Christian cartoons.

In London, protestors who held signs advocating terrorism and murder may face charges including public order offenses and incitement to murder.

It is also becoming more apparent that these riots and protests were organized.

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has accused Iran and Syria of inciting violence and exploiting Muslims anger. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said the same thing.

Meanwhile, Iran follows it's usual formula of blaming all problems on the Jews. Now an Iranian newspaper is holding a contest for cartoons about the Holocaust. You can be sure that the Jews won't be rioting, burning embassies, and calling for murders.

Timeline from BBC News:

8 February: French magazine Charlie Hebdo publishes the cartoons along with other caricatures. French President Jacques Chirac condemns decisions to reprint the cartoons as "overt provocation".
7 February: Several hundred Iranians attack the Danish embassy in Tehran as the country announces it is cutting all trade ties with Denmark.
6 February: Protests claim lives - at least five people are killed in Afghanistan, and a teenage boy dies after protesters attack police in Somalia.
5 February: Lebanese demonstrators set the Danish embassy in Beirut on fire. Interior Minister Hassan Sabeh resigns over the violent protests.
4 February: Syrians attack Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus, prompting UN chief Kofi Annan to call for calm.
2 February: The editor of the French newspaper France Soir is sacked for printing the cartoons.
1 February: Papers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain reprint the caricatures, defying Muslim outrage.
31 January: The Danish paper apologises. The Danish prime minister welcomes the apology but defends the freedom of the press.
30 January: Gunmen raid the EU's offices in Gaza, demanding an apology over the cartoons.
26 January: Saudi Arabia recalls its ambassador to Denmark, while Libya says it is closing its embassy in Copenhagen.
10 January: A Norwegian newspaper reprints the cartoons.

20 October: Ambassadors from 10 Islamic countries complain to the Danish prime minister about the cartoons.
30 September: A series of cartoons, some depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, are published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Perhaps State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said it best in his February 3 daily press briefing:

"Our response is to say that while we certainly don't agree with, support, or in some cases, we condemn the views that are aired in public that are published in media organizations around the world, we, at the same time, defend the right of those individuals to express their views."

"For us, freedom of expression is at the core of our democracy. And it is something that we have shed blood and treasure around the world to defend, and we will continue to do so."


Super Bowl XL

The fortieth Super Bowl is over, with the Pittsburgh Steelers defeating the Seattle Seahawks 21-10. The Rolling Stones gave a fine half time performance, with Keith Richards looking as old as ever and Mick Jagger strutting as energetically as he ever did. But perhaps even more entertaining are the commercials. The Super Bowl is the most watched broadcast of the year and the big companies roll out their showcase commercials, which are guaranteed to be funny.


Where did the Internet come from?

During the late 1960s, a branch of the U.S. government titled the Advance Research Projects Agency (ARPA) created one of the country's first wide area packet-switched networks, called the ARPANET. Select research universities, military bases, and government labs were allowed access to the ARPANET for services such as electronic mail, file transfers. and remote logins.

In 1983, the Department of Defense broke the ARPANET into two similar networks: the original ARPANET and MILNET, for military use only. Although the MILNET remained essentially the same over time, the ARPANET was eventually phased out and replaced with newer technology. During this period, the National Science Foundation funded the creation of a new high-speed, cross country network backbone called the NFSnet. The backbone is the main telecommunication line through the network, connecting the major router sites across the country. It was to this backbone that smaller regional or mid-level (statewide) networks connected. A set of access or "campus" networks then connected to these mid-level networks. Eventually this collection of networks became known as the Internet.

During ther early 1990s, the government essentially withdrew all direct support for the Internet and turned it over to private industries and universities. Thus, there is no longer a single backbone but multiple backbones supported by different businesses and organizations, all in competition with one another.

Use of the internet has grown at a phenomenal rate.


Iraq's WMD Secreted in Syria, Sada Says

The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The flights - 56 in total, Mr. Sada said - attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.

Mr. Sada said that the Iraqi official responsible for transferring the weapons was a cousin of Saddam Hussein named Ali Hussein al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali." The Syrian official responsible for receiving them was a cousin of Bashar Assad who is known variously as General Abu Ali, Abu Himma, or Zulhimawe.

Is he telling the truth?


Iran timebomb

State of the Union 2006

President George W. Bush gave the State of the Union Address at the Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006.

A transcription, as well as video are here:

President Bush Delivers State of the Union Address