Zimbabwean generals may face treason charges over WikiLeaked comments

Two Zimbabwean generals may face treason charges for comments made to U.S. ambassador Charles Ray in a 2010 meeting that has now been made public by WikiLeaks:

There are now reports that the two will face retribution for their disclosures to the Americans, including possible treason charges. According to South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper, which quoted military sources, the top brass of the defence forces are contemplating the court martial of the generals.

"It is a very difficult situation. Some top army commanders see this as a tale of traitors, betrayal and treachery and hence they want a swift response," a senior commander in the military is quoted as saying. "In the army, once you do such things, they charge you with treason and you will be court-martialed."

The cable in question, based on conversations with the officers, describes Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) as a "political general" with "little practical military experience or expertise.. The generals also say that the senior generals of the ZDF are "so entwined with [President Robert Mugabe's] ZANU-PF party as to be practically indistinguishable," frustrating those who want to build it into a professional military force.

The cable also notes that the two "took a grave personal risk meeting with us, and their identities should be strictly protected." With thousands of cables including the unredacted names of sources now floating around online, there will likely be more officials facing the consequences for what they told U.S. diplomats in confidence.

(HT: Michael Clemens)


Indian company markets cell phones as birth control

Sex sells, the saying goes. But this amusing -- if slightly retrograde in its view of gender roles -- ad for India's !DEA cell-phone carrier markets 3G service as a form of population control. With all they can do on their phones, the ad suggests, Indians will be too busy to make babies. (It's not in English but pretty easy to understand):

The ad is obviously meant as a joke, but is there anything to the notion? Christopher Mims of  MIT's Technology Review says perhaps so

It's nothing short of remarkable that India is a country that can joke about both its population problem and birth control, but all kidding aside, there is one level on which this message could be true. Empowering women is the shortest route to bending the curve of future population growth, and wireless access to the internet could be one way to make education more accessible in the developing world.

In November/December 2009 issue, FP's resident optimist Charles Kenny took a look at the role the introduction of television played in rural India:

Cable and satellite television may be having an even bigger impact on fertility in rural India. As in Brazil, popular programming there includes soaps that focus on urban life. Many women on these serials work outside the home, run businesses, and control money. In addition, soap characters are typically well-educated and have few children. And they prove to be extraordinarily powerful role models: Simply giving a village access to cable TV, research by scholars Robert Jensen and Emily Oster has found, has the same effect on fertility rates as increasing by five years the length of time girls stay in school.

The soaps in Brazil and India provided images of women who were empowered to make decisions affecting not only childbirth, but a range of household activities. The introduction of cable or satellite services in a village, Jensen and Oster found, goes along with higher girls' school enrollment rates and increased female autonomy. Within two years of getting cable or satellite, between 45 and 70 percent of the difference between urban and rural areas on these measures disappears.

Kenny's piece made the case that television was having a bigger social impact than the Internet, which only 7 percent of Indians used. With the introduction of relatively inexpensive 3G and the best of Hollywood and Bollywood increasingly available online, that may not be the case for very long. 

(HT: Brad Plumer