Cuba, USA Announce Direct and Permanent Postal Exchange

Cuba and the United States agreed today to implement the permanent and direct postal exchange between both countries.

The announcement made by the Correos de Cuba company states that the decision was adopted after the implementation of the Pilot Plan for more than one year for direct exchange between the two nations, as announced in March 2016.

According to the Correos of Cuba Business Group and the Portal Service of the United States, the service in its current format began on April 16, 2018 and takes into account the technical, operational and security requirements identified by the two sides during the execution of the Pilot Plan.

The restoration of this service allows direct mails between Cuba and the United States, parcels, and express courier, through the post offices of both countries.

Through the website www.correos.cu, those interested can obtain all information they require about services, rates and regulations, the note of the Institutional Communication Department of the entity states.

At the same time, people can track and monitor shipments with registration code, among other benefits, and includes the possibility of downloading and having the website on Android mobile devices.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba-U.S. Collaboration in a New Era of Change

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Cuban Ambassador Jose R. Cabañas Rodríguez Ph.D. will kick off an event on June 4 that considers how the U.S. and Cuba can work together at an uncertain political time, marking one of his first public appearances since Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro as president of Cuba last month. The event, co-hosted by the nonprofits Center for International Policy (CIP) and Ocean Doctor, focuses on environmental sustainability and historic preservation, long cited as among the most successful areas of collaboration between Cuba and the U.S. even before the normalization of diplomatic relations in 2014.

A range of panelists will highlight recent successful conservation and historic preservation efforts in Cuba. Also featured will be the release of a comprehensive new report by Ocean Doctor and CIP entitled, A Century of Unsustainable Tourism in the Caribbean: Lessons Learned and Opportunities for Cuba. "The past 50 years have seen unprecedented environmental degradation in the Caribbean, including the loss of 50 percent of its coral cover," says Dr. David E. Guggenheim, founder and president of Ocean Doctor. Landscape modification due to tourism development is a main driver of habitat loss, and historic and cultural resources have also felt the impact. Meanwhile, Cuba has followed a markedly different path and, as a result, still possesses healthy ecosystems and a vibrant, authentic culture. With mounting pressures of tourism, the report examines the unique opportunity Cuba has to create a sustainable future.

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The event, open to the public (RSVP required), will be held on Monday, June 4th 1-5pm at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036. Details and an RSVP form can be found at: https://oceandoctor.org/june4event. The sustainable tourism report will be available for download at 9am on June 4th from: https://oceandoctor.org/tourismreport

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This event and the report are part of the Cuba-U.S. Sustainability Partnership (CUSP), a project of the Center for International Policy, Ocean Doctor and Robert Muse & Associates, in consultation with Cuban governmental and nongovernmental agencies, to support Cuba's efforts to chart a sustainable course in the face of political changes and economic pressures.

  • Published in Cuba

3 Kayakers Paddle From Cuba to Florida to Promote Open Borders

Cuba might seem like a world away from the United States, but in fact it’s only 113 miles from Key West to Havana across the Straits of Florida.

President Obama eased the US embargo in 2016, creating a path to diplomacy between the two nations. But President Trump reinstated some of these sanctions in 2017, eroding the short progress that had been made.

Which brings us to three friends: Andy Cochrane, Luke Walker and Wyatt Roscoe. On May 29, 2017, the trio landed their kayaks on Stock Island in Key West 27 hours, 12 minutes and 30 seconds after leaving Havana. It is the first documented “unsupported” single kayak crossing from Havana to Key West.

ASN caught up with Cochrane, who is recuperating from blisters, callouses and chaffing, to see how Tropical Storm Alberto altered their plans, what it was like on the open water and what they hope comes of their efforts.

How did Tropical Storm Alberto change your plans for the excursion?

It was a little bit bigger than we thought (wind and waves wise). Overall though, we got somewhat lucky with how it all played out. It was supposed to hit in Havana on Thursday, but it didn’t really hit until Friday. So essentially, we were dealing with it the entire time. It was cooling down and we knew the waves might lie down a little bit after the storm passed, but it just sat in the Gulf for a long time. It didn’t push north, so it meant the wind started going north, which was super helpful for us.

How do you know Wyatt and Luke?

They grew up in Jackson and have known each other for a long time. I’ve paddled more with Wyatt when we both lived in the Bay together five or six years ago.

You guys attempted the paddle last year also, right?

We did pretty much the same thing last year, unsupported. I mean there’s a support boat, but we don’t interact with it at all. It’s a contingency if things go south. We attempted and got hit by a big storm and some food poisoning last year. And pulled out less than halfway. Wyatt paddled the furthest last year, he got some 40 miles in.

So you learned some lessons from last year then?

Nutrition, pacing and a whole litany of things. Overall, we gave ourselves a lot better chance. And we had to follow a game plan but also adjust it along the way. The single biggest variable was weather. At any given time, it’s going to be a lot different how you handle that and adjust for it.

We had a pretty developed nutrition plan – we had a coach who was helping us. She’s an elite distance runner, 100-miler and ex-Olympian, and very talented runner. So she coached us in how to handle 25 hours of straight activity. The plan of how to eat and when to eat. It could be as short as every half hour or every two or three hours we’d stop to eat. But we had it dialed enough to where it didn’t take you that long. Each boat had close to 25 liters of water in it, and mostly goo in powder form mixed in. During the day when it was really hot, it’s really hard to eat and get calories. But you still need carbs, so we were getting most of our carbs by drinking.

Every once in a while we’d stop and eat bigger meals of pasta and peanut butter and jelly. With most of those, the key is to actually eating like a 12 year old. White bread, nothing processed, you don’t want your body to expend energy putting anything down. So you don’t get any protein or fat, it’s just really simple carbs and sugars.

Did you guys have any serious issues this trip?

No big issues. All three of us did puke a little bit, which was similar to last year because it’s just hard to keep food down. I think it’s just heat and exhaustion and your body not wanting it. That became a big issue, just having enough energy. We have blisters and callouses and chaffing to show for that much time in salt water.

What was it like being on the open water like that for so long?

Paddling for that long is surreal. A wave of ups and downs, much like many people describe an ultra marathon. You’re in control of your mind, but not many other factors, like the weather. Our coach, Magda Boulet, reminded us to “control the controllables” and let everything else go.

We had moments of pure bliss – surfing waves, riding a high, and moments of stress or worry that we wouldn’t make it, and almost everything in between. Ultimately the trust between the three of us was what we relied on, paddling through a stormy night and into the next morning.

Did it give you any sense of what refugees attempting this venture may have gone through?

The paddle gave us a little taste, yes. I think we understand the struggle a little bit better, at least in a physical sense – and some sense of what it might have felt like to finally land in the U.S.

The time in Havana and with Cubans in Miami helped a lot, too, as far as understanding what political refugees have gone through for the hope of the American dream. I’m definitely not saying we’re all-knowing, but I do think we were successful in opening our minds to what the Straits mean to so many refugees.

Tell me about the project’s goals.

The goal when you do anything this big and dumb is to challenge ourselves. I think the question of what are you going to feel and how are you going to deal with that is pretty cool to take on and experience. What are you going to feel like when you’re 12 hours in and hate your life? Are we going to be able to support each other and pick each other up when someone goes through one of those moments?

The bigger one to us was that we developed some pretty cool relationships with Cuban-Americans and feel like this is an opportunity for us as experienced paddlers to use this skill and knowledge to advocate for open borders.

At its broadest extent, to respect people of different backgrounds. We wanted to raise the voice of past and future immigrants. Cuba is this weird geographically close country, but people consider it so far away, and sometimes third world.

You mentioned a film project, any details on that yet?

The film is still super early – we are planning a 6-8 minute short doc about our time in Havana, the paddle and the inspiration … all tied together with stories from three actual Cuban refugees.

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  • Published in Sports

Cuba calls on US and Canada to investigate 'sonic attack' claims

The most senior scientist in Cuba has called on his opposite numbers in the US and Canada to assess the evidence behind claims that mysterious attacks in Havana left American and Canadian diplomats with inexplicable concussion-like brain injuries.

Luis Velázquez, a neurologist who was recently appointed president of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, has asked the US and Canadian national science academies for a joint scientific inquiry to examine the evidence behind the alleged attacks.

The move reflects a growing sense of frustration in Cuba that the country is being blamed for harming foreign embassy staff even as governments and independent experts remain baffled as to what form of attack could have made the diplomats ill.

Some scientists have questioned whether attacks even took place and say the wide range of symptoms reported by the embassy staff could be explained by a number of common medical conditions, or be driven by psychological factors in the high-stress environment the staff work in.

The inquiry Velázquez has called for would see some of the most eminent scientists in the world pore over the evidence to date with the aim of better understanding what, if anything, happened to the affected individuals. The US National Academy of Sciences confirmed the approach but declined to comment further.

The US slashed the number of staff at its Havana embassy and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats last year after 24 American staff and family reported feeling unwell with headaches, dizziness and problems with their eyesight, hearing, sleep and concentration. Many said their ailments came on after they heard strange noises that ranged from grinding and cicada-like chirps to the buffeting caused by an open car window. While unnamed US officials claimed in media reports that the diplomats were victims of “acoustic attacks”, an FBI investigation found no evidence that sonic weapons had been used.

Last month, Canada said it would call home the families of diplomats at its embassy in Havana, where 10 staff have reported similar symptoms. A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said an investigation into the cause was ongoing. “There have been no new incidents since the early fall of 2017,” they said. “Diplomatic families who have returned to Canada, however, have continued to experience symptoms.” Last week, the US issued a health warning to its citizens in China after one of its consulate staff experienced the same types of symptoms to those in Cuba.

A formal assessment of the American diplomats’ health commissioned by the US government was published in March by doctors at the University of Pennsylvania. The preliminary report in the Journal of the American Medical Association describes a new syndrome that resembles persistent concussion in people who have not received blows to the head.

But in a letter published in the Journal of Neurology, Sergio Della Sala and Robert McIntosh, both neuroscientists at the University of Edinburgh, claim the US report is seriously flawed.

Della Sala said much of the evidence the doctors used to propose a new concussion-like syndrome came from six diplomats who each took 37 cognitive tests. The tests looked at visual and auditory attention, working memory, language, reasoning, movement and other cognitive abilities.

In their report, the US doctors reveal that all six embassy staff who had the full battery of tests had some brain impairment or another. But Della Sala and McIntosh say anybody who took the tests would have been classed as impaired.

They point out that it is standard practice with cognitive tests to measure people’s performance against others in the population. Often, a person has to score in the bottom 5% to be considered impaired. But the US doctors set the threshold at 40%, meaning that by definition, four in 10 who take the test will be “impaired”.

Della Sala and McIntosh ran a simulation that looked at the probability of passing all 37 tests when the threshold for failure was set so high. “The chances that somebody will be without an impairment is zero,” Della Sala said. “We ran the simulation 1,000 times, and never, ever is there one single individual who appears to be normal. They are all classed as impaired.”

He added: “I’m not denying that they may have discovered a new syndrome, but the point is that the evidence they have provided is nonscientific. The paper is faulty. Even if the results are preliminary, a threshold that verges on half the population is unheard of. I cannot see how any reviewer could have looked at the data and said they are fine. This is not a little thing. It is a threshold unknown in science or clinical practice.”

In their Journal of Neurology paper, the scientists conclude: “With the criteria used, the neuropsychological symptoms of the proposed new syndrome have a worrying lack of specificity: everybody is affected.”

Mark Cohen, a professor of neurology and pioneer in functional brain imaging at University of California, Los Angeles, said there was insufficient evidence to link the diplomats’ health problems to the sounds they heard. “These are symptoms which are typical of many, many causes,” he said. “It is an incautious leap to presume that the cause was related to the reports of sounds heard by these diplomats.”

Neither the US State Department nor representatives from the University of Pennsylvania responded to requests for comment.

  • Published in Cuba

Minneapolis: Another city votes for Cuba

Minneapolis is now the eighth U.S. city to call for ending the U.S. blockade of Cuba. The City Council unanimously voted on May 25 to build “a new cooperative relationship between the U.S. and Cuba and to immediately end all aspects of the U.S. economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba including all restrictions on travel to Cuba.”

The Minnesota Cuba Committee organized support for this resolution. Its primary author was City Councilmember Andrea Jenkins. According to her city biography, Jenkins is “a writer, performance artist, poet and transgender activist. She is the first African American openly trans woman to be elected to office in the United States.”

Minneapolis also called on the Trump administration to “reestablish the diplomatic staff withdrawn from the U.S. Embassy in Havana” and restore the diplomatic staff expelled from the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Although the U.S. formally maintains an embassy in Havana, which was reestablished in 2015, staff reductions made permanent on March 2 have turned the building into a shell, unable to process visas for Cubans wanting to visit or migrate to the U.S. At the same time, the U.S. has ordered 17 Cuban diplomats to leave the U.S., targeting staff who work to develop the blockade-limited commercial relations between U.S. entities and Cuba.

An essential part of regime change plots hatched in the U.S. State Department is to block the truth about Cuba’s socialist revolution from reaching the general U.S. population. But polls show that the Trump administration’s hostile Cuba policy is out of step with popular sentiment in the U.S. as well as across the globe. The United Nations General Assembly annually votes against the unilateral U.S. economic strangulation, most recently by 191 to 2 with only the U.S. and Israel defending the blockade.

From May 8-20, Cuban artists participated in the two-week “Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World” festival held in Washington, D.C. This celebration of Cuban music, film, visual art, culture and dance has been extended through June 3. How will other such artists now be able to wow U.S. audiences without visas?

In Cuba, art and sports are human rights along with health care and education. The Trump administration is trying to administratively choke off people-to-people “points of contact” between Cuba and the U.S. Recently inaugurated Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said that the two countries can still build bridges. He told the artists: “I don’t believe that the current position will be eternal, and things like what you have accomplished in Washington … can open the way.” 

The Minnesota Cuba Committee also sponsors an annual Cuban film festival and has developed long-standing collaboration with Cuban universities, including exchange programs. It recently welcomed the Rev. Joel Ortega Dopico, executive director of the Cuban Council of Churches, who also visited Detroit and Washington, D.C. Dopico met with City Councilmember Andrea Jenkins during his visit to Minneapolis.

The following cities have also passed resolutions calling for ending the cruel U.S. blockade of Cuba, its much smaller island neighbor: in California, Richmond, Berkeley, Oakland and Sacramento; Brookline, Mass.; Hartford, Conn.; and Helena, Mont. In 2016 the California Federation of Labor passed a strong resolution against the blockade.

  • Published in Cuba

Donald Trump: New Craziness

Another revelation contributes to clarify even more how the threads of Donald Trump’s behavior move inside the White House.

A large report published last Monday by the New York Magazine explains it. The article reveals aspects that push into the background Trumps’ famous addiction for golf.  

The document reveals his devotion for the far-right television network Fox News.  

The article adds that there are daily links between the president, the New York Magazine and the star host of Fox News, Sean Hannity.

  

The leader, amid the turmoil that hit him from every angle, has found another new addiction by exchanging his government strategies with the ultra conservative Hannity and at the same time knowing "the last political gossips of the United States."  

Close sources to the leader informed the New York Magazine that "the feeling is that Hannity is the cabinet leader outside the White House."  

The magazine argues that Hannity is filling the void left by Steve Bannon former White House Chief Strategist.  

Hannity even belongs to a chosen group of authorized officers to call the president directly.  

The New York Times said previously that Donald Trump spends several hours a day watching television, and his main source of news is Fox News.  

According to the report, circulated in January, the president begins every day around 5:30 a.m. watching Fox News followed by "Fox & Friends."  

His favorite TV shows include "Fox & Friends", as well as the show host by Sean Hannity.  

However, the most watched show is the one he is having among the stern walls of the White House.

Cubasi Translation Staff / Amilkal Labañino Valdés

Cuba and Puerto Rico claim Olympic beach berths

HAVANA, Cuba, May 28, 2018 - The Cuban home boys Miguel Angel Ayón and Jorge Luis Alayo grabbed the gold medals of the NORCECA Central Zone Qualifier by beating Puerto Ricans William Rivera and Randall Santiago 2-0 (21-14, 21-19) while both teams had secured spots in the beach volleyball tournament of the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina next October.

The bronze medal went to Tim Brewster/John Schwengel (USA) after a hard-fought clash against Leonel Garza/Franky Hernandez (Mexico) that finished 2-1 (21-16, 17-21, 15-13) in the second court ready for the final at the Club Habana.

The slender Alayon, 16, thanked all the coaches in his life for the chance to enjoy the title and the Olympic pass in his international debut, as well as the support of his family and the Cuban sports movement.

"Especially the coaches who did an arduous job for the preparation ahead of this commitment, in which the Puerto Ricans were the ones who showed us the most resistance, we congratulate them because we will go together to the games, where we will fight to have a great performance".

His teammate Ayón assured that "we always focus to win even though we knew it would be a very even tournament, we are very happy for this victorious start and we will continue to emphasize and reach the best shape for what is coming in Argentina. It has been a very nice event and it gave us a good experience".

Both Cubans and Puerto Ricans won their respective A and B pools to advance to the semifinals, a stage in which the Cubans defeated Brewster and Schwengel (USA) 2-0 (21-18, 21-17), and Rivera and Santiago beat the combative Mexican duo that integrate formed by Leonel Garza and Franky Hernández (Mexico) 2-1 (21-17, 19-21, 15-8).

Sunday’s Boys Final Summary:

Quarterfinals: Leonel Garza/Franky Hernandez (Mexico) d Cole Irwin/Robert Kemp (Canada) 2-0 (21-17, 21-16) and Tim Brewster/John Schwengel (USA) d Deivy Ramírez/Raymer Sarmiento (Republic Dominicana) 2-0 (21-12, 21-17).

Semifinals: William Rivera/Randall Santiago (Puerto Rico) vs. Leonel Garza/Franky Hernandez (Mexico) 2-1 (21-17, 19-21, 15-8) and Miguel Ángel Ayón/Jorge Luis Alayo (Cuba) vs. Tim Brewster/John Schwengel (USA) 2-0 (21-18, 21-17).

Finals:

Gold: Miguel Ángel Ayón/Jorge Luis Alayo (Cuba) d William Rivera/Randall Santiago (Puerto Rico) 2-0 (21-14, 21-19).

Bronze: Tim Brewster/John Schwengel (USA) d Leonel Garza/Franky Hernandez (Mexico) 2-1 (21-16, 17-21, 15-13).

  • Published in Sports

US exit from Iran nuclear deal could trigger instability, Putin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday that the U.S. exit from the Iranian nuclear deal could trigger dangerous instability and raise new threats for Israel if Tehran resumes a full-fledged nuclear program.

"We can't sort things out with North Korea. Do we want another problem on the same scale?" Putin asked at a business forum.

The Russian leader said the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 agreement came even as the international nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran was fulfilling its obligations. "What should it be punished for, then?" Putin asked.

President Donald Trump's administration has demanded that Iran stop the enrichment of uranium and end its involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan in order to negotiate a new deal.

"If international agreements are revised every four years it would offer zero horizon for planning," Putin said. "It will create the atmosphere of nervousness and lack of trust."

While Israel hailed the U.S. withdrawal, Putin warned that the move could eventually hurt Israeli security if the deal completely falls apart.

"Would it be better for Israel if Iran opts out of the deal or is pushed out of it?" he asked. "In that case, its nuclear activities would become totally non-transparent. What kind of risks will it entail?"

The Iran deal was the first time Russia, France, Germany and others had agreed on a major international issue since relations between Russia and the West chilled over Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Moscow's hopes for better ties with Washington under Trump have fizzled amid investigations into alleged collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia. Speaking at the panel, Putin again denied any meddling in the U.S. election in 2016.

While criticizing the U.S. policy on Iran, Putin had some warm words for Trump and held out hope for holding a summit with him.

"We certainly can't be happy with the level and nature of Russia-U.S. relations," Putin said. "We are ready for dialogue. It long has become overdue."

He also suggested that Trump might have won a few points domestically by exiting the Iran deal. "He fulfilled his campaign promises and in that sense he might have won in terms of domestic politics," Putin said.

The Russian leader also engaged in a tongue-in-cheek exchange with French President Emmanuel Macron, saying with a smile that Russia could help protect Europe if its rift with the U.S. widens over Iran.

"Don't you worry, we will help ensure your security," Putin said. Macron responded on a serious note that France and its allies could stand for themselves.

In his speech at the forum and during talks with Putin on Thursday, Macron called for closer ties between France and Russia despite their differences.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also spoke at the forum and called for closer cooperation with Russia.

The presence of Macron and Abe and their statements in favor of cooperation with Moscow were important for Putin, indicating that the U.S.-led efforts to isolate Russia face increasing obstacles.

The U.S. and its allies have hit Russia with several waves of sanctions that badly hurt its economy.

Putin sharply criticized the sanctions, saying they signal "not just erosion but the dismantling of a system of multilateral cooperation that took decades to build."

In a later meeting with top editors of international news agencies, Putin said he would observe constitutional term limits that would prevent him from running for a new term in 2024. However, some observers have suggested he might seek to have the constitution changed.

On tensions with Britain over allegations that Russia was behind the March poisoning of a Russian former spy in Britain, Putin said there should "either be a joint, full-value, objective investigation or simply stop talking about this subject because it doesn't lead to anything except worsening relations."

Russia has repeatedly demanded that Britain let it take part in investigating the case.

  • Published in World
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