DIPLOMACY: Untangling the Hot Line

It was the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 that spurred U.S. and Soviet officials to install the famous Washington-Moscow "hot line." Apart from its symbolic value, they reasoned, the hot line would provide the kind of instant communication that just might help to avert nuclear holocaust.

Yet over the years the hot line has been less than foolproof. Static caused by atmospheric conditions and quirky weather has on occasion rendered it inoperable. Fortunately, neither superpower had any urgent messages to transmit during these periods of non-function. Still, it is chilling to contemplate the future of mankind turning on...

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