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2/21/1997 - First Woman Appointed to Head State National Gaurd

In Vermont, Lt. Col. Martha Rainville has become the first appointed woman to head a state national guard. Vermont lawmakers appointed her by a 104 to 73 margin over Maj. Gen. Donal Edwards in secret balloting. Vermont is the only state which appoints its adjunct general, the head of the state’s national gaurd..


2/21/1997 - Army Investigates Overseas Sexual Misconducts; Citadel Hazing Hearings Begin

Following allegations of widespread sexual harassment on a German Army base, the Army is examining how widespread sex crimes are at bases in Western Europe and Bosnia. The allegations at the training center in Darmstadt, Germany included rape, sodomy and cruelty. The Army has relieved the commander of the training base of his duties because of the allegations that three of his instructors sexually assaulted or harassed female trainees. At least some of the alleged incidents occurred after the Aberdeen sex scandal case broke.

In South Carolina, disciplinary hearings for 10 men who allegedly harassed, hazed and assaulted two female cadets at the Citadel have been scheduled for Saturday, February 22. Resembling individual courts-martial, the administrative hearings will be secrective, held before a three-person board. One of the original 12 male cadets originally implicated in the harassment of Jeanie Mentavlos and Kim Messer resigned while another did not return for spring semester. Both Mentavlos and Messer have left the military college.


2/21/1997 - Portugal Narrowly Rejects Abortion Rights Bill

After a long, heated national debate, Portuguese lawmakers yesterday narrowly defeated a bill which would have allowed unrestricted abortions during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. The bill lost by a 112 - 111 vote with three abstentions. The lawmakers did however, vote to extend the period for abortion in cases of rape or incest. Odete Santos, one of the many sponsors of the bill, commented after the vote, "Portuguese women were the big losers. Deputies will not have a lot of responsibility and a lot weighing on their conscience. Their vote means that women will have to continue risking their lives with illegal abortions." Approximately 16,000 illegal abortions are performed each year in the predominately Roman Catholic country.


2/21/1997 - Clinton Urges Hearings For Herman

President Clinton told reporters yesterday that the Senate should schedule hearings for his nominee to serve as Secretary of Labor, Alexis Herman. Clinton commented, "There has still not been a hearing. I think that’s a big mistake. She has wide support among labor -- labor unions endorsed her yesterday – and she has wide support among business." He went on to say, "She is clearly well qualified…and if she gets a hearing, she will be confirmed." Herman, Clinton’s only African-American female nominee, is also the only nominee who does not yet have a scheduled hearing.


2/21/1997 - Portugal Narrowly Rejects Abortion Rights Bill

After a long, heated national debate, Portuguese lawmakers yesterday narrowly defeated a bill which would have allowed unrestricted abortions during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. The bill lost by a 112 - 111 vote with three abstentions. The lawmakers did however, vote to extend the period for abortion in cases of rape or incest. Odete Santos, one of the many sponsors of the bill, commented after the vote, "Portuguese women were the big losers. Deputies will not have a lot of responsibility and a lot weighing on their conscience. Their vote means that women will have to continue risking their lives with illegal abortions." Approximately 16,000 illegal abortions are performed each year in the predominately Roman Catholic country.


2/21/1997 - Army Investigates Overseas Sexual Misconducts; Citadel Hazing Hearings Begin

Following allegations of widespread sexual harassment on a German Army base, the Army is examining how widespread sex crimes are at bases in Western Europe and Bosnia. The allegations at the training center in Darmstadt, Germany included rape, sodomy and cruelty. The Army has relieved the commander of the training base of his duties because of the allegations that three of his instructors sexually assaulted or harassed female trainees. At least some of the alleged incidents occurred after the Aberdeen sex scandal case broke.

In South Carolina, disciplinary hearings for 10 men who allegedly harassed, hazed and assaulted two female cadets at the Citadel have been scheduled for Saturday, February 22. Resembling individual courts-martial, the administrative hearings will be secrective, held before a three-person board. One of the original 12 male cadets originally implicated in the harassment of Jeanie Mentavlos and Kim Messer resigned while another did not return for spring semester. Both Mentavlos and Messer have left the military college.


2/21/1997 - First Woman Appointed to Head State National Gaurd

In Vermont, Lt. Col. Martha Rainville has become the first appointed woman to head a state national guard. Vermont lawmakers appointed her by a 104 to 73 margin over Maj. Gen. Donal Edwards in secret balloting. Vermont is the only state which appoints its adjunct general, the head of the state’s national gaurd..


2/20/1997 - Supreme Court Upholds Fixed Buffer Zones to Protect Abortion Clinics

On Wednesday, February 19th, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Schenk v. Pro-choice Network of Western New York which upholds fixed buffer zones at abortion clinics. The Court upheld two of the three forms of injunctive relief by allowing not only the fixed buffer zones but also by recognizing the right of clinic personnel and patients to wave off anti-abortion "side-walk counselors" within these zones. The Court upheld a 15-foot fixed buffer zone in this case, but also upheld the 1994 Madsen decision of a 36 feet zone and thus makes the zone size dependent on the record of anti-abortion violence and the geographic location of the clinic. The Court did strike down a floating buffer zone in this case, but it left open the possibility of a floating buffer zone in other cases. Chief Justice Rehnquist did not rule out the possibility of floating buffer zones if the record of anti-abortion extremist behavior at a particular clinic warranted this remedy.

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation commented that, the "Schenck decision upholding fixed buffer zones is a victory for abortion clinics, but the decision to strike down a floating buffer zone in this case could not have come at a worse time."


2/20/1997 - Supreme Court Sets Aside Set-Aside Law

The Supreme Court ruled in Philadelphia v Contractors Assn. Of Eastern Pennsylvania that a set-aside program run by the city of Philadelphia is not constitutional. The program set aside one-fourth of public contracts for women and people of color. A judge's ruling barring the city from enforcing the program until the outcome of the legal case has already left many firms struggling to compete. Carole Robinson, an African American businesswoman in Philadelphia, commented, "It’s had a tremendous impact. Some of these businesses have already gone under. And, unfortunately, it’s going on all across the county." The culmination of the eight-year legal battle, along with rulings rejecting similar program in Columbus, Ohio and Miami, indicates that the Court is dismantling set-aside programs for women and people of color.


2/20/1997 - May Sweeps May Sweep Ellen Out of the Closet

TV Guide reports that writers of the hit t.v. sitcom Ellen have written a special one-hour show during which Ellen reveals that she is a lesbian. The script calls for Ellen to reveal to her psychiatrist, who may be played by Oprah Winfrey, that she is attracted to another woman. ABC and Walt Disney Television must both approve the script before it can air. If approved, the show will air during the May sweeps


2/20/1997 - Labor Leaders Seek Protection Under Welfare Law, Also Back Herman Nomination

Labor leaders, gathered for the annual mid-winter meeting of the AFL-CIO, are demanding that the millions of welfare recipients headed into the workforce receive at least minimum wage. They also demand labor law protections cover the so-called "workfare" recipients. Officials fear that if labor laws do not protect these new workers, state and local governments will use them to replace existing job-holders more cheaply. In a resolution, the AFL-CIO wrote, "Real welfare reform must not take job opportunities away from people who already have them." The Labor Department is currently in the process of determining whether federal labor laws cover welfare recipients who are working in public jobs in exchange for continued benefits.

At the conference, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney also expressed outrage at the continued delay of the Alexis Herman confirmation hearings for Secretary of Labor. He announced that the federation’s executive council had approved a resolution in support of Herman. The executive council resolution said, "The AFL-CIO calls for immediate hearings on the nomination of this African American Woman. It is time for Alexis Herman to be able to stand in an open forum and have her nomination considered by the United States Senate.


2/20/1997 - Falls Church, VA Abortion Clinic Firebombed, Anti-Abortion Extremist Arrested

On February 18th, anti-abortion extremist James Anthony Mitchell, 38, broke into and firebombed a Falls Church, Virginia abortion clinic. Falls Church Vice Mayor David Snyder said that the extremist was clearly, "protesting abortion." Unfortunately for Mitchell, he didn’t leave the clinic before he firebombed it and got trapped inside by the flames. The fire caused major damage to the first floor of the clinic and smoke damage to the second floor.


2/20/1997 - Supreme Court Upholds Fixed Buffer Zones to Protect Abortion Clinics

On Wednesday, February 19th, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Schenk v. Pro-choice Network of Western New York which upholds fixed buffer zones at abortion clinics. The Court upheld two of the three forms of injunctive relief by allowing not only the fixed buffer zones but also by recognizing the right of clinic personnel and patients to wave off anti-abortion "side-walk counselors" within these zones. The Court upheld a 15-foot fixed buffer zone in this case, but also upheld the 1994 Madsen decision of a 36 feet zone and thus makes the zone size dependent on the record of anti-abortion violence and the geographic location of the clinic. The Court did strike down a floating buffer zone in this case, but it left open the possibility of a floating buffer zone in other cases. Chief Justice Rehnquist did not rule out the possibility of floating buffer zones if the record of anti-abortion extremist behavior at a particular clinic warranted this remedy.

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation commented that, the "Schenck decision upholding fixed buffer zones is a victory for abortion clinics, but the decision to strike down a floating buffer zone in this case could not have come at a worse time."


2/20/1997 - Supreme Court Sets Aside Set-Aside Law

The Supreme Court ruled in Philadelphia v Contractors Assn. Of Eastern Pennsylvania that a set-aside program run by the city of Philadelphia is not constitutional. The program set aside one-fourth of public contracts for women and people of color. A judge's ruling barring the city from enforcing the program until the outcome of the legal case has already left many firms struggling to compete. Carole Robinson, an African American businesswoman in Philadelphia, commented, "It’s had a tremendous impact. Some of these businesses have already gone under. And, unfortunately, it’s going on all across the county." The culmination of the eight-year legal battle, along with rulings rejecting similar program in Columbus, Ohio and Miami, indicates that the Court is dismantling set-aside programs for women and people of color.


2/20/1997 - May Sweeps May Sweep Ellen Out of the Closet

TV Guide reports that writers of the hit t.v. sitcom Ellen have written a special one-hour show during which Ellen reveals that she is a lesbian. The script calls for Ellen to reveal to her psychiatrist, who may be played by Oprah Winfrey, that she is attracted to another woman. ABC and Walt Disney Television must both approve the script before it can air. If approved, the show will air during the May sweeps


2/20/1997 - Labor Leaders Seek Protection Under Welfare Law, Also Back Herman Nomination

Labor leaders, gathered for the annual mid-winter meeting of the AFL-CIO, are demanding that the millions of welfare recipients headed into the workforce receive at least minimum wage. They also demand labor law protections cover the so-called "workfare" recipients. Officials fear that if labor laws do not protect these new workers, state and local governments will use them to replace existing job-holders more cheaply. In a resolution, the AFL-CIO wrote, "Real welfare reform must not take job opportunities away from people who already have them." The Labor Department is currently in the process of determining whether federal labor laws cover welfare recipients who are working in public jobs in exchange for continued benefits.

At the conference, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney also expressed outrage at the continued delay of the Alexis Herman confirmation hearings for Secretary of Labor. He announced that the federation’s executive council had approved a resolution in support of Herman. The executive council resolution said, "The AFL-CIO calls for immediate hearings on the nomination of this African American Woman. It is time for Alexis Herman to be able to stand in an open forum and have her nomination considered by the United States Senate.


2/20/1997 - Falls Church, VA Abortion Clinic Firebombed, Anti-Abortion Extremist Arrested

On February 18th, anti-abortion extremist James Anthony Mitchell, 38, broke into and firebombed a Falls Church, Virginia abortion clinic. Falls Church Vice Mayor David Snyder said that the extremist was clearly, "protesting abortion." Unfortunately for Mitchell, he didn’t leave the clinic before he firebombed it and got trapped inside by the flames. The fire caused major damage to the first floor of the clinic and smoke damage to the second floor.


2/19/1997 - Supreme Court Upholds Fixed Buffer Zones to Protect Abortion Clinics

On February 19, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Schenk v. Pro-choice Network of Western New York which upholds fixed buffer zones at abortion clinics. The Court upheld two of the three forms of injunctive relief by allowing not only the fixed buffer zones but also by recognizing the right of clinic personnel and patients to wave off anti-abortion "side-walk counselors" within these zones. The Court upheld a 15-foot fixed buffer zone in this case, but also upheld the 1994 Madsen decision of a 36 feet zone and thus makes the zone size dependent on the record of anti-abortion violence and the geographic location of the clinic. The Court did strike down a floating buffer zone in this case, but it left open the possibility of a floating buffer zone in other cases. Chief Justice Rehnquist did not rule out the possibility of floating buffer zones if the record of anti-abortion extremist behavior at a particular clinic warranted this remedy.

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation commented that, "Fixed buffer zones are an essential tool in preventing anti-abortion violence." Approximately one-third of clinics are currently protect by buffer zones. However, she said, "If the Schenck decision emboldens anti-abortion extremists to engage in more violence and harassment at clinics, the striking down of the Buffalo "floating" buffer zone could not have come at a worse time…Those of us engaged in protecting clinics and health care workers have noticed an appreciable increase in anti-abortion terrorism at clinics recently."


2/19/1997 - Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Bias Ex-worker Law

The Supreme Court upheld a federal law that makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers or former workers who filed anti-discrimination complaints against the employer in Robinson v. Shell Oil. The Court unanimously ruled that this law can apply to former, as well as to current, employees. The ruling allows a Maryland businessman, Charles T. Robinson, to go to trial and try to prove that a Shell Oil official gave him a bad reference in retaliation for a race discrimination suit Robinson had filed against the company. He filed the original suit after he was fired, claiming that the company dismissed him because of his race.


2/19/1997 - Renowned Feminist, Emily Kahn, Dies at 92

Emily Hahn, an early feminist and prolific writer, died on February 18th at age 92. In 1974 she wrote the influential, Once Upon a Pedestal: An Informal History of Women’s Lib and throughout her career also wrote articles for The New Yorker on subjects such as apes, D.H. Lawrence and her trips to the Far East. She also wrote books on Chinese cooking, diamonds and the Philippines. She began her writing career after traveling cross country in a Model T Ford with the book Seductio ad Absurdum: The Principles and Practices of Seduction – A Beginner’s Handbook. She then set upon becoming "free" and traveled to Africa where she lived with a Pygmie tribe and worked at a hospital. She then became the China correspondent for The New Yorker in 1936.

Born in St. Louis, she grew up determined to become a mining engineer. Her advisor at the University of Wisconsin told her to forget it because the female mind "is incapable of grasping mechanics or higher mathematics." The remark only made her more determined to succeed and she eventually became the first woman to earn a mining engineer degree from the University.


2/19/1997 - Statement of Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation: "Schenck Decision Upholding Fixed Buffer Zones Is Victory For Abortion Clinics, But Decision To Strike Down A Floating Buffer Zone In This Case Could Not Have Come At A Worse Time."

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today in Schenck v. Pro-choice Network of Western New York by once again emphatically upholding fixed buffer zones at clinics is a victory for women seeking abortions and for women’s health care providers. The Court upheld two of the three forms of injunctive relief sought by the Buffalo clinic by allowing not only fixed buffer zones but also by recognizing the right of clinic personnel and patients to wave off anti-abortion "side-walk counselors" within these zones.

In this case, the Court upheld a 15-foot fixed buffer zone, but this decision in also upholding the 1994 Madsen decision of 36 feet zone makes clear that the size of the zone is dependent on record of anti-abortion violence and the geographic location of the clinic.

Although the Court struck down a floating buffer zone in this case, it left open the possibility of a floating buffer zone in other cases. Chief Justice Rehnquist in this essentially protective decision did not rule out the possibility of floating buffer zones if the record of anti-abortion extremist behavior at a particular clinic warranted this remedy. The decision simply said that the record in this particular case did not warrant a floating buffer zone.

If the Schenck decision emboldens anti-abortion extremists to engage in more violence and harassment at clinics, the striking down of the Buffalo "floating" buffer zone could not have come at a worse time. Since December, a New Orleans abortion doctor has been stabbed 15 times, a Tulsa clinic has been bombed several times, an Atlanta clinic was bombed twice, and last night a Northern Virginia clinic was arsoned. Those of us engaged in protecting clinics and health care workers have noticed an appreciable increase in anti-abortion terrorism at clinics recently.

Fixed buffer zones are an essential tool in preventing anti-abortion violence. Approximately one-third of clinics (31.7%) are currently protected by buffer zones. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s 1996 National Clinic Violence Survey found that clinics with buffer zones reported far greater decreases in death threats, blockades, and invasions than clinics without buffer zones.


2/18/1997 - Ex-Citadel Cadet Tells of Brutal Hazing

Jeanie Mentavlos, one of the two female cadets who left the Citadel in January after a semester, has detailed the series of mental and physical abuse which she endured. Speaking during an interview at her home, Mentavlos related that early in her days at the South Carolina military college, a male upperclassmen ordered her into a small dorm room, turned off the light and shoved stiff cardboard into her chin. "He grabbed it out of my hand and punched me in my chin with it," Mentavlos said. The male cadet threatened that next time he would actually show her what "mean" meant The incident left Mentavlos with three large welts on her chin.

In October, two upperclassmen entered Mentavlos’ room late at night and set the sweatshirt she was wearing on fire. She put it out but had to break from the position required in the presence of upperclassmen to do so. The junior cadet ordered the sophomore cadet to light her again, this time the fire burned through the sweatshirt before the junior cadet put it out. In November, while Mentavlos and Kim Messer (the other female who quite the Citadel because of the hazing) were returning to their dorms, an upperclassman ordered the women to the room of the company commander. With the company commander present, the two women were forced to stand on tiptoe, facing into a doorless closet for two and a half hours while the men kicked, cursed and forced them to stretch higher, "They kept screaming ‘Get up, get up’, I couldn’t even breathe I was crying so hard. They were screaming at me ‘Quit breathing.’ I was still crying when I ran out of there." A couple of weeks later, a sophomore cadet splashed nail polish remover at Mentavlos and lit her on fire, "The flames were going past the front of my ears. I just freaked out."

These incidents represent only the most serious harassment Mentavlos endured, but the harassment was constant and began to affect her ability to study and sleep. Almost nightly a cadet would enter her room late at night and force her to stand at attention. Mentavlos’ brother was a Citadel senior cadet at the time but has since left the school before graduation, and several of her relatives graduated from the Academy. Mentavlos said she was aware of the hazing that occurs and commented, "I didn’t necessarily expect it to be comfortable when I went in there." However, she believes the treatment she received was cruel, sadistic and excessive. State and federal criminal investigations continue, and twelve cadets currently face college disciplinary charges. The father of one of the two women who remain replaced the Citadel’s second-highest ranking official last week.


2/18/1997 - Appeals Court Upholds Military Ban on Homosexual Conduct

In the third federal appeals court ruling to uphold the government's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on February 14 to uphold the military's policy banning homosexual conduct on or off duty. A discharged sailor had argued that the military ban was unconstitutional because it treated lesbians and gay men differently than heterosexuals. In her dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Betty Fletcher said that discharging homosexuals but not heterosexuals for off-duty sexual conduct was a policy of discrimination based on prejudice.


2/18/1997 - Traveling Exhibit Celebrates Adventures of Fictional Young Women

A traveling exhibit currently in Los Angeles offers fifty-eight books for young women which star a variety of heroines. Started in Washington, D.C. by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the "Brave Little Girls" exhibit was so successful that sponsors took it to Los Angeles and will soon take it to San Francisco and Denver. The exhibit is targeted at a new generation of young women who don’t want to always read about a handsome prince saving a woman in distress. Commented Stephanie Mayse, age 11, "Boys are so much better than girls in books. The boys get to do everything. There’s not a lot of books with the girls as heroes – it’s hard to find books like that." Another 11-year-old, Britni Billera commented, "When I’m reading and the men tell the women that they can’t do things or they need help, I think, ‘Why doesn’t she do it anyway by herself?’ I get so upset I don’t want to read it anymore." The exhibit features heroines such as Tatterhood, a girl who fights off hobgoblins with a wooden spoon; Mirette, who walks a tightrope and saves a high-wire master; and Princess Izumi, who rejects a marriage proposal to study caterpillars and other creatures. Old favorites such as Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables and Pippi Longstocking are also included.


2/18/1997 - American Embassy in London Seeks Immunity Against Case of Sexual Harassment

The American Embassy in London has claimed state immunity in an effort to block a sexual harassment judgment. Mary Fogarty claims she was sexually harassed at the embassy when her boss repeatedly made obscene comments at her and began licking her ear. She subsequently lost her job, and the embassy repeatedly turned her down for other jobs. An industrial tribunal judged that the Embassy had harassed her and awarded her 12,000 pounds, but her lawyer believes the embassy’s claim for immunity "will almost certainly succeed." Attorney Laurence Davies, a former City solicitor further commented, "It is nothing short of scandalous that the perpetrators of this discrimination are prepared to hide behind the U.S. flag. We have received calls from sympathetic Americans within and outside the embassy who are disgusted at this cynical attempt to escape liability; they are ashamed of the U.S. and rightly so."