Havana syndrome

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Havana syndrome

Post by shpalman » Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:17 am

molto tricky

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Martin Y » Sun Dec 06, 2020 1:35 pm

They're persisting with this nonsense? I guess nobody's allowed to tell the tangerine emperor he's got no clothes until January. So if he reckons the sneaky Cubans attacked their diplomats with a mystery weapon I guess that's that for now.

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by shpalman » Sun Dec 06, 2020 1:49 pm

Some reports are saying microwaves but I can't be bothered to read the whole pdf to see what kind of rf they really have in mind.

But yeah apart from cooking you I can't see what they think rf or microwaves would actually do.

Not that I would want to try having my head (or indeed any part of me) cooked by microwaves, but I'm sure you'd feel the heat from it.

Raytheon credits the discovery of microwave cooking to a grade-school-educated engineer named Percy L. Spencer. One day in 1945, Spencer was walking through a radar test room with a chocolate bar in his pocket; he came too close to a running magnetron tube and the candy began to melt.

No reports he or anyone else suffered any ill effects, apart from the guy who had an egg explode in his face.
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by jimbob » Sun Dec 06, 2020 2:18 pm

shpalman wrote:
Sun Dec 06, 2020 1:49 pm
Some reports are saying microwaves but I can't be bothered to read the whole pdf to see what kind of rf they really have in mind.

But yeah apart from cooking you I can't see what they think rf or microwaves would actually do.

Not that I would want to try having my head (or indeed any part of me) cooked by microwaves, but I'm sure you'd feel the heat from it.

Raytheon credits the discovery of microwave cooking to a grade-school-educated engineer named Percy L. Spencer. One day in 1945, Spencer was walking through a radar test room with a chocolate bar in his pocket; he came too close to a running magnetron tube and the candy began to melt.

No reports he or anyone else suffered any ill effects, apart from the guy who had an egg explode in his face.
I doubt mobile phones would be very happy with whatever electromagnetic field strength they are positing (are they positing any?).

Are they positing a mechanism? Maybe it's voodoo dolls.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by bolo » Sun Dec 06, 2020 7:41 pm

Martin Y wrote:
Sun Dec 06, 2020 1:35 pm
They're persisting with this nonsense? I guess nobody's allowed to tell the tangerine emperor he's got no clothes until January. So if he reckons the sneaky Cubans attacked their diplomats with a mystery weapon I guess that's that for now.
I haven't read the report (which can be downloaded free from here) but it was produced by the National Academy of Sciences, not the Trump Administration. Here are the members of the authoring committee:

DAVID A. RELMAN (Chair), Thomas C. and Joan M. Merigan Professor, Department of Medicine, Department of Microbiology & Immunology; Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University; Chief of Infectious Diseases, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto
Health Care System
DORIS-EVA BAMIOU, Professor of Neuroaudiology, Ear Institute, University College of London
LINDA BIRNBAUM, Director (retired), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health
MICHAEL BONINGER, Professor and Endowed Vice Chair for Research, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
RONALD BROOKMEYER, Dean, Jonathon and Karin Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles
CAROLINE BUCKEE, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
TIMOTHY J. BUCKLEY, Exposure Methods and Measurements Division, National Exposure Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
JOSEPH J. FINS, E. William Davis, Jr., M.D. Professor of Medical Ethics; Chief, Division of Medical Ethics; Professor of Medicine, Professor of Medical Ethics in Neurology, Professor of Medical Ethics in Rehabilitation Medicine, Professor of Medicine in Psychiatry, Professor of Health Care Policy and Research, Division of Medical Ethics, Weill Cornell Medical College
JOHN C. GORE, Director and Hertha Ramsey Cress University Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Physics and Astronomy, and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Institute of Imaging Science, Vanderbilt University
WALTER KOROSHETZ, Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health
PAMELA LEIN, Professor of Neurotoxicology and Department Chair, Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis
SAAFAN MALIK, Director of Research and Acting Deputy Division Chief, Defense & Veterans Brain Injury Center, Research & Development Directorate J-9, Defense Health Agency, Department of Defense
JEFFREY S. PALMER, Group Leader, Human Health and Performance Systems Group, Lincoln Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
GREGORY B. SAATHOFF, Professor of Emergency Medicine, Professor of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia School of Medicine
CLIFFORD B. SAPER, James Jackson Putnam Professor and Department Chair, Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
MARK J. SHELHAMER, Professor of Otolaryngology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
JEFFREY P. STAAB, Professor of Psychiatry, Director of the Fellowship in Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic, College of Medicine and Science; Consultant in the Departments of Psychiatry, Psychology and Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at Mayo Clinic
JONATHAN D. TROBE, Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Department of Neurology; Co-Director, Kellogg Eye Center for International Ophthalmology, University of Michigan
DAVID WHELAN, Professor of the Practice, Electrical Engineering, University of California, San Diego

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Orabona » Sun Dec 06, 2020 7:58 pm

Normal RF radiation is trivially easy to detect. X- and gamma-radiation can also be detected by well-established means.

Those cunning Commies must be using N-rays*.

*Nothing to do with neutrons, you pedants.

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by shpalman » Sun Dec 06, 2020 8:21 pm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_auditory_effect is mentioned on page 19 of chapter 6 (which is actually section 4).

And yes, in some cases the RF would also induce sounds in external objects, such as a smartphone microphone.
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Dec 07, 2020 1:06 am

It is surprising that a number of apparently serious and respectable institutions are endorsing what seems to be an extremely outlandish hypothesis that so many other experts dismiss as impossible. It's quite hard to image that scale of political influence over scientists' output, though I'm not quite sure why.

There have been plenty of anti-lockdown and anti-mask doctors this year, most of them with fairly naked political motivations; OTOH, though few of them particularly prominent. Institutions like the EPA have obviously been fairly thoroughly corrupted, but the NAS isn't under direct political control. The NAS does seem to have a few organisational idiosyncrasies, mind you, that might enable politicisation (e.g. allowing members to "communicate" publications to PNAS without proper peer review, which was only just ended this summer).

I note from the second page of the report that
This activity was supported by Contract 19AQMM19C0090 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Department of State. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project
And that Contract seems to involve the US Department of State paying $330 million thousand for the research & report. So, there's that.

Or, it could be a genuine case of scientific controversy with legitimate disagreement between experts.
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by dyqik » Mon Dec 07, 2020 1:13 am

Any EM attack would be trivial to detect, and I'd be astonished if diplomatic offices and housing weren't already routinely monitored, not least to try and detect bugging.

The kind of signal strengths required to cause biological effects can probably even be monitored by satellite.

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Dec 07, 2020 2:19 am

Here's a collage of what seem to be the most important bits, with a bit of commentary:

Section 1: Intro

They are starting from the premise that something happened specific to those diplomatic staff, i.e. that there was a genuine cluster of symptoms specific with a single underlying cause. It's worth quoting their first paragraph:
In late 2016, U.S. Embassy personnel in Havana, Cuba, began to report the development of an unusual set of symptoms and clinical signs. For some of these patients, their case began with the sudden onset of a loud noise, perceived to have directional features, and accompanied by pain in one or both ears or across a broad region of the head, and in some cases, a sensation of head pressure or vibration, dizziness, followed in some cases by tinnitus, visual problems, vertigo, and cognitive difficulties. Other personnel attached to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China, reported similar symptoms and signs to varying degrees, beginning in the following year. As of June 2020, many of these personnel continue to suffer from these and/or other health problems. Multiple hypotheses and mechanisms have been proposed to explain these clinical cases, but evidence has been lacking, no hypothesis has been proven, and the circumstances remain unclear.
They also weren't able to examine patients, and didn't have any medical information for most of them (as the patients' identities are secret). They are quite up front about this:
The committee’s task was not to “solve” the mystery surrounding what caused the symptoms experienced by personnel in Cuba and China, but it did include the evaluation of proposed plausible mechanisms. Given the limited time available to the committee and the unavailability of relevant, detailed information about individual patients, the committee was not able to accomplish everything in the broad Statement of Task; however, it was able to address a number of critical issues.
Specific issues with the data they highlight:
1. Limited access to patient information:
First, because of federal rules for protection of health and other information, the committee was not privy to health or other personal information about individuals, other than that which was voluntarily provided to the committee directly by a small number of affected DOS employees.
2. Cases changed over time, but reports from clinicians came at varying points in individuals' history.
Thus, the evolving and changing clinical features of these cases and the non-uniform timing of the clinical investigations created a second source of variability.
3. From what they do know about patients, they were highly heterogeneous in terms of demographics, career roles and in location when they developed symptoms - but they don't necessarily have that information at individual level (ie linked to each case).

4. The symptoms reported are not enormously informative:
Furthermore, when viewed on their own, a number of these clinical signs and symptoms are nonspecific, i.e., they might be experienced by persons suffering from a variety of conditions.

Section 2: Data and methods
They talked to a lot of people, including some patients, some other Dept of State staff, and external experts on various things like "the health effects of exposures to chemicals and to directed radio frequency (RF) energy."

This section reads more like a list of acknowledgements thanking people who gave their time, rather than presenting any nitty-gritty of how the data was analysed.


Section 3: Clinical features

This section opens with what I'd call more of a "Data and methods" section than Section 3 managed:

1. They stress several times that individual-level data wasn't provided: "This made it impossible to link specific symptom constellations, physical examination results, and laboratory or imaging test findings within and between affected individuals for diagnostic purposes"

2. They spoke to 8 patients. They didn't examine any themselves.

3. Of the data that was provided to them, they say this:
These data were obtained from well-established methods of clinical assessment (Friedman et al., 2019; Hoffer et al., 2019; Swanson et al., 2018), as well as procedures that were investigative (i.e., experimental) in nature (Balaban et al., 2016; Verma et al., 2019). Experimental procedures included novel interpretations of results derived from well-established procedures (Friedman et al., 2019; Hoffer et al., 2019) and results obtained from newly developed, but not yet standardized, technologies (Balaban et al., 2016; Friedman et al., 2019; Verma et al., 2019).
Am I being uncharitable in reading "novel interpretations of results derived from well-established procedures" with subtextual raised eyebrows?


Now, onto the actual clinical features.

They note that patients reported "most distinctive and specific clinical features" during an initial acute phase, during which they consistently report hearing loud noise. Subsequently, they report various non-specific chronic symptoms that lasted weeks to years after the acute phase, that "were less specific to these DOS personnel and more common among general populations of patients with a variety of neurological or systemic conditions".

Therefore, they are attempting to base their assessment more on the initial phase. To quote their description of it:
The most common and distinctive features of the initial onset and acute phase of the illness in Havana personnel were the sudden onset of a perceived loud sound, sometimes described as screeching, chirping, clicking, or piercing, a sensation of intense pressure or vibration in the head, and pain in the ear or more diffusely in the head. Most individuals reported that the sound or these other sensations seemed to originate from a particular direction or that they perceived them only in certain physical locations. Individuals interviewed by the committee described alleviation of the symptoms by moving from their initial location to a different one, e.g., into a different room of the building in which they were located.
They give numbers - most patients did report a loud noise, and/or pressure in the head.

It's also worth noting that the description is partly corroborated by non-US staff:
The summary descriptions available to the committee of cases involving Canadian Embassy personnel from Havana failed to mention the perception of a loud sound, sensation of intense pressure or vibration, or ear pain, but did include impaired balance, headache, vertigo, tinnitus, and some of the same chronic clinical features as the U.S. Embassy personnel. The committee did not have sufficient information about U.S. Embassy personnel from China to be able to assess overall similarities or dissimilarities with cases from Havana.

Could the acute and chronic symptoms have separate causes?
One problem with all of the data presented was that it lacked an appropriate control group (i.e., individuals who were present in the same environment as the U.S. Embassy employees who reported the acute phase of the illness, but were not exposed to whatever caused those distinctive signs and symptoms). It is noteworthy that the Canadian Embassy employees shared much of the environment of the U.S. Embassy employees, but generally lacked the acute signs and symptoms. Hence, it is possible that other exposures (viral illness, toxic chemicals, etc.) may have caused the chronic signs and symptoms shared by both the U.S. and Canadian personnel, while the acute signs and symptoms limited to the U.S. Embassy employees may have had a different cause.
The CDC - who released their report late into this Committee's work - also noted the "biphasic symptom onset", and tried to limit their case definition to patients who experienced both the acute and chronic symptoms. They found 15 'presumptive', and a further 31 'possibles', out of 91 records - so basically half of patients originally included couldn't possibly have had whatever it was, according to the CDC.
Because of these various aspects of case heterogeneity, the committee found it difficult to know with certainty that all cases were due to the same cause(s), and in particular, whether the individuals with only the chronic set of signs and symptoms suffered from the same cause(s) and etiologic mechanisms as those who reported the initial, sudden onset set of signs and symptoms.
So, they're not sure that the chronic symptoms are related to the noise, basically.


Tests and examinations

1. Some patients had balance problems, but there is no evidence of structural injuries. However they don't know how many patients it was, or anything about those patients. The data is a mess basically: diagnosis inconsistent across sites, self-reported symptom quizzes were initially interpreted as evidence of structural ear damage, etc.

2. Neuropsychological testing happened "weeks, months, or years after symptom onset". The Committee only received aggregate data, some of it "presented in a non-standard form".
The committee concluded that no distinct pattern of clinically diagnosable cognitive deficits could be discerned from these data.
The results showed psychological distress in some patients in a pattern that may be seen in those suffering from a variety of chronic medical conditions or somatic symptom disorders. These results indicated an increased burden of illness in patients with chronic symptoms but offered no insights into an initial cause.
3. MRI scans were normal. One research centre subsequently found a few small differences but the Committee basically says they reckon this is the dead salmon effect.

4. They end with recommendations for any future cases, about collecting standardised comprehensive data in a timely manner, rather than relying on followup through the US public healthcare infrastructure as happened in this case, with some of the data problems attributable to differences in insurance between patients, HIPAA silos, etc.


So, to sum up: the reports of a weird directional noise that caused pain or other symptoms are indeed weird. The subsequent reports of chronic symptoms could reflect neurological damage from the initial event. Therefore:
he committee found this constellation of acute symptoms with directional and location-specific features to be very unusual and, to the best of the committee’s knowledge, unlike those associated with any disorder reported in the neurological or general medical literature. The sudden onset and immediate amelioration with change in location makes an infectious or toxic cause less likely, while the repeated testimony that the symptoms were experienced only in specific physical locations near windows or as originating or emanating from a particular direction raised the possibility that they were due to some physical force that could penetrate windows but not walls. As such, we considered in detail the possibility that these acute symptoms may have been caused by directed RF energy, as well as toxic, infectious, and psychological processes.
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Dec 07, 2020 2:23 am

dyqik wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 1:13 am
Any EM attack would be trivial to detect, and I'd be astonished if diplomatic offices and housing weren't already routinely monitored, not least to try and detect bugging.

The kind of signal strengths required to cause biological effects can probably even be monitored by satellite.
I've only just got to section 4 where they go through the mechanisms in detail, and I'm not 100% sure I'll understand it all anyway. But there seems to be a fair amount of testimony on the effects of RF weapons that the USSR was experimenting with, especially pulsed low-intensity RF.

Based on a quick scan they're not speculating as to what that technology might look like (and they do note that there's very little information "in the open literature", i.e. it's all shady spy sh.t) - they're just evaluating what could have caused the symptoms.
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by bolo » Mon Dec 07, 2020 2:29 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 1:06 am
It is surprising that a number of apparently serious and respectable institutions are endorsing what seems to be an extremely outlandish hypothesis that so many other experts dismiss as impossible. It's quite hard to image that scale of political influence over scientists' output, though I'm not quite sure why.

There have been plenty of anti-lockdown and anti-mask doctors this year, most of them with fairly naked political motivations; OTOH, though few of them particularly prominent. Institutions like the EPA have obviously been fairly thoroughly corrupted, but the NAS isn't under direct political control. The NAS does seem to have a few organisational idiosyncrasies, mind you, that might enable politicisation (e.g. allowing members to "communicate" publications to PNAS without proper peer review, which was only just ended this summer).

I note from the second page of the report that
This activity was supported by Contract 19AQMM19C0090 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Department of State. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project
And that Contract seems to involve the US Department of State paying $330 million for the research & report. So, there's that.

Or, it could be a genuine case of scientific controversy with legitimate disagreement between experts.
Nearly all NAS policy studies are funded through contracts with outside entities, usually federal agencies. Also, the contract funding you linked to is $330 thousand, not $330 million, and that's a pretty typical cost to cover staff time, travel to meetings, etc., for a study of this type. Actually, it's lower than I would have guessed, possibly because the expert panel will mostly have been meeting via Zoom or similar, rather than in person with costs for airfare, hotel, meals, etc.

I worked at the NAS for several years, staffing studies like this (although not anything medical). I find it extremely hard to imagine the sort of political influence you are suggesting. There is independent review of the statement of task before a study can start, a process for public comment and independent vetting of the membership of the study committee for bias and balance, independent review of the draft report, oversight that the panel has responded adequately to the review comments -- and the experts on the panels serve pro bono so it's not as if they are pocketing any of the $330k.

ETA: thanks for your useful notes on the actual content of the report, which I hadn't yet seen when I wrote the above reply to your previous post.

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Dec 07, 2020 2:49 am

So, Section 4 is a bit of a damp squib when it comes to the weaponry stuff.

The problem is that they don't really have a clear sense of what they're looking for, due to the data problems. Apart from the unpleasant sensation initially reported, there's no consistent symptom cluster nor any evidence of physical damage to the patients.

So they review a load of papers on the damage that RF energy can do to people, much of it based on reviews of Russian-language studies from the USSR into RF weapons. Apparently pulsed low-energy RF was most promising. I don't know if that affects the plausibility/detectability of a weapon?

And nor do they, and don't really claim to. They don't say it in as many words, but there's the sense of a general unknown about 50 years of secret technology development. Stuff like Novichok seems to be fairly impressive compared with early nerve agents, for example - but OTOH the impression I get from physicists is that the weapon as described is theoretically impossible, which is a different kettle of fish.


However, having skimmed a lot of the report now, I don't get the impression that the researchers are quite so set on an RF weapon as the headlines suggest.

The report does, however, appear to be have been edited in a way to bolster the RF conclusion: you go to contents, see a section called "plausible mechanisms" and it starts off with a piece describing how the reported symptoms are similar to damage reported from RF weapons, you see a section called data and methods and it says how they got loads of information from loads of people. The stuff about their not having any actual patient data, nor the opportunity to examine any, is in an unexpected section, and they don't return to the fact that they're not actually sure there's a genuine cluster of chronic symptoms at all.
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Dec 07, 2020 2:54 am

bolo wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 2:29 am
Nearly all NAS policy studies are funded through contracts with outside entities, usually federal agencies. Also, the contract funding you linked to is $330 thousand, not $330 million, and that's a pretty typical cost to cover staff time, travel to meetings, etc., for a study of this type. Actually, it's lower than I would have guessed, possibly because the expert panel will mostly have been meeting via Zoom or similar, rather than in person with costs for airfare, hotel, meals, etc.

I worked at the NAS for several years, staffing studies like this (although not anything medical). I find it extremely hard to imagine the sort of political influence you are suggesting. There is independent review of the statement of task before a study can start, a process for public comment and independent vetting of the membership of the study committee for bias and balance, independent review of the draft report, oversight that the panel has responded adequately to the review comments -- and the experts on the panels serve pro bono so it's not as if they are pocketing any of the $330k.

ETA: thanks for your useful notes on the actual content of the report, which I hadn't yet seen when I wrote the above reply to your previous post.
Thanks for the background - and sorry for the brainfart with numbers there (have corrected the original). I wasn't intending to make any big innuendo about the funding source, beyond the usual caveats about being aware of who's paid for stuff. That sounds like a fairly sensible process, which is reassuring.

Yes, it's not a huge budget*, and having gone through I think the media is partly responsible for over-egging the certainty around RF weaponry. I do also wonder if people might be a bit over-confident in dismissing the possibility of such a weapon existing, though I'm not really familiar with the numbers.

*I worked on a project with about that budget once, and I was the only full-time staff member. I didn't pocket $330k either :(
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Dec 07, 2020 3:35 am

Here's the summaries for each possible mechanism:

Directed Radio Frequency Energy
The committee finds that many of the acute, sudden-onset, early phase signs, symptoms and observations reported by DOS employees are consistent with RF effects. In addition, many of the chronic, nonspecific symptoms are also consistent with known RF effects, such as dizziness, headache, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, cognitive deficits, and memory loss. It is not necessary for RF energy sources to produce gross structural damage to cause symptoms. Rather, as with the Frey effect or potential thermoelastic pressure waves, RF sources may trigger symptoms by transiently inducing alterations in brain functioning.
I'm assuming this means that it might be possible to trigger symptoms via secondary effects of a low-energy RF source, rather than needing something detectable from space?


Chemicals
They mainly focus on pyrethroid and organophosphate (OP) pesticides, which were being widely sprayed in Cuba at the time because of fears of mosquito-borne Zika. Affected DOS personnel weren't tested for pesticides, and environmental samples were collected months later, which is far too late to be useful.

They note that exposure was likely, and can cause some of the symptoms reported both in the early acute phase and the subsequent chronic symptoms. However, acute OP exposure causes cholinergic crisis, which has a set of distinct symptoms (think Skirpals) that weren't reported. (Subacute exposure can still be neurotoxic, though).

Ultimately, they conclude (my italics):
In summary, the committee concludes that it is not likely that acute high-level exposure to OPs and/or pyrethroids contributed to the unexplained illnesses observed in the Havana cases because there is no convincing evidence of acute high-level exposures and the clinical history of affected U.S. Embassy personnel is not consistent with acute OP poisoning. It is also unlikely that subacute or chronic OP or pyrethroid exposures precipitated the onset of the distinctive acute symptoms associated with the Havana cases. However, given experimental data indicating that interactions between pesticides (particularly OPs) and psychosocial or physical stressors, the latter including noise and non-ionizing radiation, can increase risk and/or severity of adverse outcomes, the committee could not rule out the possibility, although slight, that exposure to insecticides, particularly OPs, increased susceptibility to the triggering factor(s) that caused the Embassy personnel cases. Alternatively, differential exposure to insecticides amongst affected individuals may have contributed to the clinical heterogeneity of the acute symptoms noted in Havana cases, since OP and pyrethroid exposures are associated with a subset of these acute symptoms (see Appendix D). The committee also finds it plausible that subacute or chronic OP and/or pyrethroid exposures contributed to the nonspecific chronic symptoms observed in affected U.S. Embassy personnel.
If I understood the previous sections, there's no convincing evidence because nobody looked: no environmental samples, nor blood samples, to look for it or its biological effects.


Infectious agents
They have a quick think about diseases, especially as there was a big Zika outbreak in Cuba at the time, but conclude nah, obvs:
In summary, the committee considered possible infectious etiologies that might explain the clinical features reported in DOS employees and focused on those infectious agents known to be prevalent in Cuba and capable of causing neurological manifestations. Among those agents, Zika infection received attention from the committee because it was epidemic in Cuba in 2016-2017 and is known to be able to produce relevant neurological findings. However, after reviewing the medical and public health literature, the committee found it highly unlikely that Zika was the cause of the constellation of signs and symptoms reported among DOS personnel, especially the acute, sudden onset, initial phase clinical features, for two major reasons. First, Zika is not known to cause an abrupt onset illness nor an illness with the collection of findings reported in the initial phase of the DOS employee illnesses—especially in the absence of rash, fever, arthralgia, myalgia and conjunctivitis. Second, the relevant neurological features of Zika are exceedingly rare and statistically would not be expected to occur in any DOS employee in Havana, and certainly not more than one.

Psychological and social factors
As usual, the data was basically bobbins. The acute symptoms aren't really consistent with psychological issues, for instance people tend to hallucinate human voices rather than mechanical sounds or balance problems.

Interestingly, perhaps, they refuse to rule out mass psychogenic illness. They explain that they can occur in situations like this, even without external stressors, and even following index cases with other (external) causes, and can usually be diagnosed with information about social contacts:
Without access to these data, a retrospective diagnosis of mass psychogenic illness is considered to be speculative at best and subject to necessary criticism (Jacobsen and Ebbehøj, 2016, 2017; Jansen et al., 2016). Thus, the committee was not able to reach a conclusion about mass psychogenic illness as a possible cause of the events in Cuba or elsewhere.
Chronic symptoms may in some cases be psychological, especially if related to other morbidity.


Overall conclusion
About the only concrete conclusion from this section is the following:
The chronic vestibular symptoms experienced by some DOS personnel are consistent with persistent postural-perceptual dizziness.
PPPD is apparently a neurological condition that arises after some other stressor, which could be organic or psychological, so it doesn't narrow things down.




I didn't read Section 5, about treatment, or Section 6, future recommendations, in any great detail. They tell the DOS to sort out a proper protocol for responding to unknown health issues in future, and to collect better health data on all their employees in general so they can be used in cases like this. But nothing more about crazy weapons tech.
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Dec 07, 2020 3:36 am

So there we have it - either a hitherto unknown energy weapon, or mass psychogenic illness possibly following at least once case of pesticide exposure.
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Dec 07, 2020 4:19 am

I guess the bit I struggle with the most is the apparent lack of any sort of internal protocol to deal with a suspected attack from an apparently somewhat innovative weapon.

Even after the fact, they didn't follow up year these reports with proper medical histories standardised across patients. In reality I'd expect them to have some kind of rapid-response team that would turn up and check things out sharpish.

I think the fact that this whole investigation is taking place so incompetently and so publicly suggests that, somewhere along the line, it's probably not taken super-seriously by, say, the CIA. Unless this is all a cover or something.
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Martin Y » Mon Dec 07, 2020 9:52 am

Many thanks to BOAF for summarising the report and I apologise if my dismissive stab above looked like I was attacking the report writers. I've had an eye on a long-running thread about this on ISF and it's fair to say I formed a fairly settled view that this affair is mostly psychogenic with a sprinkle of crickets.

So I came in to this with the feeling that a group of very serious scientists have been tasked with producing an entirely serious, not dismissive and definitely not tongue in cheek report into the plausibility of various explanations for the Bermuda Triangle.

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by dyqik » Mon Dec 07, 2020 11:50 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 2:23 am
dyqik wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 1:13 am
Any EM attack would be trivial to detect, and I'd be astonished if diplomatic offices and housing weren't already routinely monitored, not least to try and detect bugging.

The kind of signal strengths required to cause biological effects can probably even be monitored by satellite.
I've only just got to section 4 where they go through the mechanisms in detail, and I'm not 100% sure I'll understand it all anyway. But there seems to be a fair amount of testimony on the effects of RF weapons that the USSR was experimenting with, especially pulsed low-intensity RF.

Based on a quick scan they're not speculating as to what that technology might look like (and they do note that there's very little information "in the open literature", i.e. it's all shady spy sh.t) - they're just evaluating what could have caused the symptoms.
Low intensity RF is still trivial to detect though. Radio receivers in your phone can detect picowatt level signals - right now my phone is receiving a -112 dBm signal, which is 10^-11.2 milliwatts, or less than ten femtowatts.

As another indicator of how easy RF signals are to detect, the total energy received by all radio telescopes has been calculated as about that required to melt a snowflake. That was a while ago, so let's call it ten snowflakes. That much energy would have no physiological effects.
Last edited by dyqik on Mon Dec 07, 2020 11:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by dyqik » Mon Dec 07, 2020 11:55 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 3:36 am
So there we have it - either a hitherto unknown energy weapon, or mass psychogenic illness possibly following at least once case of pesticide exposure.
Did they discuss basic physical environmental effects, like reductions in power frequency causing the lights to flicker, brownouts causing poor lighting, or interference on speakers causing annoying noises?

Then there's basic substandard "sick building" stuff, like mold in AC systems, noisy ventilation systems, VOCs from building materials, etc. etc.

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:19 pm

dyqik wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 11:55 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 3:36 am
So there we have it - either a hitherto unknown energy weapon, or mass psychogenic illness possibly following at least once case of pesticide exposure.
Did they discuss basic physical environmental effects, like reductions in power frequency causing the lights to flicker, brownouts causing poor lighting, or interference on speakers causing annoying noises?
No - they are only talking about the symptoms reported by patients, and what might have caused them. The patients didn't report stuff about lights and speakers, but then again IIRC in most cases they were in bed so one presumes lights and speakers would've been off anyway.

They aren't attempting to describe any particular weapons technology (they are mostly doctors, after all).

In terms of detectability, would the DOS (or whoever) be expected to have some kind of record of RF interference they could go back and check after people start reporting symptoms? Or would it rely on people at the same time - perhaps the patients themselves - also noticing stuff?
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by dyqik » Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:32 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:19 pm
dyqik wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 11:55 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 3:36 am
So there we have it - either a hitherto unknown energy weapon, or mass psychogenic illness possibly following at least once case of pesticide exposure.
Did they discuss basic physical environmental effects, like reductions in power frequency causing the lights to flicker, brownouts causing poor lighting, or interference on speakers causing annoying noises?
No - they are only talking about the symptoms reported by patients, and what might have caused them. The patients didn't report stuff about lights and speakers, but then again IIRC in most cases they were in bed so one presumes lights and speakers would've been off anyway.
Headaches, migraines, etc. related to eyestrain and other physiological responses to environmental triggers don't have to occur at the same time as the actual trigger. So you have to cast the net a whole lot more widely than "things that happened while they were sleeping".

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by dyqik » Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:45 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:19 pm

In terms of detectability, would the DOS (or whoever) be expected to have some kind of record of RF interference they could go back and check after people start reporting symptoms? Or would it rely on people at the same time - perhaps the patients themselves - also noticing stuff?
I'd expect them to at least do EM sweeps occasionally, looking for bugs etc.. That would miss intermittent attacks, but generally, I'd expect them to have to be looking for it.

I could put together detection equipment for the kind of pulsed RF thing I think they're talking about for a few thousand dollars, using mostly parts bought on eBay, so it's a fairly high risk proposition to try and do this kind of thing secretly.

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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:45 pm

dyqik wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:32 pm
Headaches, migraines, etc. related to eyestrain and other physiological responses to environmental triggers don't have to occur at the same time as the actual trigger. So you have to cast the net a whole lot more widely than "things that happened while they were sleeping".

Gotcha. Well, as mentioned above, they are focusing on the most specific set of symptoms reported, which they call the acute phase: directional noise/pressure in the head accompanied by physiological symptoms. To the extent that they're convinced anything happened, those are the symptoms they're trying to explain.

As far as I'm aware, a sudden, intense mechanical/chirping noise coming through the window isn't likely to have anything to do chronic environmental stressors.

If we ignore the acute phase, the chronic symptoms could indeed have come from other conditions or from environmental factors, and the apparent 'cluster' could be something like Texas sharpshooter or the finding-things-once-you-start-looking-for-them fallacy. There aren't many environmental health or epidemiological experts on the committee - though I'm not sure how much they could do. We (the committee included) have no idea how many other people were in the same environment as the patients, nor what that environment was, so we don't know if the symptoms affected 100% or 1% of those exposed.
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Re: Havana syndrome

Post by dyqik » Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:50 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:45 pm
As far as I'm aware, a sudden, intense mechanical/chirping noise coming through the window isn't likely to have anything to do chronic environmental stressors.
Here, that's usually crickets or cicadas. They're loud buggers when they want to be... ;)

In Hawaii, it'd be Puerto Rican coqui frogs.
Last edited by dyqik on Mon Dec 07, 2020 12:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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