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Nancy Updike

Act Three

Nancy speaks with Nazanin Rafsanjani about the Iranian custom Tarof, which leads people to constantly offer things they may not want to give, and to refuse things they really want. Nazanin is a producer for the public radio show On The Media.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass speaks with reporter Larry Kaplow and producer Nancy Updike, who spent a month in Iraq as the US combat mission was ending, in August 2010, talking to Iraqis. They play excerpts from a conversation they had with a Shiite professor—who had pizza recently with a Sunni friend, and realized just how tense things still are in Iraq.

Act One: What Just Happened?

To understand where we are today in Iraq, we tell the story of one Iraqi, Saad Oraibi Ghaffouri Al-Obeidi, also known as Abu Abed—a man who fought alongside the US during the surge, and is now in exile—and what he saw, and was part of, over seven years of the war.

Act Two: Politics as Usual

Larry and Nancy head to Diyala Province north of Baghdad, and meet with a mayor and a member of the provincial council—like a state legislature—to see why is politics in Iraq utterly stalled.

Act Two: Bridge and Tunnel

In the Middle East, hundreds and hundreds of tunnels connect the Gaza strip and Egypt, allowing supplies to bypass the Israeli blockade against Hamas-controlled Gaza. Producer Nancy Updike speaks with Ira about the tunnels, and plays tape from an interview she conducted with a tunnel owner.

Act Two: I'd Like To Spank The Academy

For the last 13 years, the University of Montevallo in Alabama has held an event called "The Life Raft Debate," where several professors take the stage and each tries to convince the students that his or her discipline—chemistry, say, or communications—is the most essential field of study. But in 2007, a professor named Jon Smith decided that the debate itself needed saving.

Act One: Side Effects May Include...

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.

Act Three: Yes, No or Baby

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.

Prologue

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.

Act One: Mr. Adam's Neighborhood

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.

Prologue

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.

Prologue

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.