Jesse Ellison

Stories by Jesse Ellison

  • Fast Chat: Inside the Geezers Studio

    In their first YouTube film review, for last year's high-school hit "Superbad," octogenarian Hollywood vets Marcia Nasatir and Lorenzo Semple bicker about which dirty words are most offensive—and repeat them, over and over. The Reel Geezers began as a gimmick, but now has a dedicated Web following that includes many Hollywood insiders. The critical duo spoke with NEWSWEEK's Jesse Ellison: ...
  • Jessica Lynch: The War’s First Hero

    Starting PointMarch 2003: Three days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, enemy forces capture 19-year-old Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch in an attack on her convoy. Fever PitchEight days later, the Pentagon releases a five-minute video of Lynch's dramatic "rescue" from an Iraqi hospital and discloses that she had been abused by her captors. Lynch later accuses the military of exaggerating her story and turning it into propaganda. Present DayNow a sophomore studying education at West Virginia University, Lynch has a 16-month-old daughter with her fiancé. She also runs a charitable organization that collects stuffed animals for hospitalized children. In 2007, she testified to Congress about the military's misleading portrayal of her story. She still gets hate mail accusing her of lying about the rescue effort. "If they want to take out their hatred on me, that's OK," she tells NEWSWEEK. "At this point, I don't really stress about it."
  • Talking with Junot Diaz

    Junot Diaz talks about authors and ethnicity, the universality of the Caribbean experience and how sweet it was to win the National Book Critics Circle Award (even if he wasn't there).
  • Containing Multitudes

    Literary wunderkind Junot Diaz's debut novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," just netted top honors with the National Book Critics Circle Award. He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Jesse Ellison. Excerpts: ...
  • Memories of a ‘Miracle’

    Starting PointJune 2002: Elizabeth Smart, 14, is abducted from her home in Salt Lake City. Her father goes on TV to plead for her return, prompting a nationwide search. Fever PitchNine months later, Smart is found just 20 miles from home, disguised in a veil, wig and glasses and in the company of her captors, Wanda Barzee and Brian David Mitchell, a polygamist who claimed to be a Mormon prophet. He'd forced Smart to be his "wife." Present DayNow a 20-year-old sophomore at Utah's Brigham Young University, Smart is living in an apartment in Provo with friends, majoring in music and playing the harp in the university orchestra. She says she does whatever she can to help other victims of kidnapping; she recently helped write a Department of Justice Survivor Guide. "I'm doing wonderfully," Smart told NEWSWEEK. "Miracles happen." Mitchell and Barzee have repeatedly been deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. They are being held in Utah.
  • Carbon’s Future King

    The Chicago climate Exchange is the world's first voluntary carbon credit market. Members get credits for reducing emissions and buy them if they fall short of pledged goals. NEWSWEEK's Jesse Ellison talked to its founder, Richard Sandor. Excerpts: ...
  • Film Explores Iran's Transsexuals

    Transsexuals aren't a cultural marker typically associated with religiously inflexible dictatorships, but they are common in Iran—by some estimates, there are 150,000 Iranian transsexuals, and the country hosts more sex-change operations per year than any country outside Thailand. Iranian-American director Tanaz Eshaghian's new film, "Be Like Others," offers a fascinating look at how this subculture can exist.Explaining the apparent paradox, one Muslim cleric says that while homosexuality is explicitly outlawed in the Qur'an, sex-change operations are not. They are no more an affront to God's will than, for example, turning wheat into flour and flour into bread. So while homosexuality is punishable by death, sex-change operations are presented as an acceptable alternative—as a way to live within a set of strict gender binaries, as a way to, well, live like others. The tragic aspect comes through in discussions with patients and their reluctant parents in the waiting room of Tehran's...
  • What Algeria Bomb Means for U.N.

    Algeria's latest suicide bombing did more than claim dozens of lives. How the attack could affect the United Nations.
  • Q&A: Poor Progress on Forests

    The world's rainforests are deteriorating at an accelerating rate, but the Bali conference is only a baby step toward a solution. Renowned forest expert Thomas Lovejoy explains why the forests have gotten short shrift in the climate debate.
  • Some Special Hotel Treats

    Hotels are stepping up their amenities to woo guests. At the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, guests can book a private recording studio ( The InterContinental London Park Lane offers a pre holiday "look and learn before you cook and burn" class ( Rome's Cavalieri Hilton dresses Russell Crowe wannabes in gladiator garb, in which they spend the day learning fighting moves before heading for a massage at the spa ( Skiers will appreciate customized equipment at Pure in Jackson Hole, Wyo. (pure Guests at New York's Bryant Park hotel can choose goodies like the BedSide Lockbox that includes a blindfold, handcuffs and condoms delivered to their rooms from the upscale adult boutique, the Pleasure Chest (bryantparkhotel .com). And the Langham Hotel in Hong Kong features a sushi turndown service, with pillow-top snacks that look like raw fish but are chocolates (hongkong.langhamhotels .com). Sweet dreams.
  • How To Make The Cell Phone Into A Portable Scanner

    Florida lawyer Rick Georges, a self-described gadget guy, had what he calls a "eureka moment" about a year ago on a flight. "I was in a scrunchy little seat, and the jerk in front of me put his seat all the way back so I couldn't open my laptop completely," he says. Unable to work, Georges started leafing through articles in magazines and fiddling with his Treo. Suddenly he remembered a Web-based service he had read about,, which converts JPEG image files to electronic documents, such as PDFs or Word documents. He used the Treo to photograph an article he wanted to clip. When the plane landed he e-mailed the photographs from his phone to, which quickly e-mailed the images back as PDF attachments that could be searched, e-mailed to clients and colleagues, or filed away in his records. "I just thought, 'Wow. This is the future'." ...
  • Kashmir Art Shows Cultural Mix

    A rare exhibit of Kashmiri works in New York reveals a troubled region's history of peaceful coexistence.
  • Proud As A Peacock

    Talk about birds of a feather sticking together. This fall, ostrich, pheasant and even pigeon feathers are popping up on jackets, gowns, handbags and necklaces. The look can be bold and bright or sweetly ephemeral.Prada adorns a sleeveless knee-length coat with long, black beaded feathers. With a mohair faux fur vest on top and a wide orange felt band, it's one of the more whimsical takes on the trend ($6,550; Ricci sent her models down the runway with wispy ostrich feathers threaded through their hair like Shakespeare's midsummer fairies. The motif is repeated in her alpaca and mohair poncho, one of the easier pieces to weave into an existing wardrobe. In a soft light gray, the poncho's chunky knit and asymmetrical hem complement the delicate strands of feathers woven throughout ($1,215; bad boy Alexander McQueen is enamored of ostrich feathers, too, using them to adorn the bottom of a short, sage green silkchiffon cocktail dress. The long...
  • Security: Wiring the Ports

    The prospect of terrorists' getting hold of nuclear weapons became a tangible fear in the weeks after September 11. As the United States scrambled to assess its weak spots, customs officials took a closer look at the nation's seaports, and shut them down. Things got moving again, but many security experts don't think ports in the United States and other countries are as secure as they should be. The main problem: a shipping container is subject to byzantine regulations and many levels of bureaucracy in its journey from home port to port of call, creating myriad security holes.One port operator in Philadelphia recently decided to take an unusual tack. It is implementing its own high-tech container management system that improves the port's ability to detect problem shipments and to react to emergencies if they occur.Philadelphia's strategy addresses a key vulnerability: the practice of prescreening shipments. For one thing, it relies on the honor system—officials trust captains to...
  • Technologist: Security Spying

    Sue Walter used to worry about her house on Florida's Gulf Coast. As a pilot, she often travels for weeks at a time, and her house sits in prime hurricane territory. To check up on things while she is away, she bought a low-cost video surveillance system. Now she logs on to a Web site to see her yard in real time. One day, however, she caught her parents eating food taken from her fridge. "I called them and said, 'You're so busted'," she says.Although security is the selling point of video surveillance systems, customers are discovering a very different benefit: the ability to spy on people. The devices are affordable and relatively easy to install. One system, LukWerks, made by Utah-based WiLife, includes lightweight cameras that connect to a PC via home power lines. Whenever the cameras detect motion, the PC sends out an e-mail or text message, complete with embedded video. The company says it has sold tens of thousands of starter kits (starting at $299) in nine countries. Many...
  • Growing Lights: What's New in Chandeliers

    No longer are chandeliers necessarily stodgy, showy and crystal-studded. Today's eye-catching modern fixtures come in a variety of shapes and incorporate unusual—and often recycled—materials, from goose feathers to Bic pens. They can work just as well in traditional homes as in contemporary ones. Some are even designed to be energy efficient as well.Online retailer Inmod sells an assortment of its signature space-age "Sputnik" chandeliers. The chrome designs are at once retro and modern and can be customized to suit any space. One customer recently ordered a 127cm model, with 50 shiny silver arms jutting out in every direction, according to cofounder Casey Choron. Its higher-end, imported models include handblown glass versions in red, white or black. The Ika Trio in red looks like a three-tiered bundle of red-hot chilis and retails for $1,699 ( York-based retailer Moss has long been known for infusing a whimsical streak into its furniture and interior design; the...
  • A Single Piece Of Plastic...

    A single piece of plastic could revolutionize the delivery of vaccinations worldwide, according to U.K.-based Cambridge Consultants, who recently unveiled Conix One, a tiny inhaler that has no moving parts, costs only four cents to manufacture and is 40 percent more effective than traditional inhalers. It will be a while before the powder-form medications get government approval, but once they do, millions could be saved--in dollars and lives.
  • Cute Little Censors

    China's internet censors have deployed cartoon cops that stand watch at the side of Shenzhen Web sites and bulletin boards--reminders that Big Brother is watching. Click on the creatures and you're redirected to a site where you can chat live with a real cop. The idea is to make "people pay attention to their behavior when they are surfing on the Net," said a senior Chinese official in a statement. Chinese have to take the police seriously, but these characters? We will see.
  • The Cutest New Cops

    China's Internet police force has come up with a new way to control Web surfers: adorable cartoon police officers that stand watch at the side of Shenzhen Web sites and bulletin boards--constant reminders that Big Brother is watching. Click on the creatures and you're redirected to a site where you can chat live with a real cop. "People should pay attention to their behavior when they are surfing on the Net," said a senior Chinese official in a statement. The move is ham-handed, amusing and intimidating--though it remains to be seen how seriously the Chinese take the characters. Jesse Ellison
  • Blogging for Freedom

    In two years, 30 bloggers have been arrested, interrogated, tortured or imprisoned for speaking out against repressive regimes, according to Anoniblog, a new Web site for bloggers in repressive countries. The site offers tips for evading authorities in Arabic, Persian, English and Chinese. "Contradicting the fictions of a tyrant requires at least as much discretion and common sense as bravery," says one poster. "Someone who cares about his future can do no good mute." The site has links to programs that encrypt e-mails and obscure a message's origin. Jesse Ellison
  • Denim for the iPod Set

    Levi Strauss & Co. originally put that little pocket in the front of its jeans so that miners would have a place to keep their matches. Now the classic design is changing to make way for the ubiquitous iPod. Levi's DLX jeans, to be introduced in the fall, will have a trackpad permanently mounted on top of the pocket and a socket. Levi's is being coy about the new product--it hasn't released any pictures yet. The company insists the jeans are washable--provided you take out the iPod first.