U.S. Diplomat Suffers Brain Injury After ‘Sound’ Incident In China

  The US embassy in China issued a health alert Wednesday after a US government employee experienced an “abnormal” sound

 

The US embassy in China issued a health alert Wednesday after a US government employee experienced an “abnormal” sound and suffered a mild brain injury — in an incident reminiscent of a mysterious illness that hit diplomats in Cuba.

US and Chinese authorities are investigating the matter after the employee, who was assigned to the southern city of Guangzhou, was diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), said embassy spokeswoman Jinnie Lee.

In an alert emailed to US citizens in China, the embassy said it does not know what caused the symptoms or of any similar situations in the country.

In Cuba last year, the US disclosed that 24 diplomats and their family members had fallen victim to an unsolved mysterious attack that left them with injuries resembling brain trauma. Ten Canadian diplomats and their relatives also suffered a strange illness.

“We cannot at this time connect it with what happened in Havana but we are investigating all possibilities,” a US embassy official in Beijing told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

The embassy’s health alert says the government employee “recently reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure”.

“The US government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event,” the message says.

“While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present,” it says, urging people with medical problems to consult a doctor.

Lee said the employee experienced “a variety of physical symptoms” between late 2017 through April 2018. The person was sent to the United States and diagnosed with MTBI on May 18.

“The (State) Department is taking this incident very seriously and is working to determine the cause and impact of the incident,” Lee said.

“The Chinese government has assured us they are also investigating and taking appropriate measures.”

The Chinese foreign ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.

 Cuban case 

In Cuba, the American victims had associated the onset of their symptoms with “unusual sounds or auditory sensations”, a State Department physician told the US Senate in January.

Charles Rosenfarb, a doctor and director of the State Department bureau of medical services, said the symptoms were mixed but consistent with brain trauma.

The victims suffered headaches, hearing loss, disorientation and some loss of cognitive ability.

Initially officials suspected the Americans had been targeted by some sort of acoustic weapon, although in public senior officials were more cautious, speaking of “health attacks”. Media reports have suggested that the FBI has not been able to verify any evidence to support the sonic weapon theory.

The US government has held Cuba responsible, arguing that Raul Castro’s authoritarian state must have either carried out the assaults or at least known who was behind them.

The incident prompted the United States last year to withdraw more than half of its personnel at the embassy in Havana, which reopened in 2015 as the two nations re-established diplomatic relations that had ruptured in 1961.

Canada announced last month that it was bringing home the families of its diplomats in Cuba after a year-long investigation into the illness failed to reveal a cause.

“The cause (of their symptoms) remains unknown but could be human-made,” the Canadian government concluded.

Canadian and US authorities had initially suspected a “sonic attack” or a “mass psychosomatic incident”, but those are “now considered unlikely”, a senior Canadian official said.

The symptoms included dizziness, headaches and a lack of ability to concentrate.

Unlike their American counterparts, however, no Canadian envoy reported hearing any suspicious sound prior to falling ill.

AFP

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Russia Expels Diplomats From 23 Countries As Spy Crisis Escalates

  Russian President Vladimir                                 

 

Putin Orders Alternative Olympic Games For Banned Athletes
Russian President Vladimir                                            Putin Photo: Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP

 

Russia expelled diplomats from 23 countries on Friday in retaliation against the West in a spy row, in the biggest wave of tit-for-tat expulsions in recent memory.

The Russian foreign ministry said it had summoned the heads of missions from 23 countries — almost all of them European Union member states — to tell them that some of their diplomats had to leave.

The diplomats from France, Canada, Germany, Australia and other countries were earlier seen arriving at the Russian foreign ministry in flagged official cars.

Germany and Poland each said that Russia was expelling four of their diplomats. Among the other countries that had similarly been told to pull their envoys were the Netherlands, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Finland and Lithuania.

Thirteen Ukrainian diplomats should also leave Russia.

The moves came in retaliation for the coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats by Britain and its allies over a nerve agent attack against former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

“This is certainly not a surprise,” Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said through a spokeswoman, referring to Moscow’s expulsion of two of the country’s diplomats.

Blok called upon Russia to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the attack by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The Russian foreign ministry also gave Britain a month to cut the number of diplomatic staff in Russia to the same number Russia has in Britain.

In Britain, the government called the latest developments “regrettable” but remained adamant that Russia was in the wrong.

“This doesn’t change the facts of the matter: the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable,” a spokeswoman for the Britain’s Foreign Office said.

 ‘Diplomatic war’

Russia also said it reserved the right to respond to the recent expulsion of Russian diplomats by Belgium, Hungary, Georgia and Montenegro.

In the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin presided over a meeting of the country’s Security Council which discussed the most recent retaliatory steps against Britain and its allies.

The Kremlin insisted it was not Russia that had started the diplomatic war with the West.

“Russia did not unleash any diplomatic war,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Russia never initiated any exchange of sanctions.”

On Thursday, Moscow had announced that it would expel 60 US diplomats and close the US consulate in Saint Petersburg after the expulsion of its own diplomats and the closure of one of its US consulates.

In all, more than 150 Russian diplomats have been ordered out of the US, EU members, NATO countries and other nations which are accusing Russia of being involved in the Skripal poisoning.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Moscow would respond with “tit-for-tat” measures, but they might “not only” be symmetrical.

‘Get out of here’

On the streets in Saint Petersburg, passersby said they welcomed the decision to shut down the US consulate general in the city.

“This is great news,” said Viktor Glushko, 60.

“It is about time. Relations will not get worse because they were never good and we will get by without them.”

Another man shouted: “Get out of here!” as he passed by the US consulate where staff were seen loading plastic sacks into vehicles Friday.

In Washington, the State Department said Thursday there was no justification for the Russian move and that the United States “reserves the right to respond”.

“It’s clear from the list provided to us that the Russian Federation is not interested in a dialogue on issues that matter to our two countries,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said of the expelled diplomats.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Russia’s expulsion of US diplomats marked a “further deterioration” in relations.

Yulia ‘improving rapidly’

The hospital where Skripal and his daughter are being treated said Thursday that Yulia, 33, was “improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition”, while 66-year-old Sergei remained in a critical but stable condition.

Britain has said it is “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for the attack using the Novichok nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, but Russia has angrily denied any involvement.

Russia said 58 diplomats from the US embassy in Moscow and two from the consulate in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg have to leave Russia by next Thursday.

The US consulate general in Saint Petersburg will have to be vacated by Saturday.

Moscow warned that it could take further measures in response if Washington “continued hostile actions” against the Russian embassy and consulates.

After the poisoning, Britain reacted by announcing it would expel 23 Russian diplomats, suspend high-level diplomatic contact with Moscow and not send any members of the royal family to the 2018 football World Cup hosted by Russia.

Russia then responded by closing a British consulate in Saint Petersburg and the British Council educational and cultural organisation.

AFP

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Russia Gives Britain One Month To Reduce Diplomats

The Russian foreign ministry on Friday gave Britain one month to cut the number of its diplomats stationed in Russia

The Russian foreign ministry on Friday gave Britain one month to cut the number of its diplomats stationed in Russia to the same level as Russia has in Britain.

This is part of the measures imposed following the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal.

“The ambassador was informed that as a retaliatory measure, the British side must within a month through reductions bring the total of staff at the British embassy in Moscow and at consulates in Russia into accordance with the number of Russian diplomats and administrative and technical staff who are on lengthy work trips to Britain,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

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