A Medical Mystery Grows as U.S. Consulate Workers in China Fall Ill

Jun 06, 2018 · 185 comments
Inside9 (California)
Sounds like possible reactions to strong radio frequency radiation (RF) to me. Could be spying devices or just RF being used as a noxious weapon of sorts.
Paula Lappe (Ohio, USA)
America is hated by many people...sometimes for good reason. Maybe this the basis of these odd damaging sounds. Who knows. We should behave better.
Jute (PNW)
The reader who mentioned feeling nauseous after being sonar scanned by dolphins rang a bell. Some researchers, including a young American, and a bit later, Chinese, have found ways to control iPhones with sonar. They were working on 17 to 23 kilohertz frequencies at the time of the article. (Nov. 2016) The Chinese said there was no reason the process could not “...cheaply baked into any modern smartphone without the need for any additional hardware.” I can think of one possibility here, as the frequencies are variable. Send a signal straight to the ear of the user. The sound “heard” could be anything, and would vary from individual to individual, as the brain is attempting to organize it into something recognizable. The inner ear structure could be damaged, and would be a conduit via bone to cause damage to the brain. Balance and waves of “pressure “ could be induced. This could cause a psychological sense of unease and instability on top of any physical effects. The frequencies are not usually audible to even young people. Everyone has a smartphone in the diplomatic crowd. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602834/this-app-lets-you-control-your...
BobN (Chicago, IL)
Several research scientists worked to 'reverse engineer' the symptoms reported in Cuba. Their trial conclusion: "Ultrasonic emitters can produce audible by-products that could have unintentionally harmed diplomats. That is, bad engineering may be a more likely culprit than a sonic weapon." Their report was summarized in an IEEE Spectrum article published in March and contains links to further details: https://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/devices/how-we-reverse-engineer...
bcer (Vancouver)
One theory I read was the cause was the summation of electronic noise...security systems, electronic rodent repellent. There is so much electronic noise in everyday life i.e. Siri probably magnified in embassies with their security needs. A related issue...a Chinese-Canadian friend who visits there regularly claims that there are many ongoing cases of SARS in China which they manage to keep hidden. As SARS is a respiratory disease it does not seem their complaints are related but China is a poor country with an undeveloped medical system and sanitation.
LL (California)
I seriously doubt that this was caused by US equipment because if it were, it would be happening at many more embassies. The fact that Russia has weaponized its use of social media and fake news to sow discord between the US and its allies suggests that it would also do everything it could to disrupt any possible ties between the US and countries with whom we want to normalize or improve relations. Any possibility that the US would improve ties with Cuba is a threat to Russia, the same can be said about China. This is no coincidence!
Mford (ATL)
If it's not the Russians then it sure seems like the Russians.
Winthrop Staples (Newbury Park, CA)
Chinese factories are manufacturing Fentanyl in the open with the full knowledge of their government and then smuggling pumping many tons of this poison into the United States killing many thousands a year. So there can be no doubt that they'd do the same kind of race-hate motivated "poison those evil 'ghost' barbarians" inside China as well. This would also seem a trivial "test" to them given their decades long contaminating with invasive species, insect pests and disease the shipping containers and any millions of tons of unneeded biological materials (sea food, vegetables, fruits, exotic animals, plants) they ship to the USA each year. That our gov officials let into the USA while chanting "free trade" mantras, because they've been bought off by our greedy for profit business owner 1%ers who distribute these poisons and pandemics throughout our nation.
doug (abu dhabi)
If a government is responsible, it's likely that it's either Cuba or Iran. Those are the only two governments generally hostile to (or with elements hostile to) the U.S. with an official presence in both Havana and Guangzhou.
ed99 (UK)
Seems the common theme in all this are the Americans. The guys with the super high tech, world leading state of the art security and all that. And installed in their equally state of the art embassies. Suspect #1 seems pretty obvious. Everywhere they go, trouble follows the completely innocent Americans and gives them good reasons to push for regime change, arm yet more "freedom fighters" to blow things up in your country, impose punitive trade embargoes, send in the drones/private security or some other aggressive act. But of course they're always innocent victims on the side of angels when they're busy doing this. Pretty clear pattern. Think everyone, except the American public, has caught on by now.
Barry (Toronto)
It certainly is possible for specific electromagnetic frequencies to cause detrimental neurological effects via alteration of VGCC (voltage gated calcium channels) resulting in increased levels of intracellular calcium. High intercellular calcium is a focus/feature of many current studies around Alzheimers and other neurological disorders . As of 2013 there were 23 studies showing alterations of calcium channels by specific EMFs. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780531/
JRH (.)
Times: "Other theories have included toxins, listening devices that accidentally emitted harmful sounds or even mass hysteria." That list should include prescribed drugs. For example, the anti-malarial drug, mefloquine, has side-effects that can include "dizziness, balance problems, and ringing in the ears." FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA approves label changes for antimalarial drug mefloquine hydrochloride due to risk of serious psychiatric and nerve side effects 7-29-2013 fda.gov
Thorsten Fleiter (Baltimore)
The comments on this article are full of wild speculations - certainly caused by the lack of detail available about the injuries sustained by the embassy employees and families. To add to that: the most logical explanation - if there would be some aggressive background - would be a DEW (directed energy weapon) which could be used from a relative distance and if done right could create the damaging frequencies amplitudes just inside a specific building - think like focused ultrasound on a large scale. The ideas for these were floating around when I was a child...decades ago...and were part of the imaginary sci-fi weaponary. Now the US military and at least Russia seem to have variants of these available. Wouldn’t make any sense to launch such attacks, though. It is far easier to create chaos via cyberattacks and the last presidential election is the best proof for that!
Chris (Missouri)
As I've speculated before, who would want to sour relations between host countries and the U.S.? Let's see, maybe someone with a leader called -la- -uti- ? Hint: this country has had remarkable success with installing a U.S. president that has made America the world's pariah. Fill in the blanks and win a prize.
I'm guessing the Chinese are not going to have to conduct an investigation to figure out the "mystery."
Roscoe (Harlem)
The planets in peril and our military and scientists can’t figure this out? Lasers, electromagnetic, other projected waves frying their brains? Fix it guys! Start frying back.
Andrea (New Jersey)
Source of noise usually can be found with a decibel meter (available at Home Depot). Why nobody tracked the source anywhere: A ventilation vent, a lighting fixture, a mattress, anything? It sounds very odd that anybody would target American diplomats in two places as distinct as Havana and Guangzhou. I think fact that only 25% of those who claimed illness were found with real problems later is indicative that at least in some there is a psychosomatic issue. And the problems of some may predate their appointments in these cities. Our ears make funny noises as we age. I hear rain at times. Other times like puffing bellows. Things come and go. That is the definition of good health in older age. When things don't go away then that is a problem.
Something needs to give (VA)
As an engineer who spent years developing hearing aid technologies and audio DSP, I can confirm it is not difficult to design devices that generate high levels of ultrasonic energy that cannot be heard yet can do all sorts of damage. The sounds they heard may be sympathetic vibration of physical material in the audible frequency range, so it could sound different depending on the environment. The ultrasonic frequencies also enable beam forming so this energy can be focused and steered. To quote redit: "when the sound source at the origin has a pressure of 194 dB (the theoretical limit of undistorted sound). From inverse square law, we lose 6 dB for every doubling in distance. If that was the only mechanism for reducing amplitude, the 194 dB signal would drop to zero in (194/6 ~ 31) doublings of distance, or 21,500 km. That is an enormous distance, so we need to look at the attenuation coefficient instead. According to the paper "Absorption of ultrasonic waves in air", A. Vladišauskas, L. Jakevičius, ISSN 1392-2114 ULTRAGARSAS, Nr.1(50). 2004 the attenuation of 50 kHz ultrasound at 20 C and relative humidity of 60% is roughly 1 dB/m" So an ultrasonic transducer producing a 50kHz signal at 194dB would be 144 dB at 50m (150ft). A jet engine at full throttle (take off) at 150 ft 130dB. In reality that transducer would need a lot of power, but if the transducer is closer the power requirement significantly.
David Nothstine (Auburn Hills Michigan)
The strange or phantom sounds and vague sensations are consistent with effects of low frequency vibrations on internal organs of the body. Audio engineers are taught to avoid certain combinations of low frequency, since they stimulate the bowels. Acoustic analysis of 'sacred spaces' shows they typically resonate at around 100 hz, and so do organelles in the mid-brain. I hypothesize that poured-concrete buildings not only conduct subsonic sounds, but also create fields of varying intensity, especially if these sounds come from more than one source. People have been driven crazy by jackhammers, but those can be heard and identified. They need a bigger statistical sample--say, the rest of the local inhabitants--to place the Embassy worker's complaints on the scale of dislocating irritation in the modern Urb.
El Lucho (PGH)
I am highly skeptical of this being caused by Cuba, China, or even Russia. What would be their motive? All three are rational regimes that would have much to lose, and nothing to gain, if they were discovered causing these problems. The cause will eventually be discovered. I would might find it a bit more credible if we suspected a crazy regime, such as Iran or North Korea, with both of which we have had spats in the past. Also, many people point to the embassies; my understanding is that the common thread on these incidents is the private housing of the individuals impacted. Now consider this: If you had sophisticated technology, able to cause these problems, why would you expose it to discovery for no gain, except for a few headaches for low level personnel?
Jean Boling (Idaho)
There are certain extreme bass musical ranges that nauseate me in the extreme; the nausea comes before any awareness that I am hearing anything. Loud music is common. Thank goodness those neighbors moved! I can readily accept that there could be a weapon in sound.
PrairyDog (KS)
The US State Department can install acoustic sensors (from DC to 50+ KHz) around embassy, consulates, and apartments to detect sound "attacks." Likewise, US DoS can install radio frequency detectors around the same facilities to detect extraordinary radio frequency intensity. We hear nothing of this. GJM
drollere (sebastopol)
I guess that narrows down the state actor in both the Chinese and Cuban instances.
Blackmamba (Il)
Why would China do this? China did not hack, interfere and meddle in the American 2016 Presidential campaign and election. America has a Siberian President. Siberia is in Russia. Manchuria is part of China. Chinese intelligence already hacked and stole U.S. government employment records. China hacked and stole American military technology.
Mor (California)
Nausea? Headaches? Vague but persistent feeling of unease? These are all hallmarks of a mass hysteria. If you think mass hysteria is a fancy word for “nothing to see here”, you are wrong, Historically, outbreaks of mass hysteria, such as the “dancing sickness” of the Middle Ages led to serious illnesses and even loss of life. Human mind is very powerful and can easily induce psychosomatic symptoms in a population primed for it by fear-mingering or collective anxiety. The only deadly consequences of this outbreak would be worsening of the relationship between the two great powers of the US and China, which is not the best anyway, thanks to Trump’s erratic policies. Do we need ridiculous conspiracy theories on top of trade wars?
Phil Greene (Houston, texas)
Finally a solution that will force Yankees to Go Home. it was needed in Vietnam and now all over the World.
W (Minneapolis, MN)
If there are brain injuries such as those “following concussion or minor traumatic brain injury,” then where is the medical evidence? Any MRI or x-ray images? If not, could this just be a form of mass hysteria, such as UFO sightings. A mass hysteria of this type seems to occur at times of uncertainty and stress. The State Department is under stress (siege?) by its own Government, and these occurrences seem to be happening in former communist hot spots of Cuba and China. According to Jung (1978): "But if it is a case of psychological projection, there must be a psychic cause for it. One can hardly suppose that anything of such worldwide incidence as the UfO legend is purely fortuitous and of no importance whatever. The many thousands of individual testimonies must have an equally extensive causal basis. When an assertion of this kind is corroborated practically everywhere, we are driven to assume that a corresponding motive must be present everywhere, too. Though visionary rumours may be caused or accompanied by all manner of outward circumstances, they are based essentially on an omnipresent emotional foundation, in this case a psychological situation common to all mankind. The basis for this kind of rumour is an emotional tension having its cause in a situation of collective distress or danger, or in a vital psychic need." (¶ 608) Cite: Jung, C.G. Flying Saucers : A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. Princeton-Bollingen, 1978. ISBN: 0-691-01822-7
Erik L. (Rochester, NY)
I haven't seen it suggested yet, so why not: have the diplomats affected had their electronic equipment checked for hacking, specifically to generate digital infrasound signals?
Elias (Los Angeles)
Medical scientists should be able to figure out the source of the problem.
Susan Kraemer (El Cerrito, California)
Pathophysiology of microwave-induced traumatic brain injury https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4487000/ has some interesting links to multiple studies that suggest this could be a weaponized use of beamed microwave radiation if very high 800 MHz
Edward1967 (Cleveland Hts, OH)
I have 40 years experience as an electrical engineer with particular emphasis in the areas of electromagnetic interference. The reported symptoms are fully consistent with an electromagnetic field device that induces fields within human tissue. Such devices can be modulated to also induce sounds and other symptoms that would not be easy to identify without special equipment. It is also possible to manipulate other equipment as a gateway that might also produce irritating sensations, via a hacked approach, such as internet connected routers or similar devices. While the symptoms may appear as physiological, the mechanism used to produce the symptoms and effects would clearly be electromagnetic in nature, and only those with a strong background in this area would be likely to uncover what is happening via proper instrumentation. This is is a highly dangerous 'experiment' that in fact be an operation designed to test how effective such techniques can be on subjects that might be considered by some agencies to be 'fair game'. The problem, however, becomes that once perfected, such an approach could be used on a much more general population, and, particularly in the case of local modulation of internet controlled devices, with a civilian population. This needs to be taken VERY seriously by US GOV and the very best experts need to run this to ground. With two sites now to investigate, it should be undertaken immediately. Anyone implying hysteria is at work is very much mistaken.
Elias (Los Angeles)
Thank you. I suspected such.
Alex (Indiana)
I can't tell is this is due to a physical cause, or mass hysteria. the problem is, the symptoms vary, and there is no objective evidence of either an external source or of physical injury. Today's MRI scans are very good at objectively documenting brain injury, and to the best of my knowledge nothing has been found. Mass hysteria is possible. The important thing is that we do not overreact, as I believe we did in Cuba. Diplomacy is far too important for us to jeopardize it before we have tangible evidence of malfeasance or physical injury.
Jim (NY Metro)
We sent our first man to the moon, and many more after, some 50 years ago. That we can't solve this intrusion is mind-blowing.
John Doe (Johnstown)
In all, 24 of them were stricken with headaches, nausea, hearing loss, cognitive issues and other symptoms after saying they heard odd sounds. That sounds eerily similar to all the common side effect warnings accompanying every prescription medicine I see pitched on TV here. Before they check the air conditioning ducts, check to see what television they've been watching.
Andy (Paris)
No one believes this is a real thing rather than being invented or imposed by US spooks. That's what you when your word means nothing to anyone anymore. Word.
themoi (KS)
British singer Kate Busy recorded a song several years back called "Experiment IV" regarding a group of scientists "working secretly for the military" on a device "They told us all they wanted /Was a sound that could kill someone from a distance" Life imitating art?
CPL (Cape Cod)
“Cui Bono?” Who benefits? Russia.
ABC (Flushing)
Most commenters below are Chinese making light of this story.
Mel Farrell (NY)
In our United States of America, it's astonishing how uninformed the population is, especially with respect to science, and physics. A project which has been on-going since the 1950's, is a government funded military study on HAARP, described more fully in the following excerpt and link from Stanford University - Introduction to HAARP "The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) facility is located in Gakona, Alaska at 62.39 N, 145.15 W, near mile 11 of the Tok Cutoff Highway. The facility houses many diagnostic instruments for studying the ionosphere, but the highlight is the HF transmitter array. This array consists of 15x12 crossed dipole antennas, which together can transmit a total of 3600kW of RF power at frequencies from 2.8 - 10 MHz (HF, high frequency range). This power is partially absorbed by the ionosphere, and though only a tiny fraction of the power it naturally receives from the sun, can still produce subtle changes that can be detected with sensitive instruments." http://vlf.stanford.edu/research/experiments-haarp-ionospheric-heater While this facility is said to be shut down, there is no doubt that research has continued, and we now know that other nations are engaged in development of HAARP rf energy beams, including portable units which focus a beam of rd energy directed to significantly small footprints, and one effect is interference with brainwave origin, creating the phenomena "somewhat" described in this report. Wake Up !
James (San Clemente, CA)
The unique pressures of serving in countries where hostile intelligence services are extremely active can create severe anxiety, and occasionally paranoia, among U.S. diplomatic staffers. But, it's also true that in countries like Russia, China and Cuba, a little bit of paranoia is often well justified. Speaking as someone who was subjected to microwave radiation at Embassy Moscow, and NPPD at our Consulate in Leningrad, I know that on occasion there are times when people on the other side really are out to get you. The pattern of attacks suggests to me that a hostile intelligence service is probably at work, and the fact that these attacks have not yet occurred in Moscow should be a dead giveaway to intelligence specialists as to who the culprit might be. A lot of work needs to be done to determine just what is going on, but we must all, at the very least, lend our support to the victims of these attacks, and believe what they are saying.
Julie W. (New Jersey)
It's certainly starting to seem more and more likely that this damage is the result of something that our own government is doing in or near our embassies. If that is the case, it's not likely that we'll ever get a clear answer. However, for the sake of all our State Department personnel and anyone in the vicinity of our embassies, they had better figure this out quickly.
BD (Sacramento, CA)
The political weather system keeps spiraling into itself, and it's going to get worse before it gets better. We really need global-caliber leadership in Washington to deal with what's unfolding. Not this #MAGA, red hat-wearing, sign-waving, "America First" nonsense. Star-power won't solve this -- we need real talent in the White House.
koyaanisqatsi (Upstate NY)
My thinking way back when the problems in Cuba were first reported is that is likely that we did this to oursleves. My theory is that CIA and/or State Dept. knuckleheads are trying to use (commerically available) ultrasonic acoustic jamming devices to prevent conversations from being recorded. The first link describes a experimental setup that was used to reproduce, as close as possible, the audible acoustic wavforms recorded in Cuba. Anyway the evidence at these links: https://spqr.eecs.umich.edu/papers/YanFuXu-Cuba-CSE-TR-001-18.pdf https://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/devices/finally-a-likely-explan... Surely, the CIA must be aware of the information I'm presenting here.
Jay Amberg (Neptune, N.J.)
As rebellious as this may sound I wonder if any diplomats in the areas where the sounds have been reported have been issued sound deafening ear plugs.
Jay Amberg (Neptune, N.J.)
I meant ridiculous....
ak bronisas (west indies)
Don the Cons,continuing, incompetent selection of cabinet level officials,including the inexperienced ,partisan Republican crony. Pompeo...........first as CIA director then as Secretary of State......results in a blundering and baseless,diplomatic row with Cuba and now,potentially China ............without proper intelligence analysis to find the source of the electromagnetic "sound waves"......for which the NSA and CIA have "state of the art" equipment. The Trump regime,top heavy with narcissists,has replaced American democratic principles...........with "my way is the law" or "youre fired" .......violations of US laws are" ALL pardonable "! ALL Congressmen and senators ,especially Republicans must realize and,ACT NOW, to end the erosive mismanagement,corruption and incompetence of the current US government that is creating dangerous long term damage to Americas security policies ,strategic alliances,and international leadership standing................before its too late and one of Don the Cons ,endless, artificial crises.......(in his attempt to evade justice) leads the country another unnecessary and devastating WAR
Hugh Wudathunket (Blue Heaven)
As Alan Cole of Portland has noted, Russian interference with the 2016 election has been confirmed by US intelligence. Many European nations have come to the same conclusion and assisted American investigations. They have noted that Russia has been aggressively undermining the integrity and reputations of democratic processes in several NATO countries. Accordingly, it is fair to say that there is consensus within the the leading western nations that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and that Russia continues to meddle in democratic institutions in several fronts. Russia has also been very active in developing weapons that involve targeted projections of electromagnetic energy. Were it not for the fact that the current occupant of the White House maintains a cowering posture regarding Putin and Russia, I believe this fact would have been connected long ago to theories regarding the entity responsible for the technology that has been damaging the brains of American and Canadian diplomatic staff abroad. That is not to say that Russia is necessarily operating the equipment, which may not be primarily sonic even though it makes distinctive noises. Russia was also affiliated with material and technology that ended up in North Korea and led to that country's development of more powerful nuclear weapons. So, too, could Russian energy projecting weapons now be employed to by another nation seeking to harm western influence in countries that have not been friendly to NATO.
yulia (MO)
I have also heard that Russians are behind the Hawaii volcano eruption - they were very active in study of geoactivities and their use in military purposes.
JRR (California)
Still wondering if our president is ever going to way in here on this topic. Maybe someone needs to interview Putin to see what Trump thinks about all this.
Gary Mitchell (Highland Park, NJ)
And what of the possibility that a covert op testing new sonic weapons or new surveillance devices by US spy agencies are involved? Some people are wonderin' if not yet sayin'.
Mabb (NY)
A sonar device ... Years ago, I traveled to Hawaii and swam with wild dolphins. The first time I entered the ocean with them and emerged back onto our boat, I felt oddly nauseous. Our guide informed me that the dolphins had "sonared" me. The uneasy feeling continued until the boat took off and the cool breeze restored my senses. The next few times we swam with the dolphins, I took Dramamine which alleviated the problem. It was fascinating at the time to realize that the their sonar had permeated my body (not just entered my ears) and created this unpleasant wooziness, as if all of my cells had been disoriented by the sound waves. I was in the water for 30 minutes. I can't imagine what prolonged exposure would do to a person.
Marc Lindemann (Ny)
I've solved it! Cuba...starts with a "C". China...starts with a "C". Keep a close eye!
BD (Sacramento, CA)
That's right! ...and don't we have an embassy in Chad? ...and Canada -- I think we're still friends with them (hard to say from one "Breaking News" alert to the next)...
Chicago Guy (Chicago, Il)
Perhaps the American Government has some kind of advanced sensor that can detect these things? I'm not a scientist, but, I think they're called something like "microphones"? Perhaps using one of these brand new state-of-the-art contraptions can help to isolate the source of these "sounds". Particularly, since the have been heard repeatedly, over the course of some time.
WJA (New Jersey)
It's time to read the anthropological and psychological literature. There are many cases in all sorts of societies, including our own, which could explain this. Perhaps the most dramatic one is old but still valid, and that is the work of Dr. Walter B. Cannon on voodoo death.
WJA (New Jersey)
I should point out that I hold s PhD in anthropology, have done research in the Pacific islands, where I was the victim of "spirit attack," which could have killed me. All the natives though that I would die. Fortunately a ship arrived unexpectedly and took me off the island. The expectation of such things as death or illness can indeed cause that result. In our own society, when one of an old couple dies, statistically the other one is likely to die soon thereafter. Called the "Giving up, given up syndrome." These things work through the physiological response of the body to stress, usually over some time.Think of "Fight or flight," which is beneficial in the short term, but if continued over time can be deadly.
marian (Philadelphia)
Given the fraught history with Russia concerning our relationship with Cuba ( Cuban missle crisis), I would not be at all surprised if Russia was the bad actor with the Cuban situation and the embassy illness. I highly doubt Cuba was behind this since Cuba’s economy would be greatly helped with a good relationship with the USA. They are the big losers here. It makes sense that Russia wants to remain more influential in Cuba and they benefit when Cuba and the USA are at odds. Moreover, given the fact that Russia loves to interfere with our politics, it seems they might also have reason to perpetrate the same mischief in China. Finally, DT was looking for an excuse not to normalize relations with Cuba since President Obama’s policy was to normalize relations. Doubt he looked too hard and took the expedient route that benefited his preconceived idea about Cuba.
Minor Heretic (Vermont)
Just a guess: There is a surveillance method that involves bouncing microwaves off the window of a room and interpreting the return signal to pick up acoustic vibrations. This is tricky because of the weak acoustic signal of human speech compared to ambient noise outside. Add the inverse square law dissipation of the microwaves and the poor microwave reflectivity of glass and it requires a strong transmission. Certain frequencies of microwaves can induce a thermoacoustic vibration in the bones of the ear. This gives the impression of a sound to the person affected. Researchers have actually induced apparent tones in subjects using microwaves. So, possibly the side effect of attempted remote surveillance. NB: This is a SWAG.
Rob Mills (Canada)
"The call is coming from inside the house ..."
philip bacon (new york)
who would be interested in interfering with US relations with other nations ? oh i don't know ...maybe Russia
Hugh Wudathunket (Blue Heaven)
When I get x-rays, there is an associated buzzing sound that the machine makes, but it is not the sound that poses a danger. I suspect the machinery that is damaging the bodies of diplomats operates similarly. It may be just a coincidence that some of the energy released by the harmful equipment vibrates within the auditory range. If so, it is wasteful to continue to focus on sound waves while seeking an explanation for what is injuring these workers.
John Smith (Cherry Hill NJ)
IF THE CUBANS AND CHINESE Are targeting US foreign service staff with sounds designed to sicken them, it should be relatively easy to determine the nature of those sounds with sophisticated scanning devices that could detect the range, frequency, intensity and possibly the location of such sounds. Though acoustics is a complex science. For high frequency sounds, the location should be relatively easy to detect. But for ultra-low frequencies, as the human ear detects them as omni-directional, detecting the location may be more complex. Living in a house located in a flight path, I can tell you that it's difficult to detect the source of the sounds, as they're of a low frequency. From time to time, I can see an airplane. It should be possible to provide sound dampening earphones to staff members. Such devices are popular fliers, as they dampen the powerful sounds of the jet engines. I recall trying to use them once. The rely upon reverse waves to neutralize the noise reaching the ears. When I put them on before takeoff, I experienced a sense of pressure and dizziness, so I took them off. That problem disappeared once the plane took off. The price to US diplomacy is too great if embassies are emptied out. Ejecting diplomats from countries thought to engaged in such tactics will just further cripple a decimated Department of State. The cognitive losses suggest that the apparent noise pollution is a powerful and dangerous weapon. Let's blast THEM with Heavy Metal!
Raj (LI NY)
Unless someone has better information, there are only two countries with capabilities to inflict such harm to a very narrow set of victims (American diplomatic personnel): China and Russia. Ever pragmatic China would never deploy such a thing on diplomatic compounds within China. And guess who has a good diplomatic footprint in Cuba, and China.
yulia (MO)
I've actually heard there is no such countries that could produce such sort of equipment: small enough to be concealed but powerful enough to sicken people.
Chris (Cave Junction)
So, a non-lethal but insidious attack is designed to spread fear and anxiety due to its ambiguous, unknown source, yet it creates unambiguous brain trauma and injuries. This is weaponizing existentialism. I agree with other commenters who have suggested this is more likely a false flag operation conducted by the US under the Trump administration to cast aspersions on China and gin up the nationalist-jingoist base in America. A yellow scare beta-tested in Cuba compliments of DARPA. Never forget this famous rule: if you can think of it, many others have already long since come up with the idea too, and while it's just occurring to you, they who have unlimited resources have it operational because, well, y'all are reading about it in the news. Don't be surprised if the US government declares on Fox News: "We don't know what it is that China is doing, but it's coming after you, it will spread like Ebola through the internet and attack you through your phones."
bored critic (usa)
ummmm, it started in Cuba in 2016. who was president then? not trump. to say this is a trump, trumped up issue just shows how far gone the lib base is in its blind hatred of trump. everything on the planet is his fault. if it rains on your bbq party this weekend, I'm sure it's trumps fault.
hb (mi)
Putin just laughs. The Russian system is more corrupt, more nefarious and has never valued basic human freedoms. But they ain’t stupid. Expel all Russian athletes, diplomats and oligarchs.
Frank Savage (NYC)
Explosions work through assumed pressure that the expelled *might* have on the state operators. It’s a long shot and more of a show than an effective response. What makes you think that expelling ALL private citizens of a country will suddenly change the actions and behaviors of the state/military/intelligence apparatus?
yulia (MO)
Unfortunately, many Americans are stupid and think that expelling people will solve the problem, cause of which they don't even know.
Marie (Boston)
My favorite artist (still, after what is now many years) is Kate Bush. This story reminders me of her 1986 song, Experiment IV. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfK9T4SfQqU "It was music we were making here until They told us all they wanted Was a sound that could kill someone from a distance So we go ahead and the meters are over in the red It's a mistake in the making"
Cephalus (Vancouver, Canada)
If there's a physical, as opposed to a psychological, cause it sure sounds like it is internal to the US designed, built and operated buildings. Jamming equipment? Security devices? White noise generators? It would be pointless to randomly harm personnel and a very complex and peculiar way to do it, so the host foreign power is not credibly the cause. Given that (undocumented) claims that some Canadian personnel were affected in the Canadian embassy in Cuba (Canada being a long time friend of Cuba and trading partner), hysteria seems the most probable cause.
sam (ma)
There are several types of unconventional sound weaponry that most of us are unaware of. The general public will find out more about them after a massive protest that the government wants to easily quell. It makes for great crowd control.
Rich (Hartsdale, NY)
Hard to say what's happening here as it's hard to know what the facts are - I'm skeptical that everything reported in the press is true (not that the press is lying but that the info they are provided is not true). I'm also confident that there are more facts out there that are not being reported. Assuming what is reported is true, I have a hard time blaming this on some sort of mass hysteria, when it seems that people have shown demonstrable physical ailments. If a nation is reponsible, I don't think that the countries where this has happened should be suspects - what benefit do they have to do this in their own country? My prime suspects are North Korea - a nation that dedicates virtually all of its resources towards military endeavors, and the nation that is the common denominator for these attacks, the United States. I could easily see this as some surveillance technology gone wrong - if that's the answer, it's likely one we'll never hear. And #3 is Russia, because, well, Putin is their leader, and they have advanced technology.
Connie (San Francisco)
I find it interesting so few people are asking why this phenomenon only started after Trump was elected? These "sounds" didn't occur before and have been used by Trump to halt a more expansive American tourism to Cuba beyond the "People to People" programs. Just before we left for Cuba last November a list of hotels was published that should be avoided by Americans. One of them was the Hotel Nacional de Cuba allegedly a site where Americans were targeted by these "sonic" sounds. We had already prepaid and were "grandfathered" in (ironic if the report was true) and were "allowed" to stay nonetheless. I can only guess we were not important enough to target because we suffered no ill effects and indeed found the hotel to be a delightful, historical and beautiful place to stay. The personnel were as as warm and accommodating as others we met during our visit. So call me cynical when I as a US citizen am banned from the Hotel de Nacional de Cuba but can buy a ZTE manufactured phone. Maybe Cuba can propose a Trump hotel with his name emblazoned in gold to shine out over Havana and the Caribbean. That should eliminate those sonic sounds.
Tree Fugger (San Bernardino)
Connie is exhibiting all the frightening symptoms of a full blown case of Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Mike McGuire (San Leandro, CA)
Is the Trump Administration seriously suggesting that Cubans, after using sonic weapons against our personnel there, have now traveled to China to do the same thing in that country halfway around the world? And why were Cuban offers to help find out the cause rebuffed, while Chinese offers were accepted -- and praised? While fiction can't explain everything in the real world, a recent episode of "Madam Secretary" ascribed a similar problem to the host country's spying efforts colliding electronically with U.S. attempts to block the spying, with the resulting interference quite unintentionally injuring people nearby.
LSR (Massachusetts)
If there is indeed a new weapon unknown to American and allied spy agencies and inconceivable to American scientists, it would be the greatest intelligence failure of all time. Personally, I don't buy it.
Robert (Twin Cities, MN)
"Sick building syndrome," a type of mass hysteria, seems the most likely explanation. Many commenters here have suggested secret infrasound weapons or some such explanation. Do they realize how easy it would be to detect ANY form of unusual sonic disturbances? Under the right circumstances, hysterias can be triggered by very subtle sensory stimulations: the slight smell of a new carpet, a normal but subtle sound (like air conditioning), etc. It's a rare, but normal, human experience.
Me (Ashland. OR)
Sick Building syndrome is not mass hysteria. It is illness caused by toxins. That ‘slight smell of new carpet’ you mention is actually formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds. It is toxic. The confounding factor that keeps people thinking this is not a real illness is that there is a genetic component involved. About 25% of the population has an inability to throw off these toxins. These are the canaries in the coal mine, showing symptoms when others do not.
Robert (Twin Cities, MN)
"Research has shown that SBS shares several symptoms common in other conditions thought to be at least partially caused by psychosomatic tendencies." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sick_building_syndrome
Observer (Canada)
"Mr. Lenzi worked for the diplomatic security department, and he believes that his work could have made him a target." Could this illness be a form of Parenoiditis?
DReeck (Buffalo, NY)
Russia has had extensive experience in researching sound-based weapons.
Robot Boy (OlyWa)
And physicists are now magically unable to measure or detect sound waves?
DReeck (Buffalo, NY)
Not after the attack has already happened.
JeffB (Plano, Tx)
I am a bit incredulous that the US has been unable to find the root cause of these illnesses by now. The US supposedly has the most sophisticated military intelligence, medical facilities, and doctors in the world and yet we still can't figure this out? Makes the State Department and our intelligence agencies seem a bit incompetent at this point. Are we attempting to crowd source the solution at this point or are there other things in play we are not being told?
Frank Savage (NYC)
How can you be so sure about what US military/intelligence know and what they don’t? You certainly can’t expect these discussions to be published in daily newspapers.
Jeff P (Washington)
It would seem to be easy enough to put sound recording devices into all the living quarters of all US employees.
Jake (NY)
Folks, it this involved China, nothing would happen since the guy in the WH seems more concerned with his business opportunities there than he is of Americans. Case in point...ZTE, which he wants to help even though they are suspect in using ZTE electronic devices to spy on unsuspecting Americans using their phones. If it were Russia, we all know by now Russia can do no wrong regardless of the overwhelming evidence there may be, after all the guy in the WH said he asked Putin and Putin told him, no, we don't do bad stuff. Of course there's the matter of him being compromised by them, thus...he ask, they said, no we didn't ends this story. Who else? Maybe, maybe...it's we and our own devices causing this, but of course, we won't admit to it. Maybe it's Obama or Clinton...that sounds very possible according to...yeah, the same guy in the WH.
James Jameson (Post-America)
What’s more likely: A/ the Cubans (a...technological superpower?) successfully deploy top secret sonic weapon against hardened US embassy site. They drive the device over on a 1950s truck listening to a bootleg Mariah Carey laserdisc. B/ this is hysteria, and the media are eating it up without close and critical examination — because it sells like hot cakes...
Ingolf Stern (Seattle)
The word everyone is so assiduously avoiding is "psychotronics". Colonel Bearden has written extensively about it. Scalar waves, not sussceptible to normal propagation losses. Very Bad Stuff. Surprised it is out in the open.
I have found myself very interested in these so-called "sonic attacks" ever since I first heard about them. I've read extensively the various news articles and even the medical report issued by U.Penn researchers and cannot help but come to the conclusion that it is a case of mass hysteria or, better, "mass suggestion". The idea of there being a secret weapon that no scientist from the best agencies and universities in the world can even begin to identify is more than a bit absurd in today's world. I think what we have here is a relatively small and cloistered network of similarly situated people who's susceptibility to these "attacks" is brought on by the anxieties of living abroad with their families while being agents of a government that is frequently attacked in the media. The sense of vulnerability and isolation and the need for attention rise.
Diane Neal (Arizona)
My husband worked as a research chemist for more than three decades. He has suffered with these “mystery” symptoms for years. No diagnosis from many, many specialists. We are following this story with great interest.
Phyllis Melone (St. Helena, CA)
I suspect this syndrome is more widely spread than realized. I have an inner ear imbalance supposedly responsible for my vertigo and tinnitus with no promise of relief as no doctor can actually open the inner ear to observe the problem. So called cluster attacks of various medical abnormalities occur with no known reason such as the strange benign heart tumors in western MA, or the unusually high instance of breast cancer in Marin county in CA. There may indeed be an underlying nefarious cause in the cases reported by these diplomats, but the jury is still out on many conditions afflicting the human race and unreported throughout the world.
mlmarkle (State College, Pa)
Colonel Mustard, in the library? Seriously, as likely the most technologically and scientifically evolved country in the world, we need to solve this mystery, and quickly, by examining both the source of the noise or other pollutant, the technologies deployed, and most importantly, who would gain from dismantling the presence of our diplomats. Considering events of the past few years, I would bet on either the Russian or Chinese government.
Jon Ezell (Birmingham, AL)
If you get rid of the diplomats, then who are you supposed to spy on?
J Albers (Cincinnati, Ohio)
The authors might have considered revisiting the scientific assessment of one or more acoustic engineer quoted in an earlier NYT article - but apparently buried since then - related to the myriad and unrelated symptoms reported at the Cuban Embassy. That assessment described the implausibility of using a device that would be able to generate and focus acoustical energy in order to expose embassy staff to harmful levels of acoustic energy.
Ingolf Stern (Seattle)
It's EM energy and not acoustic. It is only perceived, sometimes, as an audible phenomenon. It can be perceoved MANY different ways. Very Bad Stuff.
Brady Schuh (Texas)
This seems like the symptoms of prolonged exposure to infrasound
David Gage ( Grand Haven, MI)
Take a step back and look at the problem. One was in China and the other in Cuba. China and Cuba do not have a very close relationship to the degree many will assume, however, the other possible culprit in this issue is the US Government. They are active in both situations. Maybe the problem lies in US surveillance technologies. Think about it!
James Jameson (Post-America)
Thank you for pointing out what the times couldn’t.
Roger D. Moore (Etobicoke, Canada)
A possible counter argument is the Canadian diplomats with symptoms. Google map of Havana shows that US Embassy is about five km from Canadian embassy. Perhaps the affected Canadians lived close to an American facility. Or some of these Canadians frequently attended functions at the US Embassy.
Bailey (San Antonio)
If I was writing a sci-fi apocalyptic novel this story would be in the opening beats.
EMiller (Kingston, NY)
It is concerning that one individual evidenced "brain trauma." Surely such a physical condition that can be identified is pretty serious. It would behoove our government to fully disclose the results of medical examinations of all people affected by this. Particularly if these incidents represent some kind of attack on our citizens.
Robert (Twin Cities, MN)
"Symptoms of brain trauma" not "brain trauma." There's a very big difference.
PacoDiablo (Long Island )
They are being targeted by sonic weapons. This research goes back to WW2 by the nazis (of course, who else?). Hundreds of German scientists were captured by the Russians at the end of the war and so was their research, so if I had to hazard a guess as to who is behind this I'd say it was them.
caduceus33 (Montana)
Surely our experts know the cause of these medical problems, which could very well be accomplished using technology developed in America and stolen by the Commies. Or given to them by unscrupulous ones in our own nation. And I would also expect to see comments here blaming President Trump for these problems.
Doug (Oregon)
When this story first came out, there was some speculation about the injuries possible resulting from some sort of listening devise aimed at a place where the diplomats were staying. It now seems to me that we might be dealing with an actual electronic weapon. Given the power and lightness of battery technology, it wouldn't surprise me if a foreign power interested in fomenting distrust between the US and other governments has developed a small microwave emitter or similar device disguised perhaps as a camera. It might be useful to ask which country would benefit from such distrust. I suspect it starts with an "R".
BD (Sacramento, CA)
I can't help but think that our diplomatic corps is being used as a sort of guinea pig for testing (and I wouldn't be surprised if Russia had a hand in this too). Given the nature of the ailments, I wonder if there's some "pulse" that surged through selected cell phones while the user was unaware, and the origin almost impossible to trace. I shudder to think if this were inflicted upon a broader population...
Marge Keller (Midwest)
American diplomats and their families first started exhibiting “odd sounds, leading to symptoms similar to those “following concussion or minor traumatic brain injury,” since 2016 in Cuba and now in China. Funny how prior to 2016, there have been no reports or incidents of anything remotely similar to these occurrences from other American diplomats. I wonder if diplomats from other countries have experienced variations of these recent “medical mysteries” since 2016 in Cuba or China. Somehow, the theories which include “toxins, listening devices that accidentally emitted harmful sounds or even mass hysteria” sounds so dismissive. It’s like swatting a few wasps away from one’s face instead of realizing, recognizing and taking precautions about the HUGE wasp nest that is lurking in the trees above.
Roger D. Moore (Etobicoke, Canada)
Some Canadian diplomats and their families have experienced symptoms. Family members have been returned to Canada.
Marge Keller (Midwest)
Thanks for the intel Mr. Moore. Much appreciated.
Terry (California)
Maybe it’s collateral damage from something we’re doing.
Bella (The city different)
In the era of trump, I tend to view everything like this story with a grain of salt. I hate myself for becoming so jaded, but in the bizarre world we now live in, nothing is black and nothing is white and everything is questionable. Years ago, I would have believed a news article like this as a serious affront on America.....and now after 2 years of trump not so much.
Rather not being here (Brussels)
The simple and crude fact for you is that Cuban situation occurred before Trump, even before Trump became the GOP candidate.
Mossy (Washington State)
It began in " late 2016" according to a NYT article from the archives at the time the Cuban situation was being reported. Trump was elected in November 2016.
susan (nyc)
The oddest thing about all of this is that the people affected claim to hear different sounds. If the sounds were the same, maybe it would be easier to pinpoint what is causing the symptoms people claim to experience.
Lyhue Wynegar (Nj)
These audible symptoms would naturally be described differently as they are subjective to the individual experiencing them. The degree of variance of symptoms is what makes me believe that chemical exposure is causing them. Many chemical compounds can affect the nervous system and equilibrium. LSD, for example, can cause almost all of the acute symptoms experienced by the victims. And China is a huge player in the world of research chemicals.
Paula (Michigan)
This difference in sound is because everyone has different ability to detect sounds waves at different pitches and how it is heard. Someone with perfect pitch hearing would be better able to more accurately describe the sound, but it could also damage that persons hearing perception.
JeffP (Brooklyn)
If you understand the way the leaders of this country view the world, you understand that we are attacking our own people, and hoping for some nebulous "political" gain.
D. (Tx.)
I recall years ago seeing on PBS's program FrontLine how an inflight aircraft's computer system could be disabled in flight by targeted sound waves from a boat sitting in the ocean. Anyone else recall this program? Could this be a fine tuned version of this weapon?
Rusty Carr (Mount Airy, MD)
The Chinese aren't stupid enough to do this in their own country. That leaves one obvious suspect from the list of countries known to be actively attempting to subvert American interests. The problem here is that whoever is doing this has no fear of retaliation. It would be a real shame if there was a sudden rash of oligarch's yachts sinking.
Charlie Fieselman (Isle of Palms, SC and Concord, NC)
I wonder if the US is inadvertently generating the sound waves with all the electronics.
Jim Reho (Chicago, Illinois)
So the American personnel are allegedly afflicted by sounds and vibrations that have been described variously as the noises made by cicadas, static, metal sheets waving or marbles rolling around a metal funnel. Well, where are the recordings of these alleged sounds? Every cell phone has recording capability, and no doubt every one of the alleged victims has a cell phone. Also, any number of sensitive portable recording devices are available to pick up such sounds. Yet no one seems to have a recording. I would suggest that the reason for this is that no technology exists to record sounds that exist purely in the human imagination.
Tom (Port Wahington)
...or, the sounds are resonating in their heads, not in the air outside to be capture by a recording. It is completely possible for sounds to be heard inside the head, that are not audible outside; some are due to internal causes, such as tinnitus, and others are external, such as bone conduction headphones. The latter demonstrates that the inner ear can be stimulated to 'hear' noise that bypasses the outer and middle ear. Now, doing so via inaudible remote transmission, and causing illness, is the fascinating possibility here.
Gunmudder (Fl)
There is really no "evidence" from China or Cuba that allows anyone of "us" to have an informed opinion. Report it and store it because if anyone does know the answer, they are not talking and probably never will.
Colenso (Cairns)
'In addition to the department’s medical team, William E. Todd, the acting director general of the Foreign Service, and Michael T. Evanoff, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, flew to Guangzhou to assess the situation. Their visit was not announced in advance, and they were not made available to comment before departing on Wednesday.' With respect, your typical MD, unless he or she is a Pasteur, your apparatchik or government functionary will never solve this mystery. You need a group of Nobel Prize physicists on the case.
Tony (New York City)
Trump has so much mouth about everything else why isn't he trying to get to the bottom of this medical issue. I forgot its not about him. We have scientist in this country and hopefully they are doing something. American people who stand for the flag unlike the football players who are so un-American per Trump and his desire to eliminate or put minorities either in prison or on a plantation. Trump needs to provide real answers to what is going on with the American diplomats and there families. Not tomorrow but today. There are no medical issues that can not be understood by American doctors and scientist's. Where there is a will there is a way. However with all the people who passed away in Puerto Rico we see this administration has no desire to do anything but make money for themselves. Enough with just caring about yourself Mr. Trump
CAL GAL (Sonoma, CA)
Whale are beaching themselves all over the world when naval sonar destroys their auditory systems. Here's a paranoid thought. Has someone begun using sonar as a weapon?
2X4 (The Depo)
Yes! NextGen weapon (after the Internet).
Tom Mcinerney (L.I.)
The State Dept should probably deploy some equipment which monitors and stores aspects of the acoustic environment at residences and workspaces of employees abroad. Previous reporting of the episode in Cuba observed that the opportunity to examine the environmental situation needs be grasped during the exposure/'attack'. The logger needs measure from infrasonic to ultrasonic frequency range. It should be noted that construction and engineering standards vary, and that these can affect transmission of vibrations. Sometimes 'foreign'-manufactured devices (as, electric motors) create significantly more noise than those domestically sourced (and vice versa!). Electric 'switching' power supplies can generate noise that may couple to mechanical vibrations. Idle P.C.s can emit sounds like radio communications. Studies of occupational noise exposure indicate that humans can incur stress readily, and immune system function can be degraded.
Mondoman (Seattle)
The "noises" are likely to be the result of brain damage, not the cause. You're right about monitoring equipment, but it should be electromagnetic spectrum monitors, especially radio/microwave frequencies, since those are known to affect tissue (e.g. microwave ovens).
Mark Wilson (Toronto Canada)
I think this story really should have made note of the fact that Canadian diplomats in Cuba also have suffered the same symptoms and illness. This is significant as it takes this serious issue beyond a strictly American frame of reference.
Vanessa Hall (Millersburg, MO)
The one thing all of these incidents seem to have in common is the United States. Are those who have been afflicted all long time diplomatic employees? The current administration clearly isn’t a fan of genuine diplomacy, or those individuals who have worked so tirelessly for previous presidents. Driving them out and trying to make host countries look bad all the while trying out some new non-lethal weapon really needs to be considered if it hasn’t already. It’s just too easy to imagine this administration doing something like this. After all, he’s made it clear that anyone not in his immediate circle is expendable as far as he’s concerned.
Mondoman (Seattle)
Seems like a good chance it is either a new type of weapon or side-effect of some sort of eavesdropping technology. As others have noted, the symptoms such as mysterious sounds are most likely the result of brain damage, not actual sounds made by the weapon/technology. Occam's Razor strongly suggests that the perpetrator is a regime unfriendly to the US -- Putin would be an obvious suspect, but it could be the North Koreans, Iranians, even Venezuelans. Not sure the Chinese are high on the list, as they would be stupid to do something like this in their own country.
miguel solanes (usa)
are there ailments related to politics and the towering environment of the last two years?
Neil M (Texas)
I have worked 45 years in the oil patch. Much of it overseas in countries from Africa, Asia and Europe. I had never ever heard of such incidents involving expats and Americans working at our embassies when I was in their locations. So, this is indeed a mystery if it is as such. Now, I am astonished at the size of our staff in Guangzhou at some 170 - not to mention their families. With all these folks running around, how come the POTUS is still getting a bum advice on China ??
JT (Southeast US)
What bum advice from the diplomatic staff in China? POTUS doesn't listen to any advice so do not blame the employees of the embassies.
Rem (Connecticut)
The Guangzhou Consulate processes some 1 million visa applications per year, the largest US mission in the world. This is the reason for the high number of staff.
Amy Haible (Harpswell, Maine)
So, maybe it's not the Cubans or the Chinese? Maybe it's our own government. Of the two incidents, the only common dominator is us.
JT (Southeast US)
I agree that it could be the United States doing this to their own citizens for some nefarious reason.
Mondoman (Seattle)
Certainly another common denominator is an organization/regime unfriendly to the US. Putin springs readily to mind, for example.
Peter Ekegren (Uppsala, Sweden)
Could it be that US anti-listening devices or the like is the culprit? Peter Ekegren, Sweden
Mondoman (Seattle)
Doesn't seem plausible; how would they cause brain injury only in certain residences (not offices) in certain countries, even though they are widely used?
Greg (Texas)
Perhaps their cell phones or headsets have been hacked and weaponized?
Alan Cole (Portland)
The NYTs needs to stop writing sentence like the one below. _All_ of our intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia intervened _in different ways_ in the 2016 elections in order to tilt the election results for a Trump win. To keep referring to that established reality as a mere hypothetical is, at this point, a pure lie. "Russia has been accused of meddling in the 2016 American presidential election."
Lee (Northfield, MN)
“A January 2017 assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) stated that Russian leadership favored presidential candidate Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, and that Russian president Vladimir Putin personally ordered an "influence campaign" to harm Clinton's electoral chances and "undermine public faith in the US democratic process." There is a lengthy Wiki article about Russian interference in US elections. Its sources are not guesswork or speculations. As Patrick Moynihan said, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.
Kristen Rigney (Beacon, NY)
Who doesn’t want diplomacy in those countries? I suspect it isn’t the countries themselves. And what’s the common factor?: The State Department. The Trump administration State Department. Hmmmmm...
ABC (Flushing)
This is where YOU send your consumption dollars to expand its military, build islands, steal US technology, get data from Mark Zuckerberg. The only Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner died a slow death in a Chinese prison. YOU, American consumer, build China's aircraft carriers. On December 7, 1941 at least Japan had paid for its own. If you believe China will have a 'peaceful rise', I have a Brooklyn Bridge to sell you (a replica, located in China).
Janet Michael (Silver Spring Maryland)
All of this sounds too vague to be true.I believe that the diplomats are suffering as they describe.Why has the CDC not been alerted and offered an opinion.This may not be so much of a medical mystery as it is a cover up by the State Department which does not want to accuse countries of malevolent behavior.Why not enlist the help of the British Intelligence Agency who quickly diagnosed the cause of illness of two unresponsive citizens slumped on a park bench.
DebS (New York, NY)
I would be interested in learning about non-Americans-local people suffering from the same symptoms, if any.
Sasha Love (Austin TX)
In April 2018, employees at the Canadian Embassy in Cuba also suffered from these same unusual health symptoms and were evacuated.
CAL GAL (Sonoma, CA)
No way to learn this information because the newspapers only report what they're allowed to report.
2X4 (The Depo)
You've got the wrong newspaper to cite for th2st remark.
Me (Earth)
Humans being humans, I suspect Hysteria is the culprit. Having spent nearly half of my life abroad, I know how tough it is to working in some of these countries. It is highly possible, what we are seeing is stress. Many illnesses, such as head colds, pneumonia and the flu can produce symptoms as described here. When the nasal cavities, the ears and the throat become congested it can create unusual changes to how we hear things. I hope this is the case and not something more nefarious.
Mondoman (Seattle)
I haven't heard of hysteria, stress or colds producing brain damage that can be detected weeks or months later. The reported symptoms like sounds and headaches seem likely to be the results of brain damage, not its cause.
Kate (Washington State)
Hysteria, from a Greek root meaning uterus, is a convenient diagnosis inserted willy nilly for the medically inexplicable. I have never heard of anyone with a cold describing auditory hallucinations sufficient to generate headaches and illness that lasted months. The diplomatic families in Cuba who were returned to the US were all ill, including the children, as well as Cuban families in the same vicinity. What you say makes little sense.
Ed M (Michigan)
I wonder, has the State Department begun mandating extra inoculations for people posted to certain regions, or begun using a new vaccine? Both Cuba and Guangzhou are subtropical locations that might indicate a need for certain vaccinations. It could be that some people are susceptible to side effects of a new vaccine. Pure speculation on my part, but worth considering as a common cause. It seems highly unlikely that Cuba and China would be coordinating attacks on low-to-mid level consulate employees and somehow managing to cause symptoms ONLY in the Americans and not others in proximity.
BC (Eastern U.S.)
Please don’t use this article to spread anti-vaccination conspiracy theories. Claims about harmful vaccines have been repeatedly debunked.
Mondoman (Seattle)
Not Cuba or China, but Russia, the North Koreans, the Iranians -- sure. Since the cause of the symptoms seems to be brain damage occurring over many weeks, something like a microwave beam literally cooking parts of the brain might be plausible.
Robitaille03 (Oneida, NY)
Please don't use this opportunity to paint someone a "conspiracy theorist" just because they question the efficacy and/or safety of any new chemical cocktail. Ed M wasn't referring to old vaccines, the claims against which have been previously debunked. Ed M specifically stated "new vaccines" which, having not been fully studied, may produce dangerous side effects. Many pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, food additives, building materials (you name it) previously thought safe have been taken off the shelf. Or are you suggesting that, since some vaccines have been fully studied and verified safe, that all potential vaccines developed in the future shall automatically be deemed safe? I didn't think so.
drspock (New York)
This article left out the fact that not only did the Cubas deny any wrongdoing, they took the unprecedented step to invite the FBI to Cuba and conduct a joint investigation with Cuban police. Instead, the Trump administration used the incident as a reason to roll back the relaxation of travel restrictions initiated by Obama. So now that this issue has come to light thousands of miles from Cuba has the administration changed course? And, despite the "strange illness' showing up in China why would either Russia or China want to disrupt US relations with Cuba? Or could it be that there are elements within our own government that want to turn the international clock back to the days of the cold war? Cuba, Russia China. There seems to be a pattern here.
Mondoman (Seattle)
Russia, the North Koreans, the Iranians, the Venezuelans and so forth -- we don't lack for plausible suspects. Remember, it's not clear that this weapon/technology was intended to be detected; the brain injuries could be an unforseen side effect of some eavesdropping technology. I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be some sort of microwave beam -- brain cells are quite sensitive to being overheated.
Ingolf Stern (Seattle)
Location is irrelevant to psychotronic weapons. Scalar EM waves do not suffer propagation losses like "normal" EM energy, and so the transmitter can literally be anywhere. Neither are they blocked by physical objects, even the entire mass of the earth itself. this is new stuff, and Very, Very Bad.
ed99 (UK)
Seems the common theme is all this are the Americans. The guys with the super high tech world leading state of the art security and all that. And installed in their equally state of the art embassies. Hmm. Suspect #1 seems pretty obvious. Everywhere they go, Americans cause trouble. Pretty clear pattern.
Wait a Second (New York)
I find it laughable and disrespectful to the victims that the general public thinks that brain injury can be caused by mass hysteria. This is either a targeted attack using an energy weapon or a malfunction of local technology. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not real. Obvious examples include radio waves, microwaves, gamma waves, ELF.
John Harper (Carlsbad, CA)
Well, a sad percentage of the population still believes President Obama was born in Kenya and is in fact a Muslim.
NY Woman ( N Y)
I wish the Times would stop writing this and other sentences which have been called out by others here and in other articles regarding Russian meddling. There's proof from multiple government agencies who all concur it happened. And hysteria doesn't cause physical symptoms to so many random and non -related people in different countries with similar phiysical and neurological symptoms and descriptive sounds. Just stop and read your own sentences and see how ridiculous it reads to even laymen. at least quote some crazy doctor or therapist! (Where are the editors and I wish we could get explanations in the letters when we see these types of sentences).
Stan Sutton (Westchester County, NY)
Just because you can imagine something doesn’t make it real, either. It’s not clear how many people may have brain injuries, what types of injuries there may be, when they happened, or whether they are a cause or effect of some external force. When you know all that you can form a plausible hypothesis.
Lyhue Wynegar (Nj)
The symptoms described sound like auditory hallucinations. I believe the first step of any investigations should be giving each patient a full toxicological exam. Test their blood and compare these blood tests to look for any common anomolies. It is highly unlikely, however not impossible, that the victims of these symptoms are being blasted with some sort of sound wave weapon. The technology needed to project a harmful sonic wave with pinpoint accuracy is something that borders on science fiction. Improbable, yes, but certainly not impossible. The next step in the investigation should be to examine all electronic devices closely. From the aps installed on phones and devices, all the way down to the toaster in the kitchen. A full sweep of the buildings and their adjacent grounds is necessary, using equipment that can detect electro-magnetic and ultra-sonic radiation. A device hidden nearby could be emitting a silent (to human ears) pulse which slowly sickens those in its effective radius. Again this concept sounds sci-fi but isn't at all impossible. First and foremost, the victims need to be tested and examined closely. Everything points to some sort of chemical or drug exposure which gives its victims physical side effects.
Jimbo (Troy)
While sonic or electronic emissions from a single device may be innocuous, it is also possible that several devices acting in concert, or several directional sources, are causing the issues. This is particularly true if people report hearing sounds that do not show up on sensitive microphones— the beat frequencies caused by combining several sources exhibit this behavior, and could be the issue. Given the frequent presence of sophisticated electronics in household devices, the possibility of tweaked smart appliances working in concert should be examined.
M. Callahan (Moline, il)
I strongly agree. Anyone who has studied synthesis with audio devices knows that sound waves can be reinforced by other sound waves...as can any wave phenomena. The interaction point can be targeted. It may be difficult, but with current technology, not impossible for two or three soundsources to create a particular resonance at a particular point. One even thinks of a wave generally propogated that is innocuous but when a 2nd wave is introduced, reinforces the overtone in such a way to cause damage.
Edward1967 (Cleveland Hts, OH)
I would have to strongly disagree that harmful effects from electromagnetic radiation, via a variety of techniques, that could be targeted at humans is in the realm of 'science fiction'. As engineers and scientists we place limits on electromagnetic fields for a very good reason, and there are well known biological effects that can be triggered at surprisingly modest levels depending upon the technique used and types of modulation of energy applied. I view this to be a much more likely root cause than chemical or drug exposure. It would certainly be the first root cause that should be investigated, especially since there are those in US GOV who are very familiar with such techniques and how they should investigate them.
Claire Caterer (Kansas City)
Apparently, the sounds reported by the patients/victims (however you want to see them) are highly inconsistent from person to person--marbles rolling around, metal sheets flapping, high-pitched undefined noises--which would seem to point to a symptom, not a cause. Consider a neurological virus that attacks the part of the brain that processes sound and that could produce auditory hallucinations of various kinds. The other symptoms would be just that--other symptoms, not the result of a sonic attack. It also doesn't seem odd that people who work in the same building and associate in groups could have spread it to one another, or that toxins in that environment are responsible. The idea of a sonic rifle or weapon seems a bit over the top.
Gerry O'Brien (Ottawa, Canada)
The State Department needs to solve and arrive at a solution to this mystery. Deeper and more intelligent investigation is warranted. This mystery raises a large number of questions. For example, to help solve this mystery: Has the State Department deployed experts with sensitive listening equipment that can record, detect and identify the full range of sounds in the affected and suspicious apartments of diplomats in Guangzhou? And in other locations where diplomats are stationed in China? An alert would be signaled by diplomats who are showing preliminary similar symptoms. Are the mysterious sounds being emitted in the affected apartments or from neighbouring apartments? Can/have these apartments be investigated? Or are they being directed (focused) from neighboring buildings? What are the common activities or duties of the affected diplomats in Guangzhou and in Havana? Is there an identifiable or common reason(s) for these diplomats being targets? Who would stand to gain from such activity? The Chinese or Cuban governments? I doubt it. Foreign nationals? … Yes … but who? Russians, Middle Eastern terrorists, rogue actors, etc.? … Why?
Carl (Atlanta)
I have engineering and a neurology backgrounds, and intuitively my suspicion is that there is a weapon(s) in these scenarios. It is likely that it emits a form of sound or pressure whose frequency and energy is able to cause damage to the nervous system. It is also likely that there is intelligence, military, or scientific expertise in this country that know what it is.
vk (king county, washington)
Carl: I'm curious- say this is in fact a sonic weapon of sorts stationed in neighboring apartments or buildings... how would you go about detecting and proving the existence of such devices when access to neighboring buildings/apartments is not possible?
Carl (Atlanta)
VK ... don't know ... just know that pressure waves of many types can cause "concussion"-like brain injuries ...
Jon Ezell (Birmingham, AL)
These are unintentional side effects of either surveillance or anti-surveillance devices that are either being deployed against or by the U.S. It makes no sense for a foreign actor to intentionally neurologically poison U.S. state dept. staff. It makes no sense for the U.S. to attack its own state dept intentionally and the current administration is not capable of this kind of deliberate or complex operation. Because the Havana embassy and the Guangzhou embassies have had recent renovations (I'm making this assumption as U.S. restored diplomatic relations in 2015 in Havana), I suspect it's a poorly-designed anti-eavesdropping device that's been developed by subcontractors and slapped into the buildings w/o proper testing.
Chuck (Portland oregon)
Occam's razor; when we start looking for causes, reasons, motives, etc. You've provided the most plausible explanation; unless this is a nefarious, intentional act to disrupt normal daily routines for the purpose of...what? And by whom?
Jane (Minneapolis)
To my knowledge, the U.S. embassy in Havana didn't undergo substantial renovations as a result of the 2015 restoration of diplomatic ties. (The building has been continuously occupied by U.S. diplomats since the 1977 when Carter ordered it to be used as the site of a U.S. Interest Section, so when it became an embassy again, very little changed.) More to the point, none of the incidents in Havana took place in the embassy building itself. Rather, the people who were affected heard the odd noises either in their homes or, in some cases, in hotels where they were staying long term.
MeriJ (Washington DC area)
A team at the Univ of Michigan suggests it might be caused by two or more subsonic eavesdropping devices whose waves overlap. As a result they could amplify each other's subsonic emissions and create exactly the noticeable wave forms they were designed to hide. The two devices might not even be controlled by the same parties -- our personnel might be suffering serious hearing loss and/or brain damage due to the unintended side-effects of multiple intelligence units competing with one another. In Cuba, in China and heaven-knows where else: https://www.thedailybeast.com/did-these-computer-scientists-solve-the-cu... https://spqr.eecs.umich.edu/papers/YanFuXu-Cuba-CSE-TR-001-18.pdf
Gabriel Luna (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)
It’s worth noting that the Canadian embassy in Cuba also suffered a similar incident around the same time as that experienced by the US. It hasn’t shown up in either article I’ve read regarding the affliction, and it seems like pertinent information to add. As to whether it was incidental or not (that is, caught in the area of effect of something targeting Americans), I am unsure...
msf (NYC)
Instead of blaming the foreign governments - did the US check if they used the same (US) contractor to install security? If indeed the mistake was there, would anyone admit it after closing an embassy and deteriorating the relationship with Cuba?
Name (Here)
This time it's the housing complex, not the embassy.