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'World News Tonight' Faces Empty Anchor Desk

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Elizabeth Vargas

Just two months after announcing Peter Jennings' replacements, ABC's "World News Tonight" is facing the prospect of being anchorless. With Bob Woodruff sidelined indefinitely as he recovers from a near-fatal roadside bombing in Iraq, coanchor Elizabeth Vargas is preparing to take a leave of absence of her own--albeit for a much happier reason.

Vargas and her singer-songwriter husband, Marc Cohn, announced Friday that they're expecting their second child in late summer. The couple already have a three-year-old son, Zachary and custody of Cohn's two children - Max, 14, and Emily, 11 - from a previous marriage.

The 44-year-old Vargas will stick with her "World News Tonight" duties for the next few months. She will also continue to cohost the network's "20/20" news magazine with John Stossel until stork time.

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'ABC News' Bob Woodruff

While the announcement threatened to further destabilize the newscast, it was greeted happily by staffers, said ABC News boss David Westin. "I told Elizabeth that during such a difficult time for all of us, it's good to get such wonderful, life-affirming news," Westin said in a statement.

But clearly, everyone's mind is still on Woodruff, 45, who suffered serious head wounds in the January 29 blast. Said Vargas: "This is joyous news for Marc and our family. At the same time, our immediate concern remains with Bob, [wife] Lee, and the entire Woodruff family as we hope and pray for continuing good news about his recovery."

With Woodruff recuperating at Bethesda Medical Center in Maryland, Westin has tapped the "Good Morning America" tandem of Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer to tag-team with Vargas on "World News Tonight."

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The late Peter Jennings at the anchor desk

Vargas and Woodruff were tapped as "World News Tonight" coanchors in December, taking over for Jennings, who died last August of lung cancer. The revamped "World New Tonight" premiered on January 2 to solid ratings but still trailed NBC's "Nightly News." Viewership has spiked in the past two weeks as people tuned in to receive updates on Woodruff's condition.

News of the pregnancy caps a difficult year for Vargas and Cohn. The Grammy-winning Cohn, 56, best known for his hit, "Walking in Memphis," is lucky to be alive after being shot in the head last summer by a carjacker in Denver.

Doctors were able to remove a bullet lodged near the singer's temple and he made a swift recovery--even appearing with his wife for a "20/20" interview. His 26-year-old assailant was later caught by police.

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  • 10 months later...

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Injured Newsman Woodruff Plans ABC Return

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Bob Woodruff

ABC News Anchor Bob Woodruff will return to the air next month in a one-hour special that will tell the story of his recovery from injuries suffered in a roadside bombing in Iraq last year. "To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports" will air on Tuesday, February 27 at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Woodruff was severely injured on January 29, 2006 while traveling in an Iraqi army convoy outside Baghdad. He and cameraman, Doug Vogt, had been taping a stand-up report when an improvised explosive device blew up. Woodruff received severe shrapnel wounds, and Vogt also was seriously injured. Woodruff was airlifted to a U.S. military hospital, where his life was saved.

He will talk to the ABC News producers and soldiers who were with him, and the medical teams that treated him in Iraq, at a U.S. military hospital in Germany and then at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. The primetime report also will focus on soldiers at Bethesda who have been severely wounded.

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