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6/24/1997 - Federal Court Orders Army to Open McKinney Hearings

On Monday, the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ordered the Army to open its sexual misconduct case against Army Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney to the news media and public. Major news organizations and the accused soldier petitioned the federal court to open the pretrial hearing, but the Army argued that allowing the process to go public would put witnesses in danger, allow inadmissible evidence to spread and make finding an impartial jury difficult. Chief Justice Walter Cox III, one of the four judges hearing the case, said the Army supplied no evidence to support its claims. The Court decided that the services need to give a specific rationale before they can close hearings. According to Eugene R. Fidell, who argued for opening the hearing, "The days when any service could have a pattern and practice for presumptively closing an Article 32 investigation ended this afternoon."


6/24/1997 - Betty Shabazz Dies of Severe Burns

Human rights and civil rights activist Betty Shabazz died on June 23rd, at the age of 63, of severe burns. Shabazz, the widow of Malcolm X, was burned on more than 80 percent of her body during a June 1 blaze, allegedly set by her grandson, that swept through her apartment. Five skin-graft operations, performed in hopes of saving her life, were not ultimately successful. After the death of her husband, Shabazz earned a doctorate in education and was most recently a public relations administrator at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.

Throughout her life, Shabazz worked as an activist for African-American women and a champion for human rights. She traveled extensively in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean as a lecturer and participated in the United States Aid for International Development Conference in South Africa. Civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., said of her, "She leaves a legacy of love, service, dedication and caring, especially for the children…The nation has lost a committed civil and human rights activist whose life and contributions have made a significant difference."


6/24/1997 - New Jersey Governor Whitman Vetoes D&X Ban

New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R) has vetoed a state bill that would ban the D&X late-term abortion procedure. Whitman refused to sign the bill because it did not make an exception for cases in which the woman's health was endangered. The law exempts procedures only to save the woman's life, apparently her health does not really mean much to the state legislature. The state legislature will attempt to override the veto.


6/24/1997 - Congress Attempts to Restrict Abortion Through Budget Amendments

This week the House and Senate will vote on budget-balancing measures which create controversy not only in financial matters but in the abortion issue as well. The bill includes the "Hyde Amendment" which would deny federal funds for abortions as part of a proposed program of health care for uninsured children age 18 and under. The amendment only makes exceptions in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the woman is in danger.

According to Kate Michelman of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, "It's just another example of how the right wing in Congress is using every vehicle they can, including the budget process, to restrict women's access to abortion services and make abortion more difficult for women in general to obtain." To counter the amendment, Democrats in Congress have been signing a letter asking the White House to remove abortion restrictions from the bills. Although the Administration has not threatened to veto the bill, it told House leaders that "major objectionable items" of the bill include the curbs on abortion.


6/24/1997 - Kentucky Meeting Focuses on Importance of Women Business Owners

Phyllis Hill Slater, the incoming president of the 10,000-member National Association of Women Business Owners, addressed the group's Lexington, Kentucky chapter's annual meeting on June 24th. Hill Slater discussed the importance of women in America's business landscape and future. Hill Slater said that the group helps women by allowing women to network and for more experienced women business owners to mentor women just starting their businesses. She commented at the meeting, "I think women have a very important role to play in [improving society and diversifying the workforce], because…[w]e're the top honchos…when it comes to moral and cultural design in this country." There are approximately 8 million female-owned businesses in the United States, which employ 18.5 million people and generate annual revenues of $2.3 trillion. Hill Slater and her daughter own Hill Slater Inc., a 23-employee engineering and construction support services firm.


6/24/1997 - Clintons Campaign for Female Senators

President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton spent Monday raising funds for California Senator Barbara Boxer and Washington Senator Patty Murray. Both women face difficult re-election races in 1998. Republican Rep. Sonny Bono may challenge Boxer, and Republican Rep. Linda Smith will run against Murray. Republican organizations have declared Murray's state as one of the best areas to achieve partisan gains in the Senate. President Clinton and Boxer raised $1.5 million for the Senator and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee while campaigning in California on Monday, and the First Lady helped Murray and the Committee raise $185,000 in just three hours in Seattle. At the fundraiser for Murray, Clinton said, "We need to keep the attention focused on what Sen. Murray has done, what she has stood for and what she is still working on. If we keep that focus on her commitment…then I have absolutely no doubt on what the outcome of this election will be."


6/23/1997 - Numerous Southern Baptists Found at Disney Parks Despite Boycott

After a declared boycott of the Walt Disney Company by the Southern Baptist Convention, plenty of Southern Baptists could be found at Walt Disney World. Kay Sanders of Daytona Beach, Florida commented, "I'm not going to boycott. It's crazy. Kids have to be someplace, and there aren't many places safer than Disney World. And if they don't watch Disney movies, what are they supposed to watch. You can't just keep them in church all the time." Many Baptist ministers in the Orlando area have said they will not urge their congregations to boycott. Many of the church members are employed by Disney. The Southern Baptist Convention voted to boycott Disney because of what it termed as "gay friendly" policies.


6/23/1997 - American Medical Association Elects First Female President

The 150-year-old, 292,000-member American Medical Association has elected a female president for the first time in its history. Dr. Nancy W. Dickey, a family practitioner from Texas, was elected by acclamation on Sunday June 22, 1997. The year-long position pays $222,000 and holds mostly a spokeswoman role for the group's members. Currently, Dickey is the Chair of the Board of the A.M.A., a more powerful yet less visible position than the presidency. Four of the A.M.A.'s twenty board members are women, and women comprise 11% of its membership. In the United States, 20% of the doctors are women.


6/23/1997 - Women Win 63 Seats in France's Parliament

France's traditional term for a politician, "homme politique", which translates to political man, no longer describes the members of the National Assembly. The country's May 25 and June 1 election results brought 63 women to France's Parliament. Before the elections, France ranked last among the fifteen countries in the European Union in its percentage of female lawmakers. The country's proportion of women in the National Assembly nearly doubled to 10.9%, allowing France to climb one spot to the fourteenth position among EU countries, with Greece now occupying the last position. This victory for women in part resulted from Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's decision in 1996 to set aside 30% of his party's candidacies for women. Continuing his quest for women's rights, Jospin announced in his first speech to Parliament on June 18 that he would lobby to ensure women's constitutional equality. According to Marisol Touraine, one of the newly-elected women to France's Parliament, "…the election of women in legislative elections, plus women ministers in important posts, it's something that's here for good."


6/23/1997 - States Can Detain Sexual Predators After Sentence Runs Out

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that states can detain sexually violent predators after they have served their prison sentences, even if they are not mentally ill. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that people who are considered mentally abnormal and likely to commit new crimes can be held by the state. The case centered on a Kansas law which says that sexually violent offenders who have completed their prison terms can be involuntarily committed if they suffer from a "mental abnormality or personality disorder" and are likely to commit new sex crimes in the future. Arizona, California, Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin have similar laws.


6/23/1997 - Justice Department Forces Arkansas to End Discrimination Against Women Prison Guards

Faced with a Justice Department discrimination suit, the state of Arkansas decided on June 19 to hire 400 women guards in men's prisons. In an agreement with the Justice Department, the state agreed to pay more than $20 million in back wages to women who, since 1983, did not receive jobs or promotions as prison guards. The Justice Department sued Arkansas two years ago for denying women jobs in prisons over a twelve-year period. The state's prison system had prevented women from being correctional officers in male prisons. This policy impeded women prison guards from advancing because promotions are based on the ability to perform various jobs. At least six other states have faced similar lawsuits brought by the Justice Department.


6/23/1997 - Emory University Board Bars Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies in Campus Chapels

The board of Emory University decided unanimously on June 19 to prohibit same-sex commitment ceremonies involving lesbians or gay men in the university's nondenominational chapels. The board's chair, Bradley Currey Jr., did not find this decision inconsistent with the university's nondiscrimination policy, which allows faculty, staff and students equal access to university resources regardless of their sexual preferences. University President William Chace, however, espoused more liberal views earlier in June. He called an Emory dean's prevention of a gay union ceremony in the chapel on Emory's auxiliary campus "inappropriate" in light of the nondiscrimination policy. The board's ban against same-sex commitment ceremonies is temporary and may change at its next meeting in November.


6/23/1997 - U.S. Gets a "C" Average on Gender Equity in Education

The United States is just a "C" student when it comes to gender equity in education, according to the National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education.

The Coalition released a Report Card on Gender Equity today, June 23, in honor of the 25th anniversary of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education at a press conference at 10:00am at the National Press Club's First Amendment Room in Washington, DC.

The "C" average means that while some progress has been made, more improvement is necessary. The federal government received its best grade, B-, for access to higher education. Before Title IX passed in 1972, many professional schools such as medical schools and law schools, did not admit women. Even colleges that did admit women often had tougher admissions standards for them. Many scholarships were restricted to men, gave preference to men, or were unavailable to married or parenting women. While those barriers have fallen, women continue to be underrepresented in non-traditional fields, and more athletic scholarships are still awarded to men.

The government received its worst grade, D+, for dealing with sexual harassment in education. While 81% of high schoolers saying they have experienced sexual harassment, schools and the Department of Education have done little to deal with this problem.

In other areas the government received a "C" grade: athletics, career education, employment, learning environment, math and science, standardized testing, and treatment of pregnant and parenting students.

For more information about the Report Card, call the National Women's Law Center at (202) 588-5180.


6/20/1997 - House Rejects Repeal of Military Abortion Ban

The House has voted 224-296 against the repeal of a ban on abortions at military hospitals overseas. The repeal was part of an amendment to a defense spending bill marking the second straight year a repeal has been rejected. Based on the assumption that women have access to private medical facilities overseas, abortions are prohibited at domestic military hospitals. Noting that women are not assured of having access to safe, legal alternatives, Rep. Ron Dellums, (D-CA) said, "We should not deprive these women of the very rights they are assigned to protect when we send them overseas."


6/20/1997 - Southern Baptists Attack Same-Sex Partner Insurance Benefits; Clinton Rejects Boycott

After voting to boycott Walt Disney Co. because of what it calls “gay-friendly” policies, the Southern Baptist Convention has condemned corporate policies that extend health-care benefits to employees’ same-sex partners. President Clinton, a Southern Baptist, responded simply “No” when asked by a reporter if he would support the Disney boycott. Another resolution adopted by the Southern Baptists during their three-day convention in Dallas opposed a gender-neutral Bible and human cloning.

Disney executives said the boycott did not come as a surprise and that they had the impression a boycott had already begun. Other Hollywood studios and companies such as Universal Studios and Viacom (owner of Nickelodeon) already offers same-sex benefits. In fact, Twentieth Century Fox was the only major Hollywood studio to adopt health benefits after Disney. Disney adopted the benefits in October 1995 after three years of “intense lobbying,” according to Richard Jennings of Hollywood Supports, a clearinghouse in the entertainment industry for AIDS issues and lesbian and gay concerns. As competition for talent increased, it was a disadvantage to Disney not to offer same-sex benefits, and Disney had little other choice when it acquired ABC which already offered same-sex benefits.


6/20/1997 - U.S. Gets a "C" Average on Gender Equity in Education

The United States is just a "C" student when it comes to gender equity in education, according to the National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education.

The Coalition will release a Report Card on Gender Equity on Monday, June 23, in honor of the 25th anniversary of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education at a press conference at 10:00am at the National Press Club's First Amendment Room in Washington, DC.

The "C" average means that while some progress has been made, more improvement is necessary. The federal government received its best grade, B-, for access to higher education. Before Title IX passed in 1972, many professional schools such as medical schools and law schools, did not admit women. Even colleges that did admit women often had tougher admissions standards for them. Many scholarships were restricted to men, gave preference to men, or were unavailable to married or parenting women. While those barriers have fallen, women continue to be underrepresented in non-traditional fields, and more athletic scholarships are still awarded to men.

The government received its worst grade, D+, for dealing with sexual harassment in education. While 81% of high schoolers saying they have experienced sexual harassment, schools and the Department of Education have done little to deal with this problem.

In other areas the government received a "C" grade: athletics, career education, employment, learning environment, math and science, standardized testing, and treatment of pregnant and parenting students.

For more information about the Report Card, call the National Women's Law Center at (202) 588-5180.


6/20/1997 - Women’s National Basketball Association Debuts on NBC Days Before Title IX Anniversary

On June 21, Saturday afternoon, when viewers tune in to NBC, they will witness the Women’s National Basketball Association’s first game. The WNBA begins its first 28-game season which will culminate in four teams advancing to single-elimination playoff games in August. With three nationally-televised games a week on ESPN, NBC, or Lifetime, the league projects an average attendance of 4,000 a game and a larger TV audience. The WNBA includes former Olympians, 12 of whom have won gold medals. Fifteen of the 80 WNBA players are from outside the United States. According to Val Ackerman, the league’s president, "The WNBA has the best players from around the world…These women have been playing in obscurity overseas. People’s heads will turn when they see the skill of these women."

The NBA owns the eight-member league and has assisted it in achieving sponsors such as Nike, GM and Sears. The American Basketball League, a year-old women’s athletic group, also supports the WNBA despite the competition the new league brings. "[U]ltimately, this is great for women’s basketball," ABL’s co-founder Gary Cavelli said. "Two years ago, great college players had two choices: drop their sport or play overseas. Now, exposure to women’s basketball is at an all-time high in this country."


6/20/1997 - Estrogen May Limit Early Death, Increase Risk of Breast Cancer

According to two studies released on June 19, women who take estrogen for years after menopause cut their risk of death from all causes by 37% and of Alzheimer’s dementia by 54%. However, long-term estrogen therapy after 10 years also carries a 43% higher risk of dying from breast cancer. Thus benefits of estrogen therapy appear to wane after a decade when the risk of death is only 20 percent lower for estrogen-takers. Francine Grodstein of Harvard Medical school commented, “Overall the benefits do seem to outweigh the risks,” while breast cancer specialist Dr. Susan Love noted that the benefits did not come without consequences. Researchers say that women at high risk of breast cancer still reduce their risk of premature death by 35% through estrogen therapy because women are much more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer. Caught early, breast cancer can often be treated. Grodstein and her colleagues studied women who were participants in the Nurses Health Study, which began in 1976. They studied the effect of estrogen on 3, 637 women who died between 1976 and 1992 and on 30,000 others. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and the National Institute of Aging conducted the Alzheimer’s study appearing in Neurology and found that only 9 of the women taking estrogen daily developed Alzheimer’s compared to 25 who did not. Of the 465 post-menopausal women studied, 45% took estrogen daily.


6/20/1997 - Army Closes Sexual Misconduct Evidence Hearing to Public

A preliminary hearing that will determine whether there is enough evidence of sexual misconduct to court-martial Sgt. Major of the Army Gene C. McKinney will be closed to the public. The Army decided that the hearing regarding its top enlisted man would be closed to the public despite appeals from the defendant and his main accuser that the proceeding remain open. Brenda Hoster, whose allegations sparked 18 criminal charges against McKinney including adultery and indecent assault, claims that the Army is trying to avoid bad publicity. McKinney is charged with propositioning three female officers and committing adultery with another.

After the preliminary hearing to be held on June 23 at Fort Meyer, Col. Owen C. Powell will weigh the evidence and determine whether to proceed with a trial, alter the charges against McKinney, or dismiss the case. McKinney has requested permission to retire but has received no official response from the Army. Army Secretary Togo West and Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis J. Reimer support Powell’s decision to close the hearing, but McKinney and five major television networks have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to open the hearing, asking that the proceeding be delayed pending a hearing and decision.


6/20/1997 - Rape Victim Waits Eleven Years for Conviction, Tells Her Story

Adrienne Bak Ortolano finally received justice last week when a jury convicted Alex Kelly of raping her eleven years before. After the conviction, the 27-year-old woman gave her first interview since the rape in 1986. She came forward because she wanted to give other rape victims courage and show the world she is not ashamed of who she is. "It’s a positive feeling to be able to stand up and accuse your attacker, and to tell the truth the way it happened," she said.

In the 11 years between Kelly’s crime and conviction, Ortolano showed perseverance in fighting to put her attacker behind bars. Kelly fled to Europe in 1987 and lived as a ski bum off of his parents’ money to avoid the trial for raping Ortolano and a 17-year-old from Stamford, CT. Ortolano hired a lawyer to find her attacker in 1994, and Kelly turned himself in to the authorities the following year. She rejected offers for plea bargains in 1987 and 1996 and sat through one trial which ended in a deadlocked jury last fall. When she heard the jury pronounce Kelly "guilty" last week, she said, "The first thing I thought was thank God, thank God the world knows the truth."


6/19/1997 - Republican Tax Bill Harmful to Women

The Democratic women U.S. House of Representatives members will release a Democratic Policy Committee Report on June 19th which outlines how the Republican tax bill harms women. The report will give details on a number of issues. For example, the GOP tax bill cuts the child tax credit for six million families with child care expenses, thus penalizing working women. The GOP tax bill completely denies the child tax credit to four million children in working families receiving EITC. Two million working families will be penalized by requiring them to pay an alternative minimum tax, simply for claiming the child and/or HOPE credits.


6/19/1997 - DNA Test Links Stand-up Comic to College Rapes

Vinson Champ, a stand-up comedian who travels the college circuit, is allegedly responsible for a string of rapes across colleges in the Midwest area. DNA tests confirm that he was responsible for the sexual assault of a woman at Kenosha's Carthage College. Other DNA tests indicate that Champ was also responsible for two attacks in Iowa. On June 17, Champ was ordered to stand trial for the March 5th rape of a teacher in a University of Nebraska-Omaha computer lab.


6/19/1997 - Sex Crimes Prosecutor Turns Work into Mystery Novels

Linda Fairstein has served as the head of the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan, NY district attorney's office for twenty-one years. In her job, she is responsible for prosecuting rapes, family violence, sexual assaults and other sex-related crimes. She says that the rewards of her work are enormous. She commented, "My work is with the victims and survivors. They do recover and being part of that process, helping them achieve justice in the system, can be a wonderfully cathartic part of the recovery. It's endlessly fascinating."

Recently, Fairstein has turned her experiences into mystery novels, featuring a smart, strong woman who also happens to run the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan DA's office. Of her protagonist, Alexandra Cooper, Fairstein says, "The character has a good sense of humor. Women people have read about my real job and come to meet me, they expect a serious or grim person. Alex Cooper…very much reflects my worldview, which is very optimistic and full of good humor." Fairstein's first book was entitled Final Jeopardy. Her newest book, recently released, Likely to Die, is based on a true event: the attempted murder of a doctor in Nashville. Fairstein sets the scene in New York City and has fictionalized the details, but she weaves in events from her own professional experience.


6/19/1997 - Lifetime Television to Air Women's Sports

Lifetime Television for Women is seeking to become the leader in women's sports broadcasting. The television network will begin televising Friday night games of the Women's National Basketball Association on June 27th. On June 19th, the network will air the second installment of a four part series of sports documentaries. The series, entitled Breaking Through, looks at the 25th anniversary of Title IX and is hosted by Geena Davis. Lifetime president Doug McCormick says that the network has a "responsibility to lead in certain areas, to help promote equality for women." He continued, "This isn't going to be a hit overnight; there's going to be somewhat of an adjustment period. But at the end of the day, we hope it's gong to attract a lot of new, younger viewers, those who have perhaps personally benefited the last 25 years from Title IX."

Lifetime has in the past sponsored the women's yachting team that competed for the America's Cup, the Colorado Silver Bullets women's baseball team, the women's national basketball team that won the 1996 Olympics, and Indianapolis 500 racecar driver Lyn St. James. Brian Donlon, who oversees the network's sports efforts, commented, "We're putting our money where our mouth is. It's not about just programming, it's about advocacy, too."


6/19/1997 - Southern Baptists Vote to Boycott Disney

The Southern Baptist Convention has voted to boycott Walt Disney Co. The boycott includes Disney theme parks and its ABC-TV subsidiary. The church is protesting what it calls Disney's "gay-friendly" policies, including Ellen's coming out on ABC. David Smith, a senior strategist for the Human Rights Campaign, commented, "Unlike the Southern Baptist Convention, most people of faith recognize that they can disagree over whether or not homosexuality is right and still agree that discrimination against gay people is wrong."