Category Archives: Cuba

Zika update: Spread, sex, abortions, and more


We begin with a video report from CCTV America:

Latin America Steps Up Efforts To Fight Zika

Program notes:

With growing fear surrounding the spread of the Zika virus, “Americas Now” brings together CCTV correspondent’s from across Latin America to report on how South American countries are being affected by the epidemic.They also tell us what’s being done to stop the transmission of the disease and what to expect next.“Americas Now” has reports from Stephen Gibbs in Caracas, Venezuela; Joel Richards in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Michelle Begue in Bogota, Colombia; Michael Voss in Havana, Cuba; Paulo Cabral in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Grace Gonzalez in Managua, Nicaragua; Dan Collyns in Lima, Peru.The Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of the Aedes mosquito. The virus originated in Uganda in 1947. Recently, Latin America has experienced a major outbreak.

The disease hits another country, from El País:

First Spanish Zika virus case involving pregnant woman diagnosed

The infected patient, who lives in Catalonia, contracted disease on visit to Colombia

Outbreak News Today covers an escalation:

Zika emergency declared in Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rican government declared a public health emergency due to the Zika virus after Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed an executive order Friday, according to a Diario de Puerto Rico report

Again from Outbreak News Today, advice is given:

Samoa added to Zika travel advisory

The South Pacific island of Samoa is one of several countries the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added to their interim travel guidance related to Zika virus Friday.

From the World Health Organization, another island hit:

Zika virus infection – United States of America – United States Virgin Islands

On 25 January 2016, the National IHR Focal Point for the United States of America notified PAHO/WHO of the first laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in St. Croix, one of the three main islands in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI).

And from RT America, preparing for the inevitable:

Florida prepares for statewide emergency over Zika Virus

Program notes:

Health officials in Florida have declared a state of emergency in four of the state’s counties over the Zika Virus outbreak, asking people to refrain from having unprotected sex or suggesting to abstain altogether. RT’s Marina Portnaya reports from Miami and takes a look at the government’s response to the crisis.

From Reuters, bodily fluids:

Brazil finds Zika in saliva, urine; expert warns against kissing

Scientists identified the Zika virus in the saliva and urine of two infected patients, a top Brazilian biomedical research institution said on Friday, prompting its president to urge pregnant women not to kiss strangers just as local carnival celebrations begin.

Sky News covers mortality:

Zika Kills Three As Carnival Revellers Warned

Three people have died in Colombia after contracting the Zika virus, which is spreading across South America and has emerged in Europe and the US.

More from the Associated Press:

In Brazil, pregnant women urged to be cautious with a kiss

In a sign of mounting global concern over the Zika virus, health officials on Friday warned pregnant women to think twice about the lips they kiss and called on men to use condoms with pregnant partners if they have visited countries where the virus is present

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control here in the U.S. have issued new guidelines for sexual conduct to visitors to Zikaland:

New recommendations for pregnant women, and men with pregnant sex partners who live in or have traveled to Zika-affected areas:

  • Pregnant women and their male sex partners should discuss the male partner’s potential exposures and history of Zika-like illness with the pregnant woman’s health care provider (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/). Providers should consult CDC’s guidelines for evaluation and testing of pregnant women.
  • Men with a pregnant sex partner who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission and their pregnant sex partners should consistently and correctly use condoms during sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) or abstain from sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy. Consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk of sexual transmission of many infections, including those caused by other viruses.

New recommendations for non-pregnant women, and men with non-pregnant sexual partners who live in or have traveled to Zika-affected areas:

  • Couples in which a man resides in or has traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who are concerned about sexual transmission of Zika virus may consider using condoms consistently and correctly during sex or abstaining from sexual activity.
  • Couples may consider several factors when making this complex and personal decision to abstain or use condoms:
    1. Zika virus illness is usually mild. An estimated 4 out of 5 people infected never have symptoms; when symptoms occur they may last from several days to one week.
    2. The risk of Zika infection depends on how long and how much a person has been exposed to infected mosquitoes, and the steps taken to prevent mosquito bites while in an affected area.
  • The science is not clear on how long the risk should be avoided. Research is now underway to answer this question as soon as possible. If you are trying to get pregnant, you may consider testing in discussion with your health care provider.

El País covers concerns:

Zika virus could trigger illegal abortions spike, experts fear

Lack of contraception and strict laws may force women to seek unsafe procedures

From Al Jazeera America, a response:

UN calls for Zika-hit countries to loosen abortion restrictions

UN asks how countries can ask women to avoid pregnancies but not offer ways to end them; Puerto Rico declares emergency

More from teleSUR:

Men: No Sex to Avoid Spread of Zika!

Up until now, guidelines for avoiding the virus have focused on women

Another concern from CBC Radio:

Concerns over clinical trials with pregnant women could delay a Zika vaccine

Dr. Peter Hotez, one of the world’s leading experts on the Zika virus and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine Baylor College of Medicine, says safety concerns for drug tests on pregnant women will prolong the search for Zika vaccine. He estimates it is possible a vaccine could be created in about two years but not in time to be used for this round of infection.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

French researcher says Zika link to Guillain-Barré Syndrome is ‘almost certain’

  • The correlation between paralysis and the Zika virus was first seen in French Polynesia two years ago
  • Didier Musso wrote then that Zika appeared responsible for a 20-fold increase in the condition
  • Microcephaly, now tied to Zika, was not noted in the 2013 outbreak

From Al Jazeera America, a class-based cause for concern:

In Brazil, stigma and poor care afflict microcephaly sufferers

Costs of caring for children with the condition, which is linked to the Zika virus, are often prohibitive

The School of the Americas: Evil unleashed


There is no institution more symbolic of the arrogance and violence at the heart of U.S. foreign policy than the School of the Americas, or as it was rebranded following revelations about the bloody deeds of its graduates, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. And do catch the logo, most notably the Crusader Cross on the right, symbol of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, one of the two leading monastic military orders during the Crusades [the other being the Knights Templar]:

BLOG SOA

The School of the Americas, by whatever name, has served as the Western Hemisphere equivalent of a Nazi SS leadership training school, turning out an elite crew of highly trained butchers eager to serve the interests of the rich and of U.S. corporations threatened by democratically elected Left-leaning Latin American governments.

Unsurprisingly, hundreds of thousands of citizens of countries governed by SOA graduates have fled, and they now comprise the leading source of undocumented immigrants to the U.S., the very immigrants railed against by those very same politicians who can be relied upon to fund the SOA’s damnably dirty deeds.

All of which brings us to the latest edition of Abby Martin’s The Empire Files, her weekly series for TeleSUR English:

Empire Files: The U.S. School That Trains Dictators and Death Squads

Program notes:

On November 22, thousands gathered at the gates of Fort Benning, GA at the 25th annual protest of the School of the Americas to memorialize the tens of thousands of people who lost their lives at the hands of the U.S. Empire’s brutally repressive juntas it used to rule Latin America by force.

The dictators and death squad leaders, who committed acts of genocide, were trained within the gates of Fort Benning, at the School of the Americas – otherwise known as the “School Of Assassins.”

Abby Martin investigates this notorious school that is largely hidden from the American public; it’s crimes around the world, it’s star graduates, why it exists and the movement to shut it down.

Featuring interviews with School Of the Americas Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois and other SOAW leaders. [Follow @SOAWatch and visit SOAW.org for more info on the movement]

Map[ of the day: That’s why they’re ‘red’ states


From the 7 October 2015 Portland Oregonian, gun deaths in the U.S. between 2004 and 2010 and based on data from the Centers for Disease Control:

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Yet another American military con game


A blockbuster story from a highly-respected American journalist has detonated with scarcely a peep.

It concerns a fake terrorist attack aboard an American airliner, a staged provocation designed to intimidate Al Qaeda and to reassure Americans about the safety of travel on the nation’s airliners.

A Canadian by birth, Sean D. Naylor is senior writer for Army Times, the privately owned weekly newspaper. Gannett, the media conglomerate that owns the paper, also publishes sister publications devoted, respectively, to the Air Force, Navy, and Marines.

Naylor dropped his blockbuster is his newest book, Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command [JSOC], published by St. Martins Press.

JSOC assembles under one administrative roof the ranks of the military’s self-styled “operators,” the Navy’s SEAL Team Six, the Army’s Delta Force, and the Air Force’s little-known 24th Special Tactics Squadron. These are the highly trained fighters whose successes and failures rarely reach the public’s eyes and ears, the covert operators, provocateurs, and assassins who thrive best under a shroud of secrecy.

One notable former JSOC commander was four-star Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, whose career was demolished by Michael Hastings in his reporting for Rolling Stone — leading some to suspect a hidden hand in the journalist’s subsequent death in a curious one-car high-speed accident.

What Naylor discovered was a JSOC plot worthy of a Ridley Scott film, triggered by a 14 September rumor that a hikjacked airliner was sitting on an airport runway outside Washington D.C.

Naylor writes:

Hijackings in the United States were usually the purview of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, but after the September 11 there was a sense at [Ft. Bragg] that the old rules might no longer apply. “We flexed out on that and got ready to deploy the aircraft takedown team up there,” before the there was no hijacking reached Bragg, said the Delta source.

Meanwhile, Delta’s operators brainstormed. To dete future hijackings, they suggested the government, in conjunction with the FBI and the airlines, “leak out that there are Delta operators on board almost every flight and do a fake takedown” using role players “in a first class compartment that’s all stooges” on an otherwise regular commercial flight, said the Delta source. A “terrorist” would attempt a hijacking before operators in plainclothes too him down with “hand-to-hand or something,” the source said. “Get that out [via the media]. Get inside their heads.” The aim was to make [Al Qaeda] think twice and begin to think, “Hey, they’re on to us, there’s special mission guys on every airplane.”

While Delta commander Colonel Jim Schwitters gave the concept only cautious support, higher-ups wisely relegated the plan to the round file.

Lest the reader think the notion was only hare-brained cerebral flatulence, consider the America military’s long history of creating pretexts for military intervention.

To folks of esnl’s generation, one provocation stands, the so-called “Gulf of Tonkin” incident, in which an American destroyer sailed into North Vietnamese waters, triggering a exchange of fire that provided the pretext for a greatly expanded U.S. military presence in Vietnam and leading to the first acknowledged American military defeat in a major war.

But the incident that offers the deepest resonance was part of a package submitted to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara by Admiral Lyman L. Lemnitzer, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on 13 March 1962. The memo [pdf], dubbed Operation Northwoods, was a package of provocation proposals designed to create an incident justifying a full-scale U.S. military invasion of Cuba and the ouster of the government of President Fidel Castro.

One aspect of the plans seems especially notable in light of the proposed post-9/11 JSOC ploy, and here’s the key section from that memo [click to enlarge]:

BLOG Northwoods

In the words of James Bamford, a former Navy intelligence analyst and perhaps America’s premier journalist on the trail of misdeeds of America’s secret world, “the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government.”

And while the plan talks about loading the initial flight with students and then moving them off so an empty aircraft could then be destroyed, the Pentagon planners had to know that local newspapers and television stations would bombard their parents with requests for information about their “dead” children — and that would lead to the truth and consequent international condemnation.

And that leads to one somber conclusion: The Pentagon planners knew that the only way the plan would’ve worked was to have let the airliner passengers die.

Fortunately, saner heads prevailed.

If there is one fact that stands out, it’s that America’s military leaders must always be regarded with suspicion.

Which takes us back to where we began, the curious lack of coverage from the mainstream media.

Aside from a very few blogs, only the blog Gawker gave the story any coverage, with Sam Biddle parsing the key components of the JSOC plot. That the New York Times and other papers failed to sound the alarm should raise a great many questions about the institutions professing to be the watchdogs of democracy and the champions of full disclosure..

InSecurityWatch: Stalkers, hacks, war, spies, law


From the Observer, the worst of both worlds:

Spyware and malware availability sparks surge in internet stalking

  • Domestic violence experts warn malicious software is increasingly being used to compromise victims’ computers and phones

Domestic violence experts have warned that the use of specialist technology that enables abusers to stalk victims online and via mobile phones is growing at an alarming rate.

A series of parliamentary answers has revealed that, in the 12 months up to April 2014, police received 10,731 reports of computers being compromised by spyware and malware (malicious software). Both can be used by abusers to gather information from someone’s computer or phone. They can allow abusers to view documents, photographs or passwords – and even turn on a device’s camera or microphone. Mobile spyware can also reveal a person’s location.

The real number of victims is likely to be considerably higher. “As most victims are unaware that they are being watched or are too scared to come forward, the real number of incidents could be up to 10 times that,” said Harry Fletcher, criminal justice director of the Digital-Trust, a new charity set up to help victims of cyber abuse.

A spy with conviction, via BBC News:

Ex-Colombian spy chief Maria del Pilar Hurtado convicted

The former head of Colombia’s secret police, Maria del Pilar Hurtado, has been found guilty of spying on politicians, judges and journalists. The Supreme Court said Hurtado’s sentence would be announced in 15 days.

Those targeted in the spying, which occurred between 2007 and 2008, were all political opponents of Alvaro Uribe, who was president at the time.

His former chief of staff has also been convicted but Mr Uribe denies any knowledge of the illegal intercepts.

Cold War 2.0 expostulation, via the Guardian:

Former MI6 chief warns over Russian threat

John Sawers says defence spending needs to increase to counter Vladimir Putin’s actions and Europe needs to find a new way to coexist with Russia

Russia has become a greater threat to Britain, and defence spending needs to increase to counter Vladimir Putin’s actions, the former MI6 chief has warned.

Sir John Sawers, who stepped down in 2014 after five years of running the Secret Intelligence Service, said the threat posed by Moscow was “not necessarily directly to the UK but to countries around its periphery”.

“The real problem is how we live with a Russia which feels very exposed. Putin’s actions are ones of a leader who believes his own security is at stake,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday.

And from the New York Times, Cold War 1.0:

Cuba’s Designation as a Sponsor of Terrorism Snarls Negotiations With U.S.

More than a year ago, the State Department held a meeting with bankers and Cuban officials to deliver an unusual request: please accept Cuba’s money.

The one bank that did business with Cuban diplomats in Washington, M & T Bank of Buffalo, had announced that it would no longer serve foreign missions. Cuba could hardly shop around for a replacement, not least because it is on the American government’s list of nations that support terrorism — forcing Cuban diplomats in Washington to carry out many of their transactions with bundles of cash.

Now, Cuba’s spot on the American list of states that sponsor terrorism is emerging as a major sticking point in the effort to restore diplomatic ties with the United States and reopen embassies that have been closed for nearly five decades.

And so it continues, via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

UN cites 2 ‘credible’ reports of torture at U.S. facilities in Afghanistan

The United Nations reported Wednesday that it had uncovered two credible accounts of torture at U.S. military facilities in Afghanistan in recent years during an investigation into the treatment of detainees.

The report, which was devoted primarily to mistreatment of prisoners held in Afghan custody, said the “credible and reliable” accounts came from two detainees who’d been held “in a U.S. facility in Maydan Wardak,” a province whose capital of Maidan Shar lies about 20 miles west of Kabul, and “a U.S. special forces facility at Baghlan,” a province that lies north of the Afghan capital.

The report quoted the prisoners as saying the mistreatment in Baghlan occurred in April 2013 and at Maydan Wardak in September 2013.

Torture as part of the U.S. war on terror has been a controversial issue. A recent report by the Senate Intelligence Committee outlined 20 cases of mistreatment of suspected terrorists held in secret CIA prisons, and U.S. soldiers have been accused of torturing Afghan prisoners, with the most notorious case being the death of Dilawar, an Afghan taxi driver who died after he was hung from the ceiling of his cell by his wrists and beaten in 2002.

But there have been few verified reports in more recent years, though Afghan authorities have accused Americans of abusing prisoners.

The New York Times covers the defense:

‘Jihadi John’ Stirs Britain to Defend Spy Agencies

After disclosures that the man who posed in videos of the murder of Western hostages was known to British intelligence, Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday defended the security services, saying they faced tough decisions and had prevented deadly attacks.

“All of the time, they are having to make incredibly difficult judgments, and I think basically they make very good judgments on our behalf,” Mr. Cameron said at a news conference.

“I think while we are in the middle of this vast effort to make sure British citizens are safe, I think the most important thing is to get behind them,” he said.

And from WMC Action News 5 in Memphis, a target:

Mid-South professor targeted by ISIS

A Mid-South professor is being targeted by ISIS, a group known for its gruesomeness.

“ISIS does not represent my faith, their actions are in contradiction to my faith, and I’m appalled at what they are doing in the name of my faith,” said Rhodes College professor of religious studies, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center Yasir Qadhi.

ISIS is using its propaganda magazine in the name of Islam to call for the assassination of Qadhi.

“I was one two clerics that they targeted in their latest magazine, two American clerics, and basically called for my assassination,” said Qadhi. “And they have said this is an act of of worship…..that if somebody kills me, God is going to reward them.”

BBC News covers a designation:

Egypt court puts Hamas on terrorist list

An Egyptian court has listed the Palestinian group Hamas as a terrorist organisation, accusing it of supporting an insurgency in northern Sinai.

The ruling comes a month after a different court labelled the armed wing of Hamas as a terrorist group. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood – itself designated as a terrorist organisation in 2013.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi was ousted that year. The court ruling on Saturday effectively bans Hamas within Egypt, a wider verdict that January’s censure of its armed wing.

From the New York Times, agitation:

Online, American Helps Fuel Attacks in Egypt

Writing from an online perch in Istanbul, he calls on Egyptians to start off-hour attacks against KFC restaurants, banks, mobile phone shops and other corporate outposts. He urges assaults on the military’s commercial interests instead of its security checkpoints.

Nonviolent protests are worse than “futile,” he says, just an opportunity “to get arrested or shot in an exercise in crowd control training for the police.”

This Internet provocateur is an American convert to Islam, Shahid King Bolsen, a college dropout who speaks only rudimentary Arabic and has barely set foot in Egypt. He has nevertheless emerged as the unlikely apostle for a distinctive blend of anti-globalization sloganeering and Islamist politics that is fueling a new wave of violence against businesses across the country.

From the Independent, a Saudi blogger’s fate worsens:

Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face the death penalty

Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger whose punishment of 1,000 lashes has prompted international condemnation, may now face the death penalty.

Mr Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, told The Independent in a series of messages that judges in Saudi Arabia’s criminal court want him to undergo a re-trial for apostasy. If found guilty, he would face a death sentence.

She said the “dangerous information” had come from “official sources” inside the conservative kingdom, where Mr Badawi has already been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes – administered at a rate of 50 per week – for criticising the country’s clerics through his liberal blog.

After the jump, terror porn and fundamentalist eBayism, China alleged to spy on nuclear power plants, Aussie women head off to ISIS, China’s Muslims increasingly targeted, Pegida marchers outnumbered by foes in Britain, a looted Iraqi museum reopens, more U.S. drone kills in Yemen, Cameroonians stage an anti-Boko Haram rally, a former Peruvian leader charged in a journalist’s killing, terror fears raise a free speech crackdown on the U.K. campus, civil libertarians fear Canada’s anti-terror legislation, and new Turkish laws evoke the police state specter, South Korea pushes Japan for Comfort Women resolution, a partisan challenge to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security state push, and a call for cybersecurity coordination. . . Continue reading

Abby Martin’s swan song: An insightful look at Cuba


Abby Martin’s final week at the helm of RT America’s Breaking the Set with an insightful look at Cuba, offering a rare, and comprehensive, look at the people and its political, economic, and agricultural systems.

In the face of overwhelming opposition and subversion from Washington, fueled by the Cuban exile dominance of the electoral votes of Florida, the small island nation 90 miles from U.S. shores, and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union, its main base of support, Cuba faced enduring struggles, yet endured.

In the process, it has created revolutions in healthcare and agriculture, becoming the only nation in which cities provide most of their own food from intensive and organic neighborhood gardens and educating a cadre of physicians who have provided much, often most, of the total global response to medical emergencies around the world.

The outstanding examples set by Cuba in these fields have made a mockery of the enduring U.S. embargo against the island nation, leaving Israel Washington’s only ally in opposition to full normalization of relations.

In these three segments, Abby Martin demonstrates the skills she has honed during, first, her years as an unsalaried journalist at Berkeley Community Television, then during the three years at the helm of her RT America news magazine.

So sit back and enjoy a remarkable work of journalism.

From Breaking the Set:

Cuba Part I: Revolution, Sabotage & Un-Normal Relations

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin highlights BTS’ eight day trip to Havana, Cuba, starting with a historical look at the tensions between the US and Cuba that have led the two countries to the negotiating table to normalize relations. Abby then discusses the major areas of contention when it comes to these negotiations and where they currently stand. BTS producer, Cody Snell, then speaks with members of the largest delegation of peace activists to visit Cuba since the normalized relations announcement, highlighting the role of grassroots diplomacy. BTS than talks to average Cubans both in Havana and in Miami about their views on the state of US-Cuban relations. BTS wraps up the show with an interview with Kenia Serrano, a high ranking Cuban parliament member and President of The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, about everything from internet access to the crackdown on free speech in the country.

Cuba Part II: Ebola Solidarity & Castro’s Daughter on Gay Rights

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin highlights part II of BTS’ eight day trip to Havana, Cuba, starting with an interview with Cuban doctor, Katiel Llorente Izabelez, who explains how Cuba has managed to maintain such a high life expectancy rate, despite the lack of access to up to date medical supplies. BTS producer, Cody Snell, then speaks with students at the Latin American School of Medicine, an international medical school set up by the Cuban government that provides free tuition to low income individuals that want to become doctors. Abby then discusses how Cuba managed to send the largest contingent of doctors to fight the ebola crisis in West Africa, and how this is just the latest example of the country’s medical internationalism. Abby then goes over the US programs meant to encourage Cuban doctors to defect and how this undermines international health efforts. BTS wraps up the show with an exclusive interview with Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President, Raul Castro, and director of Cuba’s sexual education program CENESEX, about the biggest challenges facing Cuba’s gay community.

Cuba Part III: The Evolution of Revolution

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin features the third installment of BTS’ trip to Cuba, focusing on reforms to the country’s economic and agricultural models. Abby first gives an overview of how Cuba’s organic movement evolved and the challenges of the country’s food subsidy system. Abby then speaks with agricultural co-op founder, Miguel Angel Salcines Lopez, about how Cuba’s cooperative and food system works. Abby then talks to Ernesto Blanco, owner of La Fontana restaurant in Havana, about the difficulties of operating a private business in Cuba and how entrepreneurs are being impacted by recent economic reforms. Abby then speaks with Ricardo Alarcón, Cuba’s former minister of foreign affairs and president of the People’s National Assembly of Power, about the normalization process with the US and the biggest hurdles still remaining in the negotiations.

Chart of the day: More favor Cuba than don’t


A dramatic shift in opinion in the U.S., as documented by Gallup:

BLOG Cuba