PsySR Calls on U.S. to Support Democratic Change

In light of unfolding events in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and beyond, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) has issued the statement below calling on leaders of the United States to stand firmly in support of democratic change. This statement is also available on the PsySR website.

PsySR Calls on U.S. to Support Democratic Change in the Middle East

The rapidly unfolding events in Egypt and Tunisia have stunned and engaged the world. The governments of these countries have long been criticized for their widespread human rights violations, including restrictions on freedom of expression and association, the abuse of state of emergency powers, the imprisonment of dissidents, the use of torture, and the persecution of journalists and human rights defenders. But today we are witnesses to the extraordinary power manifest when ordinary people join together and challenge undemocratic rulers, expressing the seemingly timeless human aspiration to be free of tyranny, oppression, and exploitation.

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Open Letter: The Solitary Confinement of PFC Bradley Manning

Psychologists for Social Responsibility is deeply concerned about the pretrial detention conditions of alleged Wikileaks source PFC Bradley Manning, including solitary confinement for over five months, a forced lack of exercise, and possible sleep deprivation. It has been reported by his attorney and a visitor that Manning’s mental health is suffering greatly from his treatment.

As a response, PsySR has issued the Open Letter below to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressing our concerns about this misuse of solitary confinement and alerting him to the psychological literature on its harmful effects. It has been sent to the Secretary and PsySR is now releasing it publicly, The text of the letter and a PDF version are also available on PsySR’s website at www.psysr.org/gates-manning-letter.

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A Commitment to Address Poverty and Inequality

Psychologists for Social Responsibility has issued the following statement, developed by PsySR’s Poverty and Inequality Project, in an effort to direct greater attention to these urgent issues from psychologists, other mental health professionals, policymakers, and the general public.

Poverty is the single greatest threat to individual human development and it simultaneously creates profound social disruption in the United States and around the world. Unless institutions and citizens take steps now to reduce and prevent poverty—and the growing inequality that deepens and widens its damaging repercussions—we will face a nightmarish future that can be measured in untold numbers of destroyed lives, communities, and institutions.

Poverty and inequality are responsible for adults often being too stressed to parent well; inadequate access to nourishing food, clean water, and sanitation; dilapidated housing, homelessness, and dangerous communities; schools unable to educate children to read, write, and think for themselves; conflict, crime, and violence; few work opportunities and low pay for jobs that do exist; daily struggles to manage personal, family, and financial chaos; and risks for premature birth and early death. All of these consequences contribute to the developmental damage that results from limited access to the basic resources that nurture us. Ultimately, poverty and inequality engender hopelessness, helplessness, and misery, and they tear at the social fabric of families and communities.

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PsySR Calls for End of Gaza Siege

In advance of the direct peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Washington in early September, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) has issued a statement below calling on the Government of Israel to end the siege of Gaza and urging health and mental health professionals to join our call.

Psychologists for Social Responsibility Calls on the Government of Israel to Lift the Siege of Gaza

The Israeli government’s siege of Gaza imposes an unacceptable cost to the health and mental health of the citizens of Gaza. Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) therefore calls upon the Government of Israel to end the siege. We further urge our medical and psychological colleagues in Israel and Palestine to join our call so that those living in the region can return to more normal and secure lives.

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PsySR Statement on Immigration Reform and Arizona’s SB 1070

The immigration debate in the United States has been reawakened by Arizona’s passage of SB 1070, the new state law that allows enforcement officers with “reasonable suspicion” to demand proof of legal residency. Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) strongly opposes this new law from both psychological and social justice perspectives, and we have issued the statement below.

Immigration Reform, Yes — Scapegoating and Racial Profiling, No

The immigration debate in the United States has been reawakened by Arizona’s passage of SB 1070, the new state law that allows enforcement officers with “reasonable suspicion” to demand proof of legal residency. While Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) recognizes that immigration policy is a complex arena in which multiple alternatives deserve careful consideration, we believe any law that increases the likelihood of racial profiling and sudden mass deportations jeopardizes core foundations of community life, civil liberties, and justice itself.

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Reflections on Kent State and Jackson State–40 Years Ago

May 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of the tragic violence at Kent State and Jackson State. In response to campus protests against President Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia as part of the widening Vietnam War, four Kent State University students were killed and nine others were injured by gunfire from the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970. Ten days later, two students were killed and twelve more were injured by city and state police at Jackson State University in Mississippi.

Below, PsySR members Marc Pilisuk, Milton Schwebel, Latika Mangrulkar, Anthony Marsella, Phil Zimbardo, Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz and Brad Olson offer their reflections on this time and these events.

MARC PILISUK

I was teaching at UC Berkeley at the time of the Kent State and Jackson State shootings. The escalation of the war into Cambodia had just transformed the campus into a beehive of alternative programs within most departments, and the decisions by then Governor Ronald Reagan to enlist massive police and national guard forces in Berkeley and San Francisco was adding to the fear of time. We also had a police sniper shooting killing one person and blinding another.

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PsySR Statement on the Catholic Church and Child Abuse

Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) has issued the statement below emphasizing the need for dialogue and justice in response to growing revelations about child abuse within the Catholic Church. Among our members are psychologists who have worked closely on this issue in internationally recognized treatment centers for perpetrators; in prevention programs for clergy, religious and other Church personnel; and in consultation to bishops’ conferences internationally and to the leadership of religious orders.

We recognize that the abuse of minors has been a longstanding reality in many institutions serving youth and in most religious denominations. Our focus on the current crisis in the worldwide Catholic Church is in response to the extent of its systemic difficulty addressing the global crisis of abuse in a manner conducive to genuine healing and reconciliation and to restoration of trust. While important steps have been implemented by the United States Conference of Bishops, in many international situations the Church has given no indication of capacity or intention to monitor itself.

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PsySR Statement on APA Convention and Manchester Grand Hyatt

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PsySR Urges the American Psychological Association to Change Course and Not Hold Events at the Manchester Grand Hyatt

BACKGROUND

The 2010 annual convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) will be held in August in San Diego, California, and the Manchester Grand Hyatt has been designated as the convention’s primary headquarters hotel.

Last year the hotel’s owner Doug Manchester contributed $125,000 to qualify Proposition 8 for the November 2008 ballot, an initiative that abolished the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. In response, a coalition of LGBT and labor groups instituted a boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt. This boycott has now entered its second year, and many organizations, in support of the boycott, have moved their scheduled meetings out of the hotel to other locations.

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PsySR Statement Opposing U.S. Military Escalation in Afghanistan

psysrbanner2In response to President Obama’s early December announcement, PsySR has issued the following statement opposing the proposed U.S. military escalation in Afghanistan. Highlighting key psychological and human rights considerations, we instead call for a heightened focus on development and diplomacy.

In Afghanistan, Escalate Development and Diplomacy, Not War

In a national address on December 1st, 2009, President Barack Obama detailed his strategy to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and to thereby escalate the war.

As an organization committed to the application of psychological knowledge and expertise in promoting peace, social justice, human rights, and sustainability, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) received this news with great concern. While acknowledging the President’s careful thought and deliberation, we believe that his decision is ill-advised and counter-productive because it fails to adequately recognize the following key considerations:

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PsySR Poses Key Questions for APA on Harsh Interrogations

PsySRBanner2PsySR’s Statement Posing Key Questions for the American Psychological Association on Harsh Interrogations

Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) has called for an independent national commission to fully investigate U.S. torture and prisoner abuse under the Bush Administration. We include in that call for the commission to determine whether the American Psychological Association (APA) – the largest association of psychologists worldwide – knowingly cooperated with the Department of Defense and the CIA in helping to plan, facilitate, provide official justification for, or hide the use of harsh interrogation methods.

We do not call for this investigation of the APA lightly – and we do not prejudge what such a commission might learn or conclude. We are mindful of APA’s work to improve understanding and human welfare in many fields of psychology. But many psychologists and other clinical professionals seek answers to why the APA, committed by its charter to promote the highest professional ethics for its members, did not act with vigor against psychologists’ involvement in abusive interrogations and torture – and in numerous instances appeared to do the opposite. Here we highlight six illustrative questions that we believe merit further investigation by an independent commission:

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