In less than three weeks, the remaining U.S. troops will return from Iraq. President Barack Obama is touting the end of the almost nine-year war as a fulfilled campaign promise. In an appearance with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki this week, Obama said that U.S. troops will leave "with their heads held high." Ted Koppel recently returned from Iraq as a special correspondent for Rock Center with Brian Williams. He worries that the U.S. exit will leave Iraq vulnerable to influences from Iran, and will leave the thousands of security contractors, humanitarians and other Americans who stay behind in great danger. Host Neal Conan talks with Koppel, an NPR commentator, about what lies ahead in Iraq and what the U.S. leaves behind.
Medicare and Medicaid
Until earlier this month, Dr. Donald Berwick was the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A recess appointment by President Barack Obama, Berwick's mission was was to make the Centers more efficient and cut costs. But Dr. Berwick has resigned from his position before Senate confirmation hearings could be held. Berwick tells host Neal Conan why he believes so much of what Medicare and Medicaid do is wasteful and of little benefit to patients, and why he wanted to transform the system.
Children and Poverty
According to the Department of Agriculture, over 21 million kids received free or reduced-price lunch last academic year, up 17 percent from previous years. The increase highlights a large segment of the population bearing the weight of the bad economy: children. Many formerly middle-class kids are experiencing poverty for the first time because their parents may have lost a job, home, or other assets, which may have long-term psychological impacts. Host Neal Conan speaks with Joe Wemette, former assistant superintendent for Roseville Schools in Minnesota, about how the economy has affected his district. Neal also speaks with psychologist Katherine Marshall Woods, about the impact of poverty on children and Taniesha Woods, a researcher with the National Center for Children in Poverty, about how schools and teachers can best respond to kids living in poverty.
Over the weekend, tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in Moscow to express their opposition to Vladimir Putin's campaign to return to the presidency. The peaceful demonstrations were set off by last week's parliamentary elections, which some claim were marred by fraud. On Monday, two well-known figures — a billionaire who is majority owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball franchise and the recently-ousted finance minister — announced they would challenge Putin in the presidential elections next spring. In an op-ed for The New York Times' Room For Debate, Kathryn Stoner-Weiss of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law argues while the protests are not completely meaningless, "things will go on much as they did before." Neal Conan talks with Stoner-Weiss about her op-ed, "Change In Russia Is Unlikely."