Russia Sees Harsh Crackdown on Independent Media
21 December 2014
Denis Abramov / Vedomosti - Journalists at Dozhd admit the state propaganda is taking its toll, convincing Russians to believe in the supremacy of national interests.
MOSCOW (AP) — Among the five TV journalists interviewing Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the odd one out was easy to spot.
Mikhail Zygar's questions were sharper than those of the others, who headed back to spacious television studios while Zygar broadcast his piece from a Moscow living room. The Dozhd news channel, whose editor-in-chief Zygar was given a Committee to Protect Journalists award last month, rose to prominence in 2011 with its coverage of the mass protests against President Vladimir Putin — which state-owned television largely ignored.
As other Russian television channels have grown increasingly subservient this year, providing propaganda backing for the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and Russia's aggressive policy toward Ukraine, Dozhd didn't follow the lead — and is now paying for it. Putin's government has been careful not to order the channel to shut down, but a Kremlin-instigated smear campaign has driven this rare independent broadcaster to the brink of demise.
Opaque middlemen exact high price in Russia's deals with the West
By Tom Bergin and Stephen Grey
December 19, 2014
Exterior view of the Endocrinology Research Centre in Moscow December 17, 2014. REUTERS-Maxim Zmeyev
(Reuters) - Russia pays hugely inflated prices for vital medical equipment made by Western companies, in part because some manufacturers channel sales through obscure intermediary companies, a Reuters examination has found.
These middlemen firms, which have no easily traceable owners or offices, add mark-ups that mean Russian state hospitals frequently pay two or three times more than hospitals in the West for the same equipment. A Reuters examination of Russian customs data and state procurement records shows the price differences can be hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single item.
An analysis of 20,000 transactions dated between January 2006 and July 2013 found that international companies sold Russia medical devices worth more than $2.8 billion through more than 150 obscure companies and partnerships. These offshore intermediaries give addresses that are letterboxes at law and accounting firms. Their ownership is hidden behind nominees or held in jurisdictions where public shareholder registers are not available.
The transactions illustrate how Western companies play a part in the brand of capitalism that has developed under Russian President Vladimir Putin. As Reuters has documented this year, in Putin's Russia intermediaries are sometimes inserted into deals to exploit state spending. The use of opaque intermediaries signals a risk that the hidden owners may inflate profits, siphon off funds or facilitate bribery, according to lawyers and corporate governance specialists. By agreeing to deal with such middlemen, Western firms help sustain the system that has flourished under Putin.
Experts 'grasping at straws' to save near-extinct rhino
By Michael Thurston
December 18, 2014
An extremely endangered northern white rhinoceros on December 20, 2009 at the Ol Pejeta reserve (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)
Los Angeles (AFP) - So how exactly do you save an almost extinct rhinoceros?
Turns out, a test tube baby rhino could be the solution, being sought by experts on three continents. But it won't be easy. Keepers at California's world-renowned San Diego Zoo announced this week that Angalifu, one of its two northern white rhinos, had died at the ripe old age of 44.
That leaves only five other members of the species in the world: one female in California, one in the Czech Republic, and two females and one male -- the sole remaining on the planet -- in Kenya. The trouble is, four of the five are already on their last legs -- being already into their 40s, for a species with an average age of 43. Only one, a female in Kenya, is still young, having been born in 2000.
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