HAVANNA, January 6 -- When US embassy staff in Cuba became mysteriously ill after hearing loud piercing sounds, US officials blamed nefarious secret agents for launching “sonic attacks.”
But a new Berkeley University study could have proven them wrong.The incidents, which occurred between 2016 and 2018, saw dozens of US staff at the embassy experience a range of health issues such as nausea, headaches, and vertigo and lead to the removal of the majority of the embassy staff from the island. It also put a freeze on warming relations between Cuba with then-US secretary for State Rex Tillerson “convinced” the attacks were targeted. But now the theories that the notorious “Havana Syndrome” was the work of some Cold War-era conspiracy have apparently been contradicted by scientist Alexander Stubbs of the University of California, Berkeley, who this week published a study pinpointing the source of the mystery noise. Presenting his findings to the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Stubbs suggests that the noises heard by staff were instead from the echoing call of an insect, the Indies short-tailed cricket.
Notably, the cricket noise theory had already been posited by Cuban scientists in late 2017. Reviewing US evidence and recording their own data, the Cuban team suggested that the noises may have stemmed from the chirp of the Jamaican field cricket, an insect common on the island. However, this was dismissed by Washington as the short chirp of the Jamaican field cricket did not match the abrasive continuous drone recorded by US personnel in Cuba and released to the public by AP. By comparing the US recording obtained by AP with the unique acoustic signature of hundreds of insects, Stubbs found several similar to the recording but no perfect match. That was until he realized that US staff probably made the recording indoors, altering the sound of the potential insect as it echoed off the walls.
Rerunning the analysis again after playing the insect calls through indoor speakers, Stubbs found a near-perfect match with the continuous call of the Indies cricket. While the Indies cricket is not native to Cuba, further testing with bioacoustics experts at the University of Lincoln (UK) found that the frequency of the sound pulses heard at the embassy matched that of the Indies cricket’s sound production. It remains to be seen whether the discovery will see US staff return to Havana in the near future.
MEXICO CITY, December 26 -- Russian Ambassador to Caracas Vladimir Zaemsky told Sputnik Wednesday that more Russian jets may be sent to Venezuela as part of bilateral defense cooperation.
"Within Russian-Venezuelan cooperation in this area, such missions are not ruled out in the future, and, as before, in full compliance with international norms,"
Vladimir Zaemsky dismissed Wednesday reports on Moscow's alleged plans to create a Russian military base in Venezuela. "Information on the alleged negotiations on creating a military base in Venezuela, disseminated by some media, is pure speculation. To understand the situation, I would only note that the ban on any foreign military bases is enshrined in the current Venezuelan constitution," the diplomat said.
Earlier in the month, two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers, an An-124 military transport aircraft and an Il-62 plane flew to Venezuela for interoperability drills with the Venezuelan Air Force. Following a flight of several Russian strategic jets to Venezuela for joint drills earlier in December, several Latin American media alleged that Russia had plans to set up its base on the Venezuelan island of La Orchila in the Caribbean Sea.
"We will gladly cooperate with American personnel in that task, and not in search of peace between the two states that have been adversaries for so many years, but ... for peace in the world, a goal that can and should be attempted," Castro wrote. "The medical personnel who heads anywhere to save lives, even at the risk of losing theirs, are the greatest example of solidarity that a human being can offer, especially when one is not driven by material interest."
Cuba has already sent 165 doctors and nurses to help fight Ebola in Sierra Leone and it plans to send 296 others soon to Liberia and Guinea.
Cuban officials said on Saturday that their health ministry would try to organise more aid for the affected countries in West Africa at a meeting with Cuban allies and international health organisations on Monday.
The South American county's efforts have already brought unusual praise from US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was quoted saying that countries like Cuba had taken impressive steps to tackle Ebola.