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Russian bill to impose harsher punishments for attacks on journalists

Sentences to be extended for for endangering journalists' lives

A bill imposing harsher punishments for attacks on journalists was submitted in the Russia's lower house of parliament, Duma, on Friday.

Irina Yarova, Russian MP and the initiator of the amendments, said the existing penalties for attacks on journalists are inadequate.

The new bill is to bring in an amended version of the existing legislation and it proposes to change the second part of the Article 144 of the Criminal Code (obstruction of the professional journalists' activity) and to establish penalties for use of violence against journalists.

It proposes a sentence of 6-15 years for those who commit offences that endanger the lives of journalists. It also extends sentences for those who commit minor offences from two to five years.

The proposal was considered after the journalist Oleg Kashin was brutally attacked in early November. He was apparently targeted for his criticism of pro-government youth groups and a controversial road building project.

According to the International Press Institute, Russia ranks fifth in the list of countries most dangerous for journalists after Iraq, the Philippines, Colombia and Mexico.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.