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Vladimir Putin's surprise withdrawal of military forces from Syria appears to less than he promised. We hear what's happening — and not happening — on the ground and how Putin's intentions are being interpreted from Washington to Moscow.

Later on the program, presidential debates appear to be over for the Republicans this year, although Democratic candidates will talk their way through two more. Beyond boosting the ratings for cable TV, what is the real purpose of these confrontations?  Do they achieve it?

Photos: Russia's President Putin holds a briefing session with permanent members of the Security Council, March 17, 2016

Passing the Blame Buck on the Flint Water Crisis 6 MIN, 14 SEC

Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder took a beating today at a congressional hearing on lead poisoning in the City of Flint's water supply. Pennsylvania Senator Matt Cartwright challenged his claim that he took "immediate action" as soon as he learned about the lead issue, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified that "the state provided our regional office with confusing, incomplete and absolutely incorrect information. Their interactions with us were intransigent, misleading and contentious." Chad Livengood covering the hearing for the Detroit News.

Chad Livengood, Detroit News (@ChadLivengood)

Russia's Withdrawal from Syria: Is It Real? 34 MIN, 49 SEC

Vladimir Putin surprised the world when he suddenly started bombing in Syria last September. This week, he surprised the world again when he ordered the "main part" of his military forces out of Syria. The Pentagon says the Russians aren't going away. Long-range missiles and bombs are still falling, and Russia's airbase and naval station are permanent fixtures. For the moment, Putin's surprise move has kept him out of the "quagmire" predicted by President Obama, but his long-range intentions are unclear. His air assaults did enough damage to embolden President Assad to join talks in Geneva, but are Syrians any closer to ending a savage civil war?

Matthew Rojansky, Wilson Center (@MatthewRojansky)
Fred Weir, Christian Science Monitor (@fredweir3)
Joshua Landis, University of Oklahoma (@joshua_landis)
Hussein Ibish, Arab Gulf States Institute / International New York Times (@Ibishblog)

Primary Debates: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 8 MIN, 38 SEC

This year's televised presidential debates have reached bigger audiences than ever before. What purposes have they served? What have they contributed to the democratic process?

CNN reporter Wolfe Blitzer attempts to moderate a Republican debate, February 26, 2016

The Democrats still have two televised presidential debates planned for this year, but the Republicans cancelled their last encounter, scheduled for Monday, when Donald Trump declined to appear. In all, they conducted 12 encounters, which sometimes sounded presidential and sometimes something quite less than that. Kathleen Hall Jamieson is director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania (@AnnenbergPenn)

The Press Effect

Kathleen Hall Jamieson

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