Psychiatry as a Tool for Coercion in Post-Soviet Countries
Source: European Parliament
During the 1960-1980s in the USSR, psychiatry was turned into a tool of repression. Soviet psychiatry was cut off from world psychiatry and developed its own – highly institutional and biologically oriented – course, providing at the same time a “scientific justification” for declaring dissidents mentally ill. Since the collapse of the USSR there have been frequent reports of persons hospitalized for non-medical reasons, mostly in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The abuses are caused by an underdeveloped mental health profession with little knowledge of medical ethics and professional responsibilities of physicians; by a system that is highly abusive and not able to guarantee the rights of patients; because of corrupt societies where also psychiatric diagnoses are for sale; because of lack of financing and interest by the authorities and in some cases because of a deteriorating political climate in which local authorities feel safe to use psychiatry again as a tool of repression. Through targeted interventions from outside the situation could be considerably ameliorated and a clear break with the past could be made possible. In this respect the European Parliament can play a crucial role in empowering those who wish to make a clear break with the Soviet past.
Elevated Frequency of Cataracts in Birds from Chernobyl
Source: PLoS ONE
Radiation cataracts develop as a consequence of the effects of ionizing radiation on the development of the lens of the eye with an opaque lens reducing or eliminating the ability to see. Therefore, we would expect cataracts to be associated with reduced fitness in free-living animals.
We investigated the incidence of lens opacities typical of cataracts in more than 1100 free-living birds in the Chernobyl region in relation to background radiation. The incidence of cataracts increased with level of background radiation both in analyses based on a dichotomous score and in analyses of continuous scores of intensity of cataracts. The odds ratio per unit change in the regressor was 0.722 (95% CI 0.648, 0.804), which was less than odds ratios from investigations of radiation cataracts in humans. The relatively small odds ratio may be due to increased mortality in birds with cataracts. We found a stronger negative relationship between bird abundance and background radiation when the frequency of cataracts was higher, but also a direct effect of radiation on abundance, suggesting that radiation indirectly affects abundance negatively through an increase in the frequency of cataracts in bird populations, but also through direct effects of radiation on other diseases, food abundance and interactions with other species. There was no increase in incidence of cataracts with increasing age, suggesting that yearlings and older individuals were similarly affected as is typical of radiation cataract.
These findings suggest that cataracts are an under-estimated cause of morbidity in free-living birds and, by inference, other vertebrates in areas contaminated with radioactive materials.
Source: Environmental Health Perspectives
Background: Risks of most types of leukemia from exposure to acute high doses of ionizing radiation are well known, but risks associated with protracted exposures, and associations between radiation and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are not clear.
Objectives: To estimate relative risks of CLL and non-CLL from protracted exposures to low-dose ionizing radiation.
Methods: A nested case-control study was conducted in a cohort of 110,645 Ukrainian cleanup workers of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear power plant accident. Cases of incident leukemia diagnosed in 1986-2006 were confirmed by a panel of expert hematologists/hematopathologists. Controls were matched to cases on place of residence and year of birth. Individual bone marrow radiation doses were estimated by the Realistic Analytical Dose Reconstruction with Uncertainty Estimation (RADRUE) method. A conditional logistic regression model was used to estimate excess relative risk of leukemia per gray (ERR/Gy) of radiation dose.
Results:A significant linear dose-response was found for all leukemia (137 cases, ERR/Gy=1.26 (95% confidence interval 0.03, 3.58)). There were non-significant positive dose-responses for both CLL and non-CLL (ERR/Gy=0.76 and 1.87, respectively). In our primary analysis excluding 20 cases with direct in-person interviews
Conclusions: Exposure to low doses and low dose-rates of radiation from post-Chornobyl cleanup work was associated with a significant increase in risk of leukemia, which was statistically consistent with estimates for the Japanese atomic bomb survivors. Based on the primary analysis, we conclude that CLL and non-CLL are both radiosensitive.
See: Chernobyl Cleanup Workers Had Significantly Increased Risk of Leukemiahttp://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121108073635.htm (Science Daily)
Current Tobacco Use and Secondhand Smoke Exposure Among Women of Reproductive Age — 14 Countries, 2008–2010
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)
Tobacco use and secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure in reproductive-aged women can cause adverse reproductive health outcomes, such as pregnancy complications, fetal growth restriction, preterm delivery, stillbirths, and infant death (1–3). Data on tobacco use and SHS exposure among reproductive-aged women in low- and middle-income countries are scarce. To examine current tobacco use and SHS exposure in women aged 15–49 years, data were analyzed from the 2008–2010 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) from 14 low- and middle-income countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Vietnam. The results of this analysis indicated that, among reproductive-aged women, current tobacco smoking ranged from 0.4% in Egypt to 30.8% in Russia, current smokeless tobacco use was <1% in most countries, but common in Bangladesh (20.1%) and India (14.9%), and SHS exposure at home was common in all countries, ranging from 17.8% in Mexico to 72.3% in Vietnam. High tobacco smoking prevalence in some countries suggests that strategies promoting cessation should be a priority, whereas low prevalence in other countries suggests that strategies should focus on preventing smoking initiation. Promoting cessation and preventing initiation among both men and women would help to reduce the exposure of reproductive-aged women to SHS.
Adult Awareness of Tobacco Advertising, Promotion, and Sponsorship — 14 Countries
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)
According to the 2012 Report of the U.S. Surgeon General, exposure to tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (TAPS) is associated with the initiation and continuation of smoking among young persons. The World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires countries to prohibit all forms of TAPS (2); the United States signed the agreement in 2004, but the action has not yet been ratified. Many countries have adopted partial bans covering direct advertising in traditional media channels; however, few countries have adopted comprehensive bans on all types of direct and indirect marketing. To assess progress toward elimination of TAPS and the level of awareness of TAPS among persons aged ≥15 years, CDC used data from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) collected in 14 countries during 2008–2010. Awareness of any TAPS ranged from 12.4% in Turkey to 70.4% in the Philippines. In the four countries where awareness of TAPs was ≤15%, three of the countries had comprehensive bans covering all nine channels assessed by GATS, and the fourth country banned seven of the nine channels. In 12 countries, more persons were aware of advertising in stores than advertising via any other channel. Reducing exposure to TAPS is important to prevent initiation of tobacco use by youths and young adults and to help smokers quit.
Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
On February 7, 2010, Viktor Yanukovych defeated Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko to win Ukraine’s presidency. International monitors praised the conduct of the election, although Tymoshenko charged that the election had been fraudulent. Yanukovych was able to quickly to form a new parliamentary majority in the current parliament by inducing scores of supporters of the previous government to change sides. Government opponents charged that bribery and threats to the business interests of members were used to effect the change.
The global economic crisis hit Ukraine hard. Ukraine’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by an estimated 15% in 2009. The economy began to recover in 2010, and GDP increased by 4.7% in 2011, due in part to a surge in demand for Ukrainian steel exports. However, living standards for many Ukrainians remain low, leading to a rapid drop in Yanukovych’s popularity when compared to the period soon after his inauguration. Expected slow growth in western Europe will likely result in slower growth in 2012 for Ukraine as well.
President Yanukovych has pursued closer ties with Russia, especially in the economic sphere. A major focus of his policy has been to seek reduced prices for natural gas supplies from Moscow. In April 2010, he agreed to extend the lease of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine for 25 years in exchange for a reduction in gas prices. However, the impact of the deal on gas prices has been less than anticipated, as oil prices (on which Ukraine’s gas price is calculated) have soared due to unrest in the Middle East. As a result, Ukraine has sought additional gas price cuts from Moscow, so far without success.
Yanukovych has said that EU integration is a key priority for Ukraine, but U.S. and European criticism of what is widely viewed as the politically motivated conviction and imprisonment of Tymoshenko in October 2011 on charges of abuse of power, has called into question whether a long-awaited association agreement with the EU (including a free trade agreement) will be signed and enter into force. Ukraine continues to reject Russian proposals that it join a customs union with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Yanukovych has made clear that his country is not seeking NATO membership, but wants to continue cooperation with NATO, including the holding of joint military exercises.
The Obama Administration has worked to “reset” relations with Russia, but has warned that it will not accept any country’s assertion of a sphere of influence, a reminder of U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. The Administration has not publicly expressed concern about what some observers view as the pro-Russian tilt of Ukraine’s foreign policy under Yanukovych.
The Administration has focused on helping Ukraine rid itself of its supplies of highly enriched uranium, assisting Ukraine with the clean-up of the Chornobyl nuclear site, and diversifying Ukraine’s sources of energy, including advice on developing Ukraine’s shale gas reserves. Administration officials have expressed concerns about regression in Ukraine’s democratic development since Yanukovych took power, including in such areas as media freedoms, election laws and the conduct of elections, and selective prosecution of the government’s political opponents.
Ukraine must act to deal with endemic police criminality
Source: Amnesty International
The Ukrainian authorities must act immediately to deal with endemic police criminality, Amnesty International said today in a new report that reveals widespread torture, extortion, and arbitrary detention.
No evidence of a crime: Paying the price for police impunity in Ukraine, reveals how police are rarely punished for these crimes because of high levels of corruption, non-existent or flawed investigations, harassment and intimidation of complainants, and a low level of prosecutions for such crimes.
+ Full Report (PDF)
Stopping the Mortality Crisis in Ukraine
Source: World Bank
Ukrainians have a high risk of dying prematurely. Nearly half of the adult population, many of them young, suffers from one or more chronic disease, say the World Bank and the Ukrainian Medical Union (UMU) in a new study “What Underlies Ukraine’s Mortality Crisis.” Rich and poor alike suffer from these conditions, according to the study. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and contributes to over half of the disease burden. Why is the Ukrainian population so careless about its health?
“Taking care of your health is one of the elements of our people’s culture. That is the first factor. The second factor is a trust towards doctors, the trust towards the quality of services provided by the state healthcare system. Both factors are very important. Patients should take care of their health. For example, they should immediately visit doctors to be diagnosed when they have pain in their chest, or they get winded, or have an abnormal heart rate,” says Vitaliy Averchuk, a Lviv cardiac surgeon who has saved a lot of people’s lives.
+ Full Report (PDF)
Country Specific Information: Ukraine
Source: U.S. Department of State
June 08, 2011
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Ukraine continues to experience significant political and economic changes. In recent years, the amount and types of goods and services available in Ukraine have increased, and facilities for travelers have improved. Nonetheless, the existence and quality of travel and tourist services remains uneven throughout the country, and it can still be difficult to find some of the goods and services commonly available in the United States. Please see the Department of State Background Notes on Ukraine for additional information.