Deep Background with Noah Feldman

By Pushkin Industries

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Every story has a backstory, even in today's 24-hour news cycle. In Deep Background, Harvard Law School professor and Bloomberg View columnist Noah Feldman will bring together a cross-section of expert guests to explore the historical, scientific, legal, and cultural context that help us understand what's really going on behind the biggest stories in the news.

Episode Date
Why Debt Isn't Always a Bad Thing
Jason Furman, a professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, explains why we don't need to be too concerned about the mounting federal debt caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jun 03, 2020
A Top Obama Official on Police Brutality
Vanita Gupta, the former head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, discusses the protests across the country, and the reforms she would make to how policing works in the U.S. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jun 02, 2020
How Accurate Are Antibody Tests?
Dr. Alex Marson, the Director of the Gladstone-UCSF Institute for Genomic Immunology, explains what antibodies tests can and cannot tell us. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 29, 2020
On the Front Lines
Dr. Emily Rubin, a critical care pulmonologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, discusses what she has learned from treating coronavirus patients since March. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 27, 2020
The Second (and Third, and Fourth) Wave of COVID-19
Yonatan Grad, an assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explains why we may have to practice social distancing intermittently until 2022. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 21, 2020
Coronavirus and Climate Change
Bill McKibben, who was one of the first people to warn us about climate change more than 30 years ago with his book "The End Of Nature," discusses what COVID-19 and climate change have in common. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 20, 2020
BONUS: How the Bond Market Broke in March
In this bonus episode, Boaz Weinstein, founder of the hedge fund Saba Capital, tells the story of how the bond market broke for a few days in March. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 15, 2020
The Financial Markets and COVID-19
Boaz Weinstein, founder of the hedge fund Saba Capital, discusses why the stock market seems to be doing relatively well when the economy is in shambles. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 13, 2020
SPECIAL: Noah's New Book
Jacob Weisberg, the CEO of Pushkin Industries, interviews Noah Feldman about his new book "The Arab Winter: A Tragedy" which comes out today.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 12, 2020
The Global Fight Against COVID-19
Nader Mousavizadeh, who formerly served in the Executive Office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, explains why international organizations like the WHO and the UN have not been able to effectively coordinate a global response to the pandemic. Plus, is it a good thing or a bad thing that Bill Gates had stepped in to fill that void? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 07, 2020
When Will We Have a Vaccine?
Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale University School of Medicine, explains what types of coronavirus vaccines are currently being researched and evaluates their chances of success. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 06, 2020
What to Read During a Pandemic
Marta Figlerowicz, an associate professor of comparative literature and English at Yale, discusses classic works of literature about pandemics from Boccaccio's The Decameron to Camus' The Plague. Plus, she psychoanalyzes Noah's love of detective novels. Marta Figlerowicz's Pandemic Reading List The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman  Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman  Molloy by Samuel Beckett  Malone Dies by Samuel Beckett  Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez The Plague by Albert Camus  Occupation Journal by Jean Giono Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 01, 2020
A New Strategy in the Fight Against COVID-19
Dr. Louise Ivers, the executive director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Global Health, explains why states like Massachusetts are investing in a strategy called contact tracing to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 29, 2020
The Way Out of the Pandemic? Generosity.
Pardis Sabeti, a computational biologist at Harvard and the Broad Institute, discusses when and how to re-open colleges and universities, why the US is behind other countries when it comes to containing the spread of coronavirus, and a plan to stop pandemics in the future Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 23, 2020
The Roadblocks to Mass Testing
Omai Garner, the director of clinical microbiology testing at UCLA Health, explains why more Americans have not been tested for COVID-19. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 22, 2020
Modeling the Coronavirus
Carl Bergstrom, a computational biologist at the University of Washington and co-author of the forthcoming book "Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World," explains how to make sense of all the different coronavirus models and discusses the impact of misinformation on public health. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 16, 2020
A Profound Economic Problem
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers helped get us through the 2008 financial crisis. He has some ideas about what to do to get through this one. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 15, 2020
Passover, Plagues, and Coronavirus
To mark the start of Passover, Idan Dershowitz, a biblical scholar and junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, discusses the ten plagues of Egypt in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 08, 2020
What Happens If We Run out of Ventilators?
Lydia Dugdale, the Director of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at Columbia University, discusses how medical supplies will likely be allocated if there are shortages. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 07, 2020
The Search for a Treatment
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, discusses what treatments for COVID-19 are currently being researched, and why rushing the scientific process can be risky. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 01, 2020
A Nobel Prize Winner’s Suggestion for Fixing the Economy
Paul Romer, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at New York University, argues that we can keep the economy from tanking during the coronavirus pandemic without risking people's health. We just need many, many more tests. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mar 31, 2020
How to Stay Sane During a Pandemic
Laurie Santos, a Professor of Psychology at Yale, shares tips for dealing with coronavirus-induced anxiety. For further listening, check out Laurie’s podcast “The Happiness Lab,” also from Pushkin Industries. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mar 27, 2020
Fighting Coronavirus with Data
Farzad Mostashari, the former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the Department of Health and Human Services, says we need to collect better data to effectively fight the spread of the virus. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mar 25, 2020
Prisons and Jails Are a Coronavirus Time Bomb
Homer Venters, the former Chief Medical Officer for the New York City Jail system, says that we need to stop the spread of coronavirus in prisons, jails, and detention centers to have any hope of flattening the curve. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mar 24, 2020
Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19
Dr. Rebecca Berman, program director for UCSF’s Internal Medicine Residency, discusses the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, what to do if you feel sick, and tips for self isolating safely. Plus, hospital readiness, and the situation on the ground in San Francisco. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mar 19, 2020
Cooking Through the Crisis with Mark Bittman
With restaurants and bars across the country temporarily closing down due to concerns about the novel coronavirus, many of us are finding ourselves cooking for the first time in a long time. So today, Deep Background is taking a quick break from covering the spread of COVID-19 to share this conversation with Mark Bittman, the food writer who taught so many of us how to cook. The author of best-selling cookbooks like How to Cook Everything and Vegan Before 6, Bittman offers some tips on how to cook fish and reflects on what he has learned from over two decades of writing about food. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mar 18, 2020
Civil Liberties in the Time of COVID-19
Richard Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard and a leading Supreme Court advocate, discusses where public health stops and our individual liberties begin. Plus, what does it mean that the Supreme Court has postponed oral arguments? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mar 17, 2020
The Economic Impact of COVID-19
Stefanie Stantcheva, Professor of Economics at Harvard, discusses the economic harms of COVID-19 and measures governments can take to soften the blow of a recession. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mar 16, 2020
What We Know About How Coronavirus Spreads
Siddhartha Mukherjee, physician, researcher, and author of the 2011 Pulitzer-Prize winning book The Emperor of All Maladies, discusses what we know about how coronavirus spreads and what we don’t know. Plus, he offers advice on canceling travel plans.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mar 11, 2020
The View from Beijing
In an effort to curtail the spread of coronavirus, much of China is essentially under lockdown. Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Ian Johnson talks about what life is like in the capital city.
Mar 04, 2020
The Coronavirus Isn't Going Away
Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard University, predicts that between 40 to 70 percent of adults in the world will become infected with the coronavirus. 
Feb 28, 2020
Elif Shafak's "Multiple Belongings"
Best-selling British-Turkish writer Elif Shafak discusses her latest novel, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, Turkey's "backward slide," and what it means to be a citizen of the world.
Feb 26, 2020
An Interview with the Next Vice President of the United States
Stacey Abrams talks about how to create lasting social change, her thoughts on 2020, and her plans for the future. 
Feb 19, 2020
Malcolm Gladwell and "Magical Technical Fixes"
Malcom Gladwell and Noah Feldman discuss whether we should add more states to the union, and why Americans are always searching for "magical technical fixes." For further listening check out the "Divide and Conquer" episode of the Revisionist History podcast.
Feb 12, 2020
Bonus: The Oscars
Charles Randolph, the screenwriter behind “The Big Short” and “Bombshell” discusses turning real life stories into Hollywood movies, and shares what he would like to change about the Academy Awards.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Feb 07, 2020
We Testified for Impeachment and It Made No Difference
Noah Feldman and University of North Carolina School of Law Professor Michael J. Gerhardt both testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. They discuss everything from how they made their arguments to how they dealt with the hate mail.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Feb 05, 2020
The History of Policing in Cars
Sarah Seo, the author of How Cars Transformed Policing, talks to us about what rights we have in our cars, and what rights we don’t.
Nov 30, 2019
Truth in the Time of Deepfakes
Boston University School of Law Professor Danielle Citron says that deepfakes are just going to get more and more convincing, but there are sill certain things we can do to stop their spread.
Nov 23, 2019
The Gig is Up
A new California law, known as AB 5, will make it harder for app-based companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their workers as independent contractors rather than employees. We get two perspectives on this piece of legislation that could have huge implications for the future of the gig economy.
Nov 16, 2019
The Opioid Epidemic and the Courts
Who is responsible for the opioid epidemic? Yale Law Professor Abbe Gluck walks us through the massively complex opioid litigation. 
Nov 09, 2019
The End of Ebola
The Ebola outbreak in The Democratic Republic of Congo is slowing down, and a new Ebola vaccine is likely to get approved by the European Commission. Leading Ebola researcher Pardis Sabeti reflects on what she has learned from fighting a disease that may soon be vanquished. 
Nov 02, 2019
An Experiment in Universal Basic Income
As Universal Basic Income becomes a talking point in the Democratic Primary race, one city has already started. Last February, the city of Stockton, California randomly selected 150 residents to receive five hundred dollars a month, as part of a universal basic income pilot program. Michael Tubbs, the mayor of Stockton, and Sukhi Samra, the director of the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, discuss how the pilot has been going so far.
Oct 26, 2019
Why Economists Should Act More Like Weather Forecasters
International Monetary Fund advisor Prakash Loungani explains why economists have such a terrible track record when it comes to predicting recessions. Plus, Noah reflects on the Washington Nationals heading to the World Series. 
Oct 19, 2019
The Lawyer and the Mobster
Jack Goldsmith thinks his stepfather has long been unjustly suspected of being involved in the disappearance of the influential labor organizer Jimmy Hoffa. Noah Feldman speaks to him about his new book "In Hoffa's Shadow: A Stepfather, a Disappearance in Detroit, and My Search for the Truth."
Oct 12, 2019
The Impeachment Episode
Noah Feldman speaks with his friend and legal expert Seth Berman about what to watch for as the impeachment inquiry into President Trump unfolds. 
Oct 05, 2019
Saudi Arabia's "Genius" Crown Prince
Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's Crown prince, seems to have charmed President Trump. But Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, says his "revolution" is mostly self-serving. 
Sep 28, 2019
Live Episode: Noah Feldman and Malcolm Gladwell 
Noah Feldman speaks to author and Pushkin co-founder Malcolm Gladwell about his new book "Talking to Strangers" in Boston, MA, at an event organized by the Harvard Bookstore. They discuss everything from spy craft, to the current political climate, to compliment sandwiches.
Sep 21, 2019
Trump's "Dangerous" Iran Policy
Is Donald Trump leading the US into war with Iran? Middle East scholar Vali Nasr says it definitely seems like it. 
Sep 14, 2019
A Solution for Algorithmic Bias
Algorithms can determine everything from what ads you see on the internet to the interest rates on your loan. And they aren't always exactly fair. Nicol Turner Lee, a fellow at Brookings, and Talia Gillis, a Harvard graduate student, discuss what to do about algorithmic bias. Plus, Noah reflects on the latest Brexit news. 
Sep 07, 2019
Affirmative Action Isn't Enough
This year, only seven black students were accepted to Stuyvesant, one of New York's most prestigious public high schools. Harvard Law Professor Randy Kennedy says that to address the racial inequities in our education system we need to think radically. Plus, Noah discusses the recent protests in Hong Kong. 
Aug 30, 2019
The Party of Ideas
The Republican party used to tout itself as the party of ideas. Now it seems to be the party of Donald Trump. Conservative thinker Peter Wehner explains what he thinks happened. Peter Wehner's Suggested Reading List: -Losing Ground by Charles Murray -The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom -The Naked Public Square by Richard John Neuhaus -Crime and Human Nature by James Q. Wilson and Richard J. Herrnstein 
Aug 25, 2019
A Genetic Engineer's Perspective on "Designer Babies"
A Chinese scientist reportedly edited the genes of two baby twin girls last year to protect them from the AIDS virus. Harvard geneticist George Church believes we will be hearing many more stories like this soon.
Aug 18, 2019
Inside MS-13
Hannah Dreier won a Pulitzer for her ProPublica investigation “Trapped in Gangland” about the international criminal gang MS-13. She says we can’t beat the gang if we don’t understand it. 
Aug 11, 2019
Disappearing Species
According to a new UN report, a million species are at risk of extinction. New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert says you should be seriously worried -- even if you don't like animals.
Aug 04, 2019
What is a Concentration Camp?
Andrea Pitzer, the author of "One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps," argues that the US government is currently operating a concentration camp system along the southern border. 
Jul 28, 2019
Democracy's Midlife Crisis
Cambridge professor David Runciman thinks that democracy is in an midlife crisis. He also thinks that might not be bad.
Jul 21, 2019
A Hidden Reason Behind France's "Yellow Vest" Protests
For Bastille Day, an interview with French journalist Agnes C. Poirier about the causes of the "Yellow Vest" protests which rocked the country last fall.
Jul 14, 2019
How to Report on the Russia Investigation
Robert Mueller, the special counsel who led the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, is famously tight-lipped. CNN's Laura Jarrett explains what she has learned from reporting on him and his work over the past two years.
Jul 07, 2019
Living Stonewall
Mark Segal and Joan Nestle were both living in New York City at the time of the Stonewall Uprising. Fifty years after the historic event, they reflect on how it changed their lives. 
Jun 28, 2019
Inside the Mind of a Dictator
In her new book, "The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un," Anna Fifield tries to make sense of North Korea's secretive leader. 
Jun 23, 2019
What to Watch in 2020
The 2020 election is shaping up to be one of the most important elections in recent memory. Brookings fellow Andre Perry discusses why black voters and black women in particular will be a crucial constituency.
Jun 16, 2019
Trade Wars
Harvard Law Professor Mark Wu discusses the inevitable structural changes taking place in U.S.-China trade relations and how President Donald Trump has impacted these shifts. 
Jun 09, 2019
Roe v Wade Overturned
Women's rights lawyer Kathryn Kolbert argued the pro-choice case last time a serious attempt was made to overturn Roe v Wade. She explains her concerns that the Supreme Court might soon side with those keen to restrict to abortion.
Jun 02, 2019
Staring into a Black Hole
The first-ever image of a black hole was a monumental scientific achievement. Harvard physicist Andrew Strominger talks about what the discovery means for the present and future.
May 26, 2019
How Socialism Was Weaponized
The word "Socialism" is often demonized in American politics, but is that criticism warranted? Professor Sean Wilentz of Princeton University walks us through the history of American socialism and how the ideas behind it became so warped.
May 19, 2019
Criminal Justice Reform and The Abolition of Prisons
Historian and author Khalil Gibran Muhammad discusses the state of criminal justice and prisons in America and whether the country should take drastic steps toward reform.
May 12, 2019
The History of the White Power Movement
Historian Kathleen Belew discusses the modern history of the white power movement and the often overlooked connection between incidents like Charlottesville and the Oklahoma City bombing.
May 05, 2019
Is Merit Real?
Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and the former dean of admissions at Yale Law School, gives us a unique perspective on the college admissions scandal.
Apr 23, 2019
Introducing Deep Background with Noah Feldman
The historical, scientific, legal, and cultural context that help us understand what's really going on behind the biggest stories in the news.
Apr 16, 2019