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Archive for Cuba

Newsline: Injuries of US diplomats in China differ from those in Cuba

Fourteen of 15 U.S. diplomats pulled from China for medical testing this year have been found not to have the same set of injuries as personnel evacuated earlier from Cuba, the State Department said Wednesday. The department said 14 of the 15 brought to the U.S. for medical testing earlier this year did not present the “constellation” of symptoms suffered by more than two dozen diplomats in Cuba that it blames on mysterious health attacks. Results for the 15th were inconclusive, it said. The diagnosis of an initial patient from China found to have Cuba-like injuries stands. But the new findings may ease fears that whatever affected the diplomats in Havana has spread. In May, a diplomat posted in China was confirmed to have Havana-like symptoms, sparking fears the alleged Cuba attacks had also occurred on another continent. Some 300 diplomats and family members in China sought preliminary testing from State Department medical staff. Fifteen of them were identified as needing additional evaluation in the U.S. The Havana Cohort is the name given to the group of 26 Cuba-based diplomats who the department says suffered injuries, including dizziness, headaches and mild brain damage, from the alleged mystery attacks for which the specific cause and culprit are still unidentified. U.S. officials have not blamed Cuba for the alleged attacks but hold Cuba responsible for the safety of American government personnel on the island. The State Department has dramatically reduced its staff at the embassy in Havana.



Newsline: Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. embassy in Havana suspended processing requests from people hoping to leave the island nation as refugees. The reason: Staffing was reduced to a skeleton crew in the wake of mysterious health attacks on embassy personnel. The State Department said new arrangements would be made for refugee applications, but that hasn’t happened yet. The result is a dramatic drop in the number of Cuban refugees coming to Florida — from some 600 a month in late 2017 to fewer than 40 a month today. In December 2016, about 600 Cuban refugees arrived safely in the Tampa Bay area and some 7,000 statewide. Since then, because of two developments, the numbers have plummeted. First, in January 2017, after restoring diplomatic relations severed more than five decades earlier and reopening the U.S. embassy in Havana, President Barack Obama ended wet foot, dry foot. From that point through last September, when embassy services were suspended, an average of 94 Cubans refugees arrived each month in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, according to the state Department of Children and Families. Statewide, the monthly average for this eight-month period was 1,016. From last September through June, the average monthly numbers have fallen to 38 in the Tampa Bay area and 375 statewide. This nine-month period is the latest for which figures were available from the state. The numbers might not include all refugees processed in the two or three months after the suspension.


Newsline: Cuba says US withholds info on diplomat attacks

Cuba said the United States is continuing to withhold important information that could help in the investigation into mysterious incidents that have injured some two dozen Havana-based American diplomats, including some with brain damage, since late 2016. After meeting with U.S. officials at the State Department, members of a team Cuba assembled to look into the incidents said their requests for patient records and other information had again been rebuffed and rejected.


Newsline: U.S. now believes Russia is behind ‘sonic attack’ on 26 embassy personnel in Cuba

Russia is believed to be behind the strange “sonic attacks” that have left U.S. diplomats with concussion-like injuries in Cuba and China, according to a report. Communications intercepts, known as “signals intelligence,” that point to Russia as the culprit have been collected as part of an ongoing investigation by the FBI, CIA and other agencies in the US, multiple sources reportedly told NBC News. The evidence, though, isn’t conclusive enough to formally blame Moscow. Twenty-six U.S. workers have been hurt in the attacks that occurred in their homes or hotel rooms beginning in 2016. Most reported hearing high-pitched sounds, leading investigators to suspect a sonic weapon. The FBI later said sound waves alone couldn’t have caused the symptoms, which included brain injuries, hearing loss, cognitive problems, difficulty with balance and problems with vision and hearing. A U.S. employee experienced similar symptoms following an attack earlier this summer in Guangzhou, China. Now scientists are saying microwaves could be to blame, according to CNN. The unexplained incidents have worsened relations between the Cuba and the U.S., which pulled out most of its diplomats from Havana and tossed 17 Cuban counterparts from Washington. Cuba has denied any involvement, and officials there don’t believe a sonic device is to blame.


Newsline: Cuba’s “Sonic Attack” on the U.S. Embassy Could Have Been Merely Sounds Emitted by a Listening Device

The Associated Press made recordings available of the sounds that the employees reported hearing. If those indeed were the sounds, that would rule out the microwave auditory effect where the microwave-induced vibrations exist only within the head. Chen Yan, Kevin Fu and Wenyuan Xu (of Zhejiang University and the University of Michigan) showed the sounds in the AP recordings are characteristic of those produced by the interaction of two inaudible ultrasound beams via an effect known as intermodulation distortion. Ultrasound is widely used in burglar detectors, room occupancy sensors and other increasingly common appliances, and some individuals report unpleasant audible sensations from such devices. Intermodulation distortion is increasingly being employed to jam microphones used to record concert music illegally or for eavesdropping. Yan and colleagues report ultrasound can be used for eavesdropping purposes as well, by picking up vibrations in objects produced by human speech. In short, it is reasonable to guess the sounds were inadvertently produced by ultrasound devices, possibly even spytech, but without malicious intent against the embassy personnel. The incidents occurred about the time of the 2016 U.S. election, and the Cubans undoubtedly were desperate for intelligence about U.S. intentions. There is even a historical parallel to the recent incidents: In 1972 it became publicly known the Soviets had been irradiating the U.S. embassy in Moscow with low-level microwave energy from the 1950s through the 1970s. Neither side disclosed the reason for this. (A reasonable guess is the Russians were trying to disrupt U.S. listening equipment or to collect data from their own bugs in the building.) The media published hyperbolic stories about supposed attempts to harm the embassy staff, fueling a generation of speculation about microwave “neurowarfare.”


Newsline: Embassy illnesses in Cuba point to mysterious world of microwave weapons

During the Cold War, the United States feared that the Soviet Union was seeking to turn microwave radiation into covert weapons of mind control. More recently, the U.S. military itself sought to develop microwave weapons that could invisibly beam painfully loud booms and even spoken words into people’s heads. The aims were to disable attackers and wage psychological warfare. Now, doctors and scientists say such unconventional weapons may have caused the baffling symptoms and ailments that, starting in late 2016, hit more than three dozen U.S. diplomats and their relatives in Cuba and China. The Cuban incidents resulted in a diplomatic rupture between Cuba and the U.S. The medical team that examined 21 affected diplomats from Cuba made no mention of microwaves in its detailed report published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in March. But Douglas Smith, the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a recent interview that microwaves were now considered a main suspect, and the team was increasingly sure the diplomats had suffered brain injury.


Newsline: U.S. Embassy cuts hobble influence in Cuba

The United States’ ability to monitor Cuba, defend human rights, conduct consular activities and comply with bilateral agreements is being undermined by a drastic reduction in staff at the embassy in Havana, according to a congressional report. The administration of President Donald Trump, which has partly rolled back Washington’s detente with Cuba, has sharply reduced U.S. staff in Havana and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats. The document from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) states that the decision to reduce staffing from more than 50 diplomats to a maximum of 18 – due to a mysterious illness that has affected 26 officials and family members – overwhelmed those remaining at their posts. “Because of the reduction in U.S. staff, U.S. officials maintain that those officers at post often wear two or three hats in terms of responsibilities,” read the report, issued at the request of New York Representative Eliot Engel, the ranking Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. While diplomatic and humanitarian visas are being granted, Americans in Cuba can only expect emergency services, the report said.