Consumer spending, the bulwark of economic growth, is showing signs of life as the economy transitions from recession to recovery.
The key question is whether the spending rebound can be sustained while U.S. households face rising employment, tight credit conditions and other obstacles.
Economists believe that consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of total economic activity, surged in August, reflecting the success of the government's Cash for Clunkers car rebate program.
This week's headlines declared the so-called public option dead on arrival after the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday rejected two versions of it offered by Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.
Dead? It is not dead, but it is dead. Let me explain. Last week I attended a breakfast hosted by the Democratic Women's Working Group in the House, and four female House Democrats insisted at that event that if any form of health care reform emerges from the Senate, the public option will be included in the House version. They added that Democrats have the votes to push it through when the House-Senate conference committee meets to iron out differences between the two chambers' bills.
Frankly, the investigative journalism gig has gotten pretty easy these days.
In the corridors of power, evidence is as easy to pick up as cigar butts used to be, of the cynical way the game is played. Evidence abounds fingering the rule-breakers and wrongdoers, deceivers and distorters, buck-passers and buck-wasters, and of course, the standard-bearers who get caught baring their double standards.
So today's news is about a rare find among the Washington elite: A straight-talking top official who answers tough questions without the usual duck-and-dodge, who has a top job he never sought and doesn't really want -- and who even volunteers to take the blame for recommending a controversial presidential policy that flopped.
Yes, Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The Supreme Court could ignite a vigorous new fight over state and local gun controls across the nation when it rules on a challenge to Chicago's handgun ban.
The court said Wednesday it will consider a challenge to Chicago's ban, and even gun control supporters believe a victory is likely for gun-rights proponents.
If the court rules that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms doesn't allow the city's outright handgun ban, it could lead to legal challenges to less-restrictive laws that limit who may own guns, whether firearms must be registered and even how they must be stored.
When publishers call their editorial writers together for the daily conference, they often like to say: "So, how are we solving the world's problems today?" This is a little publisher joke, because in all of recorded history, no evidence suggests that any world problem has been solved by an editorial.
Those of us who write them are not discouraged. We press on in the hope that one of us is going to get lucky and eventually solve a world problem. Still, I wouldn't sit on the edge of your seat waiting if I were you.
As one who has attended countless meetings to solve the world's problems, I am bound to note with wonder and a hint of envy that the G-20 economic summit that recently concluded in Pittsburgh achieved a remarkable feat in the annals of world-problem solving.
Anyone who has paid much attention to 20th-century warfare should be getting nervous about Afghanistan. The war there is developing the ominous characteristics of other modern unconventional conflicts. These wars have little in common with traditional ones, the kind where the proper objects of military action are straightforward targets like beachheads and bunkers.
President Barack Obama's new standards of openness in the federal government have not trickled down to some of its agencies, where officials have used special statutes inserted into bills to skirt the Freedom of Information Act, open government advocates said Wednesday.
Efforts to strengthen the 42-year-old law "have been hampered by the increasing use of legislative exemptions that are often sneaked into legislation without debate or public scrutiny," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said in remarks prepared for a hearing on the issue.
News organizations and media groups said new legislation was needed to limit the information agencies may keep secret and for how long.
For reasons that defy logic, political reality and common sense, Republicans still back former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the soap opera that surrounds her.
Even with widespread criticism and antics that doom most political careers, Palin remains a contender in GOP circles for the Republican nomination for President in 2012.
Yet Politico, in interviews with Republicans around the country, found widespread support within the party of the elephant.
Most reasoned political observers consider Palin a flake but flake or not she still plays well with the Republican base.
Which raises a troublesome question:
Call it Deja Vu all over again. An American warning that another middle eastern country is a threat because of a secret nuclear program.
This time, it's Iran.
Only the program wasn't all that secret and the threat may not be all that great.
Sound familiar? We heard the same thing in George W. Bush's buildup to the Iraq war.
And while America and its allies appeared to stand in unanimous agreement about the purported threat from Iran, they disagree behind the scenes about the validity and depth of the threat.
And, as usual, there is a wild card called Israel.
High-ranking government officials are usually protected from claims that they violated a person's civil rights. In lawsuits stemming from law enforcement and intelligence efforts after the Sept. 11 attacks, three federal courts have left open the possibility that former Attorney General John Ashcroft and a lieutenant may be held personally liable.
In two cases, judges appointed by Republican presidents have refused at an early stage to dismiss lawsuits that were filed against Ashcroft and former Justice Department official John Yoo. One complaint challenges Ashcroft's strategy of preventive detention. The other seeks to hold Yoo accountable for legal memos he wrote supporting detention, interrogation and presidential power.