In Tehran in 2004, Omid Memarian confessed to doing things he'd never done, meeting people he'd never met, following plots he'd never heard of. Why he did that, and why a lot of other people have confessed to the same things, is all in the fine print. This American Life producer Nancy Updike tells the story.
Producer Nancy Updike shares a pattern that she's noticed recently: eleven steps that Middle Eastern dictators have been taking on the path to losing power.
Ira speaks with Middle East specialist Michelle Dunne to answer this question: Before the recent Arab uprisings, just how hard was the US pushing the government of Egypt to enact human rights reforms? (7 1/2 minutes)
A trip to a country where the fiction that is money completely fell apart. And in this same country, through a truly incredible piece of policy making, the government tricked a 150,000,000 people into believing their money had value again.
Though the name of the Federal Reserve includes the word "federal," it's not actually part of the government. It's an independent institution tasked with something very simple, but very huge: Creating money out of thin air.
Republican Bill Jerke, a very conservative former Colorado State Legislator known as a tax "enemy," has a surprising job this election season. He's going around to lots of different conservative groups and urging voters NOT to vote for three Colorado ballot initiatives that would cut state taxes so severely, they'd essentially strangle state government from here on out.
Richard Ravitch has helped fix three governmental crises, including when New York City nearly went bankrupt in 1975. What's changed, to make it so much harder for him to solve the state's current financial crisis? Host Ira Glass reports.
Why is it that Barbados and Jamaica faced almost identical financial crises, but now Jamaica is incredibly poor and Barbados is prospering? Alex Blumberg reports on the surprising strategy Barbados used to survive its crisis. Alex first learned about this story from a paper by Peter Blair Henry, the dean of the Stern School of Business at New York University.
This American Life producer Sarah Koenig reports on a very surprising reason why insurance companies dump members, and how this reasoning contradicts President Obama's argument for what will lower health care costs.
Former Bush Administration official David Frum explains a very surprising fact about Bush's economic failure, as it relates to health care. Frum is a regular contributor to the radio show Marketplace.
Host Ira Glass talks with Susan Dentzer, editor of the journal Health Affairs, about what current health reform proposals do to fix the rising costs of healthcare...And points at a surprising, kind of heartening phenomenon happening within the current debate.
Ira goes to one of the nation's great manufacturers of fine print: The U.S.Congress. He reports on a recent House subcommittee hearing on a practice in the health insurance industry—buried in that industry's own fine print—called rescission.
Ira tells the story of the 1953 U.S. Supreme Court case that formed the basis for the controversial state secret privilege—the precedent that allows the United States government to stop lawsuits by claiming that national security secrets might be revealed in court.
Planet Money reporter Chana Joffe-Walt asks a simple question: Who was the federal regulator who was supposed to be regulating AIG? The answer turns out to be far from simple.
Alex Blumberg and NPR correspondent (and "Planet Money" reporter) Dave Kestenbaum examine what went wrong with the credit ratings agencies. When all these financial instruments that brought down our economy—the mortgage backed securities, the derivatives—were originally issued, the rating agencies (Standard and Poors, Moody's and Fitch) gave many of these things their top rating of triple-A.
Ira talks with reporter My Thuan Tran of The Los Angeles Times about how San Jose City Councilwoman Madison Nguyen went from being the "golden child" of the Vietnamese community to someone who faced weekly protests and a hunger striker. Turns out red-baiting is alive and well in the Vietnamese-American community.
The story from the prologue continues.
Our crack economics duo, Producer Alex Blumberg and NPR International Economics Correspondent Adam Davidson, on how a dead, slutty, elitist British man, John Maynard Keynes, is about to take over the American economy. President Obama's new stimulus plan relies on Keynes'; theory, which says that government can spend its way out of a downward economic spiral.
In this act, kids from the after-school literacy program "826" in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Chicago and Ann Arbor read letters they wrote to Barack Obama. The letters are part of a book the kids published, called Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country.
We asked reporters all over the country to go out and talk to people about what they're thinking as Barack Obama gets ready to take office. We got dozens of hours of interviews.
The newspaper Military Times did a survey of 2000 active duty servicemen and women, asking them about the new president. Presented with the statement, "As president, Barack Obama will have my best interests at heart," 36 percent agreed...43 percent disagreed.
Host Ira Glass goes to a McCain rally in Lehigh, PA, outside of Allentown. Obama has double-digit leads over McCain in almost every poll.
To deal with the financial crisis, our own government has also had to reinvent itself, with questionable consequences. This American Life producer Alex Blumberg and NPR's financial reporter Adam Davidson talk to Brad Setser, an economist at the Council on Foreign Relations who used to work at the U.S. Treasury.
Lawrence Wright is a reporter for the New Yorker Magazine, and an author of the bestselling book on Al Qaeda, The Looming Tower. He's also one of the few people in America who can say definitively that he was targeted by the U.S.