Week won't be forgotten soon

A crowd blocked most of a sidewalk Sunday night outside a glass tower at Seventh Avenue and 49th Street in midtown Manhattan. Tourists jostled at police barricades, snapping pictures.

Employees of one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious financial firms lugged cardboard boxes stuffed with their belongings to the curb. Atop one man's box, a framed poster stuck out with a one-word headline: "Survivor."

"What's going on?" one man asked. The answer: This is the house of Lehman and it is about to fold.

"You've got to be kidding me. Lehman Brothers?"

Outside the Wall Street bubble, most people sidestep the usual thin stream of business headlines during the weekend. For a day or two, we can do without the reminders that the economy is struggling. We feel it at the gas pump or the grocery store, see it in the paycheck.

Besides, what are we supposed to make of all these reports about arcane securities backed by subprime mortgages. That's just a Wall Street problem, right?

Little did we know.

It was already clear this would be no ordinary Monday. And the stock market hadn't even opened yet.

BAILOUT NEGOTIATIONS

WASHINGTON --- The Bush administration asked Congress on Saturday for the power to buy $700 billion in toxic assets clogging the financial system and threatening the economy as work began on the largest bailout since the Depression.

The rescue plan would give Washington broad authority to purchase bad mortgage-related assets from U.S. financial institutions for the next two years. It does not specify which institutions qualify or what the government would get in return for the unprecedented infusion.

The White House hoped for a deal with Congress by the time markets open Monday; top lawmakers say they would push to enact the plan as early as this week.