Tuesday, January 29, 2008

European Parliament issues resolution on the arrest of the Chinese dissident Hu Jia

Zeng Jinyan and Hu Jia Pictured Left

January 23rd, 2008

The European Parliament,

– having regard to its previous resolutions on the human rights situation in China,

– having regard to the latest two rounds of the EU-China Dialogue on Human Rights held in Beijing on 17 October 2007 and in Berlin on 15-16 May 2007,

– having regard to the public hearing held on 26 November 2007 by its Subcommittee on Human Rights concerning Human Rights in China in the run-up to the Olympics,

– having regard to the Olympic Truce called for by the UN General Assembly on 31 October 2007, when it urged UN member states to observe and promote peace during the Olympic Games,

– having regard to Rule 115(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the human rights campaigner Hu Jia was taken away from his home in Beijing by police on 27 December 2007 on charges of inciting subversion,

B. whereas Hu Jia and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, have thrown the spotlight on human rights abuses in China over the past few years and spent many periods under house arrest as a result of their campaigning,

C. whereas Hu Jia is in bad health, suffering from a liver disease that obliges him to take medication,

D. whereas in 2006 Time Magazine named Zeng Jinyan one of the world's one hundred 'heroes' and in 2007, together with Hu Jia, she received the Reporters without Borders special 'China' prize and a nomination for the Sakharov Prize,

E. whereas human rights organisations called the arrest another move by the Chinese authorities to silence critics ahead of the Beijing Olympics,

F. whereas 57 intellectuals from China immediately published an open letter calling for the instant release of Hu Jia,

G. whereas the President of the European Parliament published a statement on 31 December 2007 admonishing the Chinese authorities for their detention of Hu Jia and urged them to use the forthcoming Games as 'an opportunity for China to demonstrate that a country hosting the world’s most important sports event is committed to internationally recognised human rights standards, including freedom of expression',

1. Strongly condemns the detention of Hu Jia and demands his prompt release and that of all the dissidents who have been arrested and jailed for crimes of opinion;

2. Urges the Chinese authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr Hu Jia, his relatives and his lawyers;

3. Calls upon China to respect its commitments to human rights and the rule of law, in particular the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1998, by putting an end to the harassment of Chinese human rights defenders, in order to demonstrate its commitment to human rights in its Olympic year;

4. Urges China not to use the Olympic Games as a pretext to arrest and illegally detain and imprison dissidents, journalists and human rights activists who either report on or demonstrate against human rights abuses;

5. Reiterates its opinion that human rights concerns should receive far more attention in the build-up to the Beijing Olympic Games, and highlights the need for 'respect for universal fundamental ethical principles' and the promotion of a peaceful society concerned 'with the preservation of human dignity' as enshrined in Articles 1 and 2 of the Olympic Charter;

6. Urges China to reform its criminal law to allow greater freedom of expression to journalists, writers, free-lances, reporters etc., who will report to the world on such an important event as the Olympic Games: considers that this reform will also make it possible to clarify the scope of certain unclear legal provisions (e.g. Article 105 of China's Criminal Code) and give the world a positive signal that the 17th Congress of the CCP paved the way for greater respect for different opinions;

7. Calls on the Chinese authorities to allow Hu Jia and all the other dissidents under arrest to receive medical assistance if necessary, and to bear in mind that detention in inappropriate conditions could damage their health;

8. Urges the Chinese authorities to close the so-called 'black jails', places of detention set up to detain 'troublemakers' in advance of this year's Olympics;

9. Calls on the Council of the European Union to take action in relation to the Chinese authorities regarding the arrest of Hu Jia and the disappearance on 22 September 2007 of Gao Zhisheng, a noted human rights attorney and friend of Hu Jia, who has come to represent the plight of the many thousands of human rights defenders currently imprisoned in China;

10. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the parliaments of the Member States, the governments and parliaments of the applicant countries, the President and Prime Minister of the People's Republic of China and the International Olympic Committee.

Monday, January 28, 2008

South Carolina consecrates Lawrence as 14th Episcopal bishop

[Episcopal News Service] The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston, South Carolina, was filled to overflowing January 26 as Mark Joseph Lawrence was consecrated the 14th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. St. Mark’s Episcopal and St. Matthew’s Lutheran churches provided streaming video when the cathedral’s capacity of 1,100 was reached.

Twenty-five bishops from Canada, Dominican Republic, England, Tanzania, and the United States were present.

East Carolina Bishop E. Clifton Daniel, president of the Episcopal Church's Province IV, was the chief consecrator during the service which began at 11 a.m.

Co-consecrating bishops included: Edward L. Salmon Jr., 13th bishop of South Carolina; C. FitzSimons Allison, 12th bishop of South Carolina; Michael Scott-Joynt of Winchester, England; Keith Ackerman of Quincy; and Julio Holguin of the Dominican Republic.

Joined by their five children and six grandchildren, Lawrence and his wife, the former Allison Taylor, received a lengthy standing ovation.

"We thank you and Allison for your strength and perseverance," said Alden Hathaway, retired Bishop of Pittsburgh and preacher for the service. "You inspire us and give us hope."

Lawrence, 57, said he believes a bishop is to be "the shepherd of the shepherds of God" and "the chief shepherd of the diocese."

Lawrence's crozier, the bishop's pastoral staff, was carved from "old growth" redwood from northern California by a carver in South Carolina as a nod to his California roots and his new ministry. His chimere, part of a bishop's vestments, bishop's ring and pectoral cross were gifts of St. Paul's Episcopal Parish in Bakersfield, California, where Lawrence had served as rector since 1997.

Lawrence was first elected September 16, 2006 to be South Carolina's 14th bishop.

In the weeks following that election, questions arose about Lawrence's intentions concerning the diocese's continuing membership in the Episcopal Church. Some diocesan standing committees announced their intention not to consent, and some publicized their decisions.

On March 15, 2007, Jefferts Schori declared that election "null and void," saying that a number of the consent responses did not adhere to canonical requirements and thus Lawrence's election did not receive the consent of the majority of diocesan standing committees.

Lawrence was re-elected as South Carolina's bishop on August 4, 2007 at a special electing convention. He was the only candidate in the election.

Jefferts Schori announced October 29, 2007 that Lawrence had received the consents needed for him to become the next bishop of South Carolina.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, confirmed that Jefferts Schori has been invited to visit the Diocese of South Carolina in February. He added that the agenda was currently being finalized.

The Diocese of South Carolina includes 75 parishes and missions in the lower half of the state of South Carolina.

-- The Rev. Lisa B. Hamilton, Episcopal Life Media's correspondent in the dioceses of Provinces I and IV and the Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, Episcopal Life Media's correspondent for Episcopal Church governance, structure, and trends, as well as news of the dioceses of Province II, contributed to this report.

Indiana University teams with Church & Dwight to improve the nation’s sexual health

Jan. 28, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- To address critical sexual health issues facing citizens across the United States, the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation has entered into a unique 3-year agreement with one of the world's leading sexual health products companies, Church & Dwight, maker of Trojan brand condoms. The agreement establishes the IU center as a strategic research, education and consulting partner with Trojan.

The collaboration will include a range of projects focused on understanding consumer behaviors and those designed to influence the design of products, such as condoms, that sexually active individuals need to use consistently and correctly in order to best protect their own health and the health of their partner. IU will draw upon the sexual health expertise of faculty from various academic units, including HPER, the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, the School of Medicine and the Department of Telecommunications.

"This partnership brings together two of the world's leading entities in the area of sexual health, Indiana University and Trojan brand condoms, to address critical knowledge gaps in the manner in which individuals make healthy decisions once they decide to become sexually active," said Michael Reece,(pictured above left) director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion. "Given Trojan's significant influence on condom use trends in the United States and the range of sexual health experts on Indiana University's faculty, this partnership truly represents the manner in which academic and corporate entities can come together in a participatory way to have a significant influence on the nation's health."

Jim Daniels, vice president of marketing for Trojan, said the range of expertise at IU makes it a beneficial partner as the company continues its efforts to develop high-quality products and evolve the sexual health of America.

"We want to raise the bar on consumers' definitions of what it means to be sexually healthy and break down the barriers to condom acceptance and usage in the months ahead," he said.

Robert M. Goodman, dean of the School of HPER, said he is "quite pleased that Church & Dwight recognizes the excellence possessed by IU and School of HPER in the area of sexual health. The Center led by Dr. Reece is a fine example of our dedication to the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and other prominent public health concerns. Our working arrangement with Church & Dwight further illustrates how leading universities such as IU can partner with industry for the betterment of the public's health."

The new partnership will be headed by Reece and Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion. It also will involve a transdisciplinary team of IU scientists, including Stephanie Sanders, with the Kinsey Institute; Dennis Fortenberry, M.D., IU School of Medicine; Susan Middlestadt and Brian Dodge, Department of Applied Health Science; and Bryant Paul, Department of Telecommunications.

"This partnership is particularly exciting given our teams' shared vision of helping women and men to enhance their sexual lives, to experience sexual pleasure, and to strive toward sexual health in responsible ways," said Herbenick.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Findings knock down stereotype that gay relationships are not as healthy and secure as heterosexual marriages

WASHINGTON – Same-sex couples are just as committed in their romantic relationships as heterosexual couples, say researchers who have studied the quality of adult relationships and healthy development. Their finding disputes the stereotype that couples in same-sex relationships are not as committed as their heterosexual counterparts and are therefore not as psychologically healthy.

These results are from two studies featured in the January issue of Developmental Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association. This issue includes a special section that examines sexual orientation across the lifespan.

Both studies compared same-sex couples with opposite-sex couples on a number of developmental and relationship factors. The first study examined whether committed same-sex couples differ from engaged and married opposite-sex couples in how well they interacted and how satisfied they were with their partners. Evidence has shown that positive interactions improve the quality of relationships in ways that foster healthy adult development.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign compared 30 committed gay male and 30 committed lesbian couples with 50 engaged heterosexual couples and 40 older married heterosexual couples, as well as with dating heterosexual couples. All the partners responded to a questionnaire that documented how positively they interacted with one another on a day to day basis. The couples were also observed during a laboratory task and were monitored for distress by skin conductance and heart rate.

Results showed that same-sex relationships were similar to those of opposite-sex couples in many ways. All had positive views of their relationships but those in the more committed relationships (gay and straight) resolved conflict better than the heterosexual dating couples. And lesbian couples worked together especially harmoniously during the laboratory tasks.

The notion that committed same-sex relationships are “atypical, psychologically immature, or malevolent contexts of development was not supported by our findings,” said lead author Glenn I. Roisman, PhD. “Compared with married individuals, committed gay males and lesbians were not less satisfied with their relationships.”

Furthermore, said Roisman, “Gay males and lesbians in this study were generally not different from their committed heterosexual counterparts on how well they interacted with one another, although some evidence emerged the lesbian couples were especially effective at resolving conflict.”

In the second study, researchers from the University of Washington, San Diego State University and the University of Vermont wanted to examine how sexual orientation and legal status affected relationship quality. To do so, they followed 65 male and 138 female same-sex couples with civil unions, 23 male and 61 female same-sex couples not in civil unions and 55 heterosexual married couples over a three-year period. One member of each heterosexual couple was a sibling to a member of a civil union couple.

Both partners in all of the couples answered questions regarding their demographics, status of their relationship, number of children, sexual behavior, frequency of contact with their parents with and without their partners and perceived social support. Partners in same-sex relationships also answered questions regarding disclosure of their sexual orientation to their family, peers and work associates.

The researchers found that same-sex couples were similar to heterosexual couples on most relationships variables, and that the legalized status of a relationship did not seem to be the overriding factor affecting same-sex relationships.

Despite the legal status of their relationships, the civil union couples showed no differences on any of the relationship measures from the same-sex couples who were in committed relationships but not in civil unions. “This may be because those couples in Vermont who sought out the legal protection of a civil union might have legalized their relationship more for symbolic value than for commitment reasons, which did not affect their day-to-day interactions,” said lead author Kimberly F. Balsam, PhD.

However, the same sex-couples who were not in civil unions were more likely to have ended their relationships compared to those couples in same-sex civil unions or heterosexual marriages. This suggests that the protections afforded by a legalized relationship may impact same-sex relationships, something the study's authors plan to follow up on in future research, said Balsam.

The findings also showed that same-sex couples, regardless of civil union status, were more satisfied with their relationships compared to married heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples reported more positive feelings toward their partners and less conflict than heterosexual married couples, said the authors. They theorized that there may be societal pressures and norms, as well as the presence of legal status as a couple, which may contribute to heterosexual couples staying together even when they are not happy. Alternatively, most long-term same-sex couples have to stay together by their own will and hard work since they don't have society's forces on their side, Balsam added.

This was the first study to follow same-sex couples in legalized unions over a period of time. This type of design allows the researchers to monitor changes in the relationships and compare them with changes experienced by both same-sex couples not in civil unions and heterosexual couples. All the couples were comparable with respect to race/ethnicity and age at the time of the study.

STUDY: Adult Romantic Relationships as Contexts of Human Development: A Multimethod Comparison of Same-Sex Couples with Opposite-Sex Dating, Engaged, and Married Dyads,” Glenn I. Roisman, PhD, Eric Clausell, MA, Ashley Holland, MA, Keren Fortuna, MA, and Chryle Elieff, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Developmental Psychology, Vol. 44, No. 1.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office or at http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/dev44191.pdf

New Study Reveals False Statements By U S. Officials Preceded Iraq War

The AP reported today that:

WASHINGTON - A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration's position that the world community viewed Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.

"The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.

Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.

The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews.

"The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Plan to exhume Italian saint Padre Pio draws protest

Reuters reported today that:

ROME (Reuters) - A plan to exhume the remains of Italy's favorite saint to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his death has sparked a protest by followers who threaten to go to court to make sure he rests in peace.

The exhumation would give millions of Italians another chance to pay tribute to Padre Pio, a 20th century mystic monk said to have suffered from stigmata -- bleeding wounds in the hands and feet similar to those of Christ.

Archbishop Domenico D'Ambrosio announced at the weekend his intention to lift the saint from his crypt in southern Italy and put it on full view for several months starting in April.

"It is our duty to allow the generations that come after us the ability to venerate and best care for his mortal remains," D'Ambrosio said in a sermon.

But other Catholics, like Francesco Traversi, who heads the Association Pro-Padre Pio, are threatening to block the exhumation in court.

"They can't do it (without the relatives' permission) because otherwise they'll be committing a crime," Traversi told Reuters by telephone, adding his group would present a legal motion to block the proceedings in the southern city of Foggia.

Traversi said he had the support of Padre Pio's closest relatives -- his niece and her daughters -- although an Italian news agency quoted one relative denying that.

Padre Pio's popularity is hard to overestimate. A Catholic magazine once found far more Italian Catholics pray to him than any other icon of the faith, including the Virgin Mary or Jesus.

The complete story may be found here: