(US) Blockade to Cuba: The day medicines and food were added to the list

When my book on this subject was published back in 1983, in Havana and other capital cities of the world, I could not believe such an implausible issue would have been something we still see nowadays.

It happened on May 14th 1964, when the US government cancelled the selling of these items to Cuba.

The next day, The New York Times revealed the concern of some sectors within the US on the course of action that government had followed toward the Caribbean nation.

And they did it in a leading article, echoed by the Associated Press (AP), where alarms were raised before the decision adopted by senior officials within the White House of extending the blockade to items such as medicines and food, which were up until then sent to Cuba.

The US policy towards Havana, pointed out the leading article, was demonstrated by the US decision to limit the selling of food and medicines as well as its reprimand to young refugees who attacked Cuban ports and voiced it in triumph in Miami.

The Times stated back then: “Food and medicines had been so far the sole goods that could have been shipped to Cuba without the government’s permission. Specific licenses would be now required to lower shipments.”

This is not the way to win the Cold War against Cuba —stated The Times— or the image the US wants to convey to the world as a humanitarian and magnanimous nation. The US will win no friends in Cuba by making them suffer for lack of medicines.

It was implemented that day one of the greatest violations of the human rights ever, on behalf of democracy and freedom.

It is up to the UNGA to impede the crime does not go unpunished.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz/CubaSí Translation Staff

  • Published in Now

Probable cause of mysterious illness among US and Canadian diplomats in Havana found

Dalhousie University and Nova Scotia Health Authority scientists Thursday claimed to have discovered the cause of strange symptoms found in recent years among US and Canadian diplomats in Cuba, according to Radio-Canada's investigative TV program Enquête.

The research, led by Dr. Alon Friedman, from the Department of Neuroscience and Medical Pediatrics of that Canadian university, contends that neurotoxin exposure is believed to have been behind the mysterious cases of lack of balance and vertigo. The sickening chemicals are easy to be found in pesticides used to eradicate mosquitoes.

According to Cubadebate news website, during a meeting held last July in Havana, the Canadian researchers shared their thesis, in a preliminary way, with Cuban authorities and the Committee of Experts that has been studying U.S. allegations for almost two years.

The mysterious symptoms suffered since 2017 caused a diplomatic crisis between Cuba and the United States after Washington that year pulled non-essential embassy staff from the Cuban capital.

In April 2018, Canada withdrew the families of its diplomats stationed in Cuba before also reducing staff.

The findings of the Canadian specialists contradict Washington's theory that their diplomats' brain injuries were due to a “sonic attack.”

The researchers studied 26 individuals, including a control group that never lived in Havana, and discovered a damaged area of the brain responsible for memory and ability to concentrate, among other functions.

“[The results] all support the diagnosis of acquired brain injury in the Canadian diplomats and their families posted in Cuba,” the report said.

In addition, the scientists were able to examine several individuals before and after returning from Havana, and found changes in their brains after their stay on the island.

“There are very specific types of toxins that affect these kinds of nervous systems... and these are insecticides, pesticides, organophosphates – specific neurotoxins,” according to Dr. Friedman.

In 2016, Cuban authorities launched aggressive fumigation campaigns to eradicate mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

In addition, Canadian researchers found that embassies also sprayed their offices, as well as inside and outside the residences of their diplomats, up to five times more frequently than usual.

Doctor Mitchell Joseph Valdes-Sosa, director general of Cuba's Neuroscience Center, told Cubadebate that the hypothesis presented by the Canadian team is a serious attempt to explain the symptoms , "although it is premature to reach conclusions,"

Valdes Sosa added that exchanges have already begun between Canadian scientists and the Cuban Committee of Experts to advance more studies in Cuba in the short term.

“Although the work of the Dalhousie University research team has been carried out with scientific consistency, Cuban specialists believe that by using a small and heterogeneous sample, it is difficult to reach definitive conclusions."

"It is not possible to exclude other explanations based on very common pathologies,” Valdes Sosa said.

  • Published in Now

Two Members of Cuba's UN Mission Expelled From US

Cuba's Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, categorically rejected the unilateral measure by the US State Department

The United States announced Thursday the expulsion of 2 Cuban diplomats before the United Nations, accused of activities that, according to them, undermine US national security.

"We asked 2 members of the Cuban delegation to the UN to leave the United States who had engaged in activities that jeopardize US national security " while the UN General Assembly is just beginning, said State Department's spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.

“ The members of the Cuban delegation to the United Nations should also travel only in Manhattan,”

The Cuban response was swift, Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba's Foreign Minister stated via Twitter that he "Categorically rejects the unjustified expulsion of 2 officials of the Permanent Mission of #Cuba #UN and hardening of restriction of movement to diplomats and families. The imputation that they performed acts incompatible with their diplomatic status is vulgar slander."

  • Published in Cuba

Cuban Workers call Massive Twitter Action for Anti-imperialist Event

The Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) on Thursday convened a global message through Twitter for November 1 with the participants of the Anti-Imperialist Meeting of Solidarity, for Democracy and against Neoliberalism.

The CTC summoned this massive Twitter event as one of the actions that will accompany the start of the international anti-imperialism event that will take place in Havana until November 3.

Representatives of global social movements and friends of Cuba will meet in Havana in defense of peace, justice and democracy, according to Ulises Guilarte, secretary general of the Cuban Workers Federation.

The event includes activities such as an anti-imperialist tribune at a Havana neighborhood and a work group at the Latin American School of Medicine.

Participants will meet in five commissions at the Havana's Convention Center, to analyze issues such as decolonization, democracy, solidarity and anti-imperialism.

A special moment will be the closing plenary session, which will be dedicated to the historical leaders of the Cuban and Bolivarian Revolutions, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, respectively, as well as the just causes of the peoples in the world.

  • Published in Cuba

3 billion birds have been lost in U.S. and Canada since 1970

Human activity has decimated roughly 29% (almost 3 billion) of bird populations over the past 50 years in the U.S. and Canada, including meadowlarks, swallows and sparrows, scientists announced Thursday.

Why it matters: In addition to suffering pervasive losses in several groups of birds, North America has also reached a "widespread ecological crisis" that is affecting other activities like spring migration, food production and pest control, the scientists warn.

What's new: In a study published Thursday in Science, scientists found that "we're losing species of birds, abundances of birds, much faster than we thought ... almost three billion or one-third since 1970," co-author Peter Marra tells Axios.

  • The biggest driver is habitat loss caused by humans for agriculture and urbanization. This is something policymakers can still restore, for the most part, says Marra, former director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) and now director of the Georgetown Environmental Initiative (GEI).
  • Marra urges people to take action in "the voting booth" and "not stand for the repeal of things that protect our water and land."
  • People also need to remove threats to birds by reducing lawn areas that don't provide bird habitat, minimizing light pollution and avoiding the use of harmful pesticides. Outdoor cats have also played a significant role.

The bad news: The study, which uses a combination of standardized surveys by bird enthusiasts and data from radar, finds the abundance of birds has fallen in diverse areas since 1970.

  • 12 bird families — including sparrows, warblers, blackbirds and finches — have 90% of the total accumulated loss.
  • Grassland birds have been hit the hardest, showing a 53% reduction (more than 720 million) in population.
  • Shorebirds, which often reside in sensitive coastal habitats, "were already at dangerously low numbers and have lost more than one-third of their population," the press release states.
  • Radar measures over the past decade show the volume of spring migration dropped 14% over that period.

The good news: The study also notes prior actions taken to protect certain species have worked, with waterfowl and raptors in particular becoming more abundant.

  • With wetland protections and hunting regulations, waterfowl like ducks, geese and swans have restored their populations, Marra says.
  • And due to endangered species protections and the removal of DDT-based pesticides, raptors like the bald eagle have become more plentiful.

What they're saying: "Studies like this do suggest the potential of a systems collapse,” Richard Gregory, a professor at University College London who wasn't part of this study, told the Washington Post. "These birds are an indicator of ecosystem health. And that, ultimately, may be linked to the productivity and sustainability of agricultural systems.”

The bottom line: Marra says it isn't too late to restore habitats and restore a healthy ecosystem in North America.

Of note: Sponsors of the study include American Bird Conservancy, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Environment and Climate Change Canada, GEI and SMBC.

Go deeper: Listen to Science's podcast on this topic and check out a new multimedia website describing the issue and advocating action, called 3BillionBirds.org.

Inventing war is an American tradition

Lies to provoke wars with Venezuela and Iran may seem like a Trumpian phenomena but, the practice is as old as America itself.

Early European settlers along with their colonial governments consistently lied and provoked Native American tribes into wars in order to obtain the lands they coveted. These tactics which began over 150 years before the American Revolution continued for another 150 years afterwards as First Nation peoples were consigned to some of the least habitable lands in the lower 48.

The Mexican/American War was precipitated when President James Polk sent an American military detachment into Mexico. When Mexican forces responded with force, Polk falsely claimed that the attack had occurred on American soil. An elderly John Quincy Adams and a young Abraham Lincoln were not fooled by this deception and voiced their disapproval but to no avail.

The sinking of the USS Maine in the Havana Harbor is considered by many to be a false flag event to rationalize America’s imperialistic appetite. With the Spanish empire in decline, the United States annexed Cuba and Puerto Rico. Turning its attention to the Pacific, the U.S. fought an ugly war against indigenous leaders in the Philippines who considered American colonialists no different than the Spanish. Reflecting on his experiences in the Caribbean and the Pacific, Major General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine of his era, would say in his book, War is a Racket, and that he was a "gangster for Wall Street.”

The Gulf of Tonkin incident was a lie Lyndon Johnson used to further engage the American people and its military into the Viet Nam war. Lies and deceptions about that war were not confined to the Johnson presidency. Beginning with Eisenhower’s cabinet, the lies continued through Nixon whose hyperbole rationalized the invasion of Cambodia.

With no credible supporting evidence, the Bush administration promoted the lie that Saddam Hussein had helped plan the September 11th attacks on the Twin Towers. The Bush administration next falsely claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The ensuing Middle Eastern wars, the longest in American history, have claimed over 10,000 American lives, a half million civilian deaths, and millions of internal and external refugees. The Iraq war which most American politicians of both stripes nonchalantly refer to as a “mistake”, should be better understood as a gigantic humanitarian tragedy built on an edifice of lies.

Rhetoric from the Trump administration suggests that we can justify the overthrow of President Maduro in order to alleviate the economic hardship of the people of Venezuela. A decade of harsh U.S. economic sanctions, more recently tightened under the Trump administration, exposes the lie that Trump’s desire for regime change emanates from honest concern for the Venezuelan people.

The recent Gulf of Hormuz attack on a Japanese oil tanker has all the earmarks of a false flag incident with Iran having no obvious reason to attack a country to whom it would like to sell its oil. Nevertheless, the Trump administration quickly concluded that Iran was the culprit despite no collaborative evidence. Few Americans are aware that in 1953 the U.S. helped to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected government and replaced it with a harsh dictator which the U.S. supported for decades. Publicly, our government denied any involvement in Iran’s internal affairs.

Perhaps the American people really don’t care if they are lied into another war. Most of our recent wars have been fought without a draft and rather than raise taxes to fight wars our government simply borrows the money and passes the debt onto future generations. Most Americans are only vaguely aware of the countries where we are fighting. In fact, we have over 800 bases in 80 different countries. While accurate figures are classified, supposedly as a matter of national security, it is likely we are spending over a trillion dollars a year on our military which is more than the military spending by the next seven countries combined, most of whom are our allies.

There have always been personal sacrifices for America’s wars but, for the most part, our wars and the lies that promoted them have not been costly to the nation as a whole. Indeed, our past wars have usually resulted in the acquisition of land, wealth, and power. That might be changing.

Our recent incursions into the Middle East may have benefitted America’s military-industrial-legislative complex but our general economy has not prospered and there is no clear military victory in sight. Perhaps it is time for America to re-assess its participation in wars. That reassessment should begin with telling the truth about our past while carefully examining the facts and motives of those who would lead us into another war.

  • Published in World

Trump Says He Instructed Treasury to 'Substantially Increase' Sanctions on Iran

US President Donald Trump has stated that he has instructed his administration to ratchet up sanctions on Iran.

"I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!" Trump said via Twitter.

The sanctions appear to be part of Trump's response to Iran's alleged involvement in the weekend attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

The statement comes after Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on 17 September that oil production had returned to the previous levels.

Prior to that, Saudi Aramco had to close two of its compounds, the Abqaiq and Khurais facilities, after they were hit by drones and caught fire. The incident led to a cut in oil production totalling 5.7 million barrels per day - about half of Saudi Arabia’s daily oil output. The closure of the facilities triggered a surge in oil prices worldwide.

US officials, including Trump, have accused Iran of being responsible for 14 September's attacks. Tehran has strongly denied the accusations. The Houthi movement, against which Riyadh and its allies have waged a four-year war, claimed responsibility for the attack and promised more strikes.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated recently. Relations substantially worsened last year after US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and began re-imposing sanctions. In May and June, Washington blamed Iran for a series of security incidents, including attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and built up its military presence in the Middle East. Iran has rejected the allegations and accused the United States of trying to find a pretext for conflict.

  • Published in World

Cuba and the U.S. can only solve shared conservation challenges by working together

Over the past few years, U.S. policy toward Cuba has been a series of unilateral actions that have had severe impacts on the Cuban economy and undermined its emergent private sector, without any apparent benefits to the U.S.

Diverse groups are pushing back against these restrictions, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to public interest groups, from churches to a growing bipartisan coalition in Congress. They recognize that engagement is still our best chance of resolving decades-long disputes and tackling shared challenges.

The administration’s approach has substantially decreased economic and cultural exchange and created a chilling effect in other areas. Nonetheless, not all doors to travel, dialogue or cooperation have closed, and it’s essential we work to keep them open. In particular, the ongoing collaboration between Cuban and U.S. scientists has been fruitful, with tangible benefits to the people of both countries.

At Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we have experienced the benefits of collaborating with Cuban scientists and conservationists first-hand. Our work in Cuba began nearly 20 years ago, before the reestablishment of U.S.-Cuba relations in late 2014. It was through joint scientific research and dialogue that we built a foundation of trust, working together to understand and address environmental challenges facing both countries, from overfishing to the loss of coral reefs.

The 2010 BP oil spill disaster was a wake-up call to U.S. officials, alerting them to the need for coordination with Cuban counterparts on preparing and responding to catastrophic oil spills. The possibility of a future oil spill in Cuban waters posed a risk to coastal communities and environments in Florida and other East Coast states. Because of established relationships with Cuban scientists and officials, U.S.-based conservation, academic and industry leaders were well-positioned at that time to support and facilitate talks that ultimately led to a bilateral agreement on oil spill prevention and response.

Scientific exchange can help avert crises on land as well as at sea. For example, agricultural researchers at the University of Florida are working with their Cuban counterparts to prevent the spread of invasive pests and fight the citrus greening disease harming crops in both countries.

This progress has been possible due to travel permitted for professional research. The knowledge gained from working together can then inform sound decision-making when the opportunity for cooperation arises.

There is much for us to learn from each other, not only in the realm of conservation, but through medical, biotechnical and agricultural research as well. Take Cuba’s leadership in agroecology, an innovative set of agricultural practices that views crop production as occurring within a larger ecosystem. These techniques seek to minimize downstream impacts on soils, water and biodiversity and the need for external inputs like fertilizer and heavy machinery. U.S. and Cuban agricultural scientists have been working together on ways to increase crop yields while maintaining the sustainability, biodiversity and resilience benefits that agroecology provides.

Simply put, when Cuban and U.S. scientists work together, good things happen: new discoveries, better treatments and protection against common threats. That’s why EDF has partnered with Cuban and international organizations to promote scientific exchange and bring together diverse stakeholders from Cuba and the global community, with an emphasis on renewable energy, transportation and agriculture as key sectors requiring strategies for sustainable growth.

In early July, we convened scientists from Cuba and the U.S. to discuss agricultural sustainability and coastal resilience as part of a larger environmental conference in Havana. During one panel, Cuban researchers from the Ministry of Agriculture shared the results of farm management practices designed to work with, rather than against, nature. Another panel presented research from the University of Vermont using techniques ranging from isotope detection to satellite imagery analysis to measure coastal storm damage and erosion in Cuba. Each panel was followed by active audience discussion, demonstrating significant enthusiasm and interest surrounding these topics.

The United States and Cuba, whatever our political differences, are neighbors with much to learn from each other, and many parallels to draw between the health of our seas, coasts and farms. That is why, despite a political atmosphere that makes cooperation challenging, we continue to support cultural and scientific exchange.

  • Published in Cuba
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