Crickets, not evil Cuban commies, ‘attacked’ US diplomats

Anurogryllus celerinictus cricket, photo by Brandon woo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Crickets in love behind ‘sonic attack’ at the US American embassy in Cuba

Who or what is behind the mysterious ‘sonic attacks’ that took place at the United States embassy in Cuba? Diplomats who stayed there between the end of 2016 and the end of 2017 were faced with unexplained health problems, such as hearing loss, headaches and nausea. According to the United States, Cuba was the instigator: it supposedly carried out attacks with sound waves.

The truth now seems a little more innocent. An American and a British scientist conclude after examining a sound recording that there is no question of an audio weapon, but of crickets during their mating season.

“I can almost certainly say that the released recording is a cricket, and we think we know what species it is”, says one of the researchers to The New York Times. It is Anurogryllus celerinictus, a cricket species that lives in the Caribbean.

The researchers came to this conclusion after studying a sound recording that was published in 2017 by news agency AP. At the time, various media, including the NOS, wrote that the sound “most closely resembles the chirping of crickets“. …

The ‘sonic attacks’ affair escalated sharply at the end of 2017. The US withdrew more than half of the staff of its embassy in Havana. No visa applications were processed at the embassy, ​​and a negative travel advice for Cuba was introduced for Americans. Cuban diplomats in the US also had to leave the country. Cuba denies any involvement in an ‘attack’.

Anti-Cuban Donald Trump’s war on baseball?

This video says about itself:

Baseball Fiesta in Barcelona 1992 – Summer Olympics

Cubans play baseball just as Brazilians play soccer – it’s their national sport. Pick any street in Havana and you are as likely to see impromptu games taking place as you are to see locals walking to the shops.

The sport was introduced to the island by American sailors back in the 1860s. Banned during the first Cuban War of Independence from Spanish rule in 1869 because Cubans began to prefer it to bullfighting, the baseball ban only increased interest in the sport.

Baseball became a symbol of Cuban freedom and independence and even former President Fidel Castro was known to pitch a few balls from the mound in his day.

Cuban baseball players are among the best in the world. The national team became Olympic champions three times. So, the biggest baseball competition in the world, Major League Baseball in the USA, wants Cuban players. However, for a long time, Cuban-United States relations were very bad. That meant Cuban players could only travel to the US, eg, via Mexican criminal gangs extorting them.

Under the Obama administration, there was some improvement in US-Cuban relations. However, Donald Trump has ruined much of that improvement. In spite of that, the baseball federations of both countries did not give up, and have an agreement now.

After United States President Donald Trump’s war on American football … after Trump’s war on United States basketball … now Trump‘s war on United States baseball?

From the Washington Post in the USA:

MLB, Cuban Baseball Federation reach agreement; Trump administration signals it has issues with deal

19 December 2018

Major League Baseball on Wednesday reached a historic agreement with Cuba’s baseball federation, modeled after those with leagues in Japan and Korea, that would regulate and streamline the entry of Cuban players coming to the U.S., the league announced. But it remains to be seen whether the Trump administration’s harder line against the Cuban government leaves room for the agreement to work in practice.

The agreement, the result of years of negotiations between MLB, the MLB Players Association and the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB), is designed to end decades of fraught relations between MLB and Cuba and eliminate the need for Cuban players to defect. …

However, a State Department spokesman said that players will have to travel to a third country to apply for a visa, like other Cuban nationals, per current U.S. policy.

LGBTQ rights and religion in Cuba

Gay Pride march in Havana, Cuba

By Father Geoff Bottoms in Britain:

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

CUBA: Referendum to decide if gay marriage becomes law

Cuba’s newly proposed constitution will, if adopted, open the door for same-sex marriage in the country. Catholic priest Father Geoff Bottoms offers his reflections on Cuba, same-sex marriage and the Catholic church

TWENTY-FIVE years ago, Cuba broke new ground with the first overtly gay film Strawberry and Chocolate directed by Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio.

Set in 1979 it is the story of a flamboyant gay artist Diego who attempts to seduce a straight and idealistic young communist called David but without success.

David conspires to befriend Diego so that he can monitor the artist’s subversive life for the state, yet as they discuss politics and the nature of free artistic expression a genuine friendship develops between the two.

This video is a clip from the film Strawberry and Chocolate.

It could almost be a parable of the evolving promotion of gay rights in Cuba that has been in train for decades.

Take for example the LGBTQ cultural centre known as El Mejunje, meaning The Mixture, located in the centre of the city of Santa Clara. Founded in 1985 it is an open space shared by everyone regardless of sexual orientation in order to promote social integration and includes a theatre, a cafe, an art gallery and a small music venue ranging from rock and roll to Cuban folk music.

Activities also include social and cultural initiatives aimed at both children and adults, film screenings and there is a gay disco every Saturday night.

Discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of sexual orientation is now illegal in both the state and private sector, with recent legislation imposing fines and suspending the licences of employers who discriminate on the grounds of race, gender or sexuality.

Sex-change operations were legalised as long ago as 2008 and are carried out at no cost to the patient, with dozens being performed in the last year.

Yet the leading light in the campaign for gay rights has been Mariela Castro, the director of the National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX), who is a member of the National Assembly and daughter of former president Raul Castro and Vilma Espin.

CENESEX has been advocating same-sex marriage since 2007 and Cuba is set now to become the latest country in Latin America to approve gay marriage after the National Assembly recently approved a new constitution that defines marriage as “the consensual union of two people, regardless of gender.”

This replaces the current constitution’s definition of marriage as the “voluntary union between a man and woman.” The new constitution will be put to a referendum later this year.

Needless to say the churches are opposed on the whole to any such change to the traditional understanding of marriage and five Protestant denominations have openly criticised the move.

The Roman Catholic Church’s position is that homosexual inclinations are “intrinsically disordered”. although gay people should be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.

Yet Pope Francis is on record as saying that he is in no position to judge and that gay people should realise that God loves them and made them like that, so they should love themselves.

The Anglican Communion is divided on gay issues and same-sex marriage in particular with some branches actively providing gender-neutral wedding services or a blessing of civil unions.

The Methodist Church is in the process of reviewing the whole concept of marriage which includes the possibility of gay weddings.

The problems about sexuality which continue to sap the churches’ energies are really about gender.

Early Christianity understood women’s bodies to be inferior versions of the superior male body, but this was replaced during the Enlightenment with a binary model that prevails to this day.

As a result of this understanding, a pattern of patriarchy, androcentrism and sexism emerged in both church and society that has been challenged by the both the sciences and the feminist movement which paved the way for a more enlightened attitude towards sex, gender and sexual orientation that is more fluid and increasingly seen as forming a spectrum or continuum.

It is in this context that marriage is being evaluated so that even on a traditional understanding marriage is now seen more as an equal partnership than a question of the woman being subordinate to the man.

All of this is a far cry from the bride’s promise in the medieval marriage rite “to be bonny and buxom at bed and at board” where the relationship was bound up with the idea of property.

It remains to be seen whether Cuba’s inclusion of same-sex marriage in the proposed new constitution is ratified by the people so that it joins Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia in Latin America in recognition of gay marriage.

Homosexuality was an issue in the early days of the Cuban Revolution and the country has made great strides in the area of LGBTQ rights compared with seven other Caribbean island nations where homosexuality is a criminal offence.

If approved, Cuba’s evolving social project is set to become even more revolutionary.

Father Geoff Bottoms is a Catholic Priest and member of the Cuba Solidarity campaign executive committee. He will be leading a study tour to Cuba in November 2018 including visits to El Mejunje.

Equal marriage voted for in Cuba

A member of Cuba's National Assembly studies the draft constitution

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Cuba to enshrine equal marriage in the constitution

Marriage will now be ‘a consensual union between two people without distinction of sex’

LGBT rights activists in Cuba celebrated on Saturday after the country’s National Assembly voted to enshrine equal marriage in the new draft constitution.

Under a new definition, marriage will now be recognised as “a consensual union between two people without distinction of sex”, in a landmark decision.

Previously Cuba’s constitution only recognised marriage as between a woman and a man.

However State Council secretary Homero Acosta said: “I believe that our project’s standards for equality, justice and humanism are reinforced by the possibility of marriage between two people.

“There are around 24 countries that have this concept incorporated and we cannot turn our back on this issue when we are shaping the constitution.”

It was welcomed as a victory for equal rights in Cuba with Mariela Castro having led a campaign for the adoption of same-sex marriage.

Speaking earlier this year, she praised Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel for his “sensibilities and awareness” on LGBT issues.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Cuba in 1979. However there were few protections for LGBT people in the country’s legislation and no rights for same-sex couples.

LGBT rights activist Francisco Rodriguez welcomed the move, saying it would be “the open door to be able to make advances in the legalisation of homosexual couples.”

‘Free love’ or ‘family values’ — is there a Marxist view? Here.

Same-sex marriage proposal in Cuba

This 6 May 2016 video is called [member of Cuban parliament] Mariela Castro To Propose Same-Sex Marriage In Cuba.