News Items Podcast with John Ellis
From Kabul to Oregon: Jeffrey Stern on Reporting the World
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.
John talks to Jeffrey about how he became a writer; his first book, “The Last Thousand,” which tells the story of a school in the slums of Kabul that has sent kids to Ivy League universities; and how he came to co-write “The 15:17 to Paris.”
Steve Coll on the Taliban’s Return to Power
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. It chronicles the C.I.A.'s secret wars in Afghanistan and how these fueled the founding of Al Qaeda. The second, “Directorate S,” focuses on the Pentagon and C.I.A.’s struggles with the eponymous, secretive branch of the Pakistani intelligence service that supported the Afghan Taliban.John and Steve discuss both books and the intense research they required; the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan; and Steve’s plans for a third book on the subject.
Why Spy Novels Matter, with Joseph Kanon
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 screen by director Steven Soderbergh and starred George Clooney and Cate Blanchett.Joseph’s stories are told through characters navigating ethically fraught terrain. “There was a reviewer who said at one point that my books were novels of moral intrigue,” Joseph said. “And I thought it was a perfect description that I hadn't thought of, or otherwise I would have told it to the publisher, to put it on the jacket.”John and Joseph talk about his midlife career change; his tenth novel, “The Berlin Exchange,” which comes out in January; and what he’s writing next.
How A.I. Can Help Us Fight Climate Change
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 researchers create next-generation batteries.John and Priya talk about these applications; machine learning’s relevance for insurance companies; and why A.I. isn’t a silver bullet for this era’s most prominent environmental challenge.