Havana, Ooh Na-Na

You come across plenty of mysteries when you’re reading the news. But usually, what looks like a mystery to the average news consumer is completely understood by those who have access to classified intelligence or work in places like the CIA and the Pentagon. That’s what makes the story of the unexplained brain injuries that afflicted dozens of American diplomats and spies such a truly mysterious mystery. Even those in the know don’t know what happened. Adam Entous and Jon Lee Anderson in The New Yorker: The Mystery of the Havana Syndrome. “The Americans suffered from headaches, dizziness, and a perplexing range of other symptoms. Later, specialists studied their brains and determined that the injuries resembled concussions, like those suffered by soldiers struck by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there were no signs of impact. One of the specialists said it was as if the victims had a ‘concussion without concussion.’ Douglas Smith, who oversaw a team that examined the victims at the University of Pennsylvania, said, ‘None of us have ever encountered anything like this before.’ Experts at the C.I.A. were baffled by what they saw as an alarming new threat, one of the most confounding medical and espionage mysteries to involve American personnel overseas since the Cold War. The affliction didn’t have a name, so some of the victims started to refer to it simply as the Thing.” (I actually prefer the name The Thing as, at least in my house, Havana Syndrome has long been defined as that feeling you get when your kids put Camila Cabello on repeat for too long.)

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