Report details harm to Cuba diplomats but offers no cause

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 8:40 PM
Updated: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 8:40 PM


            FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2017, file photo, a customer sits at the lobby bar of the Hotel Capri in Havana, Cuba. Doctors are releasing the first detailed medical reports about the hearing, vision, balance and brain symptoms suffered in what the State Department has called “health attacks” on U.S. diplomats in Cuba. Still missing: A clear diagnosis of just what happened to trigger their mysterious health problems. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2017, file photo, a customer sits at the lobby bar of the Hotel Capri in Havana, Cuba. Doctors are releasing the first detailed medical reports about the hearing, vision, balance and brain symptoms suffered in what the State Department has called “health attacks” on U.S. diplomats in Cuba. Still missing: A clear diagnosis of just what happened to trigger their mysterious health problems. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

Doctors are releasing the first detailed medical reports about the hearing, vision, balance and brain symptoms suffered in what the State Department has called "health attacks" on U.S. diplomats in Cuba. Still missing: A clear diagnosis of just what happened to trigger their mysterious health problems.

All together, the symptoms are similar to the brain dysfunction seen with concussions, concluded a team of specialists from the University of Pennsylvania who tested 21 of the 24 embassy personnel thought to be affected.

Whatever the cause, the Havana patients "experienced persisting disability of a significant nature," the Penn team concluded.

Cuba has insisted there were no attacks.

The Journal of the American Medical Association released the report late Wednesday, although key findings were first disclosed by The Associated Press in December.

The mystery began in late 2016 when U.S. embassy personnel began seeking medical care for hearing loss and ear-ringing that they linked to weird noises or vibrations — initially leading investigators to suspect "sonic attacks." Now, officials are carefully avoiding that term, as doctors involved in the probe wonder whether the sounds were a byproduct of something else that might help explain the full symptom list: memory problems, impaired concentration, irritability, balance problems and dizziness.

Wednesday's report makes clear that the findings are preliminary, essentially a listing of symptoms and tests. And important complications remain, including that there's no information to compare the patients' brain or hearing health before they went to Cuba.

"Before reaching any definitive conclusions, additional evidence must be obtained and rigorously and objectively evaluated," JAMA associated editor Dr. Christopher Muth cautioned in an accompanying editorial. He noted that many of the symptoms overlap with a list of other neurologic illnesses.

"It really looks like concussion without the history of head trauma," report co-author Dr. Douglas Smith of Penn's Center for Brain Injury and Repair, said in a podcast provided by JAMA.

He said that sound, heard by 18 of the 21 patients, couldn't be to blame: "There is no known mechanism for audible sound to injure the brain. We have to suspect that it's a consequence of something else."

The mysterious case has sent U.S.-Cuba relations plummeting from what had been a high point when the two countries, estranged for a half-century, restored relations under President Barack Obama in 2015.

The new report outlined the battery of testing the patients underwent, including some findings that can't be even unconsciously altered, bolstering the doctors' belief that the symptoms were not mass hysteria. At least six people had a change in work performance noted by supervisors and colleagues, the JAMA report found.

Viruses or chemical exposures are unlikely, Smith's team wrote, although they couldn't be "systematically excluded."

Advanced MRI scans spotted "a few" changes in what are called white matter tracts of the brain in some patients, with three showing more than would be expected for their age, the report said. But the authors acknowledged those abnormalities could be due to something earlier in life.

For many the symptoms lasted months, and doctors designed customized rehabilitation therapy that did seem to help.

Dr. S. Andrew Josephson, neurology chairman at the University of California, San Francisco, who wasn't involved in the study, called the work "a really important step" because it carefully describes the medical findings and shows they are remarkably similar across the group of patients.

"It moves you closer to understanding what the possible causes may be," he said.

The State Department, which wasn't involved in writing the article but reviewed it to ensure it did not contain any classified information, issued a health alert Wednesday citing the article "in order to inform U.S. citizens and medical providers."

"We encourage private U.S. citizens who have traveled to Cuba and are concerned about their symptoms to share this article with their doctor," the State Department said.

____

Associated Press Science Writer Malcolm Ritter contributed to this story from New York.

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Couple who lost everything in fire wins $1 million lottery

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 11:30 AM

Tips for When You Win the Lottery

A couple in Canada can now start rebuilding their lives after they were big winners in the Atlantic Lottery.

Bill Pendergast and his wife accepted a $1 million check this month, nearly two years after their home and all their belongings were destroyed in a wildfire.

The May 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire destroyed their home, along with about 10 percent of the Alberta, Canada, town, the BBC reported.

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Pendergast was recently visiting his sick father in Newfoundland, who ask him to get a soda at a store, the BBC reported. He bought a ticket at the local gas station on a whim. The next morning, he found out he was a new millionaire, CNN reported. He then called his wife, who hopped on a plane to Newfoundland to help her husband cash in on his newfound money, CNN reported.

The money, the couple said, will be used mostly to help put the pieces back together, including finishing construction on their new home, CBC reported.

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“Our rebuild should be finished in the next two to four months, so this is going to go a long way towards that,” Pendergast told CBC.

The family, including the couple’s five sons, is also going to take a family vacation, CBC reported.

But there is one thing the lucky winner always wanted that will now become a reality.

“I have always wanted a Mustang, and I will finally have one, I’m 100% sure of that,” Pendergast told CNN.

FILE PHOTO(Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

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London City Airport shuts down due to unexploded WWII bomb

Published: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 1:59 PM
Updated: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 1:59 PM

London City Airport canceled all flights in and out of it after a 1,100-pound bomb was found. The WWII-era bomb was found nearby in the River Thames. The airport is situated in an area of London heavily bombed by the Germans in WWII.

All flights in and out of London City Airport were canceled Monday after a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) unexploded World War II-era bomb was found nearby in the River Thames.

The Metropolitan Police service cleared an area within 214 meters (700 feet) of the bomb, including several residential streets, as officers worked with specialists from the Royal Navy to remove the device.

Police said the bomb was discovered Sunday at the George V Dock during pre-planned work at City Airport. They described it as a 1.5-meter (5-foot) shell that was lying in a bed of dense silt.

"The first stage of the removal operation is to free the shell from the silt so that it can be floated for removal," police said in a statement.

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Local officials offered emergency accommodations to residents and said work to remove the bomb would continue into Tuesday.

Airport CEO Robert Sinclair said he recognizes that passengers will be inconvenienced but said the airport is cooperating fully with authorities "to resolve the situation as quickly as possible."

London City, the smallest of London's international airports, handled 4.5 million passengers last year. Popular with business travelers, it's located in east London's docklands, an area that was heavily bombed during World War II.

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Prince Harry, Meghan Markle release more wedding details

Published: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 10:21 AM

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Engaged

More details about this year’s royal wedding are being released from Kensington Palace.

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We already know that Prince Harry and his fiancée, Meghan Markle will get married on May 19. 

Now we know what will follow once they have exchanged vows.

They will be married by the Archbishop of Canterbury The Most Reverend and Right Honorable Justin Welby, at St. George’s Chapel at exactly noon on May 19. That’s 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. The rest of the service will be led by the Right Reverend David Conner, the dean of Windsor, CNN reported.


One hour later, at 1 p.m. local time, or 8 a.m. EST, they will depart the church via horse-drawn carriage through the streets of London, similar to what Prince Harry’s older brother Prince William and Duchess Catherine did on their wedding day in 2011, People magazine reported.


A reception will be held after the wedding at St. George’s Hall, a stateroom inside Windsor Castle. They will arrive at the event after the carriage ride.


There will be a break in the afternoon before the newlyweds are honored in a private evening reception that will be given by Prince Charles. Details on the location of the private reception have not been released, CNN reported.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 01: Prince Harry and fiance Meghan Markle leave the 'Endeavour Fund Awards' Ceremony at Goldsmiths Hall on February 1, 2018 in London, England. The awards celebrate the achievements of wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women who have taken part in remarkable sporting and adventure challenges over the last year. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)(WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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71 dead after passenger plane crashes near Moscow, Russia's transport minister says

Published: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 5:10 AM
Updated: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 5:10 AM

Russian Passenger Plane Crashes Near Moscow, Killing 71

A Russian passenger plane with 71 people on board has crashed near Moscow, multiple news outlets reported Sunday. Russia’s transport minister said there are no survivors from the crash.

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