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  • 1440 Daily Digest

Morning Headlines: 12/5/23

Ex-US Diplomat Charged

US officials unsealed charges yesterday against a retired US diplomat who has been accused of spying for Cuba for more than four decades in what is considered one of the longest-lasting infiltrations of the US government.

Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested Friday in Miami and charged with conspiring to act as a foreign government agent, acting as an illegal agent of a foreign government, and lying to obtain a passport. Rocha's efforts to gather intelligence for Cuba allegedly began in 1981 when he started working for the US State Department. His stints included serving on the National Security Council and holding top posts in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, and the US Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland in Havana (when the US and Cuba lacked diplomatic relations).

Court documents (see here) state Rocha made incriminating statements and referred to the US as "the enemy" during three meetings within the last year with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence operative. Rocha's charges come after a former US defense intelligence agency analyst convicted of spying for Cuba was released earlier this year after 21 years in prison.

Cyclone Michaung Hits India

Cyclone Michaung made landfall early this morning along India’s southern coast as a severe cyclonic storm, with wind speeds of up to 62 mph and gusts of up to 70 mph. At least six deaths have been reported due to the heavy rainfall, and thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate. Officials in Chennai said the rainfall from Michaung (pronounced “mig-jaum”) is the most the city has encountered in 70-80 years, with some parts of the city recording nearly 10 inches of rain in 24 hours.

Cyclone season in the northern Indian Ocean typically runs between April and December. Although the area accounts for less than 6% of the world’s cyclones, it has seen an uptick in cyclonic activity in recent years due to several factors, including warmer sea surface temperatures. However, the Bay of Bengal accounts for more than 80% of global cyclone-related fatalities due to its high population density. See photos of the destruction here.

Separately, at least 63 people died following heavy flooding and landslides over the weekend in northern Tanzania.

New Brain Injury Treatment

Electrical stimulation of a key information relay in the injured brains of five patients improved their cognition by up to 52%, according to a new study released yesterday. The small feasibility trial was designed to prove the safety of the implanted electrode device and is a step toward broader clinical studies.

Researchers surgically inserted an electrode near the almond-sized central lateral nucleus of the thalamus (see 3D model) in each patient, all of whom had suffered moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injuries between three and 18 years prior. Tests taken before the procedure and after a year of daily, 12-hour deep brain stimulation showed participants' cognitive abilities improved between 12% and 52%.

Health officials estimate over 5 million Americans suffer from chronic issues as a result of TBIs suffered primarily via falls and accidents. Healthy brain functioning relies on an active neural network that integrates the brain's many regions, a process hampered in TBI patients. Learn more about TBI here.

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