Sunday, March 30, 2008

Why Don't You Ring Me Sometime?

Two stories in yesterday's Washington Post emphasized the role that cellular telephones now play in international politics. In "Cuba Lifts Restrictions on Personal Cellphones," the reporter describes how ordinary Cubans can now use the devices without relying on corrupt deals with foreigners and government officials, although many restrictions on computer access to the Internet remain. Now, as one commentator explained, "It opens the possibility for more contact with foreigners, for more text messaging, for a culture of mass communication. You can almost publish a newspaper with messages sent over cellphones."

In "19 Tense Hours in Sadr City," another correspondent describes how an Iraqi insurgent uses cell phone technology to coordinate attacks and detonate IEDs.

He had just spoken with a fighter by cellphone. "I told him not to use that weapon. It's not effective," he said, referring to a rocket-propelled grenade. "I told him to use the IED, the Iranian one," he added, using the shorthand for an improvised explosive device. "This is more effective."

. . .

He spoke in a slow, measured voice and clutched three cellphones, each using a different network. When the Americans drive by, they usually jam the signals of the main cellphone provider, to neutralize use of the phones as bomb detonators.

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