"Havana Syndrome"

It’s happening yet again. There are reports of Havana Syndrome in Germany and now Hanoi. The VP’s trip was delayed over it.

This has been happening regularly since 2016. I’ve been following the thread closely. And frankly, it’s kind of bonkers.

My current thoughts on the matter are actually pretty simple. The attacks began against US, Canadian, and European diplomats, diplomatic staff, and agents in places where the Russian state has significant operational capabilities. Globally, nearly all reports of this syndrome are by US, Canadian, or European democracies’ staff.

But as to a mechanism or specific cause, I have no idea. There are a lot of theories and no real (public) information.

I’m sure the government is deploying diplomats with all sorts of sensory equipment to try to detect shenanigans. Also checking food for all sorts of poisons. They’ll figure it out eventually, and then it will be a huge deal.

It makes me think of stories where there’s some repeated mysterious happening that starts things off, but the main plot goes completely elsewhere. Then at the climax they say “remember that mysterious repeated happening we haven’t mentioned since the beginning? Here’s how it connects to the central plot!”

It’s come up in the news every few months reliably since 2016.

Apparently the most plausible mechanism, currently, is agreed to be microwave attacks. Moreso than sonic attacks, poisons, or other unknown mechanisms.

nausea, severe headaches, ear pain, fatigue, insomnia and sluggishness

Ear pain seems weird, doesn’t it? But I’m not a doctor so what do I know.

Whose term is “Havana Syndrome” I wonder? Calling it that seems to imply it’s 1. real and 2. actually one thing. It would be really interesting to be a fly on the wall in that state department meeting.

The whole thing does feel like it could be from the first act of a spy movie.

There is strong evidence that it is real, but it’s named for where it was first documented in Havana. We still have no provable cause or method.

As for ear pain, that is not uncommon with brain injuries (alongside vertigo).

Old and busted: tin foil hat.

New hotness: microwave retroreflector hat. Stick it to the guys trying to zap you.

The name itself came from the Trump administration, who used the first set of mystery illnesses to take potshots at Cuba. It stuck, unfortunately, but they’re up to over 200 cases, most of which have jack-all to do with Cuba.

As for “syndrome” - that’s generally used when we have a cluster of symptoms that appear to be somehow related (either same symptoms, or many symptoms that are temporally clustered) but for which no actual cause is described. This sort of plays havoc with the notion of “one thing,” because very often syndromes can actually be multiple concurrent diseases or other phenomena that are not intrinsically linked.

Basically, there’s too much noise to figure out what’s causing what, and there’s no clear explanation. What we do know for a fact is that a sampling of people who report symptoms have brain damage that was observed via MRI and reported in JAMA in 2019, so the symptoms are possibly rooted in physical brain trauma of some kind.

It is not, as some people say, a simple headache, or a hangover, or conversion disorder - there’s real observable brain damage under those symptoms.

I’m personally skeptical of the “directed energy weapon” thing, mostly because there really isn’t strong evidence for any cause right now. The microwave radiation thing is the best explanation right now, but just because scientists give their best explanation right now doesn’t mean that’s the explanation in which they place any real credence. I see that explanation as the “well, fuck it, this is the best I’ve got right now, and it’s stupid, but here it is.”

It reminds me of the time I non-ironically suggested “ghosts” when trying to suss out a persistent PCR contamination problem in the lab - because at some point, when there’s nothing reasonable left, you suggest wacked-out shit as a way to say “we need to do some serious exploration.” It turned out to be dust from ceiling tiles, which is basically the same thing as ghosts anyway, but the point is that sometimes scientists just shrug and give “fucked if I know” as an actual answer.

I come back to: the symptoms are real, so something happened, so the people with symptoms need treatment and the thing needs to be investigated as a real thing that actually happened.