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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.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.

More surprises await scientists at Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier"

Cliffs along the edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Photo: James Yungel/NASA

Researchers like David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, are in a race to understand the fate of a massive glacier in West Antarctica that has earned a disquieting nickname: "The Doomsday Glacier."

Why it matters: Studies show the Thwaites Glacier (its official name) could already be on an irreversible course to melt during the next several decades to centuries, freeing up enough inland ice to raise global sea levels by at least several feet.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Omicron's blitz around the world has underscored the need for a new arsenal of COVID vaccines and therapeutics, experts say — and that may require an effort akin to Operation Warp Speed 2.0.

Why it matters: The virus will continue to evolve, potentially in a way that further escapes vaccine protection, and the best way to prevent more global disruptions to everyday life is to have tools ready to combat whatever comes next.