Assembly lines that run like clockwork. Supplies that arrive just in time. Dedicated workers trained to spot defects, churning out quality cars in the millions. Such are the trademarks of "Toyota Way" manufacturing.
That's why the automaker's recent bungling over a spate of global recalls appears so out of character.
As ordered by President Barack Obama, the military is looking at how it can remove the ban on gays serving openly in their ranks.
But don't expect it to happen anytime soon.
As with any change in America's bloated military bureaucracy, a complete repeal is the "don't ask, don't tell policy" is probably years away.
It's bad enough that Greece's debt problems have rattled global financial markets. In the world's largest economic and military power, there's a far more serious debt dilemma.
For the U.S., the crushing weight of its debt threatens to overwhelm everything the federal government does, even in the short-term, best-case financial scenario — a full recovery and a return to prerecession employment levels.
The government already has made so many promises to so many expanding "mandatory" programs. Just keeping these commitments, without major changes in taxing and spending, will lead to deficits that cannot be sustained.
Congressional Republicans sent mixed signals after President Barack Obama challenged them to participate in a one-of-a-kind televised summit with Democrats to come up with legislation on overhauling the nation's health care.
House Republicans derided the Feb. 25 event, casting doubt on whether it would yield any bipartisan agreement to extend coverage to millions of Americans and rein in medical costs. "Are they willing to start over with a blank sheet of paper?" said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio. "We need answers before we know if the White House is more interested in partisan theater than in facilitating a productive dialogue about solutions."
The Obama administration appears increasingly unsure what to do with professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after officials indicated they are reconsidering not just where he should go on trial, but whether he should face civilian or military justice.
Both Attorney General Eric Holder and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs did not rule out a military trial when asked Friday about the Obama administration's options.
Republican groups are raising money under the guise of the U.S. Census Bureau, leaving the government's people-counters worried that a flurry of misleading letters could make some Americans less likely to respond to the real thing.
After the Republican National Committee raised money with such mailings, congressional Republicans are now conducting a fundraising "census" of their own.
Humvees, the all-terrain, multi-purpose vehicles that replaced the Jeep as a symbol of military transport, may soon follow its civilian counterpart into the scrapheap of history.
The Army did not include any new orders for the Humvee in the service's recent budget proposal and Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, an Army spokesman, says the 2,620 vehicles currently under order from Mishawaka, Ind.-based AM General are the last.
The Army, Cummings says, is moving on to newer technology and other vehicles.
Blackwater Worldwide, the mercenary firm that the administration of former President George W. Bush allowed to run amuck in Iraq, defrauded the U.S. government for years by filing fake expenses reports, double billing and charging government agencies for strippers and whores, court records show.
Two former employees of the para-military firm, in documents filed under a 2008 lawsuit, outlined the pattern of theft of taxpayer funds in Blackwater activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and even in Louisiana in the weeks and months following Hurricane Katrina.
The second of back-to-back blizzards that smothered the East Coast and eclipsed seasonal snowfall records with more than a month of winter remaining had tapered off by Thursday, although governments and schools remained closed to contend with the aftermath.
In Washington, D.C., the federal government planned to be closed for a fourth straight day, while city agencies and schools in the hardest-hit regions also scored snow days. The nation's capital joined Philadelphia and Baltimore in logging their snowiest winters in history.
For a decade, war widows in matching yellow suit jackets and hats quietly and persistently have knocked on Capitol Hill doors seeking an end to the "widows' tax," a government policy that deprives them of benefits from their husbands' military service.
They are always warmly received, but that's where the hospitality ends. Despite pledges of help from scores of federal officials — including President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — their long quest remains unfulfilled.