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modern warfare

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Question: Put together some sci-fi, add a bit of spy thriller and what have you got? Answer: The latest hypothesis for what caused the symptoms and illnesses of our diplomatic representatives in Cuba and then in China. The Cuban incident caused a serious rift in the newly mellowed relationship between Cuba and the United States. Now scientists are suggesting that microwaves might be the weapons.

It seems that weapons emitting microwave radiation, not the short waves that come from our kitchen microwave ovens or connect our cellphones to antennae towers, have been considered by military specialists for mind control since the Cold War. These invisible beams can transmit painfully loud booms and even spoken words into people’s heads, according to an astonishing story by William J. Broad on the front page of last Sunday’s New York Times. Now Douglas H. Smith, director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the lead author of a recent study of 21 affected diplomats from Cuba, pointed to this possible cause of the brain injuries.

The Frey effect, named after American biologist Allan H. Frey, occurs when microwaves cause the brain to “hear” ordinary sounds, like loud noises, ringing and even human voices. These can be the result of stealth attacks with sonic weapons.

Jason, a secretive group of elite scientists that, according to The Times, helps the federal government assess new threats to national security, has been called in to figure out the cause of the symptoms. While the group has not issued any explanations, nor has the FBI, it is certainly studying the possibility of microwaves being the agents. Frey, 83, who lives near Washington, agrees. He even thinks that a group of Cubans aligned with Russia, their longtime ally, might have launched such an attack. “It’s a possibility … a perfectly viable explanation,” to disrupt a closer United States-Cuban relationship.

Microwaves, a form of electromagnetic radiation, are everywhere and are generally seen as harmless. However, when tightly focused, as when dish antennas turn the disorganized rays into concentrated beams, they can cause even deaf people to hear false sounds. Frey, in effect, founded a new field of study on the neural impact of radiation waves. He realized that the human head, because of its dimensions, is a good antenna for picking up microwave signals. The temporal lobes, beneath the temples, are where nerve signals from the outer and inner ear are processed. The effect is now called radio-frequency hearing.

Others took note. The Soviets built labs with armed guards to study the neural impact of microwaves and envisioned arms that they called psychophysical or psychotronic. These sounds, the Defense Intelligence Agency warned, could disrupt military or diplomatic personnel.

The U.S. Air Force jumped in to research how to beam comprehensible speech into the heads of enemies. The Navy sought to paralyze with the beams. Russia, China and European nations know how to make such weapons today. The weapon might look like an innocuous satellite dish and could fire beams over relatively short distances. We do know that Russian President Vladimir Putin resurrected “work on psychoactive arms” as recently ago as 2012, according to The Times.

There is still no definitive explanation for the sickness of diplomatic personnel in Cuban and subsequently China, but suspicions of microwave radiation remain high on the list. The problem in pinpointing them is the stealth.

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