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“SONIC ATTACK!”


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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: September 02, 2017, 05:22:42 pm »


from The Washington Post....

State Department reports new instance of American diplomats harmed in Cuba

American diplomats suffered traumatic brain injuries in mystery attacks in Cuba, union says.

By ANNE GEARAN | 10:32PM EDT - Friday, September 01, 2017

The U.S. Embassy in Havana. — Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters.
The U.S. Embassy in Havana. — Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters.

AMERICAN DIPLOMATS suffered symptoms from a sonic “incident” in Cuba last month, the State Department said on Friday, adding to the mystery of how Americans serving there have been diagnosed with hearing loss, traumatic brain injury and other ailments.

The August incident, which the State Department would not further describe, came months after the first symptoms were reported. The earlier incidents came to light only in August, and at that time officials indicated that whatever had caused the diplomats' medical problems was no longer occurring. The State Department has not described the events as an attack.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement late Friday that 19 Americans are now confirmed to have been affected, up from 16 reported last month. The Trump administration has not blamed the Cuban government for what the union representing Foreign Service officers called “sonic harassment attacks” dating to late 2016.

“We can confirm another incident which occurred last month and is now part of the investigation,” Nauert said.

The State Department did not provide details of the event or say whether it occurred before or after the existence of the earlier incidents was reported in August.

“We can't rule out new cases as medical professionals continue to evaluate” diplomats and their families, Nauert said.

The American Foreign Service Association said it has met or spoken with 10 victims since the health problems came to light last month. The health concerns were revealed only when the State Department said in August that it had expelled two Cuban diplomats as a rebuke to the Cuban government.

The Trump administration says the expulsions were a protest of Cuba's failure to protect diplomats as required under the Vienna Conventions. The State Department has not explained why it did not make the expulsions public when they occurred in May.

“AFSA strongly encourages the Department of State and the U.S. Government to do everything possible to provide appropriate care for those affected, and to work to ensure that these incidents cease and are not repeated,” the group said in a statement.

U.S. officials have said the Americans were harmed by an unknown sonic device or attack that damaged their hearing and caused other health problems. The injuries occurred while the Americans were serving at the U.S. Embassy in Havana and living in housing provided by the Cuban government.

“We're not assigning responsibility at this point. We don't know who the perpetrator was of these incidents,” Nauert said last month.

The Cuban government has denied harming diplomats and is cooperating with an FBI investigation, officials said.

AFSA's statement provides the most complete public view yet of the range of symptoms suffered by the Americans, none of whom have spoken publicly.

“Diagnoses include mild traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing loss, with such additional symptoms as loss of balance, severe headaches, cognitive disruption, and brain swelling,” AFSA said.

CBS had reported many of those diagnoses on the basis of medical records it obtained, but the State Department would not confirm the information. The State Department at first would say only that the Americans suffered non-life-threatening “symptoms.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later confirmed that hearing damage was among the effects.

AFSA's statement is the first indication that, at least for some, the hearing loss is likely to be permanent.

Intense surveillance of U.S. diplomats in Cuba is routine, and low-level harassment such as the vandalizing of homes and cars used to be common. But reports of diplomats being physically harmed were rare.

U.S. officials who worked in Havana said the petty harassment had slacked off in recent years, even before President Barack Obama announced in 2014 that the United States would reestablish full diplomatic ties with Cuba after decades of estrangement between the two countries.


• Anne Gearan is a national politics correspondent for The Washington Post.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: Officials at American embassy in Havana returned to U.S. in unspecified incident

 • U.S. investigating whether Americans deliberately targeted in ‘sonic attack’

 • Trump's new Cuba policy, explained


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/american-diplomats-suffered-traumatic-brain-injuries-in-mystery-attack-in-cuba-union-says/2017/09/01/9e02d280-8f2f-11e7-91d5-ab4e4bb76a3a_story.html



How to protect yourself from “sonic attack”…


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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2017, 12:17:28 am »


from The Washington Post....

U.S. considering closing its embassy in Cuba

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the move is “under review”
in response to apparent sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats at the mission.


By CAROL MORELLO | 12:41PM EDT - Sunday, September 17, 2017

The FBI is investigating what the union representing Foreign Service officers calls “sonic harassment attacks” on the diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. — Photograph: Desmond Boylan/Associated Press.
The FBI is investigating what the union representing Foreign Service officers calls “sonic harassment attacks” on the diplomats
at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. — Photograph: Desmond Boylan/Associated Press.


SECRETARY OF STATE Rex Tillerson said on Sunday that the United States is considering closing the U.S. Embassy in Havana in response to mysterious hearing problems that have left at least 21 employees with serious health issues.

“We have it under evaluation,” Tillerson said on CBS's “Face the Nation” when asked about calls by some senators to shutter the diplomatic mission. “It's a very serious issue, with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered, and we’ve brought some of those people home. It's under review.”

Closing the embassy would be a serious setback to relations between the United States and Cuba, two Cold War adversaries whose enmity stretched more than half a century before they restored diplomatic relations and upgraded their missions into embassies in 2015.

But at least 21 Americans who worked in the U.S. Embassy in Cuba have reported medical problems since late last year, when percussive attacks on their residences began. The incidents apparently continued into 2017. Two Cuban diplomats have been expelled from the embassy in Washington in response.

The State Department did not talk publicly about the incident until August, months after the problems were uncovered.

Some of the victims suffered mild traumatic brain injuries, hearing loss and other neurological and physical ailments, said the union representing Foreign Service officers. The FBI is investigating what the union calls “sonic harassment attacks” on the diplomats. A Canadian diplomat also reported similar problems.

Cuba has denied any responsibility for the attacks.

Cuban President Raúl Castro called in the then-head of the U.S. mission, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, to express concern.

Five Republican senators wrote to Tillerson last week asking him to close the embassy and expel Cuba's diplomats from the United States.

“We ask that you immediately declare all accredited Cuban diplomats in the United States persona non grata and, if Cuba does not take tangible action, close the U.S. Embassy in Havana,” the senators wrote. “Cuba's neglect of its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot go unchallenged.”


• Carol Morello is the diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, covering the State Department.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: Tillerson comments on health issues at U.S. Embassy in Cuba

 • Trump's Cuba policy tries to redefine ‘good’ U.S. tourism.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-considering-closing-its-embassy-in-cuba/2017/09/17/e032b3e1-f167-4010-8147-39dbe33edf35_story.html
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« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2017, 05:58:55 pm »


from The Washington Post....

U.S. slashing embassy staff in Cuba, issuing travel warning
because of apparent sonic ‘attacks’


The announcement comes after several envoys mysteriously fell ill.

By CAROL MORELLO | 5:08PM EDT - Friday, September 29, 2017

The compound of the United States embassy stands in Havana. — Photograph: Desmond Boylan/Associated Press.
The compound of the United States embassy stands in Havana. — Photograph: Desmond Boylan/Associated Press.

THE United States is yanking more than half its diplomatic personnel from the embassy in Havana and warning Americans not to visit Cuba, saying on Friday it is for their own safety until investigators determine what caused a mysterious string of attacks that have harmed at least 21 Americans stationed there.

Senior State Department officials said U.S. diplomats have been “targeted” for “specific attacks”, a significant change from previous characterizations of what happened as simply “incidents”.

Though no one has been able to determine how at least 21 U.S. diplomats were targeted and injured over the past year, their conditions have created the biggest crisis in U.S.-Cuba relations since they were normalized by President Obama in mid-2015. Even without a perpetrator, a motive or a modus operandi identified yet, some suspect poisoned relations were the ultimate aim.

Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser who negotiated renewed ties with Cuba, tweeted, “Goal of whoever is behind attacks seems to be sabotaging US-Cuba relations. Would be a shame if they succeed. Cuban people wld suffer most.”

Josefina Vidal, the top Cuban official managing relations with the United States, issued a statement reiterating assurances that Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez gave Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday when he flew to Washington to explain measures Cuba has taken to protect U.S. diplomats and their families — steps Tillerson evidently found wanting.

“We consider that the decision announced by the Department of State is hasty and that it will affect the bilateral relations, specifically, the co-operation in matters of mutual interest and the exchanges on different fields between both countries,” Vidal said.

State Department officials have said Cuba has co-operated in facilitating an FBI investigation, and the Cuban government has denied having anything to do with the injuries. The State Department has shied away from pinning the blame on Havana. Among the possibilities being explored is that agents acting on behalf of a third country may be responsible.

President Trump weighed in on Friday, telling reporters: “Some very bad things happened in Cuba. They did some bad things.” It was not clear whether by saying “they”, Trump was blaming Cuba. The White House did not immediately respond to a request seeking clarity on the president's remarks.

Some of the diplomats were injured in at least one hotel in the Cuban capital, the Capri near the embassy. Employees temporarily deployed to the mission were staying there. The officials said they know of no other guests or hotel employees who reported symptoms from an attack, but concern that others might be hurt prompted them to issue a broader warning advising against travel to Cuba.

“We have no reports that private U.S. citizens have been affected, but the attacks are known to have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a statement. “The Department does not have definitive answers on the cause or source of the attacks and is unable to recommend a means to mitigate exposure.”

Diplomats began complaining of a wide variety of maladies beginning late last year. New symptoms have continued to crop up, most recently in August. No Cuban employees of the embassy have reported having health problems, only Americans.

Among their problems are hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, balance problems, visual difficulties, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues and sleeping difficulties.

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the embassy employees were subjected to some sort of “sonic attack”, among other theories. It is not clear why American diplomats and a handful of Canadian envoys and their families would be the only ones to report symptoms.

The Canadian Embassy in Washington said Ottawa is monitoring the situation and is investigating the cause. But it said there is no reason to believe more Canadians could be affected, and there are no plans to change travel advice or remove staff from Cuba.

The decision to draw down the embassy to skeletal levels does not signify any change in U.S.-Cuban relations, State Department officials insisted. Bilateral meetings will continue, but they will have to be in the United States because U.S. diplomats will not be allowed to go to Cuba. Only people involved in the investigation or critical to the embassy and national security will be granted permission to go.

But it is expected to drive a wedge between the countries, as the Trump administration works to reverse the rapprochement that occurred under President Obama, normalizing relations after nearly 50 years of enmity, by reimposing limits on American visitors and trade unless democratic reforms are made.

Some who favor stronger U.S.-Cuban ties, contend poisoned relations were not just a by-product, but a goal.

“Whoever is doing this obviously is trying to disrupt the normalization process between the United States and Cuba,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy (Democrat-Vermont) said in a statement on Friday. “Someone or some government is trying to reverse that process.”

James Williams, the head of Engage Cuba, a coalition of business groups, urged redoubled efforts to solve the mystery. “We must be careful that our response does not play into the hands of the perpetrators of these attacks,” he added.

The American Foreign Service Association, the union that represents diplomats, earlier this week came out against withdrawing diplomats. Barbara Stephenson, president of the group, said diplomats commonly brave risks like illness, war and oppressive smog.

“We decide we're going to take risks because our presence matters,” she said on Friday. “This is the nature of the work that we do.”

The withdrawal order applies to all non-essential staff and their families. Only “emergency personnel” will stay. The skeletal staff is being kept to assist U.S. citizens in Cuba who have pressing issues, but more routine diplomatic and consular functions will likely be slowed.

With few staff, however, no visas will be processed at the embassy because there will not be enough people to do the work. That will hamper efforts by Cuban Americans to bring relatives to the United States.

Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida) has urged Tillerson to expel all Cuban diplomats from the United States, and on Friday bemoaned that none had been sent packing. He tweeted that it was “Shameful that @StateDept withdraws most staff from @USEmbCuba but Castro can keep as many as he wants in U.S.”

The U.S. travel warning almost certainly will take a bigger bite out of Cuba's burgeoning tourism industry. The Cuban government says more than 4 million visitors pumped almost $2 billion into the economy last year.

About 615,000 were Americans, a 34 percent increase in the first year after diplomatic relations were restored. That includes 330,000 Cuban Americans visiting relatives. The rest were Americans who fit into one of 12 categories the U.S. government considers legitimate for travel purposes, including “educational” reasons cited by many individual travelers.


Nick Miroff contributed to this report.

• Carol Morello is the diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, covering the State Department.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: U.S. to slash embassy staff in Cuba, warns not to travel there

 • VIDEO: American diplomats in Cuba return for unspecified ‘medical reasons’

 • State Department reports new instance of diplomats harmed in Cuba

 • Trump's Cuba policy tries to redefine “good” U.S. tourism

 • Trump revises parts of Obama's Cuba policy


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/reports-us-to-slash-embassy-staff-in-cuba-warn-travelers-of-hotel-attacks/2017/09/29/c0bf9d94-a523-11e7-b14f-f41773cd5a14_story.html
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« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2017, 05:59:48 pm »


It would be bloody HILARIOUS if North Korean secret agents were behind it, eh?  Grin  Cool
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« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2017, 06:13:40 pm »

Yes..I agree...very good to see that Cuban embassy staff cut.....waste of money🙄
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« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2017, 06:45:23 pm »


Good to see Americans fleeing their embassy like frightened rats.

I wish they'd fuck off from their embassy in New Zealand.

Even better would be if they closed down their embassy.

Then Wellington City Council could reclaim the parallel parking spaces along Murphy Street that were taken up by big concrete blocks put there because the stupid scaredy-cat Jesuslanders got paranoid about somebody driving a truck laden with explosives through the fence surrounding their embassy and detonating the explosives.

It's a total waste of good car parking space.
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« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2017, 06:53:06 pm »

Just another one of OH-Bummars many mistakes that Donald Trump needs to clean up🙄
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« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2017, 07:37:36 pm »


Dear oh dear.....there you go again.....proclaiming that life for you is a BUMMAR BUMMER (I even corrected your fucked-up spelling for you).

Get help.....or else use the rope from the rafters method I've already posted about to fix your depression problem.
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« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2017, 07:41:12 pm »


CLICK HERE to read a wee tale all about America's “paranoia castle” in Murphy Street, Wellington, where the selfish Jesuslanders take up good car parking spaces with HUGE, UGLY CONCRETE BLOCKS.
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« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2017, 07:58:37 pm »

Mm...sorry sonny...ain't got time..but feel free to summarise your view here...you know the drill😉
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« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2018, 09:15:09 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Doctors find neurological damage to Americans who served in Cuba

No certain cause was found for injuries suffered by staff members at the U.S. Embassy,
who the State Department claims were victims of an “attack”.


By KAREN DeYOUNG | 9:52PM EST — Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba. — Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters.
The U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba. — Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters.

DIPLOMATS serving at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba “appeared to have sustained injury to widespread brain networks” there, according to physicians who evaluated them for the State Department.

But the physicians could find no definitive cause for their ailments, they said in an article in Thursday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The article, written by specialists at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, provided the most detailed description to date of the injuries — including headaches, dizziness and hearing, vision, sleep and mood disorders. The specialists examined 21 of 24 diplomats who reported symptoms between late 2016 and August 2017.

The State Department has charged that its personnel were targeted for specific “attacks” while in Cuba. Late last year, the Trump administration ordered the withdrawal of more than half of the embassy's diplomats and their families from Havana and advised Americans not to travel there. A similar number of Cuban diplomats were expelled from their embassy in Washington.

Controversy over the medical issues coincided with President Trump's implementation of policy changes reversing parts of the Obama administration's normalization of relations with Cuba in 2015. The new rules, fulfilling a Trump campaign promise to roll back what he called a “terrible” policy, imposed new restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba.

Cuban officials have repeatedly denied responsibility for any attacks on the diplomats and have said the United States has provided little substantive information for them to investigate the complaints.

Some U.S. officials have speculated that the “attacks” could have been conducted by “rogue” elements within the Cuban government or military, or by agents of an unidentified third country.

The clinicians examined 11 women and 10 men, with an average age of 43, whose evaluations began an average of 203 days after they first noticed symptoms, the article said.

In most cases, the affected diplomats reported hearing a loud, painful noise that they later associated with their symptoms. “For 18 of the 21 individuals,” the JAMA article said, “there were reports of hearing a novel, localized sound at the onset of symptoms in their homes and hotel rooms” in Havana. “Affected individuals described the sounds as directional, intensely loud, and with pure and sustained tonality,” although some described it as high pitched, and others said it was low pitched.

“The sounds were often associated with pressure-like or vibratory sensory stimuli … likened to air ‘baffling’ inside a moving car with windows partially rolled down,” the report said. Some, it said, were awakened by the sound, which was variously said to have lasted seconds or longer than 30 minutes. Some reported immediate neurological symptoms, while others noticed nothing until days or weeks afterward.

But, the JAMA authors noted, as have numerous other experts, that “sound in the audible range … is not known to cause persistent injury to the central nervous system” and concluded that “it is currently unclear if or how the noise is related to the reported symptoms.”

While not completely excluded, possible infections or other group medical causes were “not readily apparent,” it said. At the same time, “it is unlikely that a chemical agent could produce these neurological manifestations in the absence of other organ involvement, particularly given that some individuals developed symptoms within 24 hours of arriving in Havana.”

While many of the symptoms were similar to those experienced with a concussion, there was no evidence of physical trauma, and MRI examinations showed no significant brain abnormalities.

But to the extent the physicians were able to determine, many of the reported problems were borne out by neurological, hearing and vision evaluations.

“Neurological examination and cognitive screens did not reveal evidence of malingering, and objective testing and behavioral observations during cognitive testing indicated high levels of effort and motivation,” the JAMA article said in raising the issue of possible “collective delusional disorders.”

“Several of the objective manifestations consistently found in this cohort,” including vision and balance abnormalities, “could not have been consciously or unconsciously manipulated,” it said.

When it received initial reports about “sonic” stimuli and hearing problems, the State Department set up a triage system at the University of Miami that evaluated 80 members of the embassy community, the article said. The University of Pennsylvania's Center for Brain Injury and Repair was then asked to investigate 16 people — later totaling 21 — found to have concussion-like symptoms.

An accompanying JAMA editorial cautioned that “several important considerations should guide interpretation” of the data, including the variability of reported symptoms among the patients and the lack of precision of some of the information with which clinicians were provided.

The editorial also noted that “several of the abnormalities … (e.g. eye movement and balance dysfunction) were based on patient self-report or involved at least some degree of subjective interpretation” by examiners.

“Before reaching any definitive conclusions, additional evidence must be obtained and rigorously and objectively evaluated,” the editorial concluded.


__________________________________________________________________________

• Karen DeYoung is associate editor and senior national security correspondent for The Washington Post.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/doctors-find-neurological-damage-to-americans-who-served-in-cuba/2018/02/14/83c639a2-11de-11e8-9065-e55346f6de81_story.html
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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2018, 07:52:56 pm »


from The New York Times....

Havana's Symphony of Sound

“No one can predict what will happen to Cuba in the coming years,
which is why you must rush there now. As in, right now.”


By REIF LARSEN | Monday, March 12, 2018

In photogenic Havana, with its collage of colonial and Art Deco architecture, vintage cars cruising the streets are a quintessentially Cuban feature. — Photograph: Tomas Munita/The New York Times.
In photogenic Havana, with its collage of colonial and Art Deco architecture, vintage cars cruising the streets are a quintessentially Cuban feature.
 — Photograph: Tomas Munita/The New York Times.


JUST BEFORE New Year's Eve, my wife and I left our two young children at home with my parents and sneaked down to Havana for a brief getaway. You might be familiar with this uncanny sensation of kidlessness, as if you are getting away with something reckless and potentially illegal. More than once, I felt as if we had discovered a cheat code that had opened a portal into a parallel universe. Suddenly, we were allowed to get a drink. We were allowed to sip this drink. We could read more than a single page in a book at one time. We could enjoy a meal without cleaning yogurt off the ceiling.

Yet this odd feeling of defeating space and time came as much from our destination as anything. Cuba, that elusive island unfurling across the Caribbean like a tangled flag, sits barely 100 miles south of Key West. 100 miles! And yet, in some respects, it might as well be 10,000 miles. The country's complex identity is inherently bound up in the duality of this proximity, in its ability to feel both so close and yet so far away at the same time.

Our visit came at a strange time for Cuban-American relations, as the country languishes in a period of post-Fidel, post-Obama uncertainty. Many Cubans we talked to cited President Obama's 2015 visit as a watershed moment, a critical first step in normalizing relations between the two countries. But such optimism has given way to a kind of stagnant waiting game, filled with more questions than answers: Is the sudden explosion of private businesses (like Airbnb) on the island a sign of things to come or merely window dressing on what remains a totalitarian regime? What will happen when Raul Castro finally steps down? In this age of Trump, are Americans even allowed to go to Cuba anymore? And if I did go to Cuba, would my capitalist mind be turned into mush?

Like many, I had been particularly taken by reports that American diplomats in Cuba had suffered from a range of mysterious symptoms, including nausea, hearing loss, dizziness, memory loss and even brain damage. Both the media and the U.S. State Department bandied about an attack by a “sonic weapon” as a possible explanation. It felt like a last, toxic gasp of Cold War subterfuge.

What, pray tell, would this even look like? I pictured a Russian agent in a dingy hotel room, a gadget-filled suitcase open on the bed, various satellite dishes pointed at his target in an adjacent building. Scientists and acoustic experts have dismissed such theories of ultrasonic sound rifles as extremely unlikely. A more plausible hypothesis is that the diplomats were exposed to some kind of toxin. Still, sound as an all-pervasive, invisible weapon remains a primal fear of mine. I even wrote a novel in which a New Jersey teenager discovers a particular frequency, that, when played at exactly the right decibel level, has disastrous physical effects on his classmates.

So then why go to Cuba and dive into the cross hairs of both diplomatic and acoustic uncertainty? Because this is why we travel. As José Martí, Cuba's talismanic national poet and philosopher once wrote, “In a time of crisis, the peoples of the world must rush to get to know each other.” No one can predict what will happen to Cuba in the coming years, which is why you must rush there now. As in, right now. To visit is to witness a rare bird about to fly the coop.




We flew direct to Havana from Newark Liberty International Airport on United Airlines. I know! I was as shocked as you that this is now possible. The cheat-code feeling began in earnest at the airport in Newark, where they made you check in at a whole special area dedicated solely to the handful of us flying to Cuba. This seemed like a complete waste of money and infrastructure, but these are the strange byproducts of what feels like a decades-long playground argument between our two countries.

I was a bit nervous about my qualifications. Officially, you are not allowed to visit Cuba as a tourist; rather, you must travel under the auspices of 12 official reasons. I was armed with my very official reason (I was engaged in “Journalistic Activity”) and my very official itinerary (I would go to this restaurant … to engage in “Journalistic Activity”).

In the end, no one batted an eye. We paid $75 for each of our Cuban visas and that was it. Amazingly, the cost of our Cuban medical insurance was baked into the cost of the plane ticket. For the brief time I was there, I would have much more robust (and much cheaper) insurance than I currently have in the United States.

The flight to Havana took just over three hours. Three hours to another world. There's a bit of consumerist whip-lash that goes on when one travels from New Jersey to Cuba. The landscape around Newark Liberty is a surreal holding ground for all the trappings of capitalist excess: shipping containers packed with plastic Chinese toys; warehouses of kombucha to be shipped out to thousands of New York's corner bodegas; parking lots full of new cars ready to replace slightly less-new cars.

There is no such excess in Cuba, where things are used and then used some more and then used until they eventually fall apart. And then they are fixed. Imagine that! Our driver in Havana had inherited his cherry-red 1959 Buick Invicta convertible from his father, who had inherited it from his father. The engine was original. I asked how many miles the car had on it. “This can't be measured,” he said.

Much in Cuba resists measurement. Time becomes slippery. When we drove into the city from José Martí International Airport, we were instantly immersed in a whirlwind of ghostly history: American Plymouths from the 1950s, Soviet Ladas from the 1970s, Polski Fiats from the 1980s, donkey carts, the odd Peugeot. It was as if every moment that came before was also present now.


El Capitolio, the National Capitol Building, is a majestic landmark in Havana. — Photograph: Robert Rausch/The New York Times.
El Capitolio, the National Capitol Building, is a majestic landmark in Havana. — Photograph: Robert Rausch/The New York Times.

The Malecón with Morro Castle (El Morro) in the background in Havana. — Photograph: Robert Rausch/The New York Times.
The Malecón with Morro Castle (El Morro) in the background in Havana. — Photograph: Robert Rausch/The New York Times.

Cubans have a complicated relationship to time. The socialist system demands that time is not one's own; time, like most everything else, is a shared commodity. Thus people are used to waiting in lines for services. They are so used to waiting in lines that there are no lines anymore. There is only a group of people living their lives, chatting, who just so happen to also be waiting outside a bank or at a bus stop. When someone new shows up they ask “Quién es el último?” A finger goes up. The queue quietly grows by one and time tumbles on.

One of the young Cubans we talked to waiting in line shrugged off this inconvenience.

“Yes, there are shortages of goods. No, it's not ideal,” he said. “Private enterprise is important. But we don't just want to copy the American system — no offense — where everything is about money.”

One of the great gifts of our short time in Havana was time itself. Specifically not having constant access to the internet. Back home my phone is my safety blanket, my cigarette, my friend, my enemy. Havana has recently allowed for public Wi-Fi, but only in certain parks and street corners. One has to purchase a little card to buy time online. And so we guiltily joined the masses at night in John Lennon Park (not to be confused with Lenin Park outside the city), huddled around the glow of our smartphones. The public parks are once again filled with addicts; it's just the nature of the fix that has changed. Would this be where the new revolution began? And would this revolution have its own emoji?

We were wandering through dark parks at night because, for the most part, Cuba itself is perfectly safe. There is no crime to speak of, or so the Cuban government says. As is often the case, when you dig beneath the surface, all is not as it seems: Cuba has the seventh highest incarceration rate in the world (the United States is number 2). If there is no crime, why are there so many criminals? Or is there no crime because all the (potential) criminals are locked up? When I asked our driver about this he shrugged.

“There's an old joke,” he said. “11 million Cubans, 5 million are police.”

I will not be the first to tell you that the streets of Havana are an intoxication. The city is ridiculously photogenic, no filters needed. Our Airbnb was in Vedado, a deceptively calm residential neighborhood of aging mansions which also features a few of the city's most thumping night clubs and Fábrica de Arte Cubano, an old cooking oil factory turned into a sprawling multiuse arts complex with a terrific restaurant, El Cocinero, on its rooftop. The night we went, there was a fashion show, a concert, a gallery opening all wrapped up into one. Cubans are ingenious at adapting what they have into something that is greater than the sum of its parts.


Cubans connecting to the internet using cellphones at a Wi-Fi hot spot in a square on Havana's outskirts in 2016. — Photograph: Mauricio Lima/The New York Times.
Cubans connecting to the internet using cellphones at a Wi-Fi hot spot in a square on Havana's outskirts in 2016. — Photograph: Mauricio Lima/The New York Times.

A courtyard in front of Iglesia del Santo Angel Custodio in Old Havana. — Photograph: Robert Rausch/The New York Times.
A courtyard in front of Iglesia del Santo Angel Custodio in Old Havana. — Photograph: Robert Rausch/The New York Times.

The view of central Havana from Morro Castle (El Morro). — Photograph: Robert Rausch/The New York Times.
The view of central Havana from Morro Castle (El Morro). — Photograph: Robert Rausch/The New York Times.

From Vedado we walked. We walked without our kids, which meant we could actually get somewhere. We walked along the Malecón, the seafront avenue and promenade known as the “sofa of the city,” where young people come out to see and be seen as the ocean pounds the city's sea wall. We strolled through the crumbling party of Centro Habana, the “real Havana,” as many people put it. Everyone was home for the holidays; the mood was festive. We dodged water flung from balconies. Men fixing cars. Cars fixing men. We drifted through the Callejón de Hamel, an alleyway covered in palimpsestic layers of Afro-Cuban street art by Salvador González — inscribed bathtubs embedded in walls, bright murals of bodies entangled in dance. We passed the joyous scrum of a rumba street festival.

Was there a rumba festival here everyday? I wouldn't be surprised.

In fact, Habaneros are some of the more upbeat people I have ever met. Citizens in many of the Socialist and post-Socialist countries I've visited often radiate a carefully honed cynicism (see the perfect scowl of an escalator attendant in the Moscow Metro). Cubans are just the opposite. They are not blind to the problems in their country but there is no time to be down because … there's a rumba street festival! (And a car to fix, an apartment to rent, eggs to track down …)

Even Jesus was in on the action. The Christ of Havana is a 66-foot-tall statue made of Carrara marble that overlooks the city from a hilltop across the bay.

“In Rio their Jesus is like this,” said our guide, holding out his arms. “In Cuba he is like this, with a mojito and a cigar.” The Cuban benediction.

We were constantly called out by strangers: “Where are you from?” People beamed when we told them. “We love the U.S. I have a cousin in Queens. It's cold there, yes? I would die. Please tell everyone that Cuba is beautiful. No Mafia, no war. Just Mojitos and salsa dancing.” Hand on stomach, the dance was demonstrated, the toe expertly twirled in the dust.

This was all part of the pitch. For the average Cuban, it is of course not just mojitos and salsa dancing. Every day is an act of improvised survivalism. But as visitors on this miraculous island, we followed the Christ of Havana's lead and drank our fair share of mojitos. They went down like water. The food was almost universally forgettable, but this is not why you come to Cuba. You come to be transported. To dance, to twirl your toes in the dust. To soak in the jaw-dropping collage of colonial and Art Deco architecture, to ponder the sad-alien street murals by Yulier Rodriguez, to hear stories of a parallel world, a world that begins to slowly merge with your own.


Patrons gather poolside at La Flauta Mágica, a rooftop cafe and bar in Havana's Vedado neighborhood. — Photograph: Todd Heisler/The New York Times.
Patrons gather poolside at La Flauta Mágica, a rooftop cafe and bar in Havana's Vedado neighborhood. — Photograph: Todd Heisler/The New York Times.

Chinatown in the heart of central Havana. — Photograph: Robert Rausch/The New York Times.
Chinatown in the heart of central Havana. — Photograph: Robert Rausch/The New York Times.

And you come for the sound. Havana is a land of sound. Never have I been to a place whose identity is so entangled in its auditory fingerprint. The guttural putt putt of eight cylinder Cadillacs built before my father was born; the ocean rising and slapping at the Malecón like a newborn babe; the dip and pull of the timbale's bell chattering at a bar across the street, tin tin — tin tin tin; the shuffle of a man demonstrating salsa for you on the sidewalk; the swish and chop of a broom on a doorstep; the plush boom of the ceremonial cannons fired every evening from the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña; the clink of ice cubes in the most delicious mojito de piña you will ever taste.

I could not help but think: Could this blessed collage of reverberations really be the site of those sonic attacks? Before I left for Cuba I had listened to a brief audio recording of what some of the diplomats had allegedly heard. It was unlistenable, like a cloud of cicadas on acid. A thromping high-pitched acoustic minefield. It cleaved open my consciousness, crushed my spirit, shut down all possibility. Sound can be terrifying.

It can also be beautiful. Our last night in Havana we went to see the eternal Roberto Fonseca and his band Temperamento at the famous La Zorra y El Cuervo jazz club. To enter, you must wait in line before descending through a replica of a red British telephone booth into a small subterranean space.

Mr. Fonseca and his bandmates slowly arrived one by one, greeting one another, testing their instruments, testing the wind, the mood. There was no rush. The music didn't start until well after 11 p.m. Yet when that first note was struck, everything seemed to fade away: the city, the island, the ocean, the world. We were floating. The drummer was humble, incorruptible, generous. He dove back and forth with Mr. Fonseca, who dashed up and down his keyboard like a gazelle. The conga player, when his time finally came, let loose such an avalanche of rhythm the atoms in the room began to quiver and split. Tell me, is there a more ecstatic instrument than the conga drum?

Jazz, when it is good, makes all possibilities seem possible. And yet whatever is played at the moment also feels perfect, intensely true. This is what was meant to be. When the song finally ended, the world came rushing back, changed, unchanged.

We were in Cuba, still.

We took a breath and began to applaud.



Roberto Fonseca Live at Jazz in Marciac 2016. — Video: Roberto Fonseca.

__________________________________________________________________________

• Reif Larsen is the author of the novels I Am Radar and The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, which was adapted into a feature film, The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/12/travel/havana-cuba.html
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