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7/17/1997 - Brandeis University Establishes Center to Study Jewish Women

Brandeis University has announced its intentions to establish a center for the study of Jewish women and has stated that singer/director Barbara Streisand will serve as the center's honorary chairwoman. Hadassah, a 385,000-member Jewish women's group, plans to fund the International Research Institute on Jewish Women with a $1.5 million grant. The group has also agreed to find another $6 million in funding in order to create a permanent endowment for the center. The institute will not offer classes to students but will concentrate on research.

7/17/1997 - Aspirin and Prednisone Do Not Prevent Miscarriage

A study conducted by the University of Toronto, and published in the July 17th edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, has found that a treatment of aspirin and the hormone prednisone does not effectively reduce women's chances of miscarriage. The study further found that the combination drug therapy could actually increase the chances of premature birth. The group based its results on a group of 385 women each of whom had previously had two miscarriages and who tested positively for sensitive immune systems.

7/16/1997 - Plaintiff Awarded $125,000 in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

A Fayette, Kentucky Circuit Court jury has awarded Mary Lous Moses $125,000 in damages for the sexual harassment she endured while working for Applied Technologies Inc. manager Sam Brookshire. Moses claimed that while working at the Lexington, Kentucky branch, Brookshire repeatedly sexually harassed her by following her around constantly, repeatedly professing his love for her and touching her.

Though Moses reported his actions to supervisors numerous times, the company did not take any action against Brookshire until Moses finally reported the harassment to the company's headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio. After six years of harassment, Brookshire was transferred to the company's Louisville office and told to stay away from Moses. The company argued that it responded quickly to Moses' complaints, but the jury did not agree. The jury found that Brookshire's actions created a hostile work environment and found the company liable for not putting an end to the harassment sooner. Company officials said during the trial that Moses, who still works for the company, might be fired after an upcoming merger takes place. Moses' lawyers have filed an injunction against the company, barring it from firing her.

7/16/1997 - Heart Problems for Women Vary According to Blood-Borne Factors and Race

According to a study published July 14, women under the age of 45 are twice as likely to have heart attacks if they have a certain combination of blood-borne factors, including too little folate and too much of the protein homocysteine. Researchers studied 79 women who survived heart attacks and compared them to 386 healthy women. Women with the highest blood levels of folate, a nutrient found in orange juice, bananas, beans and broccoli, had approximately a 50% reduction in heart attack risk compared to women with lower levels of the nutrient. Women in the top 10% for homocysteine levels had 2.3 times the risk of heart attack compared with those in the bottom 50%.

In related news, African-American women between the ages of 25 and 54 are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than white women of the same age group; the data reverse for women between the ages of 65 to 74. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) obtained this information by studying follow-up data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey involved 11,406 individuals between the ages of 25 and 74 who had not suffered coronary heart disease when the study began. The follow-up time was about 19 years. CDC researchers are encouraging doctors to work with African-American women under the age of 65 to reduce factors which contribute to heart problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and cigarette smoking.

7/16/1997 - Sears Diversity Fair Increases Representation of Women and Minorities in Senior Management

Minority- and women-owned executive recruitment firms around the country made presentations to Sears, Roebuck and Company on July 15 for Sears' second vendor diversity fair. More than twenty-five firms met with Sears human resource directors to explore opportunities to increase the representation of minorities and women in Sears senior management. The first diversity fair in 1996 resulted in millions of dollars in immediate contracts and allowed women- and minority-owned vendors to meet Sears buyers and learn how they could more effectively serve large retailers. When discussing the company's goals this year, Sears chair and chief executive officer Arthur C. Martinez said, "To meet the needs of the multi-cultural communities we serve, Sears must expand the breadth of diversity on its management team. Our strategy is to build a workforce that reflects the unique characteristics of our customers."

7/16/1997 - Female Participation in Athletics Increases

According to Thomas B. Doyle, Vice President of Information and Research at the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), female participation in athletic activities has been increasing and changing dramatically in the last five years. He based his remarks on "Sports Participation in 1996", a two-page report from a NSGA survey of 35,000 US households. In team sports such as soccer and basketball, female participation has increased by more than 55% since 1991, a rate which exceeds the growth for those two sports in the past five years. In the most strenuous fitness activities, including exercising with equipment, running/jogging and working out at clubs, the rate of growth in female participation also surpasses the overall growth. Doyle said women's outdoor activities are moving towards "more adventuresome categories" such as backpacking, canoeing and kayaking/rafting. Growth for the last activity was most significant; female participation in kayaking/rafting has increased 116%.

7/16/1997 - Former President of D.C. League of Women Voters Dies at 82

Janeth Ravner Rosenblaum, the former president of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the League of Women Voters, died on July 15th of lung ailments. Rosenblaum also served on the national board of the League and as acting president of its Overseas Education Fund. Rosenblaum also volunteered for the American Red Cross and the D.C. Board of Elections.

7/15/1997 - Breast Cancer World Conference Features Mastectomy Debate

The first world conference on breast cancer has featured an important debate over whether or not women with a breast cancer related gene should have mastectomies. Some argue that because eighty percent of women who carry the gene will have breast cancer, they should have mastectomies. Others argue that mastectomies are an extreme step which force women to mutilate themselves even though undergoing the procedure is not necessarily a proven prevention measure. Often, removing a tumor is enough to prevent the disease from spreading. Bella Abzug, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and leader of the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) in New York, has been battling breast cancer for four years. She argued at the conference, held in Kingston, Canada, that many women were unnecessarily undergoing the procedure. She further commented, "There is a lot of fortune-telling and bookmaking going on."

The conference has brought together representatives from over thirty countries to battle the disease, which claims one million lives per year. When the conference ends on July 17th, participants are expected to adopt a worldwide action strategy for battling the disease.

7/15/1997 - Federal Judge Blocks Rhode Island "Partial Birth" Abortion Ban

United States District Judge Ronald Lagueux has issued an order blocking enforcement of Rhode Island's partial birth abortion ban. The judge set a hearing for August 4th to determine whether or not the law, as written, is overly broad and thus unconstitutional. The lawsuit, brought by Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island and two doctors, contends that the law is so vaguely written that any doctor performing an abortion after the first trimester, using any procedure, could face felony indictments.

7/15/1997 - Senate and House Defense Spending Bills Include Ban on Overseas Abortions

Both the United States Senate and House versions of the defense spending bill maintain the ban on abortion at overseas military hospitals. The Senate and House bills authorize $268 billion in military spending. This is $6.6 billion more than President Bill Clinton's administration requested and $3 billion more than allotted in the 1997 budget.

7/15/1997 - Californian Women Win the Right to Breast-Feed in Public

California Governor Pete Wilson (Rep) signed a bill on July 14th protecting a woman's right to breast-feed her baby in public. Wilson supported the legislation because nursing promotes maternal and infant bonding and also reduces health care costs for children. Proponents of the measure believe it will lessen the fear of public disapproval which contributes to the low rate of breast-feeding in the United States. When similar legislation was introduced in the state two years ago, however, some Republicans argued that it was unnecessary, and others feared it would lead to public nudity. Despite the opposition that remains today, the legislation will go into effect January 1, 1998, making California the 13th state to explicitly permit breast-feeding in public.

7/14/1997 - Hillary Rodham Clinton Speaks Out for Women's Rights

During an address to the "Vital Voices: Women in Democracy" forum held in Vienna, United States First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton urged female leaders in former communist countries to work hard for women's rights. Clinton addressed over 1,000 prominent women leaders, representing 19 post-communist Eastern European countries, at the conference and urged them to banish poverty and prejudice. Clinton emphasized, as she has throughout her world travels, that government must treat women's rights as integral to local, state and global economies as well as basic human rights. During international speeches, Clinton often notes that although women comprise half the world's population, they comprise seventy percent of the world's poor and approximately sixty-six percent of those who cannot read or write. In war zones, she notes, women and children are over ninety percent of the refugees. At the forum, Clinton also announced a $3 million U.S. grant to promote micro-credit and similar pilot programs designed to improve the status of women in the former Soviet Bloc. Vesna Pesic, a leader in Serbia'' opposition democracy, commented on Clinton's advocacy for women's rights, "She's not just a first lady, she's a politician with a tough, persuasive voice. She seems very committed to her views, and I think people like her sense of conviction."

According to statistics made available at the conference, women earn as low as forty percent of men's wages for the same work in the former Soviet Bloc; Ukranian women represent seventy percent of that country's unemployed; Belarus professional women must look three times as long as male counterparts for work. The problems facing women in Eastern Europe have increased dramatically since the fall of communism. Many women no longer receive child-care or support from pension programs. And, unemployment throughout the region has increased dramatically.

7/14/1997 - Young Woman Names Mars Rover After Sojourner Truth

In 1995, then eleven year-old Valerie Ambrosie won an essay competition designed to generate a name for the Mars rover. Ambrosie suggested that the rover be named after Sojourner Truth, a famous abolitionist and women's right advocate. Ambrosie wrote in her essay, chosen from over 3,500 entries, "It's only logical that the Pathfinder be named Sojourner Truth, because she is on a journey to find truths about Mars. The Pathfinder should have strong personalities in order to go under harsh conditions like that on Mars. Truth, while on tours, went under many harsh conditions. Even before, she went under harsh conditions as a slave." Ambrosie was the valedictorian of her eighth grade class and is on full scholarship to Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield, Connecticut. Sojourner is currently exploring the surface of Mars.

7/14/1997 - Egypt Continues Ban on Genital Mutilation

Health Minister Ismail Awadallah Salaam announced on July 11, 1997 that the Egyptian health authorities will continue to enforce a ban on female genital mutilation despite a June 24 court ruling against the ban. Salaam's ministry has filed an appeal with Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court challenging the mid-level administrative court's decision. Islamic fundamentalists oppose Salaam, arguing that genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, the full or partial removal of the clitoris of pre-pubescent girls, protects women from the results of excessive desire. The practice, however, has can lead to death and has been linked to sexual dysfunction and emotional and physical trauma. Salaam defended his decision, saying, "The decision to ban female circumcision was a sound decision, in line with the proper concept of religion…Linking female circumcision with Islam is an insult to the religion." Procedurally, it is unclear whether or not Salamm has the power to ignore the lower courts ruling and enforce the ban.

7/14/1997 - Egypt Continues Ban on Genital Mutilation

Health Minister Ismail Awadallah Salaam announced on July 11, 1997 that the Egyptian health authorities will continue to enforce a ban on female genital mutilation despite a June 24 court ruling against the ban. Salaam's ministry has filed an appeal with Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court challenging the mid-level administrative court's decision. Islamic fundamentalists oppose Salaam, arguing that genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, the full or partial removal of the clitoris of pre-pubescent girls, protects women from the results of excessive desire. The practice, however, has can lead to death and has been linked to sexual dysfunction and emotional and physical trauma. Salaam defended his decision, saying, "The decision to ban female circumcision was a sound decision, in line with the proper concept of religion…Linking female circumcision with Islam is an insult to the religion." Procedurally, it is unclear whether or not Salamm has the power to ignore the lower courts ruling and enforce the ban.

7/14/1997 - States Apply for Restrictive Sex Education Programs Money

By July 15, states must turn in applications for $250 million authorized by Congress for programs that promote abstinence as the only way to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Planned Parenthood and other groups that support more extensive sex education, however, point out that an "abstinence only" message to teenage students is unrealistic and has dangerous consequences. These groups also worry that states will take money out of existing programs to match funds for the federal grants. Conservative groups, on the other hand, fear that states will ignore Congress' intent and allow programs that teach abstinence but also discuss contraception. Both sides lobbied states which were putting together the grant proposals to the Department of Health and Human Services.

7/13/1997 - Promise Keepers Holds No Promise for Women

Washington, DC - Today, the Feminist Majority Foundation, joining other national women's rights, religious, lesbian/gay/bisexual, and domestic violence organizations, condemned the hidden agenda of the all-male, religious right organization, the Promise Keepers.

"Some reactionary male want-to-be-patriarchs -- the so-called Promise Keepers -- are preaching to football stadiums of men that men must resume their rightful place at the head of their household," said Alice Cohan, Feminist Majority Foundation Director of National Programs. "The submission of women is at the core of all these attacks on women's rights and is a backlash to the changed role of women in every facet of our society."

"Despite their best attempts to hide an anti-women, anti-abortion agenda, one must only examine the major leaders and funders of the Promise Keepers' movement to uncover their real goals. Their empires have been built on misogyny, not 'brotherly love.' Pat Robertson, the religious right media mogul and founder of the Christian Coalition, provides major coverage of the Promise Keepers through the 700 Club. James Dobson, whose organization Focus on the Family is one of the largest religious right entities in the country, kept Promise Keepers afloat financially in the early years. Bill Bright's Campus Crusade for Christ empire has lent at least 85 full-time staffers to Promise Keepers' national headquarters in Colorado. Another leading supporter is Gary Bauer, head of the anti-abortion and anti-lesbian/gay Family Research Council."

"Serving as Promise Keepers National Spokesperson is Mark DeMoss of the DeMoss family, whose foundation pours millions of dollars into religious right causes including the anti-abortion Life, What A Beautiful Choice advertisements. Finally, there is Bill McCartney, former football coach and founder of Promise Keepers. McCartney is militantly opposed to women's reproductive freedom, and has been a featured speaker at events of the anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue. During an Operation Rescue rally, which was trying to close a local women's clinic, McCartney declared that abortion had become 'a second Civil War.'"

"While in their official speeches, materials and publications, the Promise Keepers avoid explicit anti-abortion statements, further examination uncovers anti-abortion sentiments. Incorporated in their New Man magazine are advertisements for pro-life bank checks and commentary on the guilt and pain of 'male post-abortion syndrome.' Additionaly, some state Promise Keepers' World Wide Web sites include anti-abortion links, revealing their true position on abortion."

"The Promise Keepers are the newest, slickest, and perhaps most deceptive mouthpiece yet of the radical religious right," concluded Cohan.

7/11/1997 - Rich Refuses NEA Medal of Arts Award in Protest of Government's Actions

Award-winning poet Adrienne Rich has declined the 1997 National Medal for the Arts. In explaining her decision to the Clinton Administration, Rich commented that "democracy in this country has been in decline." Rich expressed her views in a letter written to Jane Alexander, chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts, which administers the awards. The letter further stated, "the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration…[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner-table of power which holds it hostage." Rich expressed her concern that the gap between rich and poor continues to increase. In a statement Alexander commented, "Ms. Rich is eminently qualified to receive this distinguished award from President Clinton. However, I certainly respect Ms. Rich's decision not to accept it." Rich has published more than 15 volumes of poetry since 1951. Her most recent work is entitled Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991 - 1995. Past recipients of the award include the writer Eudora Welty, the artist Roy Lichtenstein, the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, and the opera diva Leontyne Price. A spokesperson for the NEA commented that Rich is very likely the only person to have ever turned down the award.

7/11/1997 - Diet Centers Reconsider Diet Pill Prescriptions

After recent medical indications that the diet drug combination fenfluramine and phentermine (fen-phen) may damage heart valves, diet centers have begun to rethink their prescription of the popular drugs. The findings, by doctors at the Mayo Clinic, have already prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to send warning letters to thousands of doctors. Now, Jenny Craig Inc, a diet center chain, has recommended that its doctors stop prescribing the pill combination. Another diet center chain, Nutri-System Inc., has said it is reviewing its position with regards to the pills. C. Joseph LaBonte the president and CEO of Jenny Craig Inc., commented, "In light of the Mayo Clinic data…we are advising the independently contracted physicians in our centers that they not prescribe fen-phen until its long-term safety and efficacy is validated." The company is continuing to offer the drug Redux, which has also been linked to other potentially dangerous side-effects.

7/11/1997 - Women's Baseball League Begins First Season

Sports fans who attend UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium on July 12 at 7:00 p.m. will watch skilled baseball players pitch breaking balls, make double plays, and hit grand slams. And these talented athletes will be women. For the first time in about half a century, a professional women's baseball league is beginning its season. San Diego stockbroker Mike Ribant formed the California-based Ladies League Baseball Association and hopes to expand it from its present membership of 5 teams to 12, 6 on each coast, by next year. The Los Angeles Legends will play the Long Beach Aces in Saturday's game. Legends player Mimi Hall commented, "It's only when I see the practice gear that it all starts to sink in. I get in the dugout and suddenly think, 'I'm here because I'm a professional athlete.'"

7/11/1997 - Dancer's Death Highlights Prevalence of Eating Disorders in Her Profession

The Boston Ballet believes 22-year-old Heidi Guenther's recent death resulted from an eating disorder. The 5'3" dancer weighed 100 pounds, 15 pounds below normal for her height. Her death emphasizes the obsession many individuals in her profession have with staying thin. Studies reveal that eating disorders among professional dancers are twenty times higher than they are among the general public. Expected to weigh 10 to 20 percent below normal standards, dancers have been known to eat Kleenex to keep themselves full without taking in calories. Guenther's death has prompted the Boston ballet to improve its eating-disorder program, said company spokeswomen Mary Crotty.

7/10/1997 - Judge Upholds VAWA Provision Calling Gender-Motivated Crime a Civil Rights Violation

U.S. Judge James Jarvis, of the Eastern District of Tennessee, has upheld the constitutionality of the civil rights provision of the federal Violence Against Women Act. The provision makes gender-motivated crime, such as spousal abuse, a civil rights violation. Congress used its power under the interstate commerce clause to pass the legislation. After four months of hearings, Congress found in 1994 "that gender-based crimes and fear of gender-based crimes restrict movement, reduce employment opportunities, increase health expenditures, and reduce consumer expending, all of which affect interstate commerce and the national economy [and that about half of rape victims lost their jobs or were forced to quit after the crime]." Jarvis made the ruling in the case Laurel Knuckles Seaton v. Kenneth Marshall Seaton; Laurel Knuckles has sued her estranged husband for compensatory and punitive damages of $40 to $87 million. Knuckles claims that her husband repeatedly mentally and physically abused her and thus violated her civil rights.

In 1996, another U.S. District Judge found in Doe v. Doe that the provision satisfied the "rational basis" test required for Congress to pass the legislation under the interestate commerce clause. The Doe case also involved a woman whose husband allegedly repeatedly beat and threatened to kill her. In another case, Jane Doe v. Father Gerald Hatz, a third U.S. District Judge also upheld the provision's constitutionality. That case involved a woman who alleges that a church bishop groped and kissed her when she entered church for evening service. Only Judge Jackson Kiser, chief judge for the Western District of Virginia, has ruled that the provision is not constitutional because Congress exceeded its power. The case, Brzonkala v. Virginia Tech, involves a student who accused two football players of raping her. The decision is on appeal to the 4th Circuit. The Supreme Court is expected to hear a case challenging the provision at some point in the near future.

7/10/1997 - Study Finds 1 in 7 Girls Sexually Abused

A study headed by Dr. Harriet L. MacMillon of the Centre for Studies of Children At Risk at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario and published in the July 9th, 1997 Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that approximately 1 in 7 females are sexually abused as children. The study also shows that 1 in 5 girls are physically abused while growing up and a little less than 1 in 10 girls are severely physically abused while growing up. Girls at all ages were more often sexually abused than boys. Also, girls reported a higher incidence of simultaneous physical and sexual abuse. Seven percent of women and a little over two percent of men reported simultaneous abuse. The study asked 1,000 randomly selected people ages 15 and above to fill out a confidential questionnaire. Doctors involved in the study said the numbers were actually on the low side because teenagers make up thirty to forty percent of abusers against children, but the study only asked if a person has ever been abused by an adult.

7/10/1997 - Kentucky College Appoints Its First Female President

Jacqueline Addington has been appointed president of Owensboro, Kentucky Community College. Addington, who currently serves as the assistant vice president for academic affairs at Western Kentucky University, will become the first woman to hold the presidency position at the college. With her appointment, three women will serve as presidents in the fourteen-member University of Kentucky Community College System. The other two women serve as presidents at Lexington and Prestonburg colleges.

7/10/1997 - Forum Analyzes Women's Role in Democratic Eastern Europe

Over 300 women have convened in Vienna, Austria for a three-day conference to analyze women's role in expanding and building democracy in Eastern Europe. U.S. Ambassador to Austria Swanee Hunt welcomed the participants yesterday and in her opening remarks commented, "The voices of women are vitally important for the creation of democracy." United States First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will also address the participants of the conference, entitled "Vital Voices: Women in Democracy."