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Remember the news about a potential “health attack” against American diplomats stationed in Cuba in 2016? Well, something seems to have happened to those diplomats’ brains — it’s just not clear what, exactly.

Flashback: In 2017, dozens of American diplomats who had been working in Havana began reporting unusual symptoms such as persistent headaches, hearing loss and blurred vision.

  • The initial fear was that they had been victims of a “sonic attack,” perhaps using some kind of microwave technology.
  • But other scientists subsequently cast doubt on that possibility, suggesting instead that it might have been a case of mass hysteria.

Whatever happened, it probably isn’t simply psychosomatic, according to a new clinical evaluation of 40 of the affected diplomats. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

  • MRIs of the diplomats’ brains showed differences between the diplomats’ brains and a control group’s brains, but the study doesn’t reach any conclusions about how those differences came to be.

The bottom line: "All you can say is something happened, which caused their brain to change," Ragini Verma, a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s authors, told NPR.

Go deeper

Updated 43 mins ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
4 hours ago - Technology

The smart city comes of age

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Better sensors, more intelligent AI, and the coming wave of 5G wireless could finally fulfill the promise of the smart city.

Why it matters: How we organize, run and power our cities will be increasingly important in the years ahead, as urbanization expands and the damaging effects of climate change compound.