MOSCOW (Reuters) - A heat wave that fanned wildfires and blanketed Moscow with acrid smoke pushed up the number of deaths in Russia by nearly a fifth in July and August this year, according to a government report issued on Monday.
Nearly 56,000 more people died nationwide this summer than in the same period last year, said a monthly Economic Development Ministry report on Russia's economy.
"In connection with the unusual heat, forest fires and smoke, in July of this year 14,500 and in August 41,300 more people died than during the same period last year," a section of the report on demographics said.
Deaths from digestive and circulatory system diseases as well as from cancer had increased, according to the report.
Moscow and much of western Russia saw temperatures at nearly 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Forest fires spread fast in late July and peat fires covered the capital with smoke.
About 374,000 Russians died in July and August this year, up 17.5 percent from 2009, the report said. In August 2010 alone, about 192,000 died, up more than 27 percent from August 2009.
In August, Moscow's health department chief said deaths had nearly doubled in the city to about 700 a day.
There were fewer than 60 official deaths nationwide from the wildfires themselves.
Kremlin critics said legislation approved by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during his 2000-2008 presidency gutted Russia's forest management system and slowed the response to the fires.
But Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, have suffered little political fallout from the wildfires. Opinion polls have shown no significant dip in their approval ratings.
This summer's deaths contributed to a decline in population in the first eight months of 2010 which, despite the arrival of nearly 111,000 migrants, fell by 87,400 people to 141.8 million as of Sept. 1, the report said.
Putin and Medvedev have sought to reverse a persistent post-Soviet population decline, praising parenthood and providing subsidies for families with more than one child.
Russian census held in strict compliance with schedule
MOSCOW, October 25 (Itar-Tass) -- A population census ended in Russia on Monday, October 25.
The last of the 458,500 census stations closed at 22:00 Moscow time. Almost half a million people engaged by the State Statistics Agency (Rosstat) as census takers will return their bags, but will be allowed to keep the scarves, whistles and flashlights, the census press centre said.
The main phase of the census was held on October 14-25. “The census was conducted in strict compliance with the schedule,” Rosstat deputy head Irina Zbarskaya told Itar-Tass.
In some remote areas, the census started on March 1 and will continue till December. The census was also extended for several days in two districts of the Krasnodar Territory because of a devastating flood.
Rosstat is confident that the census has justified its motto: “Everyone is Important for Russia!” This is borne out by interim data announced by Rosstat officials in the middle of the campaign. As for October 19, around 70 million people had been registered, which is about half of the country’s population.
Trud/Russia Today: Mossad outdoes Anna Chapman
Israeli spies are caught across the globe 10 times more often than the Russian agents.
In the center of the media attention is yet another Russian, who is being suspected in espionage. Following the scandal with Anna Chapman and her nine colleagues, it might have seemed that only Russian intelligence agents are caught, though in reality, Israeli agents are exposed most often.
A trial against a Russian citizen, who is suspected by the local intelligence agencies in engaging in espionage for Russia, began in Poland. While concealing his real name, investigators gave the detainee a pseudonym of Tadeusz.
In recent months, exposed Russian spies have numerous times found themselves in the center of media’s attention. Recall the scandal with the 10 agents, arrested in the Unites States, one of whom was Anna Chapman.
Due to this fact, many Russians now have the impression that our agents are most commonly exposed. As it turns out, however, the most active and, at the same time, most frequently caught, are the secret agents of Israel. In the last six months, a total of about 100 Israeli agents have been exposed across the globe in comparison to the 12 Russian agents.
If the foreign media reports about a detained spy, most often, that spy is a staff member of the Israeli intelligence agencies. They are exposed throughout the entire world: in the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Palestine and Lebanon.
The last major scandal, involving Israeli secret agents, was the story with the murder of Palestinian national Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Recall that he was supplying arms to the Hamas movement, which Tel Aviv considers a terrorist organization.
Mahmoud was shot on January, 2010 in a Dubai hotel. According to a statement, made by the UAE authorities, the murder was organized by 27 Israeli intelligence officers. On October 20, Chief of the Dubai Police Force, Dahi Tamim, said that one of the persons involved in the murder of the Hamas leader, had been arrested in Canada. Ottawa, however, tried to deny this claim.
Spying on an ally
Israeli spies are regularly caught in the US. On October 7, it was discovered that the FBI had arrested Elliot Doxer, a Jewish American who was employed at a large IT company, Akamai Technologies.
He was accused of collecting information about clients, contracts, and staff members of well-known American firms, and then selling this information to interested parties in Israel. Among Doxer’s victims were such giants as Apple, Adobie, and Yahoo. Now, the corporate spy could face up to 20 years in prison.
Most often, the Israeli agents who are caught in the US, are engaged in collecting information about the American Armed Forces, as well as Washington’s contacts with other countries – and that is while the US and Israel are considered to be close allies.
According to Evgeny Satanovsky, president of the Middle East Institute, the US authorities quite frequently conceal information that is quite important for their Israeli colleagues. “For example, Washington is half-heartedly sharing information with Israel about its contacts with Iran,” says Satanovsky.
According to the expert, Israel usually uses the discovered information to later throw it on the table before the Americans and demand explanations.
Fear is the reason to spy
Israeli spies are arrested in Arab states only somewhat less frequently. As a rule, authorities report on exposing entire networks of agents and dozens of detainees. On October 8, Palestinian authorities reported on a major success of their counterintelligence. Hamas announced that they had arrested about a hundred Israeli agents who spied on Palestinian militants for at least the last three years.
Moreover, on October 11, the Lebanese counterintelligence service reported on the arrest of nine Israeli agents. The spies were collecting information about Lebanese army maneuvers, as well as terrorist activity on the country’s territory.
According to Satanovsky, Israel is forced to engage in intelligence activity out of fear for its security.
“This county is the target for many extremist organizations from Arab countries, as well as of anti-globalists,” explains the expert. According to him, Israel takes the threats, coming from these organizations, about the destruction of its state – seriously.
Independent Media Are Hard-Pressed to Find the Right Audience and Advertisers in Russia
Last week the German publishing house Axel Springer announced the closure of Newsweek Russia, a Russian-language magazine which had been licensed from Newsweek since 2004. This is just one of many instances of independent media disappearing in the country, but experts believe that the reasons behind the shutdown were for the most part financial, and not political.
In Russia, independent media outlets have been living under some cloudy skies lately.
Russian Newsweek has been closed, while another critical voice – the Novaya Gazeta daily, a paper renowned for its investigative coverage of Russian political and social affairs – might face closure after a Moscow court threw out its appeal over an extremism warning from the federal media watchdog. The fourth anniversary of the unsolved murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a reporter for Novaya Gazeta and outspoken critic of the Kremlin who was killed in the elevator of her apartment building in Moscow, coincided with the journalism faculty of Moscow State University releasing a provocative calendar featuring half-dressed female students confessing their love for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
But in the case of Newsweek Russia, publishers say the closure wasn’t due to political pressure. “We are proud that Russky Newsweek has been prominent, award-winning and met the highest standards of journalistic work for six years. We thank editor in chief Mikhail Fishman and all journalists and employees of the editorial and publishing house for their excellent work. Unfortunately, we have failed to bring the magazine to a firm economic base and we could not create a prosperous perspective. With respect to these circumstances, we decided not to renew the expired license agreement with Newsweek Inc. Axel Springer Russia has an excellent market position thanks to its portfolio of numerous successful media brands and we will direct our efforts to further develop and acquire profitable business in the future,” a statement from the company said.
Axel Springer Russia, a wholly-owned subsidiary of German Axel Springer AG, currently publishes the Russian edition of Forbes business magazine, the OK!, GEO, GALA Biography magazines and several others titles. “This story probably has no political connotations,” said Ilya Yashin, a leader of the Solidarity opposition group, on the closure of Newsweek. “The decision to close the magazine was made in Germany, not in Russia. So the official version of economic reasons seems plausible. The crisis hit print magazines pretty hard.”
Milena Bakhvalova, the editor of the economic policy department at RBC magazine, believes that Newsweek could not find its niche audience in Russia. “Firstly, Russian Newsweek probably made a mistake when it decided to focus on a young audience and adapted its style to suit young and inquisitive readers. But very few people in their 20s in Russia are ready to buy such magazines. Most young people are not interested in profound analysis and even in business and politics at all. So Newsweek could attract a smaller audience than expected,” she said.
The second reason is that Russian advertisers have a different mentality than advertisers in the West, media experts believe, which explains why the traditional American concept of a weekly business magazine does not always work in Russia. “Russian advertisers prefer magazines that supplement direct advertisements with so-called ‘informational support,’ such as interviews, experts’ commentary, etc. This approach is very popular in Russia, but is prohibited in American licensed magazines. As a result, print titles that ban ‘PR support’ make much less profit than their competitors who allow it, while their expenses are the same,” Bakhvalova explained. “For example, it was one of the main reasons why the other American magazine – Business Week – was closed in Russia in 2008.”
Olga Vdovina, the deputy director at the MediaGuide.ru Internet portal that focuses on the publishing business and advertizing in the mass media, agreed that Newsweek Russia’s economic hardship was caused by its erroneous development strategy and the generally difficult conditions on the media market. “Newsweek entered the Russian market too late, when the business magazine niche was already occupied by successful Russian brands. It had little time for promotion – just four years before the economic crisis hit Russia and less than two years before the crisis hit the United States. Newsweek’s marketing team was made up of professionals who did everything possible in such circumstances,” she said. “Generally speaking, Western print business media are hardly suitable for the Russian market. Many attempts to publish west European business magazines in Russia have failed.”
“Two thousand and ten was very difficult not only for print media, but for radio and outdoor advertising as well. The main reason is the redistribution of advertising budgets. Large international companies now spend most of their advertising budgets on television,” Vdovina continued. “As a result, many print media, especially glossy and business magazines, lost up to 60 percent of their advertising budgets. Many projects were closed. We can see that the publishing market is getting divvied up once again.”
Bakhvalova believes that Newsweek Russia had its golden age when Leonid Parfyonov, a famous Russian news anchor, journalist and author of some popular television shows, was its editor in chief. “In those times journalists traveled a lot and wrote lots of features. Therefore the content of the magazine was more interesting and of better quality than articles in other print media written by their colleagues, who used the Internet and phone to find information,” she said. Later Newsweek’s budget was reduced, and the number of reports decreased. At the same time, the Russky Reporter (Russian Reporter) weekly magazine entered the market and became Newsweek’s main competitor. It ran more interesting and up-to-date feature stories with more profound analysis.
“Newsweek became a victim of the modern profit-making approach to journalism. Many publishers now tend to cut down expenses on authors. They have few staff writers and pay them modest salaries. This is a general problem in the Russian mass media, and it was at Newsweek as well. In August and September several highly-paid Newsweek journalists were fired and replaced with ‘cheap’ recent college graduates,” Bakhvalova said. “Publishers expect a fast return on investment. But a lot of time and money is needed to attract readers and advertisers to a new project. Even the super-popular Kommersant newspaper was unprofitable for many years.”
Some experts also ascribe the death of Russian Newsweek to the development of electronic mass media. When all news, reports and analytics are available on the Internet, it makes no sense to buy print editions anymore, they say. But other experts disagree. “It is too early to say that electronic media can completely replace traditional print media. How can electronic media survive? It can’t make a profit from distribution, like print media, and now there are only four to six Web sites in the Russian Internet that make huge profits from advertising,” Vdovina said. “It is hard to believe that print media can die soon. IPads can’t compete with the pleasure of flicking through the pages of a magazine while drinking a cup of coffee.”