jueves, 12 de octubre de 2017

Mysterious Sounds and Scary Illnesses as Political Tools

By LISA DIEDRICH and BENJAMIN TAUSIG

OpEd New York Times, October 10, 2017

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/10/10/opinion/cuba-embassy-trump-illness.html?referer=http://m.facebook.com/

President Trump has long signaled his desire to reverse President Barack Obama's normalization of relations with Cuba, so it's no surprise that his administration has begun to do just that by withdrawing most employees from the United States Embassy in Havana.

But a part of the justification for the move — the reports that embassy employees were victimized by a "sonic attack" that caused a range of physical symptoms — fits a troubling pattern. It's just the latest example of the way Mr. Trump has attempted to harness vague, unspecified threats to inspire fear and advance his political agenda.

The Associated Press first reported on Aug. 10that State Department employees had been targeted by these attacks. According to the spokeswoman Heather Nauert, they caused "a variety of physical symptoms." It was also reported at this time that the State Department had already retaliated for these attacks by expelling two Cuban diplomats from the United States on May 23.

Since then, much of the news coverage of the incident has turned to a discussion of technical questions about sonic weaponry. A few articles quote experts who are skepticalto put it mildly, but a majority of the coverage has accepted and even reiterated the State Department's explanation wholesale.

The truth is, the sort of sonic weaponry that might cause the concussions and persistent memory loss that the State Department claimed to have found in its diplomats doesn't exist, as far as experts in this field know. "Nothing about this story makes any sense to us," said a marketing director of a firm that manufactures acoustic devices, quoted in Wired. To imagine that such weapons have not only been covertly developed but also were then somehow hidden near the embassy is even more fanciful, for a variety of logistical and technical reasons. The fact-checking site Snopes.com provided a review of scientific data on sound and sonic weapons,concluding that it was false to claim that such weapons could be responsible for what happened to the United States diplomats in Cuba. Yet, this has not stopped the reverberation of sonic-weapon rumors. The press has continued to amplify the story, and the Trump administration has carried on with its narrative, even issuing aCuba Travel Warning based on the "specific attacks" that it says targeted embassy employees.

The State Department's explanation — that sound was used to make people sick — is perfectly tailored to frighten us. It plays on the well-established way humans tend to associate sound and illness with hidden, unknowable threats. Mr. Trump as both candidate and president has routinely exploited fears of vaguely defined hidden menaces as a justification for policy and politics.

None of this is to say that no attacks occurred — there may have been chemical exposure, for example. However, not only is the cause unknown (if there is one), but also no evidence of a deliberate attack has been offered.

Sound, despite being a physical material, is often described as intangible, simply because we do not see it. We distrust sound for its invisibility (consider the misery of hearing noisy neighbors but being unsure of what they're actually doing; consider the meaning of the term "hearsay"), just as we may be drawn to it for its mystery. Even though sound is measurable, we tend to experience it as spectral, as something beyond our rational understanding. It is thus the perfect stand-in for a Cold War-style cunning enemy, who is surely out there, doing something, even though we can never seem to pin him down.

Mr. Trump exploits people's preconceptions about sound in a manner similar to his exploitation of illness, to signify a hidden, never-quite-graspable threat to the nation. Like the unspecified (and perhaps unverifiable) sonic cause of these health attacks, the reported illnesses are vague and unspecific. Mr. Trump has often turned to illness politics — portraying his opponents as weak, sick and neurotic.

He didn't invent this political tactic. But he has enthusiastically embraced the approach. Mr. Trump and his campaign encouraged speculation that Hillary Clinton was hiding a secret, degenerative illness (Parkinson's, traumatic brain injury and epilepsy all circulated as possibilities), which if revealed would make most Americans realize she was not qualified to be president. Of course, these insinuations were most powerful precisely when nothing had been revealed and when speculation could thus fill in the blanks. Media coverage of these charges tended to focus on historical examples of sick presidents or presidential candidates, rather than on how Mr. Trump was deliberately playing upon fears of sickness — that is, engaging in illness politics. In this case, Mr. Trump didn't invent the story of the attack (it's relatively clear that somethinghappened at the embassy) but he has latched onto its vague description to raise alarm in a way that's broad and unsettling enough to provide support for any actions he wants to take in response.

This pattern of suggesting that the United States is under threat from vague and indeterminate dangers — secret illnesses, mysterious sounds — creates a political atmosphere almost miasmic in its effects. There are many facts we do not yet know about the Cuba incident. However, the pattern so far fits Mr. Trump all too well: Raise the volume on a fanciful scary story and tie it to an already desired policy shift in a way that appears to justify that shift. We shouldn't fall for it.

...........................

Lisa Diedrich is a professor of women's, gender and sexuality studies at Stony Brook University and the author of "Indirect Action: Schizophrenia, Epilepsy, AIDS, and the Course of Health Activism." Benjamin Tausig is an assistant professor of ethnomusicology at Stony Brook and the author of the forthcoming book "Bangkok Is Ringing: Sound, Protest, and Constraint."

New York Times: científicos dudan de ataques sonicos a diplomáticos en Cuba

¿'Ataque sónico' a diplomáticos en Cuba? Estos científicos lo dudan

Por CARL ZIMMER 9 de octubre de 2017

Tomado de: https://www.nytimes.com/es/2017/10/09/ataque-sonico-a-diplomaticos-en-cuba-estos-cientificos-lo-dudan/?em_pos=small&emc=edit_bn_20171010&nl=boletin&nl_art=2&nlid=938499&ref=headline&te=1

In English: https://www.nytimes.com/es/2017/10/09/ataque-sonico-a-diplomaticos-en-cuba-estos-cientificos-lo-dudan/?em_pos=small&emc=edit_bn_20171010&nl=boletin&nl_art=2&nlid=938499&ref=headline&te=1

El Departamento de Estado retiró a su personal no fundamental después de que diplomáticos presentaran síntomas médicos misteriosos.

Un enigma científico yace en el corazón de una extraña confrontación entre Estados Unidos y Cuba.

Según el Departamento de Estado, casi dos docenas de diplomáticos en la embajada estadounidense en La Habana han padecido una serie de síntomas médicos misteriosos, que incluyen pérdida de la audición y dificultades cognitivas.

Después de llegar a la conclusión de que su personal estaba bajo un ataque invisible, el departamento retiró al personal no fundamental de La Habana y lanzó un comunicado para exhortar a los estadounidenses a no visitar la isla. El martes, el gobierno de Trump expulsó a quince diplomáticos cubanos de Estados Unidos.

El Departamento de Estado no ha ofrecido más detalles acerca de las condiciones médicas de los empleados afectados; sin embargo, funcionarios del gobierno han declarado de manera anónima que los diplomáticos podrían haber sido atacados con algún tipo de arma sónica. No obstante, los expertos en acústica dicen que esa es una teoría que parece sacada de una película de James Bond.

El sonido puede causar molestia e incluso daño severo y los investigadores han explorado la idea de armamento sónico durante años. Sin embargo, los científicos dudan que un arma de ultrasonido oculta pueda explicar lo que sucedió en Cuba.

"Yo diría que es bastante improbable", dijo Jurgen Altmann, físico de la Universidad Tecnológica de Dortmund en Alemania y experto en acústica.

Durante décadas, los investigadores militares han tratado de transformar el sonido en un arma no letal que pueda detener a los soldados enemigos en batalla.

"¿Para que contraatacar con batutas y pistolas si podrías usar algo más simple, como un generador de sonido?", dijo el Dr. Geoffrey S. F. Ling, neurólogo en la Universidad Johns Hopkins y antiguo director de la Oficina de Tecnología Biológica de la Agencia de Proyectos de Investigación Avanzados para la Defensa.

El Pentágono patrocinó el desarrollo de bocinas de alta frecuencia para mandar ráfagas de sonido de largo alcance. La Marina los utilizó para mantener a raya a los piratas, mientras el ejército los envía a los puntos de revisión. En años recientes, la policía ha utilizado los llamados aparatos acústicos de largo alcance para dispersar a las multitudes, como a los manifestantes en Ferguson, Misuri.

Sin embargo, estas armas funcionan porque son insoportablemente ruidosas y si una hubiera sido utilizada para atacar diplomáticos en Cuba, no habría lugar a dudas. Así que la especulación se ha virado hacia otra posibilidad: un aparato que produce un sonido fuera del rango del oído humano.

Una posibilidad es el infrasonido, un sonido de baja frecuencia que no puede ser escuchado por humanos. Un informe del Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Ambientales de la Salud en 2002 señaló que los militares han tratado de crear un arma de infrasonido, pero no habían tenido éxito porque es difícil centrar la longitud de onda. El principal efecto del infrasonido en humanos "parece ser molestia", concluyó el informe.

El ultrasonido es una opción más probable. Si el ultrasonido alcanza frecuencias mayores a 20.000 hercios —más allá del oído humano—, puede dañar tejido si se produce con suficiente poder.

Los doctores dirigen ondas de ultrasonido para deshacer cálculos renales. Hace décadas, los investigadores crearon en el laboratorio un rayo de ultrasonido intensamente poderoso que puede matar a un ratón a poca distancia.

Los rayos de ultrasonido menos poderosos no causan daño y tienen una gran variedad de usos médicos, como los muy comunes escaneos médicos. Sin embargo, hay evidencia anecdótica de que a ciertos niveles, pueden hacer que la gente se sienta muy incómoda.

Steven L. Garrett, quien enseñaba acústica en la Universidad Penn State antes de retirarse el año pasado, solía hacer demostraciones de rayos ultrasónicos a sus alumnos. Varias veces sintió náuseas y tuvo dolores de cabeza, al punto que decidió utilizar equipo de protección.

"No los usábamos a menos que nos pusiéramos tapones de oído y orejeras", dijo.

Desafortunadamente, anécdotas como esta conforman casi todo lo que los científicos saben sobre los efectos del ultrasonido en la salud. "Los datos son muy pocos", dijo Timothy Leighton, profesor de Acústica Ultrasónica y Submarina en la Universidad Southampton.

Es difícil conseguir que la gente que dice presentar síntomas quiera ser voluntaria para los estudios, agrega. Y aunque también los militares trataron de desarrollar armas con base en sonidos fuera del espectro del oído humano, abandonaron la mayoría de los proyectos en la década de los noventa.

Incluso si alguien más ha tenido éxito al desarrollar un arma ultrasónica, dicen los investigadores, las leyes de la física hacen improbable que el aparato pueda dañar a diplomáticos a la distancia.

"El ultrasonido no puede viajar grandes distancias", dijo Jun Qin, ingeniero acústico de la Universidad de Illinois. A mayor distancia, más débil es el sonido. Además, señaló el Dr. Garrett, la humedad de un lugar como La Habana lo debilitaría aún más.

Por otro lado, la mayor parte de un rayo de ultrasonido rebotaría en el exterior de un edificio. El poco sonido que atraviese tendría una frecuencia más baja y menos dañina.

Una manera de superar estos obstáculos sería utilizar un arma más grande; pero un vehículo enorme con un cañón de sonido gigante encima al frente de las casas diplomáticas probablemente no pasaría desapercibido.

"Si te refieres a un rifle de rayos que golpea a alguien con ultrasonido que no se puede escuchar a cientos de metros… eso no es posible", dijo el Dr. Leighton.

Por otro lado, un aparato que emita ultrasonido instalado dentro de un edificio, podría estar suficientemente cerca y ser bastante poderoso para ocasionar daños a los moradores. Aunque, incluso una pared interna bloquearía sus ondas.

Un emisor más pequeño colocado más cerca, quizá en la almohada de alguien, podría hacer el trabajo, dijo el Dr. Qin. Sin embargo, es difícil imaginar que algo así pudiera pasar inadvertido. En teoría, un edificio podría estar lleno de pequeños emisores; no obstante, los expertos dicen que es poco probable.

A pesar de que el ultrasonido puede causar muchos de los síntomas que se reportaron, no hay evidencia de que pueda causar daño cerebral leve.

"No conozco ningún efecto acústico que pueda causar síntomas de contusión", dijo el Dr. Altmann. "El sonido que viaja por el aire no puede sacudir tu cabeza".

Por todas estas razones, dicen los expertos, las armas ultrasónicas no deberían encabezar la lista de las explicaciones posibles por la pérdida de la audición y los dolores de cabeza o cualquier otro síntoma que se haya observado en los diplomáticos.

"Creo que estas personas recibieron algo que los dañó", dijo el Dr. Qin. "Pero pudo haber sido algo del medioambiente". Las posibilidades incluyen toxinas o infecciones por virus o bacterias que pueden dañar el oído.

El Dr. Leighton dijo que la ansiedad contagiosa u otro elemento psicógeno no podía descartarse. "Si provocas ansiedad en la gente porque está siendo atacada con un arma ultrasónica, esos son los síntomas que obtienes", dijo.

Revisar todas esas posibilidades sería difícil en este momento.

Si una misteriosa arma ultrasónica de tecnología de punta hubiera sido utilizada, tendría que haber sido fácil obtener evidencia durante el ataque, dijo el Dr. Garrett. Los micrófonos de teléfono celular muchas veces son sensibles al sonido ultrasónico, señaló, y las aplicaciones disponibles para iPhone podrían haberlo develado.

A los investigadores ahora solo les queda examinar a los diplomáticos con daños físicos reveladores, como tímpanos dañados.

"Creo que perdieron su oportunidad" de encontrar la causa, dijo. "Habría sido muy fácil".

martes, 3 de octubre de 2017

A scientific view on the inexplicable sonic weapon

A mysterious international dispute that threatens the recently thawed diplomatic relationship between the United States and Cuba came to light in a 10 August 2017 story first reported by the Associated Press. The report focused on a series of seemingly related illnesses suffered by American and Canadian diplomats serving in Cuba. The original reporting included what later appeared to be speculation from unnamed United States government officials that some form of heretofore unknown sonic weapon was to blame:

In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of President Barack Obama's reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Some of the U.S. diplomats' symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences.

The U.S. State Department later walked back claims that they specifically had concluded a sonic weapon was at play, saying through a spokesperson that "we do not know who or what is causing these incidents". Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has described the incidents as "health attacks", and Cuba denies any involvement. As reported by the Associated Press on 18 September 2017, the range of symptoms is nonspecific and vague:

Of the 21 medically confirmed U.S. victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, the AP has reported. Some victims felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, leading investigators to consider a potential "sonic attack." Others heard nothing but later developed symptoms.

In sum, the symptoms (none of which are universal to all cases) that have been used in the defense of the claim that a "sonic weapon" was used are as follows:

Hearing loss, Nausea, Vertigo, Headaches, Ear-ringingConcentration and memory problems, Brain swelling or "damage to the central nervous system""A more serious illness that involved a blood disorder"

Further clues into the nature of the attack, including the occurrence of an audible noise in some cases, were provided first by a 20 August 2017 CNN report, reporting that some diplomats heard "a deafeningly loud [but unidentified] sound similar to the buzzing created by insects or metal scraping across a floor". CBS News reported:

Some felt vibrations, and heard sounds — loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas. Others heard the grinding noise.

The reports of screeching noises in some and no noise in most initially led both government and media speculation that a "silent" audible device was most likely used (there are ranges of noise close to audible sound that can be heard by some but not others). The two options, then, would be an infrasonic device (below the audible frequency humans hear) or ultrasonic (above that range).

The debate about which brand of inaudible noise would be used generally boils down to this: infrasonic waves capable of affecting humans covertly would need to be extremely close to the victim or unrealistically large, and they would not be able to produce a targeted attack, instead affecting a larger and thus more indiscriminate area. Ultrasonic waves could be targeted, focused, and beamed from further away, but are unlikely to cause a bulk of the symptoms ascribed to them and unless the device was physically touching the victim.

Before diving into this research, two variables related to sound are necessary to understand what follows. These include the frequency of the noise — defined by the number of waves per unit of time — and also its power, determined by the amount of energy each wave carries. The former is reported in Hz or kHz, with infrasound including noise below 20 Hz, and ultrasound encompassing noise above 20 kHz (20,000 Hz). (The latter is reported in decibels or dB.)

Below, we detail the main research regarding the primary symptoms discussed in the reporting of the Cuban "health attacks", finding a.) that the evidence is fairly weak for both ultrasound and infrasound as the cause for a majority of the symptoms listed and b.) that none of the symptoms can be described entirely by either only infrasound or only ultrasound.

Hearing Loss

Poorly explained by infrasound
Not explained by ultrasound

The source most commonly cited in news reports suggesting that infrasound can cause hearing loss is a 2001 review conducted by the NIH, which stated (with heavy qualification) that research, while sparse, shows "physical damage to the ear or some loss of hearing has been found in humans and/or animals at levels above 140 dB". The 140 dB measurement is no minor omission of detail, as 140 dB infrasonic waves projected covertly at any distance are essentially impossible. The actual studies reviewed in this NIH document generally suggest the opposite: low-frequency, high-power noise will not cause hearing loss, temporary or otherwise, if below the considerably high energy of 150 dB.

Ultrasonic sound is widely considered to be irrelevant to hearing loss. Another 2001 review by Jürgen Altmann, an acoustic weapons expert and physicist at Germany's Technische Universitaet Dortmund and who investigated the bulk of the literature up to that time, concluded that at ultrasound "the ear is essentially untouched" if levels are below 140 dB.

Fatigue, Headaches, Ringing Ears, Vertigo, and Nausea

Not explained by infrasound
Inconclusive evidence regarding ultrasound

Based on the reviews performed by both the NIH and by Altmann, there is no scientific consensus on fatigue, headaches, ringing ears, or vertigo as they apply to infrasonic noise. The only symptom in this category discussed as a possible result of infrasonic noise is nausea. Per the NIH:

There is no agreement about the biological activity of infrasound. Reported effects include […] nausea, vomiting, and bowel spasm. 

Altmann (and many others) argued that the gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, and bowel spasms in particular, while frequently reported in the press, have been overblown and cannot conclusively be tied to infrasonic sound:

The vertigo and nausea effects in the journalistic articles ascribed to intense infrasound cannot be confirmed. On the other hand, low [but still audible] frequencies of 50-100 Hz at 150 to 155 dB caused mild nausea.

Many of the above symptoms (headaches, ringing ears, nausea, and fatigue), however, were once referred to in the literature as "ultrasonic sickness". This suite of symptoms and their ties to ultrasonic noise was based on numerous reports from workers in proximity to a variety of ultrasonic devices or tools. Altmann has argued that this literature is hard to interpret as these environments contain significant audible sound, as well. A 2013 review of the effects of ultrasound on humans makes a similar argument:

Many studies confirmed the appearance of subjective symptoms of exposure to noise emitted by ultrasonic devices like dizziness, balance disturbances, tinnitus and fatigue. It is assumed that those symptoms result from the effect of noise on the vestibular system; however, further studies are necessary. […]

According to the results of studies in the 1960s and 1970s, "audible" components of the noise spectrum are, above all, responsible for subjective symptoms among workers exposed to noise emitted by ultrasonic devices.

Concentration and memory problems

Poorly explained by infrasound
Poorly explained by ultrasound

There are few human studies addressing the neurological effects of infrasonic sound on cognition. Within those, a few single studies demonstrate a connection between infrasound and cognition on humans and animals. Overall, however, most research demonstrates no connection at all, and none have suggested permanent or persistent issues after exposure, as stated in the National Institutes of Health's 2001 review:

In several experiments to assess cognitive performance during exposure to infrasound […] no reduction in performance was observed in the subjects. Sole exposure to infrasound at 10 to 15 Hz and 130 to 135 dB for 30 minutes also did not produce changes in autonomic nervous functions.

In terms of ultrasound, the 2013 review noted that many concentration issues could be associated with the symptoms of "ultrasonic sickness" without being directly caused by the noise itself:

It is worth mentioning that some subjective effects of exposure to ultrasonic noise such as fatigue, headache, discomfort or irritation may disturb human cognitive functions.

This body of research refers to the transient appearance of these symptoms when in direct contact with that sound, and makes no suggestion of prolonged memory problems like word recall. Outside of occupational studies that lack relevance to sonic weapon development and by their nature include audible sound as well, there is little evidence in humans to suggest that ultrasound can be the cause for permanent neurological damage.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Poorly explained by infrasound
Not explained by ultrasound

Altmann, author of the 2001 review of acoustic weapons, told the Associated Press:

I know of no acoustic effect or device that could produce traumatic brain injury or concussion-like symptoms.

The only real mechanism for a damage to the internal organ system such as the brain would be through some sort of powerful internal vibration caused by the strong vibration of the sound waves themselves. Scientists agree that this would best be achieved by infrasound, but the evidence that such frequencies could actually make this happen is quite limited and derived almost entirely from studies on animals or anecdotal reports.

A 2009 review published in the journal Military Medicine notes that "remarkable properties have been attributed to infrasound, including the capacity to 'debilitate people for hours and even days,' with 'pulsing in their internal organs and blurred vision, both of which can lead to …, in rare cases, death,'" but this review also highlights the reality that there are nearly no studies to back up such claims. In fact, studies performed as far back as 1978 and as recently as 2009 conclude that an infrasonic weapon used to harm major organ systems would be implausible — if not completely impossible.

In terms of ultrasound, it is essentially impossible for this kind of energy to penetrate into the human body without direct contact, as the waves dissipate rapidly through the air (and, it should be noted, pretty rapidly within the body as well). Responding to questions that ultrasonic waves could cause brain damage,  Robin Cleveland, a professor of engineering science at the University of Oxford, told the Guardian he doesn't buy it: "The sound would have to enter the brain tissue itself […]. If there's even a tiny bit of air between the sound and your body it doesn't get through."

Blood Disorders

Not enough information

Without knowing more than that a victim experienced "a more serious illness that involved a blood disorder" it is hard to confidently assess plausibility of this this kind of disease except to say that the reasons ultrasonic noise do not explain brain damage would likely hold for any illness that requires sound to penetrate into the body. According to the NIH, the most consistently reported effect of infrasonic noise (though the mechanisms remains unclear) seem to be changes in blood pressure and respiratory rate, which could perhaps be linked to other diseases indirectly. There is no existing evidence that links noise of any kind to the development of a blood disorder.

In the End, Neither Infrasound or Ultrasound Work as an Explanation

Taking even the most tenuous scientific research at face value, an ultrasonic device could be responsible for the transient occurrence of fatigue, headaches, ringing ears, vertigo, and nausea and (even more dubious) concentration and memory issues. Taking a similarly loose approach for infrasound, this kind of noise could cause hearing loss, nausea, and (most dubiously) some form of organ discomfort or damage. Neither can explain all of the symptoms.

Further, there is no real way to create a covert version of either device. F. Joseph Pompei, a former MIT researcher and current chief executive officer of a company that develops devices that focus sound into narrow, targeted beams, told us that a focused or controllable beam of 20Hz (infrasonic) sound would require an array of subwoofers "the size of a stadium". 

Conversely, he told us, for an ultrasonic device to penetrate into the body at all, the victim would either have to be submerged in water (which can carry those waves with less energy loss) or have the device in physical contact. This, as well, seems unlikely to be a covert choice for an attack.

"It sounds very appealing and interesting, but I find it hard to believe that there actually is such a device,"  John Oghalai, Chair of the Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Southern California, told The Verge.

Collectively, the scientific research — which in many cases notes that anecdotal and inaccurate reports in newspapers have long obfuscated the actual science behind the plausibility of such a device — demonstrates that no single brand of sound could create the range of symptoms described by the victims of the Cuban health attacks, and even if they could, a covert device would be hard if not impossible to design. As such we rank the specific claim that an inaudible sonic device adequately explains the health attacks Cuba as false.

 

Filed Under: Concussion Cuba Health Attacks +2 More

Fact Checker: Alex Kasprak

Featured Image: cigdem / Shutterstock.com

Published:Sep 25th, 2017

Sources:

Lee, Matthew, and Weissenstein, Michael.   "Hearing Loss of Us Diplomats in Cuba Blamed on Covert Device."
    Associated Press.   10 August 2017.

Samuelson, Kate and Worland, Justin.   "U.S. Diplomats in Cuba Were Injured by a 'Sonic Weapon.' What Is That?"
    Time.   10 August 2017.

Associated Press.   "Top US Diplomat Says Closing Embassy in Cuba 'Under Review'"
    10 August 2017.

Koran, Laura, et al.   "Mysterious Attacks on Us Diplomats in Cuba Occurred as Recently as Last Month."
    CNN.   4 September 2017.

CBS News.   "Some U.s. Diplomats in Cuba Diagnosed With Serious Health Conditions, Medical Records Show."
    23 August 2017.

Robles, Frances and Semple, Kirk.   "'Health Attacks' on U.S. Diplomats in Cuba Baffle Both Countries."
    New York Times .   11 August 2017.

Altmann, Jurgen.   "Acoustic Weapons – A Prospective Assessment"
    Science & Global Security.   2001

National Toxicology Program [U.S.].   "Infrasound: Brief Review of Toxicological Literature"
    November 2001.

Smagowska, Bożena, and Pawlaczyk-Łuszczyńska, Małgorzata.   "Effects of Ultrasonic Noise on the Human Body—A Bibliographic Review"
    International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics.   2013.

Cook, Michael C., and Jauchem, James R.   "High-Intensity Acoustics for Military Nonlethal Applications: A Lack of Useful Systems."
    Military Medicine.   February 2007.

Broner, N.   "The Effects of Low Frequency Noise on People—A Review"
    Journal of Sound and Vibration.   1978.

Devlin, Hannah.   "How Could the 'Sonic Attack' on US Diplomats in Cuba Have Been Carried Out?"
    The Guardian.   25 August 2017.

Becker, Rachel.   "Weaponizing sound: could sonic devices have injured diplomats in Cuba?"
    The Verge.   16 September 2017.

 

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martes, 11 de julio de 2017

Que los daños colaterales no seamos nosotros mismos

Por: Harold Cárdenas Lema e Israel Rojas Fiel
Este es un escrito militante, dirigido a todos los que de alguna forma generan ideología en Cuba. Los compañeros que han escrito sobre el centrismo en Cuba tienen preocupaciones que compartimos, tienen razones válidas, pero no tienen toda la razón. No es que sus preguntas no ameriten respuestas, sino que en lugar de un diálogo transparente se ha pretendido aplicar una solución vieja a un problema nuevo. Cuando los ataques preventivos los hacemos nosotros en lugar del enemigo, los daños colaterales somos nosotros mismos.
La forma en que se está conduciendo el debate provoca fracturas entre revolucionarios, divorcio entre intelectuales y activistas con apoyo gubernamental, polarización de la esfera pública. Es difícil concebir un plan contra la Revolución que genere más daño. Nuestro instinto sugiere que lo esencial sigue siendo invisible a los ojos y las verdaderas respuestas siguen ausentes. Un día sabremos a ciencia cierta quién era el enemigo y quién no, pero quienes participan hoy en el debate público no pueden ser peones de un juego mayor, o nuestros esfuerzos son vanos.
Estamos en la misma trinchera, queremos una sola vía y esa se llama socialismo. Escribir un libro sobre el centrismo y mencionar a uno de los autores de este escrito 43 veces, es cuanto menos un exceso, cuando Trump se menciona 26 veces y Obama 31. El mencionado debe ser el diablo porque se menciona en el libro más que un presidente estadounidense. Sugerir ambigüedad en quienes plantan bandera cuando es necesario y abogan abiertamente por el socialismo, es un error. Raúl llamó a la crítica y dar batalla donde fuera necesaria, resulta curioso cómo lo que hace años era una convocatoria hoy puede confundirse con centrismo.
Existe una hegemonía mundial respecto a la cual somos rebeldes los cubanos. A ella se contrapone la resistencia de nuestro país, pero acá dentro también existe hegemonía. Quien genera pensamiento en el Buró Nacional de la UJC, quien imparte conferencias en universidades, quienes tienen respaldo de medios masivos de comunicación, quienes trabajan en la ideología del país con tiempo y conectividad suficiente para articularse, generan hegemonía. No se puede ser anti-hegemónico respecto al capitalismo de dominación, pero a lo interno tener un comportamiento similar. Nuestra hegemonía debe ser siempre de liberación. Como no se puede ser crítico del capitalismo y cerrar los ojos a nuestros problemas internos.
Los que engrasan la maquinaria política del país, deben tener cuidado que sus parámetros no sean excluyentes sino inclusivos, porque cuando terminan los conferencias y se van a sus casas, esas ideas se convierten en sentencias sin juicio y excesos de entusiasmo. Y el adjetivo de "centrista" sigue siendo vergonzoso para un revolucionario, sigue marginando de organizaciones políticas a las que se quisiera pertenecer y sigue saboteando las posibilidades laborales de quien lo lleva como una letra escarlata, merecida o no.
Es menos difícil ser revolucionario con altos niveles de información secreta, viajando con pasaporte oficial, dando conferencias, hospedados en casas de visita y a kilómetros de cualquier osadía legal que les permita hacer su labor. Quien tiene una plataforma que lo soporte, sea revolucionaria o contrarrevolucionaria, siempre lo tendrá más fácil que quien lo hace a mano y sin permiso. Participar en la construcción del socialismo es tanto una pasión para estos compañeros como para nosotros, con la excepción de que para ellos además de pasión es trabajo, para nosotros es una responsabilidad a veces ingrata.
La forma en que se ha abordado la ambigüedad política en momentos claves, en lugar de generar solidaridad ha creado antipatía. Al menos deberían preguntarse por qué. Han confundido el discurso anti-hegemónico con otro que limita la creatividad y autenticidad de la participación política. Entonces comienza el enfrentamiento donde se dedican más adjetivos y se prefieren acuñar más términos despectivos que discutir las ideas de otros. En esta Cuba alfabetizada después de medio siglo de revolución, el impulso no le puede ganar al pensamiento. El entusiasmo no le puede ganar a la convicción.
Los que discreparon en el debate con Silvio sobre este tema, son compañeros de ideas, pero en la práctica no estamos siendo compañeros de lucha. Entre compañeros siempre prima el beneficio de la duda y no el de la sospecha, incluso en los errores propios de la lucha política y la vida. ¿Se puede ser un bloguero revolucionario en escenarios de derecha y defender la revolución? Sí. ¿Se puede dar un concierto en el Teatro Manuel Artime de Miami y defender la Revolución? Sí, el primer concierto de Buena Fe en Estados Unidos fue precisamente en ese teatro.
Menos mal que existe Segunda Cita y nos queda Silvio para liberarnos de esquemas, pero ningún hombre es eterno. Estamos a tiempo de recapacitar, que los compañeros ideológicos sean compañeros de lucha y haya una sola hegemonía que derrotar. Ya no tenemos a Fidel, Alfredo Guevara, Haydeé Santamaría y los que en los 60 protegían los herejes del momento. Ya no hay quien nos salve de los errores e inseguridades institucionales, el ICAIC y Casa de las Américas no pueden ser los refugios de otras veces.
Este escrito no es definitivo, no es la verdad absoluta sino un gesto de buena voluntad. Una alerta para quienes señalan con el dedo y al hacerlo cuentan con el respaldo de la disciplina que caracteriza a los revolucionarios, del público que, por respeto a una institución o un compañero, no le contradice ni siquiera para alertarle su error. No es posible que después de una batalla por el cambio de mentalidad el espacio a la crítica sea aún menor, no es posible que apelar a la crítica revolucionaria sea un ejercicio riesgoso o se confunda con ambigüedad política.
Si para algo tiene que servir este debate es para que el tema no sea un diálogo de sordos. Los compañeros que nos ven fuera de sus parámetros sobre qué es un buen revolucionario, deberían pensar por qué el alcance de sus palabras es limitado, por qué darle un espacio dentro de la Revolución al que no piense como nosotros, pero sepa respetarla, no nos empobrece. Por qué teniendo razones de sobra, su batalla no enamora del todo, habiendo aun tanto amante de justicia y si su táctica de repartir adjetivos descalificando gente, no estará provocando daños colaterales.
A lo largo de la Revolución cuando se han cometido errores, el sentido común de la opinión pública ha hecho recapacitar a las autoridades, garantizando que sea más fuerte y vital la esperanza y salvando revolucionarios. Veremos cuánto hemos aprendido del pasado.

domingo, 9 de julio de 2017

Time to end agricultural trade restrictions with Cuba

By: Paul Johnson and Arturo Lopez-Levy
From: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/energy-environment/341148-time-to-end-agricultural-trade-restrictions-with-cuba#.WWKM0ILNqPc.facebook

It has been nearly 17 years since Congress passed a law involving
Cuba. The last time was in 2000 when the Trade Sanctions Reform and
Export Enhancement Act allowed food products to be sold to Cuba on a
cash only basis as an exception to the comprehensive embargo.

The act opened a decade and a half of hope and sales but today, it is
anachronistic. Its prohibition of credit hinders further U.S.
agricultural exports to Cuba. After some important reforms of Cuba's
economy, there is a need for new legislation allowing U.S. agriculture
a chance to compete with other nations who have been trading with Cuba
for decades.

Cuba imports 74 percent of its food while local production is enough
to cover only 20 percent of the population needs. Poor infrastructure,
energy shortages, insufficient irrigation, severe post-harvest food
loss and a woefully inefficient distribution system hinder Cubans'
access to a dependable food supply.

There are other stresses as well. Tourism brought more than four
million visitors to the island last year. While good for the overall
economy, those tourists imposed a tremendous increase in food and food
quality demand for an island with a population of only 11 million
inhabitants and a poor agricultural structure.

That additional demand drove up the cost of food, making it less
available to the estimated 80 percent of the population who do not
have access to private jobs or remittances from abroad. It is
estimated that 88 percent of a Cuban household income is spent on
food, compared to only 10 percent in the U.S.

In short, Cuba has a food problem. Fortunately, the United States can
contribute some solutions — if we are permitted to use them.

The relationship between the U.S. and Cuba over the past fifty years
has been an acrimonious political one. Politics has trumped commerce
and created an environment where trade is unnecessarily complicated.
For far too long, U.S. commercial interests have been forbidden to
leverage their inherent economic and geographic advantages to pursue
trade with Cuba, to the severe detriment of businesses, producers and
consumers in both countries. What is needed is a move towards a
commercial relationship where trust and confidence can be restored.

Meanwhile, Russia, China and European countries — thousands of miles
away — have been sending cargo ships of food and agricultural products
to Cuba, goods that easily could have been purchased right next door
from U.S. companies and producers.

It's clearly time for the United States to normalize agricultural
trade with Cuba. Both countries have much to gain by passing a law
permitting further It's time for U.S. and Cuba agriculture
collaboration, so we must end restrictions on routine activities of
agricultural financial services that do not serve the interests of
either the U.S. or Cuban people.

President Trump's "America first" motto cannot ignore the interests of
farmers who helped elect him, and while a recent executive order made
clear that agriculture trade with Cuba was exempt from further
restrictions, it will require Congress to support that overture.

While ending restrictions on credit and financial services for sales
will increase the American share of the $2 billion in agriculture
products purchased by Cuba annually, Congress should also permit Cuban
exports to the United States.

Currently, the embargo severely limits Cuba from shipping exports
directly to the United States.

Dropping that restriction would benefit U.S. consumers as well as
Cuban exporters. Under normalized trade relations, U.S. consumers once
again would gain access to nearby Cuban products —such as tropical
fruits, seafood, coffee and tobacco — which we currently import in
large quantities from other countries at a higher cost.

The time has come for Congress to pass a law that will open up a new
market for our farm products, while helping to build a relationship
with Cuba literally from the ground up.

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Paul Johnson is the president of Chicago Foods International, which
focuses on focus on developing equity projects and managing operations
that improve food and agriculture production, supply chains, trade,
and the sustainability of our shared natural resources.

Arturo Lopez-Levy, PhD is a lecturer at the Political Science
Department of the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. He is the
co-author of "Raul Castro and the New Cuba: A close-up view of
Change."