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Antisemitism smokescreen for the right wing

12th August 2018

israel_soldiers_gaza.png_1718483346

Israeli Defence Force tackle Palestinian militancy in Gaza

If the Israeli secret service, Mossad, are not behind the current antisemitism smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, they ought to be ashamed of themselves.  More than that, they ought to be paying whoever is behind it for doing their job for them, as the ongoing slurs against Corbyn and his allies continue to give the UK media an excuse not to report on the real chaos in the country and the economy.

If Mossad wanted to take attention away from the atrocities committed by the Israeli Defence Force for decades in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they could not be doing a better job.  If they wanted to cover up the ongoing illegal land grab by Israeli occupiers, euphemistically referred to as settlers, who steal land from the Palestinian people, they could not wish for more.  If Mossad wanted to bury the fact that the actions of Israel in the occupied territories are illegal, and in contravention of international law and countless United Nations resolutions for over fifty years, they could not hope for a better smokescreen.

Racist action against Palestinians, it would appear, is not racism at all.  It would appear that it is especially not racism if perpetrated by those whose parents and grandparents have been victims of the racist atrocity of the Holocaust, carried out by the Nazis in Europe in the 1930s and 40s.

Inside the Labour Party it would appear that any family tie with victims of Nazism is enough to give your words a vicarious authenticity in the eyes of the UK media.  Dame Margaret Hodge is a case in point.  Her Jewish roots, in spite of a limited record in fighting racism at home, appear to give her more credibility than lifelong anti-racist campaigner Jeremy Corbyn, to the extent that Hodge gets away with calling Corbyn an antisemite and racist.

Deputy Labour Leader, Tom Watson, added fuel to the fire this week by suggesting that without tacking the issues of antisemitism Labour would be facing ‘eternal shame’ over the issue.  Watson had clearly failed to read the articles published by Jeremy Corbyn or the video he released last weekend, which were absolutely categorical in their opposition to antisemitism and all forms of racism, in the Labour Party and in society in general.

No such statement in defence of Palestinian rights, as endorsed by almost the entire international community in accordance with international law, has been forthcoming from any of those critical of Corbyn in recent weeks.

Instead the focus has been upon the Labour National Executive Committee not adopting the exact wording of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when debating the issue and how to address it recently.  Unlike the Israeli government’s ignoring of the resolution of the United Nations regarding its occupation of Palestine, the IHRA definition has no legal standing.

In fact the author of the definition, Kenneth Stern, regards it as a working proposal, not a legal or disciplinary definition.

This weekend twenty four Constituency Labour Party activists have put their names to a letter to The Observer (12/08/18) in an attempt to redress the balance of debate within the Labour Party.  They focus fire upon Watson in particular for laying the grounds for a further leadership coup against Corbyn stating,

“Is this another attempted coup against the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn gathering force and is the issue of antisemitism being weaponised to that end?  Watson seems oblivious to the many organisations such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Jewish Voice for Labour, which believe that the IHRA definition needs further work to ensure defence of free speech.”

The signatories go on to point out that there is a “wider and worrying under reporting of the growing threat from the racist far right”, while the media choose to focus upon manufactured divisions within the Labour Party.

With the Tories in disarray over Brexit, facing the possibility of a leadership challenge and the possibility of being forced into a General Election, there is the distinct prospect of a UK government led by Jeremy Corbyn.   The anti-Corbyn right wing in the Labour Party would not like that, the ruling class in the UK would be unnerved by an actual socialist, who may event try to translate policies into action, with the keys to 10, Downing Street.

You can be sure that the conservative Israeli lobby and Mossad would not like it either.

 

War of words threatens peace

29th July 2018

Trump Rouhani

The war of words between US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, earlier this week is a stark illustration of the dangers of unstable government in both countries and the speed with which a flashpoint with international consequences could emerge.

In a twitter message early on the morning of Monday, 23rd July, President Trump reacted angrily to a statement by Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian President.

According to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), at a gathering of diplomats, President Rouhani had stated,

“Mr. Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret. America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

Rouhani was clearly not taking his own advice as, based upon previous experience, he may have expected a robust response from the US President via his favourite form of communiqué, Twitter.

Not one to fail in this respect Trump duly obliged with a response stating,

“Never ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your demeaned words of violence & death, Be cautious!”

The message from Donald Trump follows the threats made by Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, who in May threatened Iran with “the strongest sanctions in history” and vowed to use all economic and military pressure to “crush” Tehran’s operatives and proxies around the world.

Pompeo, the former CIA chief, staged a meeting with mainly right-wing Iranian-Americans in Washington on Sunday, 22nd July in which he, in effect, argued for total submission of the Iranian government to the demands and conditions set by the US. The language used by Pompeo is clearly influenced by the advocates of “regime change in Iran” within the US administration, primarily National Security Adviser, John Bolton, and amongst Iranian right-wing exiled opposition groups.

Bolton, a well-known hawk on Iran, told reporters in Washington,

“I spoke to the president over the last several days, and President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price few countries have ever paid.”

Trump’s position was criticised in Europe where the EU is in disagreement with the US president over his decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal.

European leaders do not regard Iran as being in breach of the deal.  However, they are struggling to find ways to protect businesses still trading in Iran from the threatened effect of US secondary sanctions. The first banking sanctions are due to come into force in three weeks.

Considering the volatile situation in the Middle East and current hostilities between the Iranian regime and US administration, the war of words between the two countries could easily escalate.

While President Rouhani is the public face of the Iranian regime and government, so-called democratic elections in Iran have always been little more than a façade.  Rouhani himself has been dipped in a veneer of reformist gloss which quickly peels away under the heat of international scrutiny on human and democratic rights in Iran.

The real power base in Iran remains with the hardline clergy and, in particular, the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.  There is little doubt, based upon past evidence, that both Khamenei and Trump are deceitful leaders who would, without hesitation, lie to their people to stay in power and pursue their own narrow interests. They would resort to any option to overcome the various crises they face.

The US continues to forge an alliance with the unscrupulous dictatorship in Saudi Arabia and build upon its long standing relationship with the regime in Israel.  Both the Saudis and Israel, for different reasons, regard the regime in Iran as an existential threat and their opposition to the spread of Shia Islam, as advocated by Iran, is the overt reason for their unity in opposition.

The realities are, as ever, much more complex.  Both Saudi Arabia and Israel have aspirations to be the major power in the Middle East.  The oil rich Saudis are also the figureheads for a particularly reactionary form of Sunni Islam and have aspirations to be the spiritual, as well as economic, leaders of the Muslim world.

The Israeli position is based upon a view of themselves as the regional economic and military superpower, backed by their nuclear capability sanctioned by the United States.  It is not especially nuanced.  While a de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia may suit the Israelis in the short term in opposition to Iran, there is no sense that this is regarded as an equal partnership.  Should Iran in any way be subjugated, Israeli domination of the Saudis would swiftly follow.

It is for these reasons that the progressive and patriotic forces in Iran are determined not to let the interventionist policies and practices of the United States and its reactionary allies in Saudi Arabia, along with the ultra-right-wing anti-people government of Netanyahu in Israel, determine the future of the country.

The forces supporting peace, human and democratic rights, and social justice in Iran have called for all efforts to be focused on finding diplomatic solutions through negotiations within the framework of the UN Charter and in accordance with international law.

The Tudeh Party of Iran (TPI), concerned about the possibility of a new war engulfing Iran, has clearly and repeatedly stated that Iranian progressives are strongly opposed to any external interference in the country’s domestic affairs.  The TPI believe that the future of Iran should only be determined by its peoples and through the struggle of its progressive forces to bring to an end the theocratic dictatorship in the country.

 

A People’s Brexit beckons

22nd July 2018

CorbynMcDonnell

 Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell – ready for a snap election

Where politicians start to call for a government of national unity you can usually be sure that there is a war on.  It may not be a shooting war but it is a war all the same.  This week the Tory Remainers, ostensibly to fight off the threat from the so-called European Research Group, headed by the oleaginous Jacob Rees-Mogg, made such a call through their regular mouthpiece, Anna Soubry.

The Remainers are of course fearful that the Rees-Mogg gang will hi-jack the Tory Party and their places and positions of privilege will be lost.  However, they are more fearful still that any moves on the part of the hard core Brexit faction will lead to the downfall of the precariously balanced Theresa May government and allow Jeremy Corbyn into 10, Downing Street.

Soubry and her Remainers, both in the Tory Party and the Labour Party, are pitching to be the new voice of the establishment in the UK.  Along with the Liberal Democrats, a few Scottish Nationalists and the craven Ulster Unionists, who will do all in their power to prevent Irish unification, the Remainers are essentially an extension of the politics of David Cameron, George Osborne and a whole host of Tory leaders before them, including Margaret Thatcher, who saw the future of British capital as being safer inside the European Union than outside it.

The push to become part of the European Economic Community (EEC), as it then was in the 1970’s, was very much an acknowledgement that the post war UK economy needed a new direction and required significant investment in order to develop.  The nationalisation of key industrial sectors, the introduction of comprehensive education and the establishment of the NHS had all provided a firm basis from which to extend social ownership and control of the UK economy.

Counter to this, resistance to controls upon the outflow of capital, lifting constraints upon the City of London and opposition to a progressive tax regime, had been core to the developing Tory agenda, which coalesced around the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.  The reliability of markets in former UK colonies, while still strong and linked through the neo-colonial framework of the Commonwealth, were always likely to diminish, as indigenous capital took hold or liberation resulted in more socialist orientated development.

Alignment to Europe was seen as a buffer against the future diminution of Commonwealth based markets, while at the same time providing an opportunity for UK capital to extend its reach into Europe.  The inability of the ideologically weak 1970’s governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan to build upon the gains of the post war socialisation of the UK economy, paved the way for the election success of Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

The first act of the Thatcher government was to free controls on the export of capital and over the course of the following decade went on to oversee the deconstruction of nationalised industries, trade union rights, local government and a progressive education offer.  This was all undertaken with, at the very least the benign indifference, if not the complicity, of the European Union.  The idea that to remain in the EU will in any way guarantee the rights of immigrants, employees, women, the elderly or anyone else is a fantasy with no firm basis.

The current Remainers recognise, as did Thatcher, that the EU is the safest bet for British capital in an increasingly complex and globalised market place.  The call for national unity is merely a call for the defence of British capital.  It in no way reflects the interests of working people in the UK any more than the EU defends the rights of the low paid or unemployed in Greece, Spain, Portugal or Italy, the guest workers in Germany or those on zero hours contracts in the UK.

While the Brexit faction may not yet have hi-jacked the Tory Party they have, with the complicity of the media, hijacked the political debate on Brexit.  Long term the case for a non-aligned republican Britain, outside of both NATO and the EU, a re-united Ireland, Trident missiles de-commissioned and the military budget reduced by 50%, with re-investment in the NHS a priority, can easily be made.  None of which would be to the liking of Rees-Mogg and his ilk.

It is probably too big a leap for a first term Corbyn led Labour government.  However, it is encouraging to see that the Labour Front Bench have no less than 35 bills ready for introduction following victory if there is a snap election.  A government which made zero hours contracts illegal, embarked on a programme of Council house building, invested in the NHS and increased penalties for tax dodging corporations would be a start.

The Brexit question would still have to be addressed but it would be from a very different starting point.  An EU resisting a truly popular Labour programme of public investment, which according to current rules it would, may find its liberal façade rapidly crumbling.  Under such a scenario, a people’s Brexit may yet be on the cards.  That General Election would be a start……

 

Fooling no-one

14th July 2018

BabyTrump

Protesters in London object to the visit of US President, Donald Trump

The current UK heatwave, or what used to be known in the past as Summer, seems to have addled the brains of both inhabitants and visitors to these sceptre isles over the past week.  As TV drama it would have been reviewed as far-fetched, implausible and unworthy of the high standards we have come to expect from British TV culture.

Yet the improbable political soap around Brexit continues to throw up new plot lines and unlikely character twists on a daily basis.  A bit like the most intricate Scandi noir, it is not always possible to know what is going on exactly, but it is still sufficiently gripping to make you want to know the outcome.

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, must have thought last week that the main drama was behind her and she could look forward to a satisfactory denouement.   At a four hour session in her country retreat at Chequers last Friday, May cajoled and coaxed agreement from a recalcitrant Cabinet around her Brexit ‘vision’, published later in the week as the White Paper, The Future Relationship Between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The news on Friday night was that they had all signed up and yes, May was right, this is the way forward to an acceptable UK Brexit.  By midnight on Sunday the Secretary of State with responsibility for Brexit, David Davies, had resigned from the Cabinet, unable to sign up to May’s vision.

Unable to miss a ride on any passing political merry go round, bungling Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, decided to catch a ride out of the Cabinet chamber and back onto the Tory backbenches, proclaiming in characteristically histrionic style that the ‘Brexit dream is dying’….

May attempted to swat aside the loss of two Cabinet ministers in less than 24 hours and published the White Paper anyway.   Dominic Raab was appointed as the new Brexit Secretary and given orders to get the White Paper up and running in the House of Commons.  MPs who dutifully assembled to hear the new boy on his first day in the job were disappointed to find that, while the Secretary of State was about to make a statement, there were no copies of the White Paper for them to scrutinise.

The Speaker suspended the session and MPs rushed off to scurry around the darkest corners of the House of Commons print room (or wherever White Papers emerge from) before emerging with boxes full of the worthy document.  Distribution followed and scrutiny ensued…..

Enter stage right, the fool….

A stock element of Elizabethan drama first time round, the Fool seems to have taken on a new lease of life in the second Elizabethan age, not least in the form of the current President of the United States, Donald Trump.

Trump arrived in the UK with all of the pomp and ceremony a non-State visit allowed, which included meeting the Prime Minister, taking tea with the Head of State and having dinner with business leaders.  Quite how this will be topped if there is a formal state visit remains to be seen.  In any event it appears that the UK is all too willing to suffer fools gladly, especially if they are going to make a trade agreement.

However, this fool was not going to do that, according to an interview he gave to that high powered journal of record, The Sun, because Theresa May’s White Paper was rubbish and left the UK too close to the EU for comfort.  He also thought Boris Johnson would make a good Prime Minister and did not think that Theresa May was any good a negotiating deals.  That sorted, the fool, who had already told NATO leaders that they did not spend enough on weapons for his liking, set off for tea and cake with the Queen, making sure he and his wife got a nice pic for the photo album.

The joint press conference between Trump and Theresa May, looking as though she could be sick at any moment, saw Trump proclaim that all of the bad things he had said about May were simply ‘fake news’ and that the UK/US relationship was ‘super special’.  He also said she would do a good Brexit deal, so it turns out that he was just kidding about the other stuff all along.  That’s alright then…..

Trump is such a fool that he believes, in spite of the thousands on the streets protesting against his presence, that the people of the UK love him, so he jetted off to Scotland to play golf, in preparation for his summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this there is a discussion going on about the White Paper, the UK’s negotiating position on Brexit and whether the EU will even tolerate it.  Maybe some rain in the coming weeks will help dampen things and proper political discourse will emerge.  Unfortunately, history suggests that the Summer is not the time for that.

Trump’s America Poles Apart

30th June 2018

Trump protest

 Further anti-Trump protests scheduled for 13th July in the UK

A divided nation and a divisive President pretty much sums up the position in the United States of America at the moment.  Well into the second year of his presidency, Donald Trump is showing no sign of being any less idiosyncratic in his behaviour or any less unpredictable in his policy pronouncements.   His arrival in the UK on Friday, 13th July for a three day “working visit”, will nevertheless involve him meeting the Queen, as Head of State in the UK’s archaic system, as well as meeting Theresa May at the PM’s country retreat, Chequers.

Protests are being organised across the UK, with the focus being upon London, to mobilise opposition to the politics of xenophobia, race hate and bigotry which Trump represents.  In the past six weeks almost 2,000 children have been forcibly separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border.  While their parents have taken the decision to flee their countries of origin for a variety of reasons, associated with drug cartel killings and the lawlessness which still characterises parts of Central America, this is no reason to criminalise four year olds who have no choice but to flee with their families.

Typically, the US has a different approach to migrants arriving from El Salvador, Guatemala or Mexico to those arriving from Cuba, who are greeted as anti-Communist heroes.  If the resources currently directed towards undermining democracy in Cuba were used to restrict the supply lines and activities of the drug barons in other parts of Latin America the flow of migrants at the US border would be stemmed.

For Trump though the numbers are not necessarily the issue.  Blaming immigrants for the problems of crime, social disorder and the economy is the last resort of every fascist scoundrel in history, so for Trump any level of migration would be deemed undesirable in his quest, as characterised by House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, to “make America white again.”

Trump’s UK visit will be preceded by a NATO summit in Brussels on 12th July and followed by a meeting with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki on 16th July.  It promises to be an interesting few days.  Trump has made clear on many occasions his contempt for NATO, regarding it as an organisation into which the US pays too much and gets too little back in return.  The expectation on NATO members is that they spend 2% of their GDP on ‘defence’, a target which the UK is the only European government fool enough to meet, part of the reason for its crumbling transport infrastructure and public services.

It is anyone’s guess how Trump will play his hand at the NATO meeting but his discussions with Vladimir Putin, following close on, have made NATO generals nervous that Trump will make a major concession to Putin on arms or troop deployments, in order to grandstand on the world stage.  Both the NATO generals and US security services are well aware that Putin’s greater nous, political experience and KGB training are likely to mean he is more disciplined in any negotiation and capable of getting the upper hand over the bungling game show host.

Meanwhile, back in Trump heartland, where even the east coast is regarded as a foreign land, a storm has broken out over the actions of a small town restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.  Last Friday night Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, was half way through her meal at the Red Hen in Lexington when owner Stephanie Wilkinson asked her to leave.  This was based upon a staff vote in protest at the president’s policy of separating children from their parents at the Mexican border.

The Red Hen has been bombarded with eggs and excrement, besieged by angry protesters and as a result has been forced to close.  “Bikers for Trump” (not the environmentally friendly cyclist type) are planning a rally outside the restaurant.  A Greek restaurant next door, not involved in the original incident, has received a bomb threat.  The wine store next door has received abusive phone calls, including one suggesting that the owners should “rot in hell”.  At the same time the Red Hen has been inundated by flowers from those supporting the stance of the staff.

This is the politics of Trump’s America at the moment.  The Red Hen incident has prompted a national debate on civility and politics.  Needless to say, the positions taken on the issue are poles apart.  The debate will no doubt continue to rage back home, while Trump takes to Airforce One and pedals his poison overseas.  For action in the UK, in order to make 13th July a day for Trump to remember,  go to https://www.stoptrump.org.uk/

 

 

Racism – it’s no game

17th June 2018

World Cup

Racism – not just a football issue

Racism, equality and diversity have surfaced as hot topics in the worlds of sport and culture over the past week.  In part this is not unexpected, with the advent of the World Cup and the notorious reputation of a cohort of Russian fans dominating certain sections of the media.  The other strand of the debate has surfaced from a less predictable source, with novelist Lionel Shriver taking issue with the recently stated diversity policy of publishers Penguin Random House (PRH).

Consistent with much corporate expectation these days PRH released a statement suggesting that it aims to make the company as diverse as Britain, with respect to “ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social mobility and disability.”

The pledge from PRH as stated on its website is that,

“We want both our new hires and the authors we acquire to reflect UK society by 2015.”

The response of Shriver is, at best sardonic, at worst elitist and betrays a level of appreciation of issues of diversity usually associated with the Daily Mail. For Shriver PRH has abandoned its core mission.

“Drunk on virtue”, she says, “Literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual education and crap education boxes.”

She continues,

“a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter…will be published.”

All of which says more about Shriver than the stated of policy of PRH.   Like the ranting ‘political correctness gone mad’ brigade, who seem to think that dragging modern society out of the nineteenth century is somehow an infringement of their freedoms, Shriver appears to think that PRH are likely to publish anything produced by any so defined ‘minority’, whatever its quality or merit.

There may be many motivations behind the PRH position.  There can be little doubt that their objective to publish from a wider pool of voices than the white, middle class, Oxbridge educated elite within UK society is to be applauded.  However, PRH are a private company, they may have an altruistic exterior but their core motivation as a private sector company is to make money.    It will not matter how gay or ethnically diverse an author is, if they do not sell, they will be dropped.

It is very likely of course that there are many hidden talents in a wide range of communities in the UK, screaming out to be heard.  If PRH remain true to their policy, we may soon be in a position to find out.  As for Shriver she can rest assured that the bastions of white middle class privilege are unlikely to fall any time soon.  If they do start to tumble, she can always take comfort in having gender on her side.

Racism in sport has surfaced this week as the World Cup gets underway, with calls from some for black players to walk off the field if they are subject to racist abuse during any of the games.  Such a response could see entire teams heading for the sidelines, the whole tournament disrupted and a victory for the racists.

John Barnes, former England and Liverpool star, who suffered racist abuse in the 1980s and 90s, has a different take on the issue, believing that racism in football cannot be separated from society as a whole, stating,

“Since I’ve been involved in professional football, it’s as if the rest of society is okay but football has a long way to go.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As I’ve been saying for decades, as long as racism exists in society, it will exist in all facets of society.  Until we eradicate it from society, football will be like any other industry.

Before we are footballers or fans we are ordinary members of society.  We are doctors, lawyers, milkmen, postmen, unemployed people, students…so why are they called racist football fans? Are they just racist for the 90 minutes, when the other six days a week they’re not?”

Barnes has a clear understanding of the roots of racial discrimination in a society which has been pushing a “narrative that has been spun to us for the last 500 years about the worthiness, morality, and intellect of a certain group of people in relation to other groups, particularly black people.”

Others disagree with Barnes and feel that the walking off tactic would be justified, in order to make an impact and give the issue of racism more prominence on an international stage.

However the issue is handled over the course of the tournament, racism will continue to be an issue in football, publishing and society long after the World Cup is over and long after the comments of Lionel Shriver are yesterday’s news.  The stand taken by Barnes and others in the sporting world helps address the issue, the stand taken by PRH may give a voice to many others not being heard.

It will require concerted effort in every workplace and every industry to get to the roots of the problem and eradicate racism as the divisive force it is.  A working class divided on grounds of race is less of a threat than one united in opposition to those who wish to hang on to their positions of privilege and power.  Tackling racism is integral to tackling the inequality endemic to capitalist society and the challenge of making change permanent.

 

Sonic attacks claim under question

11th June 2018

US Embassy Havana

US Embassy in Havana, Cuba

Science works best when qualified people can evaluate evidence without political pressure to draw poorly founded conclusions, say 15 neuroscientists and physicists in a letter published in The Guardian on Friday 1 June 2018.

As neuroscientists and physicists we have no reason to dispute that US diplomats living in Cuba heard loud noises, or that they reported feeling ill afterwards. Some US politicians have seized on these reports to construct conspiracy theories in which they imagine a mysterious disease-causing “sound ray gun” – something that isn’t possible with today’s technology. These same politicians have used their positions of authority to present their speculations to a credulous public as though they are fact. The pronouncements, in turn, have led to international confrontation and hysteria, resulting in the removal and expulsion of diplomats, and travel advisories. Now, an apparently analogous incident has been reported in China.

A “preliminary communication” from the University of Pennsylvania, with US government support, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), has been used to buttress this putative “acoustic attack” idea with science. In fact, that work is deeply flawed, and does nothing to support the attack theory. We thus applaud the recent paper by Sergio Della Sala and Robert McIntosh, for its thoughtful criticisms of the JAMA report, and praise the effort described in the Guardian (Cuba calls on US and Canada to investigate ‘sonic attack’ claims, 29 May) to engage in an international scientific collaboration to study any connection between the illnesses and sound. Science works best this way, when qualified people can evaluate evidence without political pressure to draw poorly founded conclusions.

We hope that sober and calmer heads will prevail in de-escalating this frenzy, avoiding a chill in both diplomatic relations and scientific collaboration between the US and Cuba.
Mark M Rasenick University of Illinois College of Medicine
György Buzsáki New York University
Mark S Cohen University of California, Los Angeles
Alan C Evans Montreal Neurological Institute
Karl J Friston University College London
Janina R Galler Harvard University
Rainer Goebel Maastricht University
Steven A Hillyard University of California, San Diego
May-Britt Moser Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Gregory V Simpson Think-Now
Robert Turner Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
Mitchell Valdés-Sosa Cuban Center for Neuroscience
Pedro Valdés-Sosa Cuban Center for Neuroscience
John Darrell Van Horn University of Southern California
Arno Villringer Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig