Health-related incidents at the United States Embassy in Havana

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In August 2017, reports began surfacing that American and Canadian[1] diplomatic personnel in Cuba had endured unusual health-related incidents, dating back to late 2016.[2][3] Twenty-two employees of the State Department reported experiencing what were referred to as "health attacks".[3][4]

Events

The State Department determined that the health problems were either the result of an attack or exposure to an as-yet-unknown device,[5] and did not believe the Cuban government is responsible.[6] Affected individuals described mild brain damage similar to a concussion and symptoms such as temporary or permanent hearing loss, memory loss, and nausea.[5] Speculation centers around a sonic weapon,[7] with some researchers suggesting similarities to Wind turbine syndrome and pointing to infrasound as a possible cause.[8] Charles Liberman, a hearing loss researcher at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston said, "There is a growing controversy about people who live near these windmills who start feeling bad, They get headaches, they get dizzy, they get nausea [sic]".[9] However, the scientific consensus is that the use of a sonic weapon is implausible.[10][11] Dr. Timothy Leighton has said "If you're talking about a ray-gun rifle knocking out someone with ultrasound they can't hear at a hundred meters—that's not going to happen".[12]

The United States expelled two Cuban diplomats in response to the illnesses.[2] In September, the US State Department stated that it was removing non-emergency staff from the US embassy, and warned US citizens not to travel to Cuba.[13] In October 2017, the Associated Press released what it claimed was a recording of the sound some embassy workers heard while in Cuba.[14] Senior neurologists consulted by The Guardian suggested that the health incidents were probably psychosomatic complaints, of the kind commonly known as mass psychogenic illness.[4] However, US embassy individuals have experienced lasting health effects, including one US diplomat who now uses a hearing aid.[15]

In December 2017, investigators discovered brain abnormalities in the victims. The white matter of the brains showed changes, which doctors believe could not be caused by sound, although the sounds reported could be a byproduct of the damage.[16]

Reactions

The Cuban government offered to cooperate with the US in an investigation of the incidents.[17] It employed about 2000 scientists and law enforcement officers interviewing 300 neighbors of diplomats, examining two hotels and medically examining non-diplomats. NBC reported that Cuban officials stated that they "also analyzed air and soil samples, looked into whether insects could be the culprit and considered a range of toxic chemicals and the possibility of electromagnetic waves", finding nothing. The American government did not cooperate with the investigation.[18] Cuban citizens have expressed skepticism on allegations that the Cuban government orchestrated the attacks.[19] The Cuban Foreign Minister subsequently accused the US of lying about the incident,[20] saying "There is no evidence, there is no evidence whatsoever, of the occurrence of the alleged incidents or the cause or origin of these ailments reported by US diplomats," adding, "Neither is there any evidence suggesting that these health problems have been caused by an attack of any sort during their stay in Cuba."[21]

President Trump said that "I do believe Cuba's responsible. I do believe that",[22] going on to say "And it's a very unusual attack, as you know. But I do believe Cuba is responsible."[23]

On January 6, 2018, U.S. Senator Jeff Flake stated that the U.S. has no evidence that the illnesses experienced by U.S. diplomats were the result of attacks.[24]

On January 9, 2018, an anonymous senior United States Department of State official said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson decided to convene a special-panel Accountability Review Board to further investigate the "attacks".[25] On January 10, two State officials said that retired United States Ambassador to Libya Peter Bodde was tapped to lead the board. [26]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Mystery of sonic weapon attacks at US embassy in Cuba deepens". The Guardian. September 14, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Neuman, Scott (2017-08-09). "Cuban Diplomats Expelled After U.S. Embassy Staff 'Incidents' In Havana". NPR. Retrieved 2017-10-01. 
  3. ^ a b Connor, Tracy; Murray, Mary; Williams, Abigail (2017-09-17). "Victim of Cuba embassy 'attacks' frustrated by response". NBC News. Retrieved 2017-10-01. 
  4. ^ a b Julian Borger and Philip Jaekl (2017-10-12). "Mass hysteria may explain 'sonic attacks' in Cuba, say top neurologists". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-10-14. 
  5. ^ a b Doubek, James. "At Least 16 U.S. Embassy Staff In Cuba Treated After 'Health Attacks'". NPR. 
  6. ^ U.S. does not believe Cuba is behind sonic attacks on American diplomats. McClatchy News Service, 26 September 2017
  7. ^ Chavez, Nicole. "Using sound to attack: The diverse world of acoustic devices". CNN. 
  8. ^ "How Canadian diplomats in Cuba are being acoustically attacked - Macleans.ca". 24 August 2017. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  9. ^ "A Sonic Attack in Cuba? How an Acoustic Weapon Might Work". Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  10. ^ Zimmer, Carl (6 October 2017). "What's a Science Reporter to Do When Sound Evidence Isn't Sound?". New York Times. Archived from the original on 13 October 2017. Retrieved 13 October 2017. 
  11. ^ Coady, David (13 October 2017). "Revealed: The mysterious sound heard by US diplomatic staff in Cuba". abc.net.au. Retrieved 13 October 2017. 
  12. ^ Zimmer, Carl (5 October 2017). "A 'Sonic Attack' on Diplomats in Cuba? These Scientists Doubt It". New York Times. Archived from the original on 13 October 2017. Retrieved 13 October 2017. 
  13. ^ Rich Edson (2017-09-29). "US stops issuing visas in Cuba, cuts embassy staff, urges no travel to island". Fox News. Retrieved 2017-10-01. 
  14. ^ "Dangerous sound? What Americans heard in Cuba attacks". AP. Retrieved 2017-10-12. 
  15. ^ Zachary Cohen. "New audio adds to mystery of Cuba attacks". CNN. Retrieved 2017-10-14. 
  16. ^ Josh Lederman (December 6, 2017). "Doctors find brain abnormalities in victims of Cuba mystery". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. Retrieved December 6, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba%7cCubaMINREX". 
  18. ^ Mitchell, Andrea; Murray, Mary (24 October 2017). "OCT 24 2017, 8:25 PM ET Cubans Forcefully Reject Blame for U.S. Diplomats' Mystery Ailments". NBC. Retrieved 26 December 2017. 
  19. ^ Rodriguez, Michael Weissenstein and Andrea (2017-10-13). "'Star Wars' fantasy? Cubans doubt US sonic attacks claims". Washington Post. AP. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-10-14. 
  20. ^ "Cuba official accuses US of lying about sonic attacks". AP. 3 November 2017. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  21. ^ Gaouette, Nicole (2 November 2017). "Cuban Minister rejects US sonic attack claims". CNN. Retrieved 7 January 2018. 
  22. ^ Zachary Cohen. "Trump blames Cuba for mysterious attacks on US diplomats". CNN. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  23. ^ "Trump says Cuba 'responsible' for alleged sonic attacks, but offers no evidence". The Guardian. 16 October 2017. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  24. ^ "Jeff Flake says there's "no evidence" Cuban government attacked American diplomats", CBS News, January 6, 2018. Retrieved January 7, 2018.
  25. ^ (Reuters)
  26. ^ "Retired ambassador to Libya to lead Cuba attacks review". CNN. Retrieved 10 January 2018. 
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