Martha's Moment

The speech was vintage Martha Stewart, a paean to her beloved cats, the holiday season that shall go unadorned, a freedom "about to be curtailed." When it was over, so was the two-year struggle to avoid prison time. Stewart asked a federal judge Wednesday to let her begin serving her five-month sentence immediately, even as her conviction is under appeal. Ever the well-planned homemaker, Stewart explained, "I would like to be back as early in March as possible to plant the new spring garden."

The Minus Touch

The United States' appetite for the world's goods, capital and services reached record heights last quarter, the Commerce Department said Tuesday, resulting in a $166.2 billion current account deficit. The nation's deficit in trade and investment now represents 5.7 percent of the gross domestic product, considered unsustainable by many economists, who fear that foreigners will tire of keeping the U.S. afloat. On cue, the Treasury said Thursday that foreign capital flows into the United States fell 14 percent in July.

Auto Focus

It has been some time since activists crushed the Corvair and pilloried the Pinto, but auto safety advocacy is on the rise. Last week, federal regulators expanded a probe into Honda CR-Vs to determine why some burst into flames after the initial oil change. The same agency gave carmakers five years to get rid of rocker switches on power windows, which have strangled children. They then upgraded a probe into Chevy Suburbans and GMC Yukons, where overheating fuel-pump wires may melt holes in their fuel tanks.

Striking Blow

After being crushed by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Washington's hotel industry was finally back on its feet this year, with 76 percent room occupancy over the first seven months. But Wednesday the contract that 14 hotels, containing 28 percent of the District's rooms, had with their workers expired. As of Friday a strike was considered imminent. One union demand: a two-year contract instead of the traditional three-year deal, which would cause contracts in several cities to expire at the same time.

Glancing Blow

Oil rigs were evacuated, coastal refineries shut down, insurance companies ducked for cover, but when Hurricane Ivan made landfall, the big blow was a bit of a bust for business. Ivan will cost between $2 billion and $7 billion, according to damage assessments. But that is modest compared with predictions as high as $20 billion. That would have put Ivan in the range of Andrew in 1992. Still, the costs are adding up, after Charley inflicted $7 billion in insured losses and Frances blew away $2 billion to $4 billion.