May 24, 2010 Liz Borkowski, MPH 1Comment

The New York Times’ Clifford J. Levy reports on violence against at journalists investigating corruption in the Moscow suburbs:

Mikhail Beketov had been warned, but would not stop writing. About dubious land deals. Crooked loans. Under-the-table hush money. All evidence, he argued in his newspaper, of rampant corruption in this Moscow suburb.

“Last spring, I called for the resignation of the city’s leadership,” Mr. Beketov said in one of his final editorials. “A few days later, my automobile was blown up. What is next for me?”

Not long after, he was savagely beaten outside his home and left to bleed in the snow. His fingers were bashed, and three later had to be amputated, as if his assailants had sought to make sure that he would never write another word. He lost a leg. Now 52, he is in a wheelchair, his brain so damaged that he cannot utter a simple sentence.

Levy also describes the severe assaults on Yuri Grachev and Pyotr Lipatov, editors of newspapers in the cities of Solnechnogorsk and Klin, also outside of Moscow. In all three cases, police failed to launch the kinds of thorough investigations the journalists’ friends expected. Police officials first claimed that Grachev fell down when drunk, then changed their story to say it was a random robbery – though all that was taken was material for the newspaper’s forthcoming issue. A video recording shows that Lipatov was beaten by three police officers – but instead of filing charges against the officers in question, officials hit Lipatov with a criminal extremism suit.

“Corruption is widespread in Russia, and government often functions poorly,” Levy writes. “But most journalists and nonprofit groups shy away from delving deeply into these problems.” When journalists investigating corruption face such grave threats to their lives and health, it’s no wonder.

In other news:

China Daily: Of the new cases of occupational disease reported in China in 2009, 80% were coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or black lung. Nearly 15,000 new patients were diagnosed with the disease, and 748 of them died.

Associated Press: Two former underage workers testified about being exposed to harsh chemicals and working long hours at the Postville, Iowa Agriprocessors slaughterhouse. Sholom Rubashkin faces 83 child labor violation charges; 31 children were among those detained in a May 2008 raid on the facility.

MedPage Today: A Danish analysis using data from the Danish Nurse Cohort Study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, finds that women who reported their workplace pressure as much too high had an increased risk of nearly 50% of developing ischemic heart disease.

Reuters Health: A study involving more than 70,000 Shanghai women, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found no connection between night-shift work and breast cancer. Based on previous research, the International Agency for Research on Cancer had classified night-shift work as a probable carcinogen.

Business Week: Sitting for long periods of time is unhealthy.

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