#572 : November 6, 2015

Transformers

This week we have stories of people deciding to take on some very big fears. A prisoner who hasn't talked to anyone in years comes up with a bold plan to re-introduce himself to the world, while a 90-year-old woman shocks her family when she announces a love interest.

#571 : October 30, 2015

The Heart Wants What It Wants

When Jesse first started getting letters from Pamala, he couldn’t believe his luck. He'd been waiting all his life to fall in love—and then he started getting these letters from the perfect woman. Vulnerable. In need of protection. Classic beauty. He was totally devoted. They corresponded for years. And when something happens that really should change how he feels about her— he just can’t give it up.

#570 : October 16, 2015

The Night In Question

Twenty years ago, the prime minister of Israel was assassinated. The killer was a lone gunman, Israeli and Jewish, just like the prime minister. Lots of witnesses saw it happen; the assassin confessed immediately, that night, and has never recanted. But today, oddly, lots of people don’t believe it happened that way. And a question hangs over the country: did this act change the fate of the nation?

#569 : October 9, 2015

Put a Bow on It

This week we go into the room at the headquarters of fast food chain Hardee's with the people who decided that this burger with beef, hot dogs, and chips is what America should be eating. We'll hear the story of how they sold that burger and other instances where how you tell the story is more important than the literal facts.

#568 : October 2, 2015

Human Spectacle 2015

Gladiators in the Colosseum. Sideshow performers. Reality television. We've always loved to gawk at the misery or majesty of others. But this week, we ask the question: What's it like when the tables are turned and all eyes are on you? An episode from last year, with one story swapped.

#567 : September 18, 2015

What's Going On In There?

Often we see someone’s situation from the outside and think we know exactly what’s going on. This week we get inside and find out just how much more interesting the reality of it is. Including a teenaged girl who records a remarkable story about the boyfriend who abuses her, and why it’s so hard to break up with him. Also this week: our new video by Bianca Giaever.

#566 : September 11, 2015

The Land of Make Believe

A father constructs an elaborate fantasy to occupy his 12 children, and a woman finds herself sucked into a world of make believe that we almost never get to see inside.

#565 : August 28, 2015

Lower 9 + 10

Katrina bus tours go all over New Orleans, but it’s illegal for them to go into the Lower 9th Ward, the area that's been the slowest to rebuild. This week we go around talking to residents there about what matters the most to them (and what doesn't) ten years after the hurricane. The episode we did in 2005 the week of the storm is here. Pictured: map of Katrina-related fatalities. (Source)

#564 : August 14, 2015

Too Soon?

When is too soon for that celebrity comeback; that joke that is either brilliant or full-on repugnant; that parent-child conversation? This week: stories about a fallen man trying to kickstart his career with a reality show, and an awkward moment between a mom and a daughter.

#563 : August 7, 2015

The Problem We All Live With - Part Two

Last week we looked at a school district integrating by accident. This week: a city going all out to integrate its schools. Plus, a girl who comes up with her own one-woman integration plan.

#562 : July 31, 2015

The Problem We All Live With

Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there's one thing nobody tries anymore, despite lots of evidence that it works: desegregation. Nikole Hannah-Jones looks at a district that, not long ago, accidentally launched a desegregation program. First of a two-part series.

#561 : July 17, 2015

NUMMI 2015

A car plant in Fremont California that might have saved the U.S. car industry. In 1984, General Motors and Toyota opened NUMMI as a joint venture. Toyota showed GM the secrets of its production system: How it made cars of much higher quality and much lower cost than GM achieved. Frank Langfitt explains why GM didn't learn the lessons—until it was too late.

#560 : July 3, 2015

Abdi and the Golden Ticket

For July 4th, a story about someone who's desperately trying – against long odds – to make it to the United States and become an American. Abdi is a Somalian refugee living in Kenya and gets the luckiest break of his life: he wins a lottery that puts him on a short list for a U.S. visa. This is his ticket out. But before he can cash in his golden ticket, the police start raiding his neighborhood, targeting refugees.

#559 : June 26, 2015

Captain's Log

A captain’s log is a simple thing: the date, the time, maybe the weather — and the current status of a long journey. You wouldn’t know from the cryptic notations what weird worlds lurk beneath. On this week's show, stories behind those cryptic notations — including a concentration camp in China that housed groups of Girl Scouts. Also, Aziz Ansari explains the significance of a Thanksgiving text message, and Etgar Keret destroys a marriage piece by piece.

#558 : May 29, 2015

Game Face

Blair Braverman was a dog musher on an Alaskan glacier. One day the weather turned rough, and she and a pack of tourists were stuck. The worst part? They had to pretend like nothing was wrong. This and other stories of people facing very difficult situations who put their game face on and muscle through. And, we hear from people whose faces betray them and prominently display all their anxiety.

#557 : May 15, 2015

Birds & Bees

Some information is so big and so complicated that it seems impossible to talk to kids about. This week, stories about the vague and not-so-vague ways to teach children about race, death and sex - including a story about colleges responding to sexual assault by trying to teach students how to ask for consent. Also, a story about how and when to teach kids about the horrors of slavery and oppression in America.

#556 : May 1, 2015

Same Bed, Different Dreams

Stories of people who are tied together, but imagine radically different futures. In one case, a movie star and her ex-husband plot against Kim Jong-Il. In another, a woman stalks her doppleganger. And sometimes, one bed is the basis for an entire relationship, even for a man who almost never sees the person who shares his bed.

#555 : April 24, 2015

The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind

We tend to give credit to those who stand by their beliefs. But sometimes it requires even more courage to change them. This week, stories of people reconsidering how they really feel about their enemies, their homes, and themselves. We also talk to a girl named Zalena, who finds herself in a pretty unexpected place.

#554 : April 10, 2015

Not It!

Stories of people, cities, and commonwealths touching their noses and proclaiming "not it!" Including the story of how one city used a rocking chair to take retribution against a late night TV show host, and an island that takes people it doesn't want to deal with and ships them away.

#553 : April 3, 2015

Stuck In The Middle (2015)

Jan Brady is not the only one who hated being in the middle. This week we have stories about how it sucks to be in limbo or be the mediator, but we also hear from a man who absolutely loves being in that uncertain and boring middle most of us dread — on hold, listening to hold music.

#552 : March 27, 2015

Need To Know Basis

Even when you're not trying to get one over on someone, it can be useful to keep the truth to yourself. Or conversely, to not know why people are lying to your face all the time. This week we'll tell you the whole truth about not telling the whole truth. Including the story of a guy who learned to lie for the first time in his life at age 29.

#551 : March 20, 2015

Good Guys 2015

Yes fellas, lots of you think of yourselves as good guys. But what does it really take to be a good guy? We have stories of valiant men attempting to do good in challenging and not-so-challenging circumstances: in department stores, public buses, and at the bottom of a cave 900 feet underground.

#550 : March 13, 2015

Three Miles

There’s a program that brings together kids from two schools. One school is public and in the country’s poorest congressional district. The other is private and costs $43,000/year. They are three miles apart. The hope is that kids connect, but some of the public school kids just can’t get over the divide. We hear what happens when you get to see the other side and it looks a lot better.

#549 : February 27, 2015

Amateur Hour

This week, stories of people who are in put into positions they’re completely unqualified to handle … but who try to make it work anyway. Including one story of a tough group of soldiers who attempt to save lives through the power of show tunes.

#548 : February 13, 2015

Cops See It Differently, Part Two

Our second hour of stories about policing and race. We hear about one city where relations between police and black residents went terribly, and another city where they seem to be improving remarkably. And one of our producers asks: Why aren't police chiefs talking about race after incidents where unarmed black men are wrongly killed by officers?

#547 : February 6, 2015

Cops See It Differently, Part One

There are so many cops who look at the killing of Eric Garner or Mike Brown and say race didn't play a factor. And there are tons of black people who say that's insane. There's a division between people who are distrustful of the police — even scared of them — and people who see cops as a force for good. These next two weeks, we have stories of people living on both sides of that divide, and people trying to bridge it.

#546 : January 30, 2015

Burroughs 101

This American Life host Ira Glass was never into William Burroughs. Didn't get why people love his writing so much. Then he heard this radio story that changed all that, partly because it wasn't very reverential about Burroughs. For Burroughs 101st birthday, we hear that story. A bleeped version of this episode will be posted here.

#545 : January 23, 2015

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS

The Internet is the one place where it’s safe to say whatever you want — nobody will know it’s you. But the same protections that make commenters invulnerable are what make the Internet scary — even downright dangerous — for the commented upon. In this week’s show: what happens when the Internet turns on you?

#544 : January 9, 2015

Batman

Can other people's expectations of you alter what you can do physically? Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller of NPR's new radio show and podcast Invisibilia investigate that question – specifically, they look into something that sounds impossible: if people’s expectations can change whether a blind man can see.

#543 : December 26, 2014

Wake Up Now

As New Year’s approaches and people are contemplating things they want to change about themselves, we have stories of people trying to wake themselves up, shake up their own lives, or wake up others. Including the story of a company – or maybe it's a movement – called WakeUpNow.

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