Amanda Sperber Joins Me on Covert Contact to Discuss Journalism and Conflict in East Africa

Amanda Sperber in Ethiopia

Amanda Sperber in Ethiopia

In episode 55 Amanda Sperber joins me to discuss her work as a journalist in East Africa. Amanda has covered the region for Foreign Policy, VICE News, Al Jazeera English, and others. We discuss the challenges inherent in covering a largely overlooked, and sometimes dangerous, part of the world.

Amanda has been a solid resource for me for a few years. Her occasional messages and tips keep me up to date and help remind me not to overlook the region. I think she’s typical of many journalists who scrap and sacrifice, while receiving little support from the industry, to cover the stories that matter to them. But it is exactly these kinds of journalists who I often find the most useful – the most informative. They’re surfacing stories that literally wouldn’t be seen without their presence and hard work. It may be thankless and poorly rewarded but here, at least, it is appreciated.

You can listen to the episode on Covert Contact and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

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What Will the World Look Like in 2035?

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Photo Credit: Army.mil

2035 doesn’t seem like an awfully distant point in the future – and it isn’t. However, the pace of change continues to accelerate and we are making significant advances in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, genetics, and other potentially disruptive fields. How will advancements in these areas combine with each other, with a changing global power dynamic, and with environmental changes to transform the world we live in? Who benefits? Who loses? And what are the unintended consequences of it all?

The Atlantic Council’s The Art of the Future Project engages artists, writers, futurists, and others on these topics and seeks to aggregate and distill their creative thinking into material which can inform and guide the politicians, analysts, and decision-makers who will have a hand in how wildly disruptive advancements or challenges are managed.

Two things really set this project apart. First, it is amazingly open to different perspectives. There is no group-think or aversion to new ideas here. A lot of initiatives will claim the same openness but bureaucracy or bias will creep in and eventually dull the product. It is, unfortunately, more common than not. The project’s openness to outside participation is also encouraging. Literally anyone can submit a creative work for review. This is an outstanding opportunity for non-traditional but visionary thinkers to sidestep bureaucratic obstacles or traditional silos and have their work presented to people who are in position to act on it.

The group is currently seeking new submissions via one of their featured challenges. Winners will receive a $500 honorarium. While the monetary award is nice I suspect most Blogs of War readers will find the opportunity to be part of the conversation even more rewarding. Click through for submission details and (fast approaching) deadlines and good luck.

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A Look at Transnational Crime from a National Security Perspective

Andrew Trabulsi, entrepreneur, consultant, and co-editor of Warlords, Inc.: Black Markets, Broken States, and the Rise of the Warlord Entrepreneur, joined me on Covert Contact (episode 42) to discuss the growing impact of transnational crime and how it intersects with destabilizing forces ranging from empowered individuals, to terrorist organizations, to rogue governments.

The key question at the heart of this discussion is our response. How can large bureaucratic organizations, such as the U.S. intelligence community, position themselves to counter incredibly nimble (and increasingly empowered) actors who are unconstrained by law or ethics? We just scratch the surface here but this episode will be followed by several more focused discussions with Andrew as we search for answers. You can listen to the episode here.

This episode is part of a longer discussion that will span two episodes. The second will be released as episode 44 sometime in mid-April. Subscribe to Covert Contact on iTunes (or elsewhere) to have episodes delivered directly to your device as soon as they are released.

 

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Podcast: What Did Russia Gain in Syria?

Regular Blogs of War and Covert Contact contributor William Tucker joins me after a long break to discuss Russia’s intervention in Syria. Why are they there, what were their true motives, what have they gained, and where does this action fit in the context of Russia’s long-standing adversarial position with NATO and the West? We also look at Russia’s conflict with Turkey, structural weaknesses influencing their behavior, and prospects for improving their relationship with the West along the way. You can download or stream the episode from CovertContact.com and subscribe on iTunes (or the podcast platform of your choice).

Podcast production has been challenging lately but I am working to up the tempo. Two more episodes featuring Andrew Trabulsi have been recorded and are in the editing phase and additional guests are in the pipeline. As always, I’m interested in your feedback, topic suggestions, and making new contacts. Get in touch via encrypted email, the contact form, or Twitter.

 

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