An American official serving in China who was rushed back to the U.S. for medical reasons describes the symptoms she says she suffered from a mysterious attack that injured her brain. Catherine Werner tells her story for the first time to Scott Pelley for a report to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, March 17 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
In 2016 and 2017, 25 Americans – including CIA agents – working in the American embassy in Havana, Cuba, suffered serious brain injuries. The symptoms included vision problems and memory loss. The symptoms were very similar to those that 15 American officials serving in China say they experienced more recently. Werner is one of several who spoke to 60 MINUTES about the brain trauma they say they suffered in China and how they believe it was caused.
Werner’s mother who came to care for her daughter during her illness in China also became sickened, says Werner. They are both home now. Werner, 31, was a commercial trade officer promoting American business in the city of Guangzhou. She believes she was targeted and her health may be affected for life.
The U.S. State Department has called the Cuban events an attack, but has not classified the incidents in China as such. Several agencies are investigating those incidents. The State Department declined to speak to 60 MINUTES for this report, instead issuing this statement: “We will continue to provide our colleagues the care they need, regardless of their diagnosis or the location of their evacuation.”
Werner fears for others who may be subjected to the ordeal she has undergone and is speaking out as a warning to them. In this excerpt, she describes what happened to her and to her mother in China.
PELLEY: When did you first notice that you weren’t feeling well?
WERNER: October of 2017, I started to get hives all over my body. Really bad hives. I woke up with headaches every day. Um, I started to feel tired. The simplest things would just make me very, very tired.
PELLEY: Were these symptoms growing worse over time?
WERNER: They were. Yes. My symptoms would get so bad that I would throw up, or I would wake up with nose bleeds.
SHE SAYS EVEN HER DOGS WERE THROWING UP BLOOD. WERNER ASSUMED HER ILLNESS WAS CONNECTED TO CHINA’S TOXIC SMOG. SHE DIDN’T KNOW IT AT THE TIME BUT HER SYMPTOMS WERE THE SAME THAT AMERICAN OFFICIALS IN HAVANA HAD SUFFERED SINCE 2016. THE U.S. EMBASSY THERE IS ALL BUT CLOSED AS A RESULT.
WERNER: We hadn’t heard about what happened in Cuba. I mean, there were headlines in the news about hearing loss and um, attacks to our diplomats, but we didn’t know the details.
CATHERINE WERNER BECAME SO ILL, HER MOTHER TRAVELED FROM THE U.S. TO LIVE WITH HER.
WERNER: She spent almost three months with me. During that time, she also got very ill. And she and I shared the same symptoms.
PELLEY: What sort of symptoms did your mother have?
WERNER: Headaches and um, ringing in our ears. Um, we also started to both um, have difficulty recalling words.
Frank Sinatra used to be a regular here, along with Kirk Douglas and Gregory Peck. So too, gamblers, tycoons, even Agent 007 himself. It’s Monaco, the mythical mecca for the super-rich where residents feel safe parading their jewels and the party never ended, even as political upheaval and income inequality vex the rest of the world. Anderson Cooper drops in for a visit and meets His Serene Highness, better known as Monaco’s Prince Albert II, on the next edition of 60 MINUTES Sunday March 17 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
There was a time when American actors could only play royalty on the big screen. But movie star Grace Kelly, Prince Albert’s mother, moved to Monaco and became a real-life princess when she married Prince Ranier III in 1956. It wasn’t long before her Hollywood friends began visiting, putting the tiny principality on the map among the jet-set. “I remember different parties and different luncheons in the summer; when we’d have Frank Sinatra and Kirk Douglas…Gregory Peck came by,” recalls the prince.
It may be the smallest country in the world outside the Vatican, but managing Monaco is a lot of work for the prince – who is no figurehead. He’s actually running the place. Its tiny size and concentration of super-rich give Monaco the unique distinction of housing more multi-millionaires per square foot than any other place on the planet, along with the world’s priciest real estate. Cooper is shown a penthouse apartment on the market for $300 million.
The prince may rule Monaco, but the king of the night here is Flavio Briatore, nightclub and restaurant owner, and driver of a new Lamborghini–purchased with the help of some of his big-spending customers. “We have people [who] spend 300,000 euro in one night,” he tells Cooper during a ride through Monte Carlo.
Briatore picked Cooper up in his Lambo after 11:00 PM, because the real fun in Monaco starts late. “You have two faces of Monaco. You have the day, quiet; in the night, people go around…to the disco…to the restaurant…The party goes on.”
TARGETING AMERICANS – American officials working in Cuba, and now China, have developed serious brain injuries that they say are the result of secret, insidious attacks. In their first TV interviews, some of these Americans describe their symptoms and those of their families. Scott Pelley reports. Robert Anderson, Oriana Zill de Granados and Michael Rey are the producers.
BILLIONAIRE ON THE BUS – AOL co-founder and billionaire investor Steve Case says Middle America is being ignored when it comes to venture capital investment. Case aims to change this as he rides a bus across the heartland in search of promising start-ups. Sharyn Alfonsi reports. Katy Textor is the producer.
MONACO – Where else but this legendary principality does a penthouse apartment go for $300 million and revelers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at a restaurant in a single night? Anderson Cooper drops in on the party and meets the prince. David M. Levine and Michael H. Gavshon are the producers.
AOL co-founder and billionaire investor Steve Case says Middle America is being ignored when it comes to venture capital investment. Case aims to change this situation with “Rise of the Rest,” a fund that will bring some of that venture capital now going to the tech hubs on the coasts and invest it with worthy entrepreneurs in America’s heartland. Sharyn Alfonsi reports on “Rise of the Rest” on the next edition of 60 MINUTES, Sunday, March 17(7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Case raised $150 million to seed his fund and hopes to invest it in places like Detroit, Birmingham, Ala., and Indianapolis. “Seventy-five percent of venture capital money went to three states: California, New York and Massachusetts…Most of the venture capital is on the coasts, not in the middle of the country, and we just have to change that,” says Case. “[Middle Americans] have been forgotten…they have been left behind,” he says. “Most people are not paying attention to them… Most people on the coasts don’t think there’s anything interesting, innovative happening in the middle of the country.”
Case and his team ride a tour bus across the U.S. looking for the ideas and entrepreneurs they want to invest in. They’ve been to 38 cities and 26 states. Alfonsi accompanied Case to Memphis for a pitch competition. Like a talent show, entrepreneurs pitch their inventions in an old church, ideas that included a new auto headlight and a biodegradable medical device. Says Case, “If you care about this city, you have to invest in start-ups.”
The winner of this idea contest got a check for $100,000 to grow their business.
Alfonsi and 60 MINUTES cameras also follow Case’s partner in “The Rise of the Rest,” JD Vance, who wrote the bestseller Hillbilly Elegy. Alfonsi reports on Vance’s efforts in Pikeville, Ky., where they meet Jonathan Webb. Webb founded local business AppHarvest, which is building huge greenhouses to grow produce year round. The fund invested in the company because it has an idea based on its location.
“We can get to 70 percent of the U.S. population in a one-day drive,” says Webb. The new investment will help AppHarvest expand and hire more workers in this distressed area of Appalachia, where jobs are scarce and opioid addiction is rampant. “Folks need opportunity. And if they don’t have opportunity, we are going to continue in that cycle here,” Webb says.
Vance is determined to make a difference and a profit. “We shouldn’t just accept that the story should be one of decline. And that’s what I think-- you know, at its core, what ‘Rise of the Rest’ is about is refusing to see the worst in any place. We want to see the best.”