Oct 2, 2017

Mysterious health attacks targeted American spies in Cuba

A Cuban and U.S. flag wave next to each other on the coast of Cuba. Photo: Ramon Espinosa / AP

American spies were reportedly among the first and most severely affected victims of the mysterious health attacks which have led to hearing loss and brain injury on U.S. diplomats in Cuba, per AP.

Why it matters: Prior to this report, U.S. officials had described the 21 victims simply as "members of the diplomatic community," which suggested that only bona fide diplomats and their family members were hit, suggesting no rational motivation for the attacks aside from upsetting U.S.-Cuban relations.

  • The remaining puzzler: Despite the news that intelligence operatives were targeted, U.S. diplomats at the embassy in Havana were also hit with similar attacks.
  • Timing: The attacks begun in the days following President Trump's November election win, but the exact timeline is still unclear, as it's unknown whether the U.S. spies were the first victims hit or just the first victims to report it. The U.S. investigation is still "ongoing."
  • U.S. reaction: Last week, the U.S. announced that it had stopped issuing visas in Cuba indefinitely, ordered 60% of its staff to leave the embassy in Havana, and warned American travelers not to visit the island. As for new travelers and those who decide to remain in Cuba, the U.S. has given them instructions about what to watch and listen for as well as how to respond if they find themselves under attack.
  • Cuba reaction: President Raul Castro has denied having any involvement, stating in February that he was "equally befuddled, and concerned" with the incident. He also invited any investigators to the island to carry out their work.
  • U.S.-Cuba relations: If the goal of the attacks were to create tension between the two countries, which have only recently begun to repair decades of volatile relations, the strategy seems to be working. The attacks have given the U.S. reasons to doubt their recent efforts, as well as led to the issuing of a new travel warning deeming Havana's hotels unsafe for visitors. The result is a threat on Cuba's tourism, the foundation of it's economy.

Go deeper

Top Trump ally sounds 2020 election alarm over coronavirus response

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

There is growing concern among top conservative leaders that the Trump administration isn't addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus, several sources tell Axios. One top adviser said if the recovery is bungled it could cost President Trump the election.

What we're hearing: "The next 4-8 weeks is really going to decide whether Trump gets reelected," Stephen Moore, Trump's former nominee for the Federal Reserve board, told Axios. If the administration mishandles its economic recovery efforts, he said, Trump is "in big trouble."

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,600,427 — Total deaths: 95,506 — Total recoveries: 354,006Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 465,329 — Total deaths: 16,513 — Total recoveries: 25,410Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under a CDC public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  5. 2020 latest: Top conservative leaders are concerned the Trump administration isn't addressing the virus' long-term economic impact.
  6. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  7. World latest: Lockdowns have led to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries — Boris Johnson is moved out of the ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  8. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  9. 1 SNL thing: "Saturday Night Live" will return this weekend in a remotely produced episode.
  10. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Federal court temporarily blocks coronavirus order against some abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy