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U.S. diplomats working in Cuba started reporting mysterious ailments about four years ago. Similar things then happened to State Department officials in China. A new report from the National Academy of Sciences says the most likely explanation for this mystery is microwave radiation. Does that answer all of the questions, though? It does not. Here's NPR's Greg Myre.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Back in 2016, American diplomats at the embassy in Havana, Cuba, said they began hearing loud noises in their heads, which caused intense pressure and sharp pain in their ears. The following year, U.S. diplomats in China reported similar symptoms. Altogether, more than 50 people complained of debilitating headaches and problems with their balance, hearing and memory. The State Department hasn't said much about the cases, but a report it commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences was made public this past weekend.
DAVID RELMAN: What we can say is that something real and significant, clinically, happened to these people.
MYRE: That's Dr. David Relman, the Stanford professor who led the inquiry. He says that while the 19 experts did not reach a definitive conclusion...
RELMAN: At least some, if not many, of the signs and symptoms that were reported in these patients can be explained by microwave radiation.
MYRE: There's been widespread speculation that the U.S. diplomats were targeted or that someone was trying to electronically steal secrets from their phones and computers and the diplomats were collateral damage. However, the committee was not asked to determine whether this was an attack directed at the diplomats or somehow caused inadvertently. Cuba and China had denied any involvement. Some U.S. diplomats say the State Department has been slow to provide support. A number of them have retired due to chronic health problems. The State Department described the report as part of an ongoing investigation, though not the final word on the matter.
Greg Myre, NPR News, Washington.
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