Monday, January 4, 2010

THOUSANDS HELD IN CHINA FOR INTERNET MISUSE


China arrested more than 5,000 people in a crackdown on Internet pornography in 2009, officials said, vowing tougher online policing in the new year as a key element of "state security".

China maintains strict censorship of the Internet to curb what the government deems to be unhealthy content including porn and violence - an effort that has become known as the "Great Firewall of China".

Authorities in December offered rewards of up to 10,000 yuan (1,465 dollars) to Internet users who report websites that feature pornography.

According to figures published by the ministry of public security late on Thursday, 5,394 people were arrested last year under the Internet porn crackdown, and 9,000 illegal porn-related sites were shut down.

The ministry, in a statement on its website, did not specify if all of those arrested were later prosecuted.

It said it would "strengthen punishment for Internet operators that violate the laws and regulations" in the coming year.

"Purifying the Internet environment and cracking down on Internet crimes is related to long-term state security," the ministry said.

Internet use has expanded at a dizzying pace in China, which now has the world's largest online population with at least 338 million users.

The government is concerned that left unchecked, the Internet could become a means for ordinary citizens to spread information harmful to society - including ideas that are critical of the communist authorities.

China has blocked several social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Citizens can only gain access to such sites by using proxy servers.

Earlier this year Beijing threatened to sanction major websites, including search engine giants Google and Baidu, alleging that pornography and other material that could corrupt young people was turning up in search results.

Authorities effectively cut off Internet access in the far-western Xinjiang region after deadly ethnic unrest erupted there in July.

The government says terrorists, separatists and religious extremists used the Internet, telephones and mobile text messages to spread rumours and hatred as the violence broke out.

Earlier this week, limited access to state-run news websites was restored.

EARLY BEDTIME BANISHES TEEN BLUES

Earlier bedtimes may help protect adolescents against depression and suicidal thoughts, says a new study.

Published in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep, the research found that adolescents with bedtimes that were set earlier by parents were significantly less likely to suffer from depression and to think about committing suicide, suggesting that earlier bedtimes could have a protective effect by lengthening sleep duration and increasing the likelihood of getting enough sleep.

Results show that adolescents with parental set bedtimes of midnight or later were 24 percent more likely to suffer from depression and 20 percent more likely to have suicidal ideation than adolescents with parental set bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier. This association was appreciably attenuated by self-reported sleep duration and the perception of getting enough sleep.

Adolescents who reported that they usually sleep for five or fewer hours per night were 71 percent more likely to suffer from depression and 48 percent more likely to think about committing suicide than those who reported getting eight hours of nightly sleep. Participants who reported that they "usually get enough sleep" were significantly less likely to suffer from depression and suicidal ideation.

Lead author James E. Gangwisch, PhD, assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, N.Y., said that the results strengthen the argument that short sleep duration could play a role in the etiology of depression.

"Our results are consistent with the theory that inadequate sleep is a risk factor for depression, working with other risk and protective factors through multiple possible causal pathways to the development of this mood disorder," said Gangwisch. "Adequate quality sleep could therefore be a preventative measure against depression and a treatment for depression."

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