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Cuba’s Academy of Sciences Rejects NASEM Report

Cuban Academy of Sciences. Photo: JT

This week the Cuban Academy of Sciences rejected a report published by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine of the United States (NASEM). The U.S. government-sponsored report concluded, without scientific evidence, that radio frequency wave exposure (microwave) was the most likely explanation for the symptoms experienced by U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana declaring it “a very unlikely hypothesis.”

At the press conference for Cuban and foreign press on the matter, the president of the Cuban Academy of Sciences Dr. Luis Velázquez Pérez stated that “the report does not provide scientific evidence that there were radio frequency waves of great intensity in the area where diplomats were located,” and qualified the thesis put forward by the Americans as an “unlikely hypothesis, and certainly not a proven fact.”

The Cuban Academy of Sciences stated that the NASEM report, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, gave no scientific evidence of the existence of radio frequency waves. The Cuban scientists described the report’s conclusions as “not supported by direct evidence, nor by a critical examination of the available literature, nor by the main body of the report itself, and also exhibits intrinsic contradictions.”

Dr. Velazquez also said the “investigation about these health ailments has suffered from a lack of fluid communication between U.S. and Cuban scientists.”

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U.S. and Canadian embassy personnel working in Havana reported symptoms of dizziness, hearing loss, fatigue, and headaches that began in August of 2017. These mysterious symptoms later became known as the “Havana Syndrome.” These symptoms could be indicative of mild concussion but can also be associated with many other possible illnesses.

The “Havana Syndrome” began an ongoing pattern of the Trump administration’s strategy to further damage relations with Cuba.

The NASEM report, commissioned by the State Department, holds a strong interest in the outcome of these investigations. All requests issued by Cuba to collaborate in the investigation were refused and ignored on multiple occasions.

The Trump administration has used the Havana Syndrome to further its economic warfare against Cuba and inflict damage to US-Cuba relations after Barack Obama’s attempts at re-engagement during his term as president.

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As a result of these actions by the Trump administration, services at the U.S. embassy in Havana were all but shut down and the U.S. government published travel warnings on its website to American citizens to Cuba.

The following are highlights from the response to the NASEM report by the Cuban Academy of Sciences:

Highlights from the Statement of the Cuban Academy of Sciences:

The diseases mentioned in the title of the report mainly concern health conditions reported by US personnel. USA. located in Cuba and to a lesser degree in China. This paper summarizes the initial assessment of the Cuban Academy of Sciences on the report of the Standing Committee, based on the work done by a panel of experts that has been investigating such health conditions for more than two years and taking into account criteria for International experts, including those who participated in the workshop ′There is Havana Syndrome?", which appropriately took place in Havana in March 2020.
NASEM report seeks to define the nature of health conditions, identify their causes, and recommend measures to protect American diplomats and their families when they are abroad.
The Cuban Academy of Sciences disagrees on the final conclusion about the causes of suffering, although it recognizes that the report (prepared by a prestigious panel of scientists) advanced in defining the medical characterization of suffering and issued valid recommendations. It is important to stress that the NASEM Standing Committee frequently referred to the difficulty of having reliable data on patient symptoms, clinical information and exposures to possible causal agents.
NASEM committee report says the most plausible candidate to the origin of symptoms was radio frequency wave exposure. However, this claim is not supported by direct evidence, nor by a critical examination of the available literature, nor by the main body of the report itself, and also exhibits intrinsic contradictions.
It should be noted that although the report itself was mostly prudent, the publicity surrounding its launch suggested that the NASEM report backed the idea that a radio frequency source was likely related to the initiation of patient symptoms. Radio frequency waves should at best be considered a hypothesis about the cause of health conditions, unlikely, and certainly not a proven fact.
Specifically, the NASEM report gave weight to the radio frequency waves causing the constellation of reported symptoms, even though it recognizes that relevant data is problematic.
For example, there is no literature suggesting that radiation of radio frequencies produces experience of high painful sounds; nor does it suggest that such exposure results in specific neurological symptoms, and very significant no evidence, circumstantial or other, that could generate a intense exposure to a radio frequency field.
We quote from the report: "… There is insufficient data in the open literature about potential radio frequency exposure / dose characteristics and biological effects in possible scenarios for the State Department ". Moreover, the report says: "… No However, some animal studies have shown conflicting results, even when using the same exposure system…".
The report provides no scientific evidence that there were high-intensity radio frequency waves in the area where diplomats were located (and in fact, environmental investigations conducted in Cuba have ruled out this hypothesis). The lack of sufficient evidence was considered in the report as a reason to strongly doubt pesticide poisoning, an infectious origin, or a psychological trigger as a cause of symptoms; however, the same logic was not applied to the microwave hypothesis (for which there is even less evidence).
Although the Cuban Academy of Sciences is not convinced of the claim that radio frequency waves caused the health incidents, it nevertheless recognizes that the NASEM Standing Committee conducted a careful review of the limited clinical data it was able to collect, coming to consistent conclusions with the international experts we consult, as well as the Cuban scientists.
The report found little evidence of diffused brain damage to diplomats and their relatives. In addition, it concludes that neuroimages performed with standard clinical procedures were normal in the cases studied, while indicating that findings reported with novel image techniques (with inconsistent results through two studies) are not acceptable for unique case studies they have no validated normative ranks, and are notoriously difficult to reproduce.
Coinciding with previously published reviews, the report concludes that the results of neuropsychological tests in these cases do not allow for a novelty syndrome caused by diffuse brain damage. In addition, the committee questions the validity of many of the vestibular function tests used.
An important issue addressed by the report is the enormous heterogeneity of symptoms inside and among cohorts evaluated at different sites. This makes the proposal for a homogeneous novelty syndrome, sparked by a single cause, untenable and highly unlikely. It is also relevant that the Standing Committee recognizes that functional neurological disorders and psychogenic factors could have played an important role in exacerbating and spreading the symptoms experienced by diplomats over time.
National Health Institutes identified persistent postural-perceptive dizziness, a functional neurological disorder, in about a quarter of the diplomats they examined. This is the first time a US scientific body considers such a possibility, which has consistently applied in scientific literature as a contributing factor (and in some cases as causal) to these health incidents.
NASEM Standing Committee recommendations to the US Government. USA. are reasonable: increase the prior and longitudinal collection of data related to the health of diplomatic personnel abroad, effectively monitor new agglomerates of cases, if they appeared, and provide protocols to measure possible exposure to radio frequency and toxic sources.
However, for the well-being of all involved, we would also recommend that journalists and governments listen to science and refrain from supporting conspiracy theories. For the past two years, inconsistent speculations have been made public, even in official sources, with baseless claims about ′′ sonic or microwave attacks ′′ against American diplomats, who caused brain damage. These claims have not survived experimental or theoretical validation, but have generated much unnecessary anxiety and concern.
The Cuban Academy of Sciences shares the frustration expressed by the NASEM panel over not having access to the clinical information required to conduct an appropriate assessment, a factor that partially explains the limitations of the report.
In addition to the informative firewalls inside the U.S. The U.S. complaining about which the committee is complaining, research into these health conditions has suffered due to a lack of fluent communication between American and Cuban scientists examining the issue, largely due to artificial and politically motivated barriers. Communication between US scientists has been obstructed. USA. and their counterparts in Cuba, and in the world. This preventative censorship can only undermine legitimate desires to understand the source of this particular outbreak of health incidents and to take the necessary measures to protect citizens of any country from future diseases.
The suffering reported by diplomats and their families should be considered and treated as a health issue, not a political issue. The collaboration pays off, as demonstrated by Cuban and Canadian scientists studying similar health incidents, who have established a productive discussion, organized joint workshops, and currently developing a collaborative research project to evaluate people exposed to pesticides in La Havana.
Individual scientists from USA USA. have participated in e-mail discussions with the Cuban Academy of Sciences, and some participated in the workshop organized by that Cuban institution in March this year. The workshop was impartial and included a postulant of the radio frequency hypothesis.
The Cuban Academy of Sciences reiterates its willingness to cooperate with NASEM and other US counterparts (which has been repeatedly expressed in recent years) to better understand the health incidents involving US diplomats and their families in Havana ( or anywhere else), with the ultimate aim of helping people and promoting closer links between the two scientific communities and, eventually, between the two countries.

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