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Summary - True Spies Podcast: Havana Syndrome Special

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

It’s been almost 7 years since the first reports of symptoms in Havana, Cuba. This later coined the term, “Havana Syndrome”. U.S. diplomats began reporting cognitive difficulties, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), vertigo, nausea and other symptoms, and it wasn’t long before more and more reports came about. This happened just less than two years after the U.S. Embassy was reestablished in Cuba since 1961. John Sipher, who spent 28 years in the CIA, was a guest on the Havana Syndrome Special on the True Spies Podcast, along with Marc Polymeropolus, retired from the CIA in 2019, and Dr. James Giordano, PhD, a professor in the Departments of Neurology and Biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

On the podcast, John brings up past reports from some scientific group, which had been doing research on Havana Syndrome from early on. Their reports suggest this could be crickets, which, as John notes, is hard to believe. Due to click-bait headlines and media circulation of these articles, the theory that crickets were the source of the sound lingered, but luckily eventually disappeared, but not before Dr. James Giordano had to dismiss this theory in a few interviews. “It’s not a cricket. But to say, well, you heard crickets, therefore, it’s crickets that were doing this, is not necessarily patronizing - it’s just fallacious. I think the patronizing and derogatory effects is that what it’s really suggesting, either implicitly, or in some cases, explicitly, is that there’s nothing wrong with these people. And there is something wrong with these people. Something happened to these people. Something physical happened to these people.”, says Dr. Giordano. Another important idea came from Marc Polymeropolus. He brings up the fact that many people believe Havana Syndrome is just some sort of ‘mass hysteria’. “I’ll just throw this one thing out there. There’s always this allegation that those of us who have been affected by this there’s some group-think or it’s psychogenic that somehow, this mass hysteria has led to this. Well, in my case, I didn’t, when I came down with this, I wasn’t thinking of Havana Syndrome.”, Marc said. “Thankfully, clinical findings in 2018 have shown that many of the Havana cases display indications of damage to the brain that are consistent with mild traumatic brain injury. The doctors behind the study even went as far to say that these findings ‘cannot be faked’.”, says the narrator of the True Spies podcast.

Mark Polymeropolus says he experienced symptoms after making a routine trip to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. “I had an incredible case of vertigo, which is pretty alarming. I had what’s called tinnitus, which is ringing in my ears, a terrible headache. I felt like I was going to be sick. I joke all the time, I’m not the toughest guy in the world, but I’d spent several years by this point in Iraq and Afghanistan, been shot at a lot, certainly risked my life for my country, and this was pretty terrifying. And I will freely admit, I was scared.” , says Polymeropolus, whose experience started in 2017 during his trip. It’s important to note that while there are many people who try to invalidate the symptoms experienced by Havana Syndrome victims, these symptoms are real. And, unfortunately, experienced by many across the globe. These symptoms not only have immediate, but also long-lasting effects, which sometimes makes day to day life difficult. It’s time to pay attention to the victims speaking out. Havana Syndrome is real, and it’s very serious.

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