This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The Department of Agriculture reports that the number of students receiving free or reduced lunch soared by 17 percent last year. That's up to 21 million. Given the state of the economy, the statistics may come as no surprise, but each new child who qualifies for free lunch means another family fallen out of the middle class.
One day after the United Nations said that more than 5,000 people have died in nine months of protests and clashes against the Syrian government, the AP quotes activists saying that at least 28 more people died Tuesday at the hands of Syrian security forces.
Fighting between the government and the opposition was heaviest along the country's northwestern border with Turkey.
A bill before Congress that would allow some types of "robocalls" to be made to cellphones if consumers have given companies their numbers doesn't have many sponsors and wouldn't seem to be the kind of legislation that would stand much of a chance of passing when an election year looms.
But it's getting an increasing amount of attention this week thanks to something that's very rare these days — bipartisan opposition.
The federal government will stop minting unwanted $1 coins, the White House said Tuesday. The move will save an estimated $50 million a year.
Earlier this year, we reported on the mountain of $1 coins sitting unused in government vaults. The pile-up — an estimated 1.4 billion coins — was caused by a 2005 law that ordered the minting of coins honoring each U.S. president.
Americans are craving food grown locally: There are now more than 6,000 farmers markets across the country. Here Ron Samascott organizes apples from his orchard in Kinderhook, N.Y., at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York.
You can talk about the global village, a mobile society and the World Wide Web all you want, but many in our country seem to be turning toward a New American Localism.
These days, we are local folks and our focus is local. We are doing everything locally: food, finance, news, charity. And maybe for good reasons.
"One bedrock thing that is going on," says Brad Edmondson, founder of ePodunk and former editor of American Demographics magazine, is that "because of aging and the recession, people aren't moving around as much."
And now the Opinion Page, which was moved - which we moved from its regular Monday slot this week because of our special broadcast yesterday from National Geographic. After big demonstrations in Moscow and other cities in Russia over the weekend, we heard comparisons to the Arab Spring. Some predicted the protests could herald sweeping change. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Kathryn Stoner-Weiss argues that the protests are not completely meaningless, but she concluded that things will go on, much as they did before.
Until the beginning of this month, Donald Berwick served as administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Dr. Berwick's nomination got caught up in the partisan politics that accompany passage of the health care law, and he took office under a controversial recess appointment. His mission was to make the centers more efficient, to cut costs and to deliver more patient-centered care. On his way out of office, he said that as much as a third of the money spent on Medicare and Medicaid is wasted.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. About 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, and they will all leave by the end of this month. Yesterday, President Obama marked the end of the nearly nine-year-long war as a campaign promise kept. He stood beside Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki yesterday and reflected on the costs and said U.S. troops will leave with their heads held high.