#499 : June 28, 2013

Taking Names

The truly incredible story of a guy named Kirk Johnson who started a list of hundreds of Iraqis who needed to get out of their country. They were getting death threats, and he was their only hope. Only 26 and living in his aunt's basement, he had no idea what to do. How Kirk kind of succeeded spectacularly and failed spectacularly at the same time. INTERACTIVE: "Emails From a Dead Man"

#498 : June 21, 2013

The One Thing You're Not Supposed To Do

This week, stories about people who know something's a bad idea, but convince themselves to do that thing anyway. Including the story of a bunch of illegal immigrants who turn themselves in to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, hoping to be sent into detention.

#497 : June 14, 2013

This Week

This week we return to one of our favorite themes: This Week! All of the stories in the show are things that have taken place in the last seven days. We've got our own take on the big, national stories of the week but we also turn a searchlight across America and find the smaller, more personal and more spectacular stories that most of us never hear.

#496 : May 31, 2013

When Patents Attack... Part Two!

Two years ago, we did a program about a mysterious business in Texas that threatens companies with lawsuits for violating its patents. But the world of patent lawsuits is so secretive, there were basic questions we could not answer. Now we can. And we get a glimpse why people say our patent system may be discouraging, not encouraging, innovation.

#495 : May 17, 2013

Hot In My Backyard

After years of being stuck, the national conversation on climate change finally started to shift — just a little — last year, the hottest year on record in the U.S., with Hurricane Sandy flooding the New York subway, drought devastating Midwest farms, and California and Colorado on fire. Lots of people were wondering if global warming had finally arrived, here at home. This week, stories about this new reality.

#494 : May 3, 2013

Hit the Road

It's spring, so we're opening windows and going places. This week we have stories of people who, for reasons that they can't always explain, feel compelled to get out and go somewhere. Including the story of one man who decides to take a trip from Philadelphia to San Francisco — by foot.

#493 : April 19, 2013

Picture Show

This week, Israeli soldiers take snapshots of Palestinian boys, one house at a time, in the middle of the night. This and other stories where getting the picture gives you the upper hand.

#492 : April 12, 2013

Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde

Dr. Benjamin Gilmer (left) gets a job at a rural clinic. He finds out he’s replaced someone — also named Dr. Gilmer (picture) — who went to prison after killing his own father. But the more Benjamin’s patients talk about the other Dr. Gilmer, the more confused he becomes. Everyone loved the old Dr. Gilmer. So Benjamin starts digging around, trying to understand how a good man can seemingly turn bad.

#491 : March 29, 2013

Tribes

A Native American tribe is doing exactly the opposite of what you'd think they'd do: they're kicking people out of the tribe, huge numbers of them, including people whose ancestors without question were part of the tribe. And the story of a white guy who only wants to date Asian women, who then has to adjust to the reality of a real actual Asian woman in his life. The phrase "finding your tribe" is a total cliche — but one that does apply to certain situations.

#490 : March 22, 2013

Trends With Benefits

The number of Americans receiving federal disability payments has nearly doubled over the last 15 years. There are towns and counties around the nation where almost 1/4 of adults are on disability. Planet Money's Chana Joffe-Walt spent 6 months exploring the disability program, and emerges with a story of the U.S. economy quite different than the one we've been hearing. Web Extra: here.

#489 : March 1, 2013

No Coincidence, No Story!

We asked listeners to send us their best coincidence stories, and we got more than 1,300 submissions! There were so many good ones we decided to make a whole show about them. From a chance encounter at a bus station to a romantic dollar bill to a baffling apparition in a college shower stall. See more of your coincidence stories — with photos — here.

#488 : February 22, 2013

Harper High School, Part Two

We pick up where we left off last week in our second hour from Harper High School in Chicago. We find out if a shooting in the neighborhood will derail the school's Homecoming game and dance. We hear the origin story of one of Harper's gangs. And we ask a group of teenagers: where do you get your guns? Harper has set up a donation page here.

#487 : February 15, 2013

Harper High School, Part One

We spent five months at Harper High School in Chicago, where last year alone 29 current and recent students were shot. 29. We went to get a sense of what it means to live in the midst of all this gun violence, how teens and adults navigate a world of funerals and Homecoming dances. We found so many incredible and surprising stories, this show is a two-parter; you can listen to Part Two here.

#486 : February 8, 2013

Valentine's Day

Love makes us do crazy things. But usually not this crazy. This week for Valentine's Day we have stories of people going to extremes to find and pursue their one true love.

#485 : January 25, 2013

Surrogates

This week we look at people who see themselves in others and try to live out their lives through stand-ins — including the story of what one father saw in the convicted murderer he decided to adopt. And the proxy battle over a woman’s honor that became a presidential obsession.

#484 : January 11, 2013

Doppelgängers

We got a tip about a meat plant selling pig intestines as fake calamari, wondered if it could be true, and decided to investigate. Doppelgängers, doubles, evil twins and not-so-evil twins, this week. Fred Armisen co-hosts with Ira Glass. EXTRAS: Fred's Ira impression on SNL. Pig/squid shirts. And prints.

#483 : January 4, 2013

Self-Improvement Kick

A perfectly normal guy gets rid of everything he owns, changes his name, says goodbye to his friends — and begins walking. In the name of peace. And Honduran government officials try to heal their corrupt country by starting a perfect city, from scratch. For the new year, we bring you stories about how far some people go in hopes of a better life.

#482 : December 21, 2012

Lights, Camera, Christmas!

This holiday season we bring you a show filled with stories of people going to great lengths to throw a special Christmas for their families. Including tales of Luna the guinea pig (pictured), Bambi the reindeer, and Jeko the super-powerful (and somewhat-scary) Christmas elf.

#481 : December 7, 2012

This Week

This week we take on ... this week. Stories united by one thing: They all happened in the seven days prior to broadcast. We try our hand reporting the global stories in Egypt and Afghanistan; and take on super local stories, too, like a man who tries valiantly — valiantly! — to actually get out of bed when his alarm clock goes off. You can also see this week in pictures. Pictured: Hyder Akbar’s car after he was ambushed in Kunar Province.

#480 : November 30, 2012

Animal Sacrifice

What animals sacrifice for us, and what we sacrifice for them. Including a story from Susan Orlean about dogs in World War II, and the This American Life staff confronts Ira about his dog, Piney.Photo: Dog wearing suicide bomb vest, 1943.

#479 : November 23, 2012

Little War on the Prairie

Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen says, nobody ever talked about the most important historical event ever to happen there: in 1862, it was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged after a war with white settlers. John went back to Minnesota to figure out what really happened 150 years ago, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it much after.

#478 : November 2, 2012

Red State Blue State

Everyone knows that politics is now so divided in our country that not only do the 2 sides disagree on the solutions to the country’s problems, they don’t even agree on what the problems are. It’s 2 versions of the world in collision. This week we hear from people who’ve seen this infect their personal lives. They’ve lost friends. They’ve become estranged from family members. A special pre-election episode of our show.

#477 : October 19, 2012

Getting Away With It

Stories of people breaking the rules fully, completely and with no bad consequences. Some justify this by saying they’re doing it for others, or for a greater good. Some really don’t care. And, unlike the mealy weaklings you usually hear on this program: None of these wrongdoers seem regretful about what they’ve done in the slightest.

#476 : October 5, 2012

What Doesn't Kill You

Stories of how people cope after brushes with death. Sometimes death comes as a disease. Sometimes it swims up and bites you. And sometimes it's a pen or pencil, sitting there, just waiting for you to ingest it. Tig Notaro's comedy set is at Louis CK's site.

#475 : September 28, 2012

Send a Message

This week people reach out in all kinds of ways to try to get their point across. And the recipients of those messages try to decipher what they mean. Messages in code, over the phone, and from beyond the grave.

#474 : September 14, 2012

Back to School

As kids and teachers head back to school, we wanted to turn away from questions about politics and unions and money and all the regular school stuff people argue about, and turn to something more optimistic — an emerging theory about what to teach kids, from Paul Tough's new book How Children Succeed. Photo: Theo takes the marshmallow test.

#473 : August 24, 2012

Loopholes

Only the clever need apply. This week, stories of people acting on a technicality in the face of some of life's toughest regulators: financial regulators, parents and God.

#472 : August 17, 2012

Our Friend David

Favorite stories by our longtime contributor and friend David Rakoff. Note that the podcast and streaming versions contain unbeeped words that could not play on radio.

#471 : August 10, 2012

The Convert

In 2006, a new convert showed up at a mosque in Orange County, California, eager to study the Koran and make new friends. But when he started acting odd and saying strange things, those friends got suspicious. To them, he was Farouk al-Aziz. But his real name was Craig Monteilh, and he was working undercover for the FBI. (Read the update to this story here.)

#470 : July 27, 2012

Show Me The Way

Stories about people in trouble, who look for help in mystifying places. A 15-year-old boy travels more than 1,000 miles, alone, to seek out his hero, whom he's never met. And from Wiretap, Jonathan Goldstein and David Rakoff tell the story of a man with a terrible medical problem, hoping for a cure from a famous doctor — who only communicates in rhyme.

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