The Editor’s Desk

All of us have a cancer story— that moment, so sharp in recollection, when we learned that we, or someone we love, had been diagnosed with the disease. We can remember the sterility of the hospital corridor, the ensuing terror and clarity, the forced good cheer, the complaints about the unfairness of it all. Those complaints were, and are, justified: cancer is the worst kind of thief. What it takes cannot be recovered.

And so it required no time at all to say yes when my friends Ellen Ziffren and Lisa Paulsen came to NEWSWEEK with an idea: they, with others, were putting together an initiative called Stand Up to Cancer. The goal: to raise money and foster collaboration between doctors and researchers. The means: a cross-network broadcast bringing together Katie Couric, Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson (it aired last Friday) to underscore the need to encourage multidisciplinary research. Ellen (a nonprofit leader based in Los Angeles) and Lisa (president and CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation) were hoping for a major journalistic project to be published in conjunction with the broadcast.

The result is Sharon Begley's essay on the history and failure of the battle against cancer. There is much to be done within the medical and scientific community themselves to end rivalries, provoke cooperation and thus, one hopes, move ahead. As Sharon writes, cancer is on track to kill 565,650 people in the United States this year—or more than 1,500 a day, the equivalent of three jumbo jets crashing and killing everyone onboard 365 days a year.

Though he never used the phrase, Richard Nixon is credited with launching America's war on cancer nearly 40 years ago. With reporting from Anne Underwood,Jeneen Interlandi and Mary Carmichael, Sharon details how we are losing that war, and what lessons can be drawn from the few successes, particularly in pediatric oncology, and applied to the complicated universe of cancer. (One thing, of course, is that the phrase "war on cancers" is more accurate than "war on cancer.") Jonathan Alter, who has written so movingly in these pages of his own fight against cancer, offers a column on what an Obama or a McCain win would mean for the search for cures.

In the world of politics, there was one phrase heard over and over again among reporters at the Republican National Convention: when it comes to Campaign 2008, "it just doesn't get any better than this." What was already a great story has now become a saga with the nomination of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. We profiled her in last week's cover, but as the convention unfolded and the fall campaign began, the curiosity about her only grew. The image on this week's cover—of Palin with a shotgun—was taken in Wasilla, Alaska, in front of the Grouse Ridge shooting range for her 2002 campaign for lieutenant governor. A story written by Jeffrey Bartholet and Karen Breslau, with reporting from Breslau as well as Andrew Murr,Mark Hosenball, Suzanne Smalley, Michael Isikoff, Michael Hirsh, Daniel Stone, Holly Bailey, Lisa Miller, Sarah Kliff and Katie Paul, plumbs Palin's record for clues to how she sees the world. Surprising new figures are rare things in American presidential politics, and no matter what you make of her, Palin is surely a surpris-ing new figure. Jonathan Darman, Kathleen Deveny, Howard Fineman, Anna Quindlen, Andrew Romano and Jacob Weisberg also weigh in with thoughts and reporting on values, abortion rights, feminism and the cold numerical calculus of a race that remains close. And Dan Lyons, most recently of Forbes and the creator of the "Fake Steve" blog about Steve Jobs, joins us this week as our new technology columnist.

With only eight weeks before the final vote, there is not much time to learn what we can about all four nominees, but we have to do what we can, for if there is one thing on which the two tickets agree, it is this: biography matters.