Jan 9, 2018

State official can't guarantee American diplomats' safety in Cuba

Photo: Yamil Lage / AFP / Getty Images

The State Department's diplomatic security assistant director told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee this morning that the safety of American diplomats in Cuba could not be guaranteed after a series of mysterious attacks.

Why it matters: This suggests that the State Department is no closer to knowing their method or culprit more than a year after the Havana attacks began. And that matters because the current guidance to diplomats stationed in Cuba is entirely reactive if an attack is suspected, as there is no known method to mitigate the attacks' effects without knowing their source.

What's been happening:

  • Dr. Charles Rosenfarb, the medical director for State's Bureau of Medical Services, described the damage from the attacks as "trauma from a non-natural source."
  • Those affected describe hearing a loud sound or feeling an auditory pressure, which has resulted in some victims having clinical damage "similar to what might be seen following a mild traumatic brain injury or a concussion."
  • The attacks were initially reported as coming from a "sonic weapon" but American officials stopped using that term last year. However, Brown told the subcommittee today that he "wouldn't rule out" that the attacks might have an acoustic component.

What's next: Francisco Palmieri, the acting assistant secretary for State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, said the department is in the process of convening an Accountability Review Board, which must investigate "any case of serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property at, or related to, a United States Government mission abroad."

One more thing: With news of warming economic ties between Cuba and Russia, Palmieri said that any discussion of potential Russian involvement in the attacks would have to be discussed in a classified setting.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,094,068 — Total deaths: 58,773 — Total recoveries: 225,519Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 273,880 — Total deaths: 7,077 — Total recoveries: 9,521Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
  4. 2020 latest: Wisconsin's governor called for a last-minute primary election delay. "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said on the 2020 election, as more states hold primaries by mail.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
  8. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Senators call for independent investigation into firing of Navy captain.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Government will cover uninsured patients' coronavirus treatment

Azar at Friday's briefing. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The federal government will cover the costs of coronavirus treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a White House briefing Friday.

How it works: The money will come from a $100 billion pot set aside for the health care industry in the most recent stimulus bill. Providers will be paid the same rates they get for treating Medicare patients, and as a condition of those payments, they won't be allowed to bill patients for care that isn't covered.

More states issue stay-at-home orders as coronavirus crisis escalates

Data: Axios reporting; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order on Friday as the novel coronavirus pandemic persists. The order goes into effect Saturday at 5 p.m. and will remain in place through April 30. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also issued a statewide social distancing order on Friday.

The big picture: In a matter of weeks, the number of states that issued orders nearly quadrupled, affecting almost 300 million Americans.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health