The New York Times leads with presidential candidate John Edwards' disclosure that his wife, Elizabeth, has suffered a recurrence of cancer, a story that all the other papers play above the fold. The Washington Post goes with a deal that will allow a $124 billion war-spending bill to move to a vote on the House floor, a story the Wall Street Journal also places atop its world-wide newsbox. USA Today leads with a story about a government plan to test whether Predator drones might be used to provide security above domestic airports. The Los Angeles Timesgives the lead slot to a blistering report about illegal practices at health insurer Blue Cross, a scandal originally brought to light by the paper's own investigative reporting.
After Edwards cancelled an Iowa campaign appearance and scheduled an unexplained press conference for noon Thursday, many reporters and even some Edwards supporters assumed he was going to announce that he was dropping out of the race. Instead he told reporters, "The campaign goes on strongly."
"I don't look sickly, I don't feel sickly," Elizabeth Edwards told the press conference. However, all indications are that her condition is grave. She underwent a round of breast cancer treatment shortly after the 2004 election, an experience she described in a book. This time, the cancer has spread to her bones and possibly a lung, and it is inoperable. The papers all consult medical specialists, who say that prognoses differ according to the individual patient, and that some live with the disease for a decade or more. "That's not the most common scenario," though, an expert tells USAT, which devotes an excellent "cover story" to the subject. "It's unusual to live 10 years."
Initial reactions were overwhelmingly sympathetic. But some political consultants wonder if Edwards will really be able to maintain the necessary pace of fund-raising and campaigning. The LAT observes that this is "uncharted territory: A leading candidate will continue to live the public life of trying to win the White House while enduring the personal ordeal of watching his wife battle a deadly disease." For now, however, the campaign is continuing as before: Edwards attended a fund-raiser in New York last night.
The struggle over the war-spending bill, which has revealed the divisions among the factions of the House Democratic caucus, is an important test of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's leadership. Yesterday, she brokered an agreement with the anti-war Out of Iraq Caucus, which had previously vowed to block the measure even though it includes the first hard deadline for removing American troops: Aug. 31, 2008. She needs some votes from the caucus, because House Republicans are unified against the bill. "We told them we don't want them to be in a position of undermining Nancy's speakership," said California Rep. Maxine Waters, a hardcore war opponent. President Bush has vowed to veto any spending bill that includes a deadline. The NYT, which sticks the story inside, also has some good detail on the political jockeying.
The USAT's Predator drone story smells a little like pie in the sky. Homeland Security has long been worried that terrorists might try to take down an airliner with a shoulder-fired missile. Efforts to install military-style countermeasures on civilian aircraft have proved expensive and possibly ineffective. The idea is that the drones, flying at 65,000 feet, would "pick up the ultraviolet plume from a missile's rocket booster" and use a laser to disable it. There are concerns about using such military aircraft in civilian airspace.
The NYT off-leads a scoop: Shortly after being appointed to replace Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary Robert Gates apparently pushed to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, arguing that the facility "had become so tainted abroad that legal proceedings at Guantanamo would be viewed as illegitimate." He suggested moving them to military prisons in the United States, where they would enjoy more constitutional rights. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed him up, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Vice President Cheney opposed the idea, and President Bush quashed it. Interestingly, the story strongly suggests that the recommendation is being floated again now because Gonzales has been "significantly weakened" by the uproar over fired federal prosecutors.
Speaking of which, the WP fronts a story based on yet another batch of embarrassing executive-branch e-mails. These concern Tim Griffin, the former Karl Rove aide who was appointed the U.S. attorney in Arkansas and who apparently did some rather shameless lobbying on his own behalf. Griffin has already said he will not seek the Senate confirmation necessary to stay in the post.
The WSJ splashes a big story on the mysterious Blackstone Group, the hedge fund that has been recently buying up … well, more or less everything. In preparation for a planned IPO, the fund hitched up its cloak ($) a little bit, revealing for the first time some basic details about its holdings, such as how much they're worth ($79 billion). Other hedge funds are thinking about offering stock to salivating investors. Last month in Slate, Daniel Gross argued that that was one of five signs of "the coming hedge fund apocalypse."
Only the WP fronts news that NBC and Fox announced plans to create a free online video service to compete with YouTube.
The NYT fronts a fascinating piece on the practice of polygamy—in New York. One detail that's been lost in the coverage of a recent deadly fire in the Bronx, in which several children died, is that the man who owned the home actually had two wives, and two families, living in the building. Though illegal in the United States and technically grounds for deportation, polygamy is an accepted part of the culture in Mali, where the man is from. With immigration from Africa increasing, it is "a clandestine practice that probably involves thousands of New Yorkers," the story says.
The WSJ fronts a feature on a childhood friend of Sen. Barack Obama's ($) who has been in and out of jail on drug charges and now sleeps in a friend's Mazda. The guy has only kind things to say about his friend "Barry"—and naturally, he wants some money from him.
The once-endangered grizzly bear is making a comeback, reports the LAT, and soon, the Bush administration might allow you to hunt them. This occasions the headline of the day: "Grizzlies No Safer Than Average Bears."
It sounds like it was a wild day all around at the LAT. The paper also fronts an account of its editorial page editor's resignation after a newsroom kerfuffle involving his romance with a publicist who works for movie producer Brian Grazer, who was supposed to be doing a guest-editing stint for the section. After the paper's publisher terminated the arrangement, the editor wrote an angry blog post, saying "navel-gazing newsrooms run the risk of becoming parodies of themselves," and quit. The NYT also does some gazing at LAT's navel.
Life, death and cricket …NYT staffer Marc Lacey has an inside piece from Jamaica, where their ongoing Cricket World Cup—a sporting event of earth-shaking importance in Britain and many of its former colonies—has been overshadowed by the bizarre death of the Pakistani coach. A cricket powerhouse, Pakistan was eliminated shockingly quickly this year. Afterward, the coach was found dead in his hotel room, and now police say he was strangled. There is speculation, Lacey writes, that the coach "might have been killed for preparing to report corruption in the game." This one's going to make everyone forget about Hansie Cronje.