Zach Houston runs his Poem Store (on any given sidewalk) with these items: a manual typewriter, a wooden folding chair, scraps of paper, and a white poster board that reads: "POEMS — Your Topic, Your Price."
Houston usually gets from $2 to $20 for a poem, he says. He's received a $100 bill more than once. The Oakland, Calif., resident has been composing spontaneous street poems in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2005. Five years ago, it became his main source of income.
The 2012 presidential election is approaching, and President Obama's fate may hinge on how well the economy fares over the coming months.
On the campaign trail, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been highlighting the economy's weaknesses. The former Massachusetts governor has made a similar claim about the president, and the recession, at almost every campaign stop.
"I don't blame the president for the downturn," Romney told a crowd in New Hampshire earlier this year. "He didn't cause it. But he made it worse and made it last longer."
There's a boom in natural gas production in the United States, a boom so big the market is having trouble absorbing it all.
The unusually warm weather this winter is one reason for the excess, since it reduced the need for people to burn gas to heat their homes. A bigger reason, however, is the huge increase in gas production made possible by new methods of coaxing gas out of shale rock formations.
This week, NATO Cabinet ministers, including U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will try to tackle the problem of Afghan security. The basic plan for bringing American troops home from Afghanistan is to let Afghan security forces fight for their own country. But there's a hitch — finding a way to pay for the Afghan army.
The Great Recession slammed into all age groups, flattening the career dreams of young people and squeezing the retirement accounts of middle-aged savers. It financially crippled many elderly people who had thought they could stand on their own.
Originally published on Mon April 16, 2012 5:45 pm
As we've reminded everyone, April 17 (Tuesday) is the deadline for filing federal income tax returns. It's also the deadline for filing income tax returns in most states. Our friend Alan Greenblatt tells about something he finds surprising:
The man driving the investigation into the General Services Administration, California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, took the top seat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee after the GOP won a majority in 2010.
Issa has led several splashy investigations since. But he's also been dogged by allegations of his own.
Issa has made news in recent months by threatening to subpoena Attorney General Eric Holder, and by calling a panel of only men to talk about women's contraception.
For those who will be in the Washington, D.C., area Tuesday morning and would like to see space shuttle Discovery on the "fly-in" to its retirement home outside the nation's capital, the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum recommends being in one of these seven "great locations" before 10 a.m. ET:
Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 1:00 pm
To White House outsiders and maybe even more than a few insiders, the life of a first lady would seem to be a fairly anxiety-inducing one. After all, there is no greater fish bowl than 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
So NPR's Michel Martin, host of Tell Me More, asked First Lady Michelle Obama during an interview scheduled to air Tuesday how she deals with the pressures of being both the president's wife and the mother of school-age children.
The Central American nation of Panama is booming. Fueled by a multibillion-dollar expansion of the Panama Canal, a thriving banking industry and capital flight from Venezuela, the tiny nation has the highest economic growth rate in the hemisphere.
But even as the government builds a subway system and markets the country as a tropical paradise for multinational corporations, not everyone is sharing in the prosperity.
On Tuesday morning, space shuttle Discovery will become the first of NASA's three shuttles — plus a shuttle prototype — to travel to its new retirement home.
NASA flew its last shuttle flight in July. Since then, it's been prepping the spaceships to become museum displays. And even though the shuttles are headed to places like Los Angeles and New York rather than the space station, figuring out how to get them there has still been a major undertaking.
Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 10:52 am
First lady Michelle Obama wears many hats in the White House. In addition to being President Obama's closest confidante, she's also a mother whose two daughters are growing up in one of the most public homes in America.
And as first lady, Mrs. Obama has taken on her own signature public issues, as well.
Her Let's Move campaign has brought attention to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. She has encouraged children to eat right and get plenty of exercise.
When Jeff Barillaro came home from fighting the war in Iraq, he felt lost, like thousands of veterans do. He didn't have a mission anymore.
But now, through music, he's found one: Under the stage name Soldier Hard, Barillaro raps — about how war has changed troops and their families. Other vets and their family members are now turning to his music, because they say he's speaking to them.
On a recent morning, the National Guard Armory in Evansville, Ind., looks and sounds like any military base in the country.
For its "distinguished ... reporting on significant issues of local concern," reporter Sara Ganim and The Patriot News of Harrisburg, Pa., have won a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the so-called Penn State scandal.
The United Nations Security Council issued a strong condemnation after North Korea's failed satellite launch attempt. Such condemnations were also issued in 2006 and 2009. In a piece in Foreign Affairs, Dartmouth College government professor Jennifer Lind argues that North Korea gets too many second chances.
Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 2:46 pm
Want extra salt with that fast-food meal? Then buy it in the United States, where chicken dishes, pizzas, and even salads are loaded with far more salt than in Europe and Australia, according to new research.
The McDonald's Chicken McNuggets in the United States have more than twice as much salt as their sister nuggets in the United Kingdom. That's 1.6 grams of salt for every 100 grams of American nugget, compared with 0.6 grams in the U.K.
Misery loves company. Multitudes are no doubt making the last-minute scramble to finish taxes today. If that's the case for you, perhaps you can take solace in the fact that this tax misery is a long-lived American tradition.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We don't know much about Saturday's talks in Istanbul between Iran and the group of six major powers, but all sides used positive terms like constructive and agreed to a second round in Baghdad.
While diplomacy continues, the United States warns that the window for talks is closing. There's open talk of preemptive air strikes in Israel, and ever-tightening sanctions continue to squeeze Iran's economy.
The documentary Bully caught national attention when it received an R rating for harsh language from the Motion Picture Association of America. Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company — which distributed the film — discusses the decision to re-edit the film for release with a PG-13 rating.