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.


Third and fourth graders from Polaris Charter Academy in Chicago get ready for an overnight camping trip. Before they set off, they review the rules: What to do if you see a bug; what to do if you have to go to the bathroom; and most important — what to do if you’re confronted with a crying friend. In Berwick, Pennsylvania, we drop in a town meeting, where Detective Greg Martin tells residents the tricks to spotting kids who might be cooking meth in their neighborhoods. Next to central California, where a juvenile prisoner named Jorge gets transferred to an adult prison, the very day he turns 18. And in St. Paul, Minnesota, real estate agent Sophia Thu Pham goes door to door, hoping people are game to sell their houses. (7 minutes)

Act One

News kept coming all week about the National Security Agency collecting data on the phone numbers we dial. Government officials are saying there’s nothing to be alarmed about. But it’s hard to know whether we should be alarmed anyway — since most of us don’t know what it feels like to have the government eavesdropping on our phone calls and emails. To find out, Ira talks to four attorneys for Guantanamo detainees, who know for sure they’re being spied on: Candace Gorman, David Nevin, Ramzi Kassem, and David Raimes. (8 minutes)

Act Three

Peter Lee had his arm amputated because of cancer three years ago. On Thursday of this week, he got a new, top-of-the-line prosthetic arm. During his final fitting, he talks to Rio Bennin, who also has a prosthetic arm — but Rio’s is an older model, not as nearly as fancy as Peter’s. (3 1/2 minutes)

Act Four

At Guantanamo Bay, hearings resumed for Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who is accused of organizing the attack on the USS Cole, in 2000. This week was the first time reporters had been back to Guantanamo since President Obama gave a speech in which he said he’d renew efforts to close the prison. Meanwhile, a majority of the prisoners at Guantanamo are now on a hunger strike, and dozens of them are being force-fed. This American Life producer Sarah Koenig talks to reporter John Knefel about what it was like to be there. John reports on Guantanamo for rollingstone.com, and is co-host of the Internet radio show Radio Dispatch. (10 1/2 minutes)

Act Five

Science teacher Jason Pittman, who teaches pre-school through sixth grade at a school in Fairfax County, Virginia, won a big teaching award this week. In fact, during his ten years teaching, he’s won many, many awards. He loves his job. But this week, he explains to Ira why he’s quitting, even though he doesn’t want to. (6 minutes)

Act Six

On Wednesday, Florida executed a death row inmate named William Van Poyck. His execution came the same week that Florida’s governor signed a new law designed to speed up executions in the state. Emily Bazelon, legal affairs editor at Slate, explains that of all the states in the country, Florida is probably the last one where you’d want executions to move faster. (8 minutes)