Havana Syndrome saga rolls on, London’s eunuch maker in court and more race fakers in the news
COVID’S CONTESTED ORIGIN [FT408:6-7]
An updated and classified study from the US energy department, which manages a number of biomedical research institutions, has concluded that the Covid-19 virus probably emerged from a laboratory leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but was not part of a weapons research programme. The update “was done in light of new intelligence, further study of academic literature and consultation with experts outside government,” says the department, but it also said it had “low confidence” in the conclusion. This means that while they feel that, on balance, this is currently the most likely explanation, the evidence is far from conclusive. The Covid-19 virus was not found in the wild in the Wuhan area, but was endemic in bats elsewhere in China, from whom the Wuhan lab had collected samples. They were also known to be carrying out “gain of function” experiments with viruses to make them more infectious under highly secure conditions in order to prepare for potential future viral outbreaks, although there is no evidence they were doing this with the Covid virus. This technique has met with concern from many scientists because of the risk of a leak causing a serious outbreak of disease.
The energy department conclusion contradicts those of four other US intelligence agencies, who have concluded that the pandemic started in the Wuhan wet market. Here, many animals mixed in unsanitary conditions creating a fertile environment for viruses to mutate and leap to humans, and this remains a plausible hypothesis. The FBI has also concluded that the virus came from a lab leak, but for different reasons, while the CIA remains undecided. China has continued to obstruct international investigations into the pandemic’s origins, but it is unclear whether this is because they have something to hide or because of the country’s endemic resistance to other nations interfering in its affairs. Whatever the reason, it is making it hard for researchers to be able to conclusively identify the origins of the pandemic. theguardian.co.uk, wsj.com, 26 Feb 2023.
HAVANA SYNDROME [FT426:14]
The US Director of National Intelligence has issued a statement summarising the results of investigations by seven US intelligence agencies into the likely cause of “anomalous health incidents” (AHIs), also known as Havana Syndrome, experienced by at least 1,000 diplomats, spies and other staff at US embassies around the world. Victims reported hearing loss, vertigo, a sense of pressure around the head, odd auditory sensations, headaches, nausea and, in some cases, brain injuries. These symptoms were thought to be the result of attacks by an unknown directed energy weapon, probably microwave or acoustic, used at a distance and able to penetrate walls. However, authorities in the US and the embassies’ host countries struggled to find any clear evidence of a weapon or its operators; indeed there is doubt that a weapon capable of inflicting the alleged injuries is even technically possible.
The agencies concluded that “available intelligence consistently points against the involvement of US adversaries in causing the reported incidents,” and that “symptoms reported by US personnel were probably the result of factors that did not involve a foreign adversary, such as preexisting conditions, conventional illnesses, and environmental factors.” The statement says that the initial research which led medics to conclude that AHIs “represented a novel medical syndrome or consistent pattern of injuries” were the result of “methodological limitations” and that investigation of the original Cuban incidents involved “critical assumptions that were not borne out by subsequent medical and technical analysis.” As well as dismissing any unknown weapon as the cause of the reported symptoms, all agencies also discounted the possibility that they could be a side effect of some kind of surveillance system.
Mark Zaid, an attorney representing Havana Syndrome victims, described the report as “very disappointing.” He said, “It is inconceivable based on an overwhelming number of unanswered questions that today’s report will serve as the last word,” vowing to make a Freedom of Information request to gain access to the full report, which is currently classified. The US Department of Defense (DoD), however, was not a participant in these studies, and continues to carry out research into Havana Syndrome, reassuring victims that their team is “keeping the course” and urging them to “report any incidents you may have experienced and encourage those around you to do the same”. The DoD is claimed to be developing “defenses” against the syndrome and investigating to see if weapons could be responsible, although they claim that their work “is not focused on creating weapons.” They have, though, funded research at Wayne State University involving exposing ferrets to high energy radio frequency signals for two-hour periods over several weeks to compare the effects on their brains with those of syndrome victims. This is because they believe that there is a “strong rationale” that the Havana Syndrome has been caused by “occult exposure to radio frequency (RF) waves”.
Given the intelligence community’s findings, though, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Havana Syndrome is a social panic that has taken hold in the US intelligence community, particularly as its symptoms are akin to those found in other outbreaks of mass psychogenic illness, and the cause remains similarly elusive. theguardian. com, washingtonpost.com, 1 Mar; politico.com, 6 Mar; independent. co.uk, 11 Mar 2023. For previous coverage of Havana Syndrome, see FT359:22, 360:14, 363:4, 370:26-27, 382:10-11, 389:26-27, 401:9, 407:21, 411:26, 414:8, 417:28, 426:14.
FINSBURY PARK CASTRATOR [FT417:24]
As the case has now come to court, the man arrested for carrying out multiple castrations at his home in Finsbury Park, London, then keeping the severed body parts in his freezer and preserved in jars, has been named as Marius Gustavson, 45, originally from Norway. He has been charged with 29 offences of extreme body modification, the removal of body parts, incuding penises and testicles, the trade in body parts and the uploading of videos of the procedures to his “eunuch maker” website. He was further charged with possessing criminal property, making an indecent image of a child and distributing an indecent image of a child.
A further nine men accused of a six-year conspiracy to commit GBH have been charged with him. Gustavson appeared in court in a wheelchair as one of his legs had been amputated after it had been frozen by another of the accused, Jacob Crimi-Appleby, 22. Among the others in court were Nathaniel Arnold, 47, who is accused of cutting Gustavson’s nipples off and Damien Byrnes, 35, who allegedly severed his penis. All the accused, and their alleged victims, are believed to have consented to and paid for the procedures – the men are said to have earned at least £200,000 from their activities over the six years. They are thought to be members of a group dedicated to extreme body modification linked to the ‘nullo’ subculture whose adherents aim for genital nullification – the complete removal of their genitals to leave their groins smooth – as they see themselves as asexual.
Cases like this, where the accused and their ‘victims’ have all consented to extreme bodily harm have always been controversial, notably Joseph de Havilland’s self-crucifixion on Hampstead Heath in 1968 and the “Operation Spanner” investigation into male samesex sadomasochism in the 1980s. theguardian.com, 22 Mar 2023.
RACE FAKERS [FT398:24-25]
Following the case of Rachel Dolezal, the black activist who was discovered to be white, two more prominent individuals have been outed as claiming bogus minority ancestry. The highest profile is Sacheen Littlefeather, who famously accepted Marlon Brando’s Oscar in 1973 as a representative of Native Americans, making a speech that drove John Wayne to fury. Following her death in October last year, her sisters Rosalind Cruz and Trudy Orlandi said that her claim to have Apache and Yaqui blood through her father Manuel Ybarra Cruz was “a fantasy” and that she was, in fact, of Mexican ancestry. “It’s a lie. My father was who he was. His family came from Mexico. And my dad was born in Oxnard [California]”, said Orlandi, while Cruz added: “It is a fraud. It’s disgusting to the heritage of the tribal people. And it’s just… insulting to my parents.”
In addition, minority rights activist Raquel Saraswati, 39, who claimed to be of Latin, South Asian and Arab descent, was outed by her mother Carol Perone as entirely white and actually named Rachel Elizabeth Seidel. “I don’t know why she’s doing what she’s doing,” Perone said. “I’m as white as the driven snow and so is she.” As Saraswati, Seidel had a prominent role as chief equity, inclusion and culture officer of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Philadelphia-based progressive Quaker group that fights “violence, inequality and oppression”. AFSC official Oskar Pierre Castro, who helped hire Saraswati, believed she was a “queer, Muslim, multiethnic woman” because that’s what she said she was, and felt “conned” and “deceived” by the revelations. Seidel deleted her social media accounts and issued a statement saying she wished “to maintain discretion” about her employment. theguardian. com, 24 Oct 2022; nypost.com, 1 Mar 2023.