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Question
Watching interviews of political figures (e.g., Christopher Hitchens, Noam Chomsky, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, etc.), I find that they rarely have difficulty answering questions -- even those completely unrelated to the topic they were originally discussing. I'm fully aware that people such as these read extraordinary amounts, but I can't imagine Noam Chomsky on Yahoo's front page scanning through page, after page, of stories pertaining to whatever Yahoo deems interesting. How are they so consistently fluent in all matters?

To the heart of my question: How do you become learned in all political issues (e.g., in the 80s you would need to be versed in South Africa, Communism, and presidential scandals.)?

Answer
Nathan:

There's no secret trick or savantism involved. Being conversant in a wide range of subjects really devolves from being a voracious consumer of information across many fields over a span of years. As for myself, I begin consuming news online in the morning right after getting out of bed. I listen to a whole range of radio news stations in my car when driving. I habitually read the NY Times, Washington Post, WSJ and a host of other publications. I watch a host of tv news programs, including financial. I also am a fan of historical and military documentaries. My interests are wide-ranging, from today's politics to Egyptian mummies to history to art to auto mechanics and cooking. My brain needs to be fed constantly. As a result, I'm invited by news organizations to comment on foreign affairs, but also on an FBI most wanted murderer. And I'm sought out to lecture on fiction writing. I'm not boasting, but just want to give you an idea of what a hungry mind can yield.

My advice is to read, read, read and to listen to a broad range of news sources. Also, keep company with other curious people and debate.  

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James Bruno

Expertise

Diplomacy and foreign affairs. How government decision-making takes place. Interactions of the White House, State Dept., Pentagon, Congress and CIA in formulating policy. How governments deal with each other. Area expertise includes Afghanistan, Indochina, Europe, Cuba. Served in Guantanamo. Currently a member of the Diplomatic Readiness Reserve and Standby Response Corps.

Experience

23-years as a diplomat with the U.S. State Dept. Previously at the Defense Dept. Prior to joining government, worked as a journalist with major news organizations.

Publications
CBS-News, UPI; various newspapers. Published novelist: PERMANENT INTERESTS and CHASM. www.lulu.com/JamesBruno

Education/Credentials
M.A. - U.S. Naval War College
M.A. - Columbia Univ.
B.A. - George Washington Univ.

Awards and Honors
Various in government.

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