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.
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.
There's this haven on the U.S. railroad—the Amtrak Quiet Car. You can't yammer on your cell phone in the Quiet Car, or yuck it up with your friends, or even talk above a murmur.
In Scranton, there's a "Citizens for McCain" office. But really, it's a "Democrats for McCain" office; flipping Democrats is vital if McCain is going to win.
Nancy Updike's story about Democrats for McCain continues.
There are some situations where making judgments about people based on limited amounts of information is not only accepted, but required. One of those situations is open adoption, where birth mothers actually choose the adoptive parents for their child. TAL producer Nancy Updike talks to a pregnant woman named Kim going through the first stage of open adoption: Reading dozens of letters from prospect parents, all of whom seem utterly capable and appealing.
This American Life producers Nancy Updike and Robyn Semien report on critters that can kill sleep: cockroaches and bedbugs.
Sometimes the inner voice telling us to do the wrong thing actually sounds like a voice. TAL producer Nancy Updike talks to people about the voices in their heads that persuade them to go astray.
This American Life producer Nancy Updike tells the story of Conrad Crane, the head of the U.S. Army Military History Institute.
This American Life producer Nancy Updike talks with a man, Eric Molinsky, about a weirdly heated argument he got into with a good friend, over corporate tax loopholes. Midway through, they both stopped to think: Why were they getting so upset over an issue they didn't really care about that much? And then they realized: Eric's ex-girlfriend was a political activist, and Eric's friend's ex-boyfriend was a hedge fund manager.
Radio reporter Adam Davidson went to Iraq to report on the war. He decided that rather than living in some journalist compound in the Green Zone or in a big hotel—places insurgents were more likely to attack—he'd fly under the radar, and keep safe...by renting a house in a residential Baghdad neighborhood.
Host Ira Glass describes the thing that we all do at some point: Talk expertly about something we don't actually know anything about. It's so common, explains This American Life contributing editor Nancy Updike, that some friends of hers invented an imaginary magazine devoted to such blathering.
How does a person who's not gay convince herself that she is for two years? Host Ira Glass talks to one of the show's contributing editors, Nancy Updike, about her two-year stint believing she was a lesbian, even though she was not attracted to women.
The private security guys (from a company called Custer Battles) who guard Baghdad International Airport usually get along fine with the U.S. military personnel stationed there—except when Nancy happened to be taping, and a huge fight broke out.
A former military man, Hank was hired by Custer Battles to clean up one of its other Iraq operations, guarding businessmen. He has a very clear idea of who he wants working for him: "flat-bellied, steely-eyed professionals." Instead, he's trying to tighten up a outfit whose workers once engaged in an extended firefight at a Baghdad hotel—against each other.
The Green Zone is where the Coalition Provisional Authority has set up its headquarters, and the former seat of Saddam Hussein's government. Nancy ends up at a hidden restaurant by a helipad, with workers for Fluor Corporation, who have just arrived in Iraq to fix power plants.
On their way out to a power plant, Nancy and Lee, a supervisor for Fluor in Iraq, get shot at by men in a BMW. When they finally get to the plant, Nancy learns why it's been so difficult to get power plants running again in the country.
Karen Hahn, who works for Custer Battles at the airport, started out there screening women passengers—and learned a lot from their handbags. Unlike most people Nancy met in Iraq, Karen is not a former military person, she doesn't work with guns or big machines, and she's never been happier in her life.
Hundred of Iraqi police officers have been killed since the United States invaded Iraq. One Boston cop, Jerry Burke, is trying to keep them on the job, and train them in Western police practices.
Nancy finally gets Hank, the Custer Battles employee, to answer the question of whether he ever has any reservations about his mission—or the country's mission—in Iraq. (3 minutes)John Kimbrough composed original music for this week's show.
We hear the story of someone trying to help all sorts of people who absolutely do not want his help. Nancy Updike reports on Dror Etkes, who has taken it as his personal mission to document the spread of Israeli settlements in the West Bank: Every shack, mobile home, housing cluster, bypass road and town.
Very few Palestinians speak Hebrew, and very few Israelis speak Arabic, even though most Palestinians and Israelis live a short drive from one another. Nancy Updike has this story about Nasser Laham, a Palestinian TV journalist in Bethlehem who has a nightly show where he translates Israeli broadcasts into Arabic.
Nancy Updike reports that life under curfew in Ramallah can be, among other things, intensely boring. She also tells the story of Sam Bahour, a Palestinian who was born and raised in Ohio, who came back to the West Bank in 1995, when peace seemed possible, to help build the Palestinian state.
What if a new Palestinian leader came on the scene who was neither part of the corrupt autocracy of the Palestinian Authority, nor part of fundamentalist, suicide-bombing Hamas? Nancy Updike follows around possible future Palestinian political candidate Mustafa Barghouti, a doctor who's well known for setting up clinics.