Finland: The election of Tarja Halonen as president of Finland is an example of the way in which women are making “gradual headway in politics and changing the political culture,” says Raimo Vayrynen , professor of government and international studies at Notre Dame. A native of Finland, Vayrynen is well-acquainted with the new president. “Ms. Halonen has been for the past five years the first female foreign minister of Finland, and in that capacity was in a key position when Finland presided over the European Union in the second half of 1999. Before that, she had served as a Social Democratic Member of Parliament since 1975, and as the minister of social affairs and minister of justice. As a single mother and a Christian social activist ? but not a member of the state-affiliated Lutheran Church ? she adds new elements to the relatively conservative political culture of Finland.” *Professor Vayrynen can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-7857 or email@example.com .
- p. Human rights: A Notre Dame Law School professor has written a new book that stands as the first comprehensive treatment of methods to address and rectify worldwide violations of human rights. “Remedies in International Human Rights” (Oxford University Press, 387 pages), by Dinah Shelton , provides a theoretical framework, historical overview, and practical guide for lawyers, judges, academics and others interested in the subject. The cases of the Inter-American and European courts of human rights are included, as well as decisions of the African and Inter-American commissions on human rights, United Nations bodies, the European Court of Justice, administrative tribunals, and national courts that apply human rights law. A member of the Notre Dame faculty since 1996, Shelton has published three previous texts: “Protecting Human Rights in the Americas,” “Manual of European Environmental Law,” and “International Environmental Law.” She has served as a consultant to the United Nations, the European Community, the Council of Europe and several individual national governments. *Professor Shelton can be reached for comment on the various human rights stories in the news at (219) 631-7233 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
- p. Astronomy: The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has recognized the expertise and contributions of Notre Dame planetary scientist Terry Rettig by naming an asteroid in his honor. Ted Bowell from the Lowell Observatory discovered asteroid 8474 in 1985 and recently recommended to the IAU that it be named after Rettig, who coauthored a book, “Completing the Inventory of the Solar System,” that Bowell had started. Asteroid Rettig is about 5 miles in diameter and orbits the sun every 3.32 years. Rettig specializes in the chemistry of comets. *Professor Rettig can be reached for comment on various astronomical events in the news at (219) 631-7732 or email@example.com .
- p. Austria: The rise of Joerg Haider’s far-right Freedom Party in Austria can be explained in part by his ability to “play on the fears of Austrians,” says Robert Wegs , professor of history and director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at Notre Dame. Located next to the former Yugoslavia, Austria has had to absorb many immigrants ? some 400,000 in a country of less than 8 million, Wegs points out. “Over the past several years, resentment has built up among all but a few Austrians about this influx,” he says. “So while one can understand the resentment among Austrians, one cannot understand Haider’s attempt to gain political advantage from it. His statements concerning the Waffen SS and Nazi labor policy have been troubling. Although he later disavowed them, they were followed with further angry, undiplomatic statements directed at other European leaders. Also, his disavowal does not mean that he might not revert to a similar position later if his party were to gain sufficient strength for him to become chancellor.” *Professor Wegs can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-6470 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
- p. Russia: Notre Dame political scientist Martha Merritt says of the March 26th presidential election in Russia: “Boris Yeltsin’s resignation was timed to allow him to do something the Soviet leaders never managed: select a successor. The intense manipulation of state-controlled media prior to the legislative elections in December led to electoral success for Yeltsin’s chosen party, and now acting President Vladimir Putin will try to exercise the same control. This is not democracy. Stage-managed elections, timed for incumbent advantage, do not allow the people a real choice.” *Note: Professor Merritt will conduct a policy briefing in February for the State Department on the Russian presidential election and will be in Moscow for the election itself. She can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-7695 or at email@example.com .
- p. Home loans: New research by a University of Notre Dame sociologist suggests that the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may not be meeting their government mandate to “lead the mortgage finance industry in making credit available for low- and moderate-income families.” Richard Williams , associate professor and chair of sociology at Notre Dame, is one of 11 independent researchers nationwide who received funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to study the performance of the GSEs in serving the targeted markets of low-income and minority neighborhoods and families. The Williams study examined the effect of the GSEs, as well as the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and financial institution characteristics, on home mortgage lending to underserved markets in Indiana from 1992-96. *Professor Williams can be reached for further comment at (219) 631-6668 or firstname.lastname@example.org .