viernes, 9 de marzo de 2018


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martes, 27 de febrero de 2018

Fresh row over mysterious sickness affecting US diplomats in Cuba

Study into 'health attacks' on embassy staff sparks controversy, with some experts claiming situation is being spun for political gain

Ian Sample The Guardian / Science editor @iansample

Sat 24 Feb 2018

When a mystery illness rippled through the US embassy in Cuba in late 2016, the diplomatic fallout was rapid.

The US slashed the number of people at its Havana mission and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats after at least 24 American staff and family reported a mix of headaches, dizziness, eyesight, hearing, sleep and concentration problems.

Many of the affected diplomats said their illness came on after they heard strange noises in their homes or hotel rooms. Some reported that the sounds – which ranged from grinding to cicada-like to the buffeting caused by an open car window – appeared to be directed at them, and that their symptoms abated when they moved to another room.

Now, the dispute over the cause of the episode has spread into the medical world, where some doctors and scientists are furious with a situation they believe is being spun for political gain.

A study published last week by American doctors who examined 21 of the diplomats has been criticised for starting from a position that the diplomats had been exposed to some unknown "energy source". Sceptics insist this remains conjecture at best, and is far from proven.

In the immediate aftermath of the incidents, unnamed US officials claimed that the diplomats had been victims of "acoustic attacks", from a device that operated outside the audible range of sound. Further anonymous briefings claimed that scientists had discovered abnormalities in white matter tracts in the diplomats' brains.

While US officials have begun to row back from claims of an acoustic attack – a scenario an FBI investigation found no evidence for – the use of some other kind of energy weapon which happens to make a sound is still under investigation.

The US government asked doctors at the University of Pennsylvania to run tests on 21 of the diplomats. The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama), found no evidence of white matter tract abnormalities, though more advanced scans are underway. "They were similar to what you might see in the same age control group," said Douglas Smith, director of the Centre for Brain Injury and Repair, who led the medical assessments.

But the study does describe a new syndrome in the diplomats that resembles persistent concussion. While some of those affected recovered swiftly, others have had symptoms last for months. The study concludes that the diplomats appear to have "sustained injury to widespread brain networks."

Robert Bartholomew, an expert in mass psychogenic illness (MPI) who teaches at Botany Downs Secondary College in Auckland, said he was "floored by the study" and claims that it reads like US government propaganda. In the article, the doctors state that their objective is to describe "neurological manifestations that followed exposure to an unknown energy source," but Bartholomew points out that there is no proof that any kind of energy source affected the diplomats, or even that an attack took place. "It's like the authors are trying to get us to believe an attack has occurred," he told the Guardian.

Mitchell Valdés-Sosa, director of the Cuban Centre for Neurosciences, who was part of a Cuban investigation into the incidents, said other explanations have been dismissed too soon. "When you look at the evidence, at what's being presented, it doesn't support the idea of widespread damage to brain networks."

He believes that a small number of diplomats had real medical problems, the causes of which are unknown, which then sparked fears over attacks when they were linked to unusual noises. As concern spread through the diplomatic community, others experienced similar symptoms, developing MPI.

"There is no evidence of any kind of attack," said Valdés-Sosa. "It would take a stretch of the imagination to explain the findings with this kind of, let's say, novel technology. There are other explanations that have to be explored first."

An editorial, published alongside the Jama study, also urges caution and calls for more evidence to be rigorously evaluated before people reach definitive conclusions. But Valdés-Sosa points out that while the study is referenced on the US state department's website, which calls on people to reconsider travel to Cuba in light of "health attacks", the editorial which raises a long list of caveats is not.

"This has been politicised," Valdés-Sosa said. "I think people are using this to push for the rolling back of the relationships that had started to blossom during Obama's presidency."

Obama essayed a thaw in relations with Cuba during his final years in the White House. But Donald Trump has reversed the detente.

Smith conceded that the cause of the diplomats' illnesses was still unknown. "The concept of this being an energy source is really our best guess, because we can't think of anything else, but it's absolutely not proven." He added: "Whether there was an attack or not is not really in our purview."

Last month Todd Brown, diplomatic security assistant director at the state department, said US investigators were now considering whether people might have been deliberately exposed to a virus. Smith finds this unlikely: "This does seem like a directional phenomenon and I don't know too many poisons or viruses or bacteria that come and go as you move from place to place."

Smith also believes that MPI is an unlikely explanation for the mysterious sickness because the diplomats were all highly motivated to get back to work, and some of them had symptoms that lasted for months.

But Bartholomew argues that MPI has nothing to do with malingering and that it can be long-lasting. "The second most common type of MPI begins slowly and persists for months and years and is often characterised by neurological symptoms," he said. "The number one suspect here is mass psychogenic illness."

In response to claims that the issue had become politicised, Smith said: "Nobody on our team works for the government or has any conflict with respect to government. In fact, I think most people on the team were sceptical at first and were not expecting to find much here, and yet one after another independently came up with a view that there is something here, that this does appear to be a new syndrome.

"We have nothing to hide," he added. We want to keep the privacy of the individuals intact, but we would be open to discussion about our findings, we're not aligned with the government."

domingo, 28 de enero de 2018

¿Qué hay detrás de la nueva "Fuerza de Tarea de Internet para Cuba" de Trump?

Por: Marcel Hatch, 26 de enero de 2018

La realidad: Cuba tiene el acceso a Internet más bajo en América Latina y uno de los más caros para acceder.

La realidad: el servicio a domicilio de Nauta en Cuba no bloquea ningún sitio web. Sin embargo, hay miles de sitios en los Estados Unidos que bloquean el acceso cubano a sus páginas debido al bloqueo de los EE.UU. Casi todas las empresas estadounidenses que participan en el comercio en línea, el 99% de las instituciones financieras, muchas agencias gubernamentales estatales y federales de los EE. UU. y ONGs bloquean el acceso de los cubanos a sus sitios.

La realidad: los impedimentos tecnológicos, como la velocidad de conexión lenta y los altos costos, también son un problema derivado del bloqueo de los EE. UU. Los equipos y materiales necesarios para actualizar la infraestructura de Internet de la isla a menudo se fabrican en los Estados Unidos o son controlados por los EE.UU. y solo se pueden enviar a Cuba con la aprobación del gobierno de EE.UU. Cuando esta tecnología está disponible desde otro país y se exporta a Cuba ese país enfrenta duras represalias y sanciones de los Estados Unidos.

Todo cubano quiere y necesita más acceso a un internet más económico. Es una prioridad nacional. Hay mucho que poner al día y muchos obstáculos que vencer. Sin embargo, Cuba superó a todos los países en tasas de crecimiento en dos categorías el año pasado: más de 2.7 millones de nuevos usuarios (365 por ciento en comparación con 2016) y 2.6 millones de personas usaron sus teléfonos celulares para acceder a redes sociales (385 por ciento de aumento).

Los altos costos continúan disminuyendo y ETECSA, el proveedor nacional de telefonía e Internet, lanza constantemente mejores opciones y velocidades.

Y, sí, ¡todos desean que esto suceda más rápido!

Pero ¿a qué precio? Y ¿por qué están promoviendo una "Fuerza de Tarea de Internet de Cuba" en Washington, cuando Cuba ya tiene decenas de miles de personas que se están ocupando de este problema?

¿Están Trump y Rubio simplemente buscando un nuevo tema candente para vilipendiar a Cuba, ya que su cuento de hadas de "ataque sónico" fue evidenciado como una farsa? Si. Pero hay más que la grandilocuencia de la Guerra Fría.

El guion político de este complot anticubano se puede leer en un artículo del Miami Herald el 23 de enero: "La administración de Donald Trump quiere que más cubanos estén conectados y obtengan acceso a información no controlada por el gobierno de Castro".

Va a ser difícil de convencer a los estadounidenses sobre eso, porque conocen la posición real de Trump sobre las libertades de Internet.

"Trump + Libertad de Internet" es un anatema. Su Comisión Federal de Comunicaciones (FCC) votó para abolir la neutralidad de la red a mediados de diciembre de 2017. Trump designó como presidente de la FCC, Ajit Pap, al ex asesor legal de Verizon, quien describió el proceso para terminar con la neutralidad de la red como "divertido y genial". El 2 de abril de 2017 Trump firmó una ley que liberaba a los proveedores de servicios de internet, como Verizon y AT&T, de tener que proteger los datos de los consumidores. El 15 de septiembre de 2017 Trump propuso "cortar" el internet después del bombardeo en el metro de Londres, para evitar que "ISIS obtenga reclutas" [!].

En el corazón de la iniciativa "Cuba Internet Task Force" de Trump y Rubio está promover los intereses de las gigantes empresas de telecomunicaciones de los EE.UU. para penetrar en la infraestructura de comunicaciones de Cuba, con los objetivos de ganancias y control.

Los comentarios hechos por Daniel Sepúlveda, antiguo líder de la política hacia Cuba en telecomunicaciones, a una entrevista televisiva del Miami Herald ayudan a aclararlo: "En todas partes del mundo donde las comunicaciones se han desplegado ampliamente, se ha hecho ... a través de un entorno atractivo de inversión extranjera directa, a través de empresas conjuntas, particularmente en el sector inalámbrico, e inversiones en infraestructuras". Concluyó diciendo: "[Cuba ] necesita un cable [Miami-Habana] ... en caso de que algo le pase al cable [de Venezuela]".

Pero la Cuenca del Caribbean es una telaraña de cables de telecomunicaciones submarinos de alta velocidad que conectan a todas las naciones costeras e isleñas. Estados Unidos impide que Cuba se una a esta red.

Entonces los isleños deben decidir: Internet más lento y confiable, que mejorará y se pondrá al día con el tiempo, o un solo cable de internet de alta velocidad de propiedad de compañías estadounidenses y con licencia de Washington, que podría ser "cortado" al capricho de un presidente estadounidense hostil.

Trump se despertó la mañana del 29 de septiembre de 2017 y expulsó a la mayor parte del personal de la Embajada de Cuba en Washington y cortó el personal de la Embajada de Estados Unidos en La Habana. El mismo día publicó en su sitio web del Departamento de Estado una advertencia infantil, como en una película de terror, para ahuyentar a los estadounidenses de visitar Cuba y perjudicar la economía de la isla. Así que cortar el internet a Cuba sería una obviedad para este presidente impulsivo.

La primera reunión de la "Fuerza de Tarea" tendrá lugar el 7 de febrero, momento en el que sus miembros harán su debut. Habrá calentando los asientos unos cuantos representantes de los treinta mega-comandos ganadores de dinero, junto con los legisladores oportunistas que postulan para los descontentos expatriados cubanos en el sur de la Florida.

La "Fuerza de Tarea" ofrecerá "cordialmente" un cable submarino "libre" Miami-Habana y una infraestructura "gratuita" de Internet, pero sin divulgar las letras pequeñas. Entonces Cuba declinará más juiciosamente. Luego, Trump y Rubio etiquetarán a los cubanos como ingratos y acusarán al gobierno de la isla con el "totalitarismo" de Internet. Pero seguiremos teniendo una internet sin ánimo de lucro construida por cubanos, con la ayuda de naciones que no están apostando por la desaparición de la isla, que seguirá siendo propiedad del pueblo y no se la dejarán arrebatar fácilmente.


Marcel Hatch vive y trabaja en La Habana, es dependiente de internet.

sábado, 27 de enero de 2018

What’s behind Trump’s new “Cuba Internet Task Force”?

Marcel Hatch, 26 January 2018

Fact: Cuba has the lowest internet access in Latin America, and one of the most expensive to access.

Fact: Cuba's Nauta home service does not block any websites. However, there are thousands of sites in the United States that block Cuban access to their pages because of the U.S. blockade. Nearly all U.S. companies engaged in online commerce, 99% of financial institutions, many U.S. state and federal government agencies, and NGOs block Cubans from accessing their sites.

Fact: Technological impediments such as slow connection speeds and high costs are likewise a problem resulting from the U.S. blockade. Equipment and materials needed to upgrade the island internet infrastructure is often made in the States or controlled by the U.S. and can only be sent to Cuba with U.S. government approval. When this technology is available from another country and exported to Cuba, that country faces harsh reprisals and penalties from the U.S.

Every Cuban wants and needs more access to less expensive internet. It is a top national priority. There is a lot of catching up to do and hurdles to overcome. Yet, Cuba exceeded all countries in grow rates in two categories last year: more than 2.7 million new users (365 percent compared to 2016), and 2.6 million people used their cell phones to access social networks (385 percent increase).

High costs are continuing to decrease, and ETECSA, the national telephone and internet provider, steadily rolls out better options and increased speeds.

And, yes, everyone wishes this could happen faster!

But at what cost? And why is a "Cuba Internet Task Force" happening in Washington when Cuba already has tens of thousands tasking away this problem already?

Are Trump and Rubio merely looking for a new hot-button issue to vilify Cuba since their "sonic attack" fairy tale was exposed as a sham? Yup. But there more to this than Cold War grandstanding.

The political script for this current anti-Cuba plot was the lead for a Miami Herald story on January 23: "The Donald Trump administration wants more Cubans to be connected and obtain access to information not controlled by the Castro government."

That is going to be a hard sell to the American people who know Trump's real position on Internet Freedoms.

Trump + Internet Freedom is an anathema. His Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to abolish net neutrality in mid-December 2017. Trump appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pap, former media giant Verizon legal counsel, described the process of ending net neutrality as "fun and cool." Trump's been slashing internet freedoms from the day he took office. On April 2, 2017, he signed a bill releasing internet service providers like Verizon and AT&T from having to protect consumer data. On September 15, 2017, Trump proposed to "cut off" the internet after the London Tube Bombing to prevent "ISIS from gaining recruits[!]"

At the heart of Trump and Rubio's "Cuba Internet Task Force" initiative is this: advancing the interests of giant U.S. telecoms to make inroads into Cuba's communications infrastructure with the objectives of profit and control.

Comments made by Daniel Sepúlveda, former U.S. point man on Cuba telecom policy in a Miami Herald television interview help clarify. "Everywhere in the world where communications have been deployed widely, it has been done… through an attractive environment of foreign direct investment, through joint ventures, particularly in the wireless sector, and investments in infrastructures." He concluded by saying, "[Cuba] needs a [Miami-Havana] cable… in case something happens to the cable [from Venezuela]."

But Caribbean Basin is a spider web of high-speed undersea telecommunications cables connecting all the island and coastal nations. The U.S. blocks Cuba from joining this network.

So islanders must decide. Slower reliable internet that will improve and catch up over time, or a single source high-speed internet cable owned by U.S. companies and licensed by Washington that could be capriciously "cut off" at the whim of a hostile U.S. president?

Trump woke up on the morning of September 29, 2017, and kicked most of the Cuba Embassy staff out of Washington and cut U.S. Embassy staff in Havana to bare bones. The same day he posted a childish horror-flick themed Travel Warning on his State Department website to scare off Americans from visiting Cuba, and to hurt the island economy. So cutting off internet to Cuba would be a no-brainer for this impulsive president.

The first meeting of the Task Force happens on February 7, at which time its members will make their debut. There will be more than a few representatives of the profit thirty mega-coms warming seats, together with opportunist lawmakers posturing for disgruntled Cuban expatriates in South Florida.

The "Task Force" will most graciously offer a "free" Miami-Havana undersea cable and "free" internet infrastructure stuff but without disclosing the fine print. Then Cuba will most judiciously decline. Then Trump and Rubio will label Cubans as ingrates and charge the island government with internet totalitarianism. But we'll still have not-for-profit internet built by Cubans with help from nations not bent on the island's demise, owned by the people, and not easily wrested from them.


Marcel Hatch lives and works in Havana, and is internet dependent.

viernes, 26 de enero de 2018

Si mi voto contara...

Si mi voto contara para elegir al Presidente del Consejo de Estado yo votaría por René González Sehwerert. Ese era mi deseo.  

Tras la generación histórica de quienes hicieron la Revolución, en estos momentos no hay personas con mayor prestigio en el país -que mucha gente siguiera sin dudarlo- que nuestros Cinco Héroes. Muchos años de campaña política y de reconocimiento social sobre su valor, su entereza y su fidelidad al proyecto revolucionario así lo lograron. 

Sin disminuir el prestigio de cada uno de ellos -y sin la más mínima intención de confrontarlos- fue René al que primero tuvimos acceso directo y quien se ganó el cariño del pueblo con sus acciones y su carisma. El pueblo le siguió cuando propuso la ingeniosa campaña del "lazo amarillo" -que puede no haberle gustado a algunos, por su trascendencia cultural- y después lo vimos muchas veces aportando inteligentemente a diversos proyectos sociales y políticos. 

Me hubiera gustado verlo dirigiendo un país y un proyecto necesitado de gente revolucionaria, patriota y creativa, abierto a ideas nuevas e impulsos renovados. Me hubiera gustado verlo representando a Cuba, con su imagen de hombre bueno y valiente, con su verbo pausado, natural y certero.  

Si mi voto contara para elegir al Presidente del Consejo de Estado, en este momento histórico para la Revolución, hubiera votado por René González Sehwerert. Ese era mi deseo... pero sencillamente, y sin explicación, René ni siquiera está en las candidaturas para miembro de la Asamblea Nacional.