Is lying about military service and claiming to have won a medal a crime or just bragging that is covered by freedom of speech?
That's a question facing federal courts right now as they struggle to deal with those who lie about being war heroes.
The question tests the validity of the Stolen Valor Act, a law passed by Congress three years ago that makes it a federal crime to falsely claim to have received a medal from the military. Those convicted face up to a year in jail even if they haven't profited from the lie.
Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School says the law could violate the First Amendment protections of free speech because it, in effect, makes it illegal for someone to brag.
"Half the pickup lines in bars across the country could be criminalized under the concept," Turley says.
When it came to stunts, nothing was too gonzo for James O'Keefe.
The man who offered himself up as a pimp to set up activists at ACORN would do just about anything for the cause -- as long as the cause was conservative and anti-liberal.
O'Keefe would set up bogus photo ops, brandish over-sized checks and even dress up in a chicken suit if it suited the purpose.
He produced a video, "Bailout Prize Patrol, on YouTube a year before his famous ACORN "pimp" undercover video.
Sometimes people laughed. Other times they called the cops, like the New Jersey bank branch manager who wasn't amused when O'Keefe and four others conned her into posting for a photograph with an oversized check that was supposed to represent federal bailout funds.
A blizzard battered the Mid-Atlantic region on Saturday, quickly dumping large amounts of snow on that piled up on roadways and toppled trees onto apartment buildings and cars.
Officials urged people to huddle at home for the weekend, out of the way of crews trying to keep up with a storm that forecasters said could be the biggest for the nation's capital in modern history. A father and son were killed in Virginia when a tractor-trailer struck and killed them after they stopped to help another driver.
Faced with record levels of red ink into the foreseeable future, Washington is spending $2.5 million to create buzz for the census — by advertising during the Super Bowl.
The Census Bureau is hoping to exploit the strong ratings from this annual attraction, aiming to get more participation from people who now seem disinclined to mail back a government questionnaire or even answer the door.
Census officials call it a good investment, saying the front-end costs of purchasing the ads can be quickly recouped if they succeed in encouraging people to mail back their census forms. A recent poll found nearly 1 in 5 residents said they may not fill them out, mostly because they were unfamiliar with the census or weren't interested.
A judge declared Friday that a former aide to John Edwards was in contempt of court, demanding that he turn over a "personal" videotape being sought by Edwards' former mistress.
Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones reprimanded Andrew Young in a court hearing Friday but declined to put him in custody. The contempt ruling will be lifted if Young turns over a videotape "of a personal nature" and other items by Wednesday, Jones said.
"These items are to be produced and turned over to the court," Jones said. "The court will put them under lock and key — and under seal — until the lawsuit is resolved."
The unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly in January to 9.7 percent, while employers shed 20,000 jobs, according to a report that offered hope the economy will add jobs soon.
The unemployment rate dropped from 10 percent because a survey of households found the number of employed Americans rose by 541,000, the Labor Department said Friday. The job losses are calculated from a separate survey of employers.
Former Alaska Gov. and defeated GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin did not report construction of two new cabins built on property she partially owns and has failed to pay taxes on the new construction.
Local tax officials haven't issued tax assessments for the two-story, house-sized cabins, a workshop and a sauna spotted Thursday in an aerial survey. Palin did pay $156.13 in property taxes in 2009 -- but did not notify the local about the new construction nearly 100 miles north of Anchorage.
Chief executives at some of the biggest financial institutions are on a mission to repair their image with Congress and the public, part of a strategy to gain more influence over legislation that would overhaul financial regulations and intrude further into their business.
Top bankers fanned out across Capitol Hill on Thursday, meeting with House and Senate members involved in banking policies. They were led by Richard Davis, the chairman and CEO of U.S. Bancorp, and Robert Kelly, chairman and CEO of Bank of New York Mellon.
"The No. 1 goal we have is to be relevant to this fix," said Davis, who is also chairman of the Financial Services Roundtable, an industry group.
Job losses during the Great Recession have been huge and they're about to get bigger.
When the Labor Department releases the January unemployment report Friday, it will also update its estimate of jobs lost in the year that ended in March 2009. The number is expected to rise by roughly 800,000, raising the number of jobs shed during the recession to around 8 million.
The new data will help illustrate the scope of the jobs crisis. Analysts think the economy might generate 1 million to 2 million jobs this year. And they say it will take at least three to four years for the job market to return to anything like normal.
"It's going to take a long time to dig out of this hole," said Julia Coronado, senior U.S. economist at BNP Paribas.
Former Secretary of State and retired Army general Colin Powell joined the chorus of officials urging an end to the military's ban on gays serving openly.
Powell previously opposed allowing gays to serve in the military, opposing former President Bill Clinton's efforts to end the ban in 1993.
"In the past 17 years since the 'Don't ask, don't tell' legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed," Powell said Wednesday.
"I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week," Powell said.