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This week in Tortoise: Havana Syndrome

This week in Tortoise: Havana Syndrome

On 14 August 2015, the US reopened its embassy in Havana, Cuba, after decades of absence. Just a couple of years later, a number of the diplomats who had been sent there – or CIA agents posing as diplomats – started complaining about symptoms. Dizziness, nausea, headaches, and a persistent sound in their heads…

There’s something very real about this Havana Syndrome, as it has become known. US diplomats in other countries have reported the same symptoms. It prompted Kamala Harris to postpone a trip to Vietnam. Joe Biden has set up a Havana Syndrome Taskforce to find out what to do.

But there’s something unreal and mysterious about it, too. What could be causing it? In Havana Syndrome, this week’s episode of the Slow Newscast, Basia Cummings goes in search of an answer. She speaks to an expert in neurosecurity to explore the possibility of some unknown enemy attack. And she hears from the doctor who believes that there’s a rather more psychological cause.

The podcast is available exclusively to members in the Tortoise app from today, then on other podcast platforms from Thursday. It’s more than a whodunnit; it’s a whatisit? Do listen – and make up your own mind

Later this week, on Thursday, it’s the Tortoise Responsible Business Summit — which will be accompanied by the latest update to our Responsibility100 Index. You can see the schedule and book your own place here.

As for the rest of this week’s ThinkIns:

  • This evening, at 6.30pm BST, the two star statisticians David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters will visit our virtual newsroom to discuss their new book, Covid by Numbers. What can we learn about the pandemic from looking at the stats? A lot, it turns out.
  • On Wednesday, two ThinkIns that are part of a new Tortoise series considering mental health and well-being. In the first, at 1pm BST, we’ll be discussing the question: why is it still so hard to talk about mental ill-health? For the second, at 6.30pm BST, we’ll be joined by Sharon Shoesmith, the former director of children’s services for Haringey Council who was involved in the Baby P case, to talk about forgiveness – and its limits.
  • And, on Friday lunchtime, we welcome a very funny writer to our offices – Georgia Pritchett, who has won many awards for her work on TV series such as Veepto look into the serious subject of anxiety. Though I’m sure we’ll also find time to discuss her latest television work, the upcoming third season of Succession

We’ve got some exciting ThinkIns coming up later in October, too, including conversations, next week, with Michael Morpurgo and Steven Pinker, as well as a chat about the sci-fi phenomenon Dune with… the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.

Have a very good week.


James Harding
Editor & co-founder