News Items Podcast with John Ellis

News Items Podcast with John Ellis

Ninety percent of the news out there tells you nothing about where the world is going — ten percent of it tells you everything. Every afternoon on the News Items Podcast with John Ellis, John and Rebecca Darst focus on that ten percent — news that’s interesting, important or both. The podcast is based on John Ellis’ News Items, an email newsletter that goes out to organizations including the Council on Foreign Relations, Samsung Next, and the Wall Street Journal. Tune in every Monday through Thursday afternoon to hear decades of journalistic experience packed into 20 or so minutes of insight, plus guest interviews on finance, U.S. politics, foreign affairs, science and technology. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.


September 16, 2021 42 mins

John interviews Adam Tooze, a historian, the author of five books on economic history, and a professor at Columbia University, where he is the director of the interdisciplinary European Institute. Adam also writes a newsletter, “Chartbook,” which in its own words, reports on "economic data, images, stories that matter."

Adam’s two latest books deal with the major economic crises of the past two decades. “Crashed” looks back at t...

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John interviews Steve Coll, a staff writer at The New Yorker, the dean of the Columbia Journalism School, the author of eight books, and a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. 

Between 1989 and 1992, he worked as The Washington Post's South Asia bureau chief. That experience ultimately led him to write two books on Afghanistan and Pakistan (with a third on the way).

The first, “Ghost Wars,” won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005...

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John interviews Jeffrey Stern. An award-winning journalist and the author of three books, Jeffrey originally started his career as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan. In 2018, his book “The 15:17 to Paris” was adapted into a film by Clint Eastwood, and in 2019, he won the Overseas Press Club award for best human rights reporting in any medium and Amnesty International’s USA Media Award in the international news category.


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September 9, 2021 27 mins

John interviews Joseph Kanon, a former publishing executive who became a bestselling author in his 50s. Joseph’s spy novels take place in the aftermath of World War II and the Cold War that followed. He published his debut novel, “Los Alamos,” in 1997, and the story of a murder set against the backdrop of the Manhattan Project won the Edgar Award for best first novel. His third novel, “The Good German,” was adapted to the big scree...

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September 8, 2021 22 mins

John interviews Priya Donti, a Ph.D. student in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. She is also the co-founder and chair of Climate Change A.I., an organization working at the intersection of climate science and machine learning.

Priya’s goal is to use machine learning to analyze, slow, and adapt to climate change. This could include optimizing pollutive supply chains, improving climate models, and helping researcher...

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John interviews journalist Josh Tyrangiel. After quickly rising through the ranks at Time Magazine, Josh became the editor of Bloomberg Businessweek and then the executive vice president of news at Vice Media. There, he launched the Peabody Award and Emmy Award-winning “Vice News Tonight.” Last year, Josh joined Eden Productions, as a development executive in charge of documentaries.

John talks to Josh about his career, the futu...

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John interviews Joe Klein, an award-winning journalist who wrote for Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, and New York Magazine, among others, and the author of seven books, including the bestselling “Primary Colors.” 

John and Joe discuss Afghanistan’s fate; radical centrism; how the news media has changed; and With Honor, a political organization Joe works with to help elect military veterans to Congress.

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John interviews Cade Metz, a technology correspondent at The New York Times and the author of “Genius Makers,” a book on artificial intelligence. The book focuses on neural networks, an approach whereby, given enough data, A.I. can get better at specific tasks — like recognizing speech or images — all on its own. The idea behind neural networks dates to the ‘40s and ‘50s, but it was largely abandoned for decades. Today, a few dogge...

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John interviews Major League Baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred. Before joining the MLB  in 1998, in part to oversee labor relations, Rob worked for the league as a lawyer at the firm Morgan Lewis. “I was lucky enough literally to get assigned to Major League Baseball work,” Rob says. “I caught a real break there.” In 2014 the league’s 30 owners elected him to lead the MLB as the tenth commissioner in its history. 


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John interviews Susannah Cahalan, author of the bestselling memoir “Brain on Fire.” In 2009, Susannah’s reporting career at the New York Post was derailed by a frightening set of symptoms. She grew paranoid, lost touch with reality, and alienated those around her with aggressive, seemingly inexplicable behavior. This culminated in multiple seizures, a hospital stay, and a diagnosis of anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis — Su...

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John interviews Tim Higgins. Tim is a tech reporter at The Wall Street Journal, a regular CNBC contributor, and the author of “Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century.” 

The book chronicles Tesla’s multiple near-death experiences and shows how it came to symbolize the electric car and, ultimately, grew into the largest automaker in the world by market value. However, Tim says, “this isn't the story of Elon Musk...

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John interviews A.I. scientist Rosalind Picard. Rosalind is a pioneer in the field of affective computing, the co-founder of two companies at the forefront of A.I., Affectica and Empatica, and the founder and director of the affective computing research group at the MIT Media Lab. 

Affective computing aims to close the emotional gap between computers and their users. As Rosalind wrote in her book “Affective Computing,” publishe...

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John interviews Lisa Bryant, the director and executive producer of the Netflix docuseries “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.” In the second episode of this two-part conversation, John and Lisa discuss Epstein’s suspicious death in a jail cell in 2019, as he awaited trial — and the curious story of his alleged co-conspirator, Ghislaine Maxwell, who is set to go on trial in November.

Part one of the conversation aired yesterday.

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John interviews Lisa Bryant, the director and executive producer of the Netflix docuseries “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.” In the first episode of this two-part conversation, John and Lisa discuss the making of the series; Epstein’s background and wealth; and how he rubbed elbows with (and ensnared) powerful people. John also asks Lisa about Epstein’s first conviction in 2008, and how a “sweetheart deal” allowed him to step out of ...

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John interviews Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a bestselling author and an adjunct senior fellow for women and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

John and Gayle discuss her newest book, “The Daughters of Kobani,” which tells the story of the all-female Kurdish militia that helped defeat ISIS in Syria. They also talk about Afghanistan, and what the Taliban’s victory could mean for both the Biden administration and Afghani...

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John interviews award-winning journalist Donald G. McNeil Jr. In this, the second half of a two-part interview, John and Donald talk about the early days of the pandemic and the evidence, regarding the origins of the virus, behind the animal-to-human transmission theory versus the lab leak theory.

If you haven’t heard part one, make sure to go back and listen to John and Donald discuss the Biden administration’s response, the Delta ...

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John interviews award-winning journalist Donald G. McNeil Jr. about a recent essay, published in Medium, where he excoriates the Biden administration's handling of the pandemic. In part one of this two-part interview, John and Donald discuss the administration’s aforementioned stumbles; the financial incentives motivating the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement; and the deadly risks posed by the Delta variant, as tens of millions ...

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John interviews Hamish McKenzie, one of the co-founders of Substack. Since its start in 2017, the company has managed to upend the relationship between journalists and news outlets. A good number of prominent writers, including Anne Helen Peterson, Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, Matt Yglesias — and John Ellis himself — have started newsletters on Substack, and some of them make a good deal more money than they did when they were...

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John interviews Rita Singh: a pioneer in the emerging field of voice profiling, the author of “Profiling Humans from Their Voice,” and an associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Rita and her team are developing technology that can analyze a human voice signal and unlock a wealth of information about its owner. With only a short voice recording, researchers can make startlingly accurate deductions about a person’...

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John interviews Jane Metcalfe, the former president and co-founder of Wired magazine, about her fascinating career: from starting the “Rolling Stone of technology,” to co-founding a chocolate factory, and most recently, founding Metcalfe describes it as a digital media company that reports on how “to apply engineering to human biology.” With this new venture, she makes the case for a new field she calls neobiology. It is,...

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