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FROM THIS EPISODE

President Obama won't be on the scene for the Winter Olympics, but there's a lot at stake in Sochi for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The opening ceremonies are tomorrow, but qualifying for some events began today. We get updates on those and on the many controversies surrounding the most expensive Olympics in history. Also, Pakistan negotiates with the Taliban. On today's Talking Point, 68 million Americans have little or no access to banks, but there are post offices in their neighborhoods. Could the troubled Postal Service come to the rescue — and reap a financial windfall? 

Banner image: Jessika Jenson of the US performs a last jump during the women's snowboard slopestyle qualifying session at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, February 6, 2014. Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters

Producers:
Andrea Brody
Caitlin Shamberg
Katie Cooper

Pakistan Negotiates with the Taliban 7 MIN, 39 SEC

The Obama Administration's drone strikes in Pakistan have been on hold at the request of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.  He wants negotiations with the Taliban, who've killed thousands of Pakistanis since 2007. Today, the first formal meeting was called the beginning of a "journey for peace." Christine Fair is assistant professor at Georgetown University's Center for Peace and Security Studies.

Guests:
Christine Fair, Georgetown University (@CChristineFair)

Madrassah Challenge

C. Christine Fair

Let the Games Begin 36 MIN, 21 SEC

The opening ceremonies aren't until tomorrow, and the flame has yet to be lit, but the first events of the Sochi Winter Olympics are already under way. American star Shaun White suffered an injury in slope-style snowboarding, but others have qualified. Team ice-dancing is under way for the first time. Yet, as the athletes take center stage, there's still tall about terror threats, the assault on gay rights, unfinished hotel rooms, stray dogs and financial corruption. Did President Obama pass up an opportunity by staying home?  Will the Gold Medal for diplomacy go to Russian President Vladimir Putin?

Guests:
Christopher Clarey, New York Times (@christophclarey)
David Wallechinsky, International Society of Olympics Historians (@westwood1sports)
Edward Lozansky, American University in Moscow (@EdwardLozansky)
Sean Gregory, Time magazine (@seanmgregory)

Could the Post Office Be a Bank for the Poor? 6 MIN, 42 SEC

With almost no banks in their neighborhoods, 68 million Americans don't have checking or savings accounts. Fees to pay-day lenders and other financial predators cost some 10% of their incomes. That's according to the Inspector General of the Postal Service, who says his agency may have a solution. With three fifths of all post offices in ZIP codes with only one bank or no banks at all, the Postal Service is well positioned to provide such financial services. The banking industry doesn't like it.

Guests:
Joshua Brustein, Businessweek (@joshuabrustein)

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