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View of Havana, Cuba, taken on April 19, 2018. Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images

A handful of letters in the most recent Journal of the American Medical Association question whether the apparent "sonic attack" against U.S. personnel stationed in Cuba happened — or at least second-guess the level of academic rigor behind that diagnosis.

What they're saying: A total of 10 doctors across across four JAMA letters say that researchers — particularly via a study published in JAMA this past March — gave unduly short shrift to the possibility that embassy employees suffered instead from mass hysteria.

From the letters:

  • "The key is whether the patients had knowledge that others were becoming ill or knew that there was a suspicion that sonic weapons were involved."
  • "Based on the evidence presented thus far, mass psychogenic illness cannot be discounted."
  • "Although diagnostic caution is warranted, functional neurological disorders are common genuine disorders that can affect anyone, including hardworking diplomatic staff."
  • "It is inappropriate to conclude without baseline data that any of the 6 patients presented were truly impaired."

The other side: The authors of the initial JAMA study — the one that supported the idea of a sonic attack — responded, saying they agree more research would be helpful but that some of the criticisms don't hold water.

  • One of the doctors who questioned their findings, for example, has previously identified "a preponderance of female participants" as a characteristic of mass hysteria. (Only about half of the Americans in Cuba were women.)

Go deeper

N.Y. Times faces culture clashes as business booms

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New York Times columnist David Brooks' resignation from a paid gig at a think tank on Saturday is the latest in a flurry of scandals that America's biggest and most successful newspaper company has endured in the past year.

Driving the news: Brooks resigned from the Aspen Institute following a BuzzFeed News investigation that uncovered conflicts of interest between Brooks' reporting and money he accepted from corporate donors for a project called "Weave" that he worked on at the nonprofit.

America rebalances its post-Trump news diet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Nearly halfway through President Biden's first 100 days, data shows that Americans are learning to wean themselves off of news — and especially politics.

Why it matters: The departure of former President Trump's once-ubiquitous presence in the news cycle has reoriented the country's attention.

2021 sees a record number of bills targeting trans youth

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republicans in at least 25 states have introduced over 60 bills targeting transgender children — a legislative boom since January that has beaten 2020's total number of anti-trans bills.

Why it matters: LGBTQ advocates say the unprecedented push was catalyzed by backlash to Biden's election and the Supreme Court ruling that workers cannot be fired for being gay or transgender.