Dangerous sound? What Americans heard in Cuba attacks

It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what? It seems to undulate, even writhe. Listen closely: There are multiple, distinct tones that sound to some like they’re colliding in a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect.
The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks. The recording, released Thursday by the AP, is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon.
The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a cellphone or computer.
What device produced the original sound remains unknown. Americans affected in Havana reported the sounds hit them at extreme volumes.
Whether there’s a direct relationship between the sound and the physical damage suffered by the victims is also unclear. The U.S. says that in general the attacks caused hearing, cognitive, visual, balance, sleep and other problems.
The recordings from Havana have been sent for analysis to the U.S. Navy, which has advanced capabilities for analyzing acoustic signals, and to the intelligence services, the AP has learned. But the recordings have not significantly advanced U.S. knowledge about what is harming diplomats.
The Navy did not respond to requests for comment on the recording. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert wouldn’t comment on the tape’s authenticity.
Cuba has denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. The U.S. hasn’t blamed anyone and says it still doesn’t know what or who is responsible. But the government has faulted President Raul Castro’s government for failing to protect American personnel, and Nauert said Thursday that Cuba “may have more information than we are aware of right now.”
“We believe that the Cuban government could stop the attacks on our diplomats,” said White House chief of staff John Kelly.
Not all Americans injured in Cuba heard sounds. Of those who did, it’s not clear they heard precisely the same thing.
Yet the AP has reviewed several recordings from Havana taken under different circumstances, and all have variations of the same high-pitched sound. Individuals who have heard the noise in Havana confirm the recordings are generally consistent with what they heard.
“That’s the sound,” one of them said.
The recording being released by the AP has been digitally enhanced to increase volume and reduce background noise, but has not been otherwise altered.
The sound seemed to manifest in pulses of varying lengths — seven seconds, 12 seconds, two seconds — with some sustained periods of several minutes or more. Then there would be silence for a second, or 13 seconds, or four seconds, before the sound abruptly started again.
A closer examination of one recording reveals it’s not just a single sound. Roughly 20 or more different frequencies, or pitches, are embedded in it, the AP discovered using a spectrum analyzer, which measures a signal’s frequency and amplitude.
To the ear, the multiple frequencies can sound a bit like dissonant keys on a piano being struck all at once. Plotted on a graph, the Havana sound forms a series of “peaks” that jump up from a baseline, like spikes or fingers on a hand.
“There are about 20 peaks, and they seem to be equally spaced. All these peaks correspond to a different frequency,” said Kausik Sarkar, an acoustics expert and engineering professor at The George Washington University who reviewed the recording with the AP.
Those frequencies might be only part of the picture. Conventional recording devices and tools to measure sound may not pick up very high or low frequencies, such as those above or below what the human ear can hear. Investigators have explored whether infrasound or ultrasound might be at play in the Havana attacks.
The recordings have been played for workers at the U.S. Embassy to teach them what to listen for, said several individuals with knowledge of the situation in Havana. Some embassy employees have also been given recording devices to turn on if they hear the sounds. The individuals weren’t authorized to discuss the situation publicly and demanded anonymity.
Cuban officials wouldn’t say whether the U.S. has shared the recordings with Cuba’s government.
Another big question remains: Even if you know you’re under attack, what do you do? Still dumbfounded by what’s causing this, the United States has been at a loss to offer advice.
The embassy’s security officials have told staff if they believe they’re being attacked, they should get up and move to a different location, because the attack is unlikely to be able to follow them, the commenting individuals said. The AP reported last month that some people experienced attacks or heard sounds that were narrowly confined to a room or parts of a room.
The State Department has said 22 Americans are “medically confirmed” to be affected and that the number could grow. The symptoms and circumstances reported have varied widely, making some hard to tie conclusively to the attacks. The incidents began last year and are considered “ongoing,” with an attack reported as recently as late August.
Cuba has defended its “exhaustive and priority” response, emphasizing its eagerness to assist the U.S. investigation. Cuban officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story but have complained in the past that Washington refuses to share information they say they need to fully investigate, such as medical records, technical data and timely notification of attacks.

Dr. Darsi Ferret, who helped expose the lies about Cuba’s ‘free healthcare’ was found dead in Florida

I am very sorry to report the death of Dr. Darsi Ferret, a well-known Cuban dissident and human rights activist, who in 2007 worked closely with me to help expose the lies about Cuba’s ‘free healthcare’ that were portrayed on Michael Moore’s document “Sicko”, which claimed that healthcare in Castro’s Cuba was “free and much better than healthcare in the U.S.”.
According to press reports, Darsi was found dead on Friday morning in the offices of Dar-TV, a TV channel in West Palm Beach. The cause of his death is not known at this time. He was 47 years old.
My deepest condolences to his two sons, his sister, his ex-wife and the rest of his family.

In June of 2007, I was contacted by a producer of ABC/20-20, who had seen photos of Cuban hospitals on my website.

ABC was preparing a program about private healthcare in the U.S. compared to government healthcare in other countries. It also wanted to know if the information about healthcare in Cuba, presented on Sicko was true or pro-Castro propaganda.

The producer, Melissa Scott, came to Miami and told me she was planning to go to Havana with an ABC cameraman and other technicians to film inside the hospitals that are used by regular Cubans, not the hospitals for foreigners who pay the Castro brothers in hard currency and that were shown on Michael Moore’s documentary.

I explained to her that this was impossible because the Cuban regime would never allow it, but that if she wanted, I knew a Cuban doctor who was very familiar with the reality of healthcare in Cuba and could go inside the hospitals and film using a concealed camera.

For the next 3 months, I took part on daily three-way phone conferences between Ms. Scott in New York, Dr. Darsi Ferret in Cuba and myself. Unbelievable as it may seem, ABC didn’t know how to do a three-way conference call with Cuba, so I had to do it from my house phone. It was at a time when there were very few cellular phones in Cuba and Darsi didn’t have a phone in his house and much less a cell phone. He had to go to the home of another dissident, who lived nearby, and wait for our call. I would call each morning and let them know the time we were going to call in the afternoon, to make sure they could advise Darsi to be there.

The producer, who didn’t speak Spanish, would tell me what she wanted him to film and I would convey that to Darsi. We were always concerned that government agents would find out and arrest him, but he was never worried and always willing to take the risk. “I want the world to know the truth,” he would tell us.

Even though ABC News had a bureau in Havana, they refused to get involved in any of the filming or to interview Darsi, or other dissidents, because they were afraid that Cuba could close the bureau and expel those working there. They wouldn’t even provide a camera for Darsi to use, and we had to spend weeks looking for one in Cuba.

At the end, when Darsi finally got all the films that the producer wanted, he told me: “Mi hermanito (his favorite phrase) I have the DVD ready, how do you I get it to you?” I called ABC in New York and they told me they had someone in Cuba who could transmit it to them through the Internet. But the person this person refused to do it because he had not filmed the material.

So, after all this work we had a DVD with all the films taken without government permission, and no way to get it out of Cuba. I called a good friend, Maria Werlau who had originally put me in touch with Darsi, and asked her if she could help. She contacted the president of a country that was formerly part of the Soviet Union and he agreed to help. Darsi took the DVD to their Embassy in Havana, and they sent it to their Consulate in Cancun and from there to my house in Miami.
I wanted to tell this story for people to know the risks that Dr. Ferret took in order to expose the lies of the Cuban regime and Michael Moore’s documentary. He suffered prison and beatings several times while he was in Cuba, for his work in defense of human rights.

The videos and photos that appeared on ABC 20/20 and also on Fox News’ Hannity can be seen below:

*Breaking News* US cuts embassy staff by 60%, urges no travel to Cuba

The Miami Herald

The United States is warning Americans against visiting Cuba and ordering more than half of U.S. personnel to leave the island, senior officials said Friday, in a dramatic response to what they described as “specific attacks” on diplomats.
The decision deals a blow to already delicate ties between the U.S. and Cuba, longtime enemies who only recently began putting their hostility behind them. The embassy in Havana will lose roughly 60 percent of its U.S. staff, and will stop processing visas in Cuba indefinitely, the American officials said.
In a new travel warning to be issued Friday, the U.S. will say some of the attacks have occurred in Cuban hotels, and that while American tourists aren’t known to have been hurt, they could be exposed if they travel to Cuba. Tourism is a critical component of Cuba’s economy that has grown in recent years as the U.S. relaxed restrictions.
For now, the United States is not ordering any Cuban diplomats to leave Washington, another move that the administration had considered, officials said. Several U.S. lawmakers have called on the administration to expel all Cuban diplomats. In May, Washington asked two to leave, but emphasized it was to protest Havana’s failure to protect diplomats on its soil, not an accusation of blame.

Tillerson says U.S. weighing closing embassy in Cuba over sonic attacks

Reuters

The United States is considering closing its embassy in Havana in response to an alleged sonic attack on U.S. personnel in Cuba, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday.
“We have it under evaluation,” Tillerson said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program. “It’s a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered.”
Five Republican senators on Friday called for the Trump administration to retaliate against the Cuban government by expelling Cuban diplomats and possibly shuttering the U.S. embassy there over attacks that began in late 2016.
The State Department said in August that Americans linked to the U.S. embassy in Havana had experienced physical symptoms from “incidents” involving sound waves. Five Canadians were also affected.
Symptoms included nausea, dizziness and temporary loss of hearing or memory.
Cuba, the United States and Canada have investigated the attacks, but the probe has not yielded any answers about how they were carried out or who was responsible for them.
Cuba has denied involvement. The U.S. State Department has not blamed Havana for the attacks but asked two Cuban diplomats to leave Washington in May.

5 senators call for US to shutter embassy in Havana

The Hill

Five GOP senators are pressing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to expel all Cuban diplomats from the U.S. and shutter the American Embassy in Havana.

In a letter to Tillerson dated Thursday, Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Richard Burr (N.C.), John Cornyn (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and James Lankford (Okla.) admonished Cuba for failing to ensure the security of U.S. diplomats based in the country.

“Cuba’s neglect of its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot go unchallenged,” the letter reads.

The letter comes as the number of Americans confirmed to have suffered mysterious health symptoms during stints in Havana continues to rise. That number was updated to 21 this week.

Some Americans have experienced permanent hearing loss and mild brain damage, or concussions, from the so-called “health attacks,” the cause of which remains unknown.

“The safety of U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families posted overseas remains one of our high priorities and a shared responsibility of those nations that host U.S. diplomatic facilities,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to remind the Cuban government of its obligation and to demand that it take verifiable action to remove these threats to our personnel and their families.”

Symptoms were first reported in fall 2016 and were initially believed to have continued until spring 2017. But the State Department revealed earlier this month that an incident happened as recently as August. U.S. officials are investigating the matter.

The incidents were made public in early August, when the State Department revealed that the U.S. had expelled two Cuban diplomats from the country’s embassy in Washington.

It remains unclear who is responsible for the attacks, and the Cuban government has repeatedly denied any wrong-doing. The Associated Press reported Friday that, after hearing of the attacks, Cuban President Raul Castro voiced concern and befuddlement to Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a U.S. diplomat in Havana.

The Cuban government even offered to allow the FBI to investigate the matter — a level of access rarely offered by foreign governments, according to the AP.

The U.S. relationship with Cuba is a tense one, after President Trump earlier this year said his administration would clamp down on the travel and trade restrictions former President Obama had relaxed during his tenure.

Masochists! Canadian tourist charged 10 times the cost of a broken TV at Cuban hotel

Lukis says he accidentally grabbed the TV when he was leaning to get something out of the mini fridge. He accepted responsibility for the damage and was charged more than $5,000 CAD
Calgary man warns Cuba travelers about fine print after paying 10X cost of damaged TV
Sunwing says resort’s exorbitant cost was due to ‘the challenges and expense’ of obtaining items in Cuba
The so-called rule of 10 wasn’t something Dan Lukis had ever heard of before his vacation to Cuba, but the fine-print policy that cost him more than $5,000 won’t soon be forgotten — nor will the pall it cast on his trip booked through Sunwing.
One evening, a few days into his all-inclusive stay at the Sanctuary at Grand Memories Varadero resort in April, the Calgary man lost his balance while reaching into the mini-fridge in his room, he recalls.
In an attempt to steady himself, he grabbed the television, sending it tumbling onto the floor.
Lukis said he admitted fault for the damage immediately, but when he asked hotel staff how he could rectify the situation, they came back demanding he pay 10 times the value of the TV — according to a rule of 10 policy established by local authorities and followed by the resort owner, Gaviota.
There was no further damage to the room, documented in photos taken by Lukis.
“We were being treated like criminals for something that was an accident,” Lukis told CBC News.
When he argued with staff about the cost, he said, they told him police and other authorities would get involved and prevent him and his girlfriend from leaving Cuba if he didn’t pay.
“It was kind of frightening. It was lucky I was able to scrounge up enough and go into quite a bit of debt on the credit card just to be able to get us out of the country,” he said
Hotel considered it ‘willful damage’
Lukis said he reached out to Sunwing, but the company deferred to the local authorities’ rule-of-10 policy, which Sunwing said was enforced by the resort, not Sunwing.
“Due to the challenges and expense associated with procuring furniture and electronics in Cuba, most resorts make available at check-in their policy relating to damages/ and this information is reinforced in the introductory briefing held by our Sunwing destination representatives,” Sunwing said in a statement.
Sunwing said it was informed by hotel management on April 15 that Lukis had damaged the TV.
“While Sunwing representatives did attempt to advocate on behalf of the customer, the property, owned by Gaviota, deferred to their published policy which reads ‘when damages caused by a break or loss of property, whether classified as fixed or useful assets, are the result of an intentional act of the clients or are linked to vandalism, the responsible person will be charged ten (10) times the value of the purchase price of the asset broken or lost,'” Sunwing said in a statement.
The hotel management reserved their right to apply the full penalty charge as per the stated policy.
Dispute over whether replacement TVs readily available
Sunwing’s communications manager, Rachel Goldrick, said buying a new TV isn’t that easy in Cuba.
“It’s impossible to just buy a television like you can in North America. You just can’t do it,” Goldrick said. “Goods don’t exist locally.… It’s not sort of like if something happened here, you could go to your local Walmart and take it back.”
Instead, Goldrick said, the room would likely be without a TV for months as the hotel went through the lengthy process to import a new one into the country.
However, Lukis disputes that, saying he saw similar televisions of the same size for sale in local stores and offered to buy one, but was told by the resort that it wouldn’t accept it as a replacement.
He also said he and his girlfriend were not informed of the rule-of-10 policy when checking into the resort and were not informed of it in the introductory briefing held by the Sunwing representative.
“They did no such thing,” Lukis said.
‘I feel it was really hidden and shady’
After returning home, Lukis came across a Daily Mail article detailing a British couple’s similar situation.
“Had I been clearly aware of that being a potential implication, perhaps I would have reconsidered. But I feel it was really hidden and shady. Just something that people really aren’t aware of,” Lukis said.
The local authorities’ rule-of-10 policy followed by the hotel is stated on the Sunwing website, which reads: “Rule of 10 will be in place, established by local authorities. In the case of damaged items, customers will be charged the value of the item multiplied by 10.”
But there is no mention of the policy on the resort’s web page or those of other organizations through which one can purchase all-inclusive stays at the Sanctuary at Grand Memories Varadero.
No one from the resort responded to requests for comment from CBC News.

Is time to bring our diplomats home!: New ‘sonic’ attack reported in Cuba, 19 Americans now affected

Nineteen Americans are suffering from a range of symptoms, including mild traumatic brain injury and hearing loss, related to mysterious “sonic harassment” attacks in Cuba — with a new incident reported just last month.
Previously, U.S. officials said the incidents started in December 2016 and ended this past spring. But State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert revealed Friday that a new incident occurred in August and is now part of the ongoing investigation.
“We can’t rule out new cases as medical professionals continue to evaluate members of the embassy community,” warned Nauert, who has described the situation as “unprecedented.”
The U.S. government, including the FBI, continue to investigate who and what are behind the incidents, but with no firm answers so far.
The American Foreign Service Association said Friday that its representatives met this week in Washington, D.C., with Foreign Service Officers posted at the U.S. embassy in Havana who have faced diagnoses including mild traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing loss, but also loss of balance, severe headaches, cognitive disruption and brain swelling.
Traumatic brain injury is caused by a violent blow or jolt to the head or body that may cause temporary dysfunction of brain cells or more lasting damage, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms can be immediate or appear days or weeks later, ranging from loss of consciousness or confusion to sensory problems, memory loss, or headache and nausea.
AFSA said they only met with 10 affected because the others were not available; the State Department has said that some of those affected have remained at their posts in Havana.
Sources have told ABC News that some U.S. officials were exposed to a sonic device in Havana that caused serious health problems and physical symptoms. Sound waves above and below the range of human hearing could potentially cause permanent damage, medical experts have told ABC News.
No device or piece of equipment has been discovered yet, according to Nauert. Some of the affected Americans are still experiencing symptoms “because the symptoms are experienced at different times, because the symptoms are different in various people,” according to a State Department official.
The Cuban government, which denies any involvement, is said to be cooperating with the ongoing U.S. investigation, but the two governments are not working together on the matter.
In May 2017, the State Department asked two Cuban officials working at the embassy in the United States to depart the country. The State Department said that the move was not a form of retaliation or a sign that the U.S. believes Cuba is behind the attack but rather to punish Cuba for its failure to keep American diplomats safe — something it is obligated to do under an international treaty known as the Vienna Convention.
AFSA is encouraging the State Department and 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.”
“What has happened there is of great concern to the U.S. government,” Nauert has said, defending the U.S.’s response. “Let me just reassure you that this is a matter that we take very seriously…. It is a huge priority for us and we’re trying to get them all the care that they need.”
There have been no reports of other embassies experiencing this, a senior State Department official said.

Botched surveillance job may have led to strange injuries at US embassy in Cuba

The Guardian