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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.

Former Nebraska Gov. and two-term Sen. Bob Kerrey, who faces long odds in reclaiming the seat left open by retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, is in his home state trying to get his old job back.

After a full of morning of shaking hands, smiling and trying to win over voters, Kerrey settles on lunch at the Taqueria Tijuana in south Omaha.

After lunch, he takes off walking down 24th Street, telling his staffers to catch up with him. He says things are different now from when he first sought public office in 1982.

Part of the Family Matters series

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.

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:

A new study out of UCLA suggests that when people wield a gun, they don't just feel bigger and stronger — it makes others think they are bigger and stronger.

Lottery officials in Illinois say the third of the three winning tickets in last month's record $656 million Mega Millions jackpot has been turned in.

We'll learn who the winner is on Wednesday, The Associated Press says.

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.

The Car Alarm Voice

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:

District of Columbia

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.

Another Tech Bubble? Maybe Not

Apr 16, 2012

It's beginning to feel frothy in Silicon Valley. Here are a few numbers:

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.

Thank goodness he doesn't know what's going on inside.

Candice Ludlow of member station WKNO today helps All Things Considered ketchup ... er catch up ... on a story that's been cooking for a week or so in Tennessee.

It seems that a big red rooster has been hanging out in front of a restaurant in Collierville, Tenn., for the past few months.

But it's not just any restaurant.

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.

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.

Chin up. Literally.

A big group of plastic surgeons say that chin enhancement was the fastest growing surgical procedure they performed for cosmetic purposes in the U.S. last year — up 71 percent to 20,680 operations.

Now, it's still a small number, overall, compared with breast augmentation, the No. 1 procedure at 307,180. But those surgeries rose only 4 percent in 2011 compared with 2010.

Chin work was most popular out west, which is true for most cosmetic procedures. The Northeast came in second.

The Secret Service, which has been offering protection to presidents since 1902, has long enjoyed one of the most sterling reputations of any government agency.

That reputation has been tarnished by allegations that agents hired prostitutes in Colombia in advance of President Obama's trip there.

Saxophonist Andrew Love of the Memphis Horns has died. Love, who had Alzheimer's disease, died on April 12 at his home in Memphis. He was 70 years old.

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.

(The awards were announced just after 3 p.m. ET.)

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.

Other prize winners, which were just announced, include:

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.

The World Bank's executive directors have chosen Dr. Jim Yong Kim to be the development agency's next president.

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.

At a sometimes heated hearing today where members of the House got to express outrage, the man at the center of the General Services Administration scandal refused to testify.

Is 'Tuna Scrape' The 'Pink Slime' Of Sushi?

Apr 16, 2012

The fact that there has been a salmonella outbreak among people who eat sushi isn't super surprising; raw seafood does pose more health risks than cooked fish.

But the fact that the fish implicated in the outbreak is something called "tuna scrape" sure got our attention here at The Salt.

According to the Food and Drug Administration's recall notice, tuna scrape is "tuna backmeat, which is specifically scraped off from the bones, and looks like a ground product." In other words, tuna hamburger.

The Justice Department and 41 Native American tribes recently announced a roughly $1 billion settlement. The agreement settles long-standing disputes over whether the federal government mismanaged tribal money and resources. Host Michel Martin speaks with Rob Capriccioso of Indian Country Today Media Network.

D.C. Mayor Says Residents Not Free

Apr 16, 2012

Monday is Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C. In 1862, more than 3,000 slaves in the nation's capital were freed. Host Michel Martin speaks with Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray about Emancipation Day, and why he says Washington still suffers from a type of slavery.

Could Billionaire Koch Brothers Ruin Cato?

Apr 16, 2012

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. In a few minutes, we will tell you about a billion dollar settlement, years in the making, between the Justice Department and 41 Native American tribes, over what the tribes have called years of mismanagement of tribal money and resources. We'll have that conversation in a few minutes.

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