The protesters convened for a final planning meeting, already triumphant, convinced that nine months of preparation was about to pay off. Antiwar organizers who had come to Washington from 27 states exchanged hugs inside a Columbia Heights convention hall and modeled their protest costumes: orange jumpsuits, "death masks," shackles and T-shirts depicting bloody Afghan children. Then Pete Perry, the event organizer, stood up to deliver a welcome speech.
"This is a great moment for our movement," he said. "We are continuing an incredible tradition."
"Like Gandhi," said the next speaker.
"Like Martin Luther King," said another.
The idea of a tax credit for companies that create new jobs, something the federal government has not tried since the 1970s, is gaining support among economists and Washington officials grappling with the highest unemployment in a generation.
The proposal has some bipartisan appeal among politicians eager both to help their unemployed constituents and to encourage small-business development. Legislators on Capitol Hill and President Obama’s economic team have been quietly researching the policy for several weeks.
“There is a lot of traction for this kind of idea,” said Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican whip. “If the White House will take the lead on this, I’m fairly positive it would be welcomed in a bipartisan fashion.”
President Barack Obama's top defense and diplomacy advisers said the United States retains the Afghanistan war goal that he outlined just two months into his presidency - to sideline al-Qaida - but changing circumstances require a reassessment of how to get there.
A "snap decision" on whether to add more U.S troops would be counterproductive, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday.
Whatever the president decides, the military will salute, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
"It's important that at the end of the day that the president makes a decision that he believes in," Clinton added.
It was a scene repeated countless times during the Bush years:
A few hundred people massed on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House, wearing orange jumpsuits and hoods, holding photos of wounded children or carrying coffins. They chanted antiwar slogans, acted out waterboarding and pretended to die on the sidewalk. Those who refused orders to leave the area -- including ubiquitous activist Cindy Sheehan -- were arrested.
But the remarkable thing about this familiar antiwar demonstration is that it occurred Monday, and the target was not George W. Bush but the White House's current occupant. Protesters' signs carried Obama-specific barbs: "Change? What Change?" "The Audacity of War Crimes." "Yes We Can: U.S. Out of Afghanistan."
They cashed out retirement funds to build their business during the 2008 presidential campaign. Now they have 3,000 jack-in-the-boxes with smiling Barack Obama puppets inside -- all sitting in a California warehouse, waiting to be sprung open for $29.95 apiece.
For Barack-in-the-Box creator Heather Courtney and her husband, David Manzo, the Obamamania that drove sales so fast they could barely keep up during the inauguration is over now. Sales have slowed to a "sporadic drizzle," the 36-year-old artist said, in part because the president just isn't as popular.
Back in January, it was nearly impossible to escape the Obama commercial boom.
Consumer bankruptcies soared 41 percent in September from a year before and climbed from August, as high unemployment and the housing market crash took their toll, the American Bankruptcy Institute said on Friday.
September filings totaled 124,790, the fourth-highest month since the bankruptcy law changed in 2005.
Filings also rose 4 percent from August, even as recent reports have indicated that the U.S. housing market might be stabilizing and consumer confidence appears to be recovering.
September's filings pushed 2009 consumer bankruptcies to about 1.05 million, the highest for the first nine months of a year since 1.35 million in 2005.
The American Bankruptcy Institute said it expects consumer bankruptcies to climb to more than 1.4 million this year.
The nation's big city police chiefs are backing an anti-terrorism community watch program to educate people about what behavior is truly suspicious and ought to be reported to police.
Police Chief William Bratton of Los Angeles, whose department developed the iWATCH program, calls it the 21st century version of Neighborhood Watch.
Using brochures, public service announcements and meetings with community groups, iWATCH is designed to deliver concrete advice on how the public can follow the oft-repeated post-9/11 recommendation: "If you see something, say something." Program materials list nine types of suspicious behavior that should prompt people to call police and 12 kinds of places to look for it.
Among the indicators:
- If you smell chemicals or other fumes.
The unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent in September as employers cut far more jobs than expected, evidence that the longest recession since the 1930s is still inflicting widespread pain.
The Labor Department said Friday that the economy lost a net total of 263,000 jobs last month, up from a downwardly revised 201,000 in August. That's above Wall Street economists' expectations of 180,000 job losses, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.
The unemployment rate rose from 9.7 percent in August, matching expectations.
If laid-off workers who have settled for part-time work or have given up looking for new jobs are included, the unemployment rate rose to 17 percent, the highest on records dating from 1994.
Like too many elected officials, Sen. John Ensign likes to screw around. He nailed Cynthia Hampton, a campaign worker.
Hampton was also the wife of his top Washington aide: Douglas Hampton.
So Ensign tried to smooth things over by helping Hampton get a job with some of his fatcat supporters.
Hampton, with Ensign's help, landed a good gig with a political consulting firm and the Senator who screwed his wife helped out by lining up campaign donors as clients.
Which put Hampton in violation of ethics laws that bar senior Senate aides from lobbying their old place of employment for at least a year after leaving the job.
And it puts Ensign in a position far more compromising than his bedroom antics.
As long as the federal government pumps money into stimulus programs like "cash for clunkers," the economy shows some signs of recovery.
But when the federal dollars run out, so does the economic bubble the cash created.
Without massive infusions of federal dollars, the American economy sputters to a halt and pessimism about the future returns.
Unemployment remains high, consumers remain wary and employers keep laying off workers.
In other words, more of the same.