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.
The worst violence ended two years ago. Iraq is stable.
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.
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.
The Erie Canal.
Because of the University, State College is in the only county in Pennsylvania where GDP grew in 2008. Producer Nancy Updike visited with local businesses and learned several tips for thriving at the nation's top party school.
Producer Nancy Updike speaks with Specialist Lindsay Freeland of the Oregon National Guard about the trips Freeland takes at night in Iraq, providing security for convoys heading to forward operating bases.
More stories of travelers and workers at a highway rest stop. The competition between Plattekill and Maine continues.
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.
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.