It’s Saturday, October 16th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:
1) New Details Emerge About Mysterious Havana Syndrome
The Topline: The U.S. intelligence community is reportedly growing confident they know what’s causing Havana syndrome, a mysterious medical ailment that has baffled experts, and left dozens of Americans with debilitating brain injuries.
In 2016, U.S. diplomats in Cuba started reporting strange medical ailments, often after hearing an unbearable ringing sound in their ears. Doctors said the symptoms were similar to those experienced by people with severe brain injuries.
It was initially thought the cases were isolated, but over 200 instances have since been recorded in the last five years by U.S. officials in China, England, Russia, and Washington, D.C., making it clear this is part of a targeted attack against Americans.
The attacks often occur during or just before important diplomatic events. There were cases reported in Vietnam before Vice President Kamala Harris visited the country and another in Vienna in 2019 ahead of a visit from then-President Donald Trump.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is set to go to Bogota, Colombia, next week. Over the last few weeks, over a dozen U.S. officials and their family members have been struck with the ailment, including children of diplomats. Some victims were medevaced out of the country because their cases were so severe.
The State Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) both created investigative task forces and are reportedly confident the illness is caused by directed-energy attacks, more specifically, “directed pulsed radio frequency energy.”
Experts now believe there’s some kind of device shooting concentrated energy waves at officials. The waves are invisible and appear to do permanent damage to the brains of many victims.
Investigators are also increasingly confident Russia is behind the attacks, though they don’t yet have smoking-gun evidence.
One theory about the motive behind the attacks is that they are intended to scare U.S. officials and send a message to the U.S. intelligence community that someone is able to go after them. Some of the victims are reportedly American spies who were believed to be undercover.
Some believe the victims aren’t the target, and the radio waves are potentially technology used to strip information from computers and phones, and the brain injuries are a byproduct of the main objective.
Congress unanimously passed a bill increasing medical funding for Havana Syndrome victims and requiring the CIA and State Department to offer payments to those afflicted. When President Biden signed the bill into law, he said “addressing these incidents has been a top priority of my administration.”
2) Couple Accused Of Selling American Nuclear Secrets
The Topline: A married couple in Annapolis, Maryland, is being accused by the FBI of treason and espionage.
A nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy and his wife are being accused of selling nuclear secrets to an unknown foreign power.
Jonathan and Diana Toebbe were arrested last weekend on espionage-related charges and appeared in court earlier this week.
Based on the allegations in the criminal complaint, Jonathan Toebbe reached out to an unidentified foreign country in the spring of 2020, offering to sell nuclear secrets.
The package was intercepted by the FBI, and undercover federal agents started communicating with him last December. He then allegedly tried to share nuclear secrets by hiding memory cards in items such as peanut butter sandwiches and Band-Aid wrappers and leaving them at prearranged locations.
His wife, who was a teacher at a private school in Annapolis, Maryland, was seen assisting with the drops, according to the FBI, as well as acting as a lookout for her husband.
They’re being charged with violating the Atomic Energy Act (AEA.)
Part of the AEA restricts the disclosure of information related to atomic weapons or nuclear materials.
Key Point: It is unclear to whom the couple tried to sell the secrets.
3) ‘Korean Wave’ Hits U.S. Entertainment
The Topline: South Korean groups have overtaken the pop music scene in recent years with K-pop bands dominating the Billboard charts. Now, South Korea is making a major mark on American television and film culture with Netflix’s Korean thriller “Squid Game.”
The thriller “Squid Game” is about a group of people who are in debt and are duped into playing a series of games. If they win, they earn piles of cash, but if they’re eliminated, they die.
The show also contains anti-elite themes, which could be popular as viewers experience a sharp divide between how different classes are experiencing the pandemic.
While it is an adult show, it doesn’t have the same kind of R-rated content Americans tend to consider when thinking of prestige streaming series. “Crash Landing On You,” another Korean show on Netflix, was a clean romantic series, which could be another reason for the draw.
Netflix is planning to invest $500 million in Korean content in the remainder of this year.
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