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5/21/1996 - Breast Cancer Gene Patent Evokes Controversy
A coalition of women's groups and cancer advocacy groups are opposing a move by Myriad Genetics to patent the breast cancer gene known as BRCA1. The coalition argues that creating a patent would mean Myriad would control and possibly impede research on the gene. Other cancer advocacy groups have supported the patent application, citing Myriad's financial investment in the research and the likelihood that investors will not contribute to gene therapy research unless the gene has patent protection. The coalition opposing the patent, organized by biotechnology opponent Jeremy Rifkin, claims that the government will continue to pay for the gene research. Rifkin's coalition maintains a gene is not an invention to be patented, although many genes already have patents.
BRCA1 was discovered in 1994 to be linked with breast cancer. Myriad has plans to offer a BRCA1 screening test later this year, which would cost about $900.
San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano has proposed legislation to force contractors doing business with the city to provide the same benefits to domestic partners of employees as it does to married spouses. Ammiano planned to introduce the ordinance on Monday (5-20) at the City's board meeting; after that, the ordinance will go through public hearings and onto the city attorney's office. Ammiano's ordinance would include extending health care insurance, retirement packages, child care, disability benefits, and family and bereavement leave to domestic partners of employees of city contractors. In 1992, San Francisco adopted a law allowing same-sex partners to register as domestic partners, extending benefits to partners of city workers.
5/20/1996 - Clinton Endorses Wisconsin Plan to End Welfare
On Saturday (5-18), President Clinton endorsed a Wisconsin plan to end welfare. Criticized by child-welfare and women's rights advocates, the plan would eliminate Aid to Families with Dependent Children and would replace the Federal guarantee of cash assistance for poor children with wage subsidies for single mothers who work. Every adult recipient would be required to work, a factor that worries critics concerned about the children of parents who fail to participate in the work program. Devised primarily by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, the Wisconsin plan cuts off assistance after five years without guaranteeing that families would receive any forms of aid thereafter. Opponents of the plan also point out that it relies upon a strong economy in the state, which might not last.
5/20/1996 - New Gel May Prevent HIV Infection in Women
A study financed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has found that a virus-stopping gel applied to the vaginas of monkeys appears to stop transmission of SIV, the monkey version of the AIDS virus. Researchers hope the gel will be effective in humans, suggesting that women could apply the gel before intercourse to protect them from the AIDS virus. Research from the study suggests that the substance, PMPA, might be twice as effective as HIV-killing nonoxynol-9, but it is not clear whether or not PMPA will also cause irritation. The action of PMPA is similar to that of AZT, the first drug to combat symptoms of AIDS, but PMPA may be more potent and 100 times less toxic. The researchers consider the findings "very promising."
5/20/1996 - Clinton Signs Sex Offender Notification Bill
On Friday (5-17), President Clinton signed Megan's Law, legislation that will require police to inform communities when convicted sex offenders move into the neighborhood. The law is named for a 7-year-old girl from New Jersey who was raped and murdered by a male neighbor who had a history of convictions for child molestation of which the girl's parents were unaware. The 1994 crime bill had permitted but did not required the notification.
5/17/1996 - Pension Law Revisions Urged to Aid Women
Changes in pension laws are being proposed in the Senate to make the laws more equitable and less harsh on working women and elderly women. Introducing a proposal at a news conference Tuesday (5-14), Sen. Carol Mosley-Braun (D-Ill.) stated that current laws are out-of-date and do not protect the pension rights of divorced women and widows. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) pointed out that women often put work on hold and change jobs in order to raise children or take care of elderly parents, making it difficult to build up pension rights. According the Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the gap in pensions is an "institutionalized" form of discrimination like pay inequities in general.
Mosley-Braun anticipates her proposals will become part of broader pension legislation currently being drafted after an outline given by President Clinton last month. A recent report issued by the Women's Research and Education Institute found that only one of every five women retiring in 1992 got a pension compared to 47 percent of men retiring that year.
5/17/1996 - UC Provost Admits VIPs Influence Admissions
University of California Provost C. Judson King has admitted that in the last five years, prominent individuals made over 1,000 special requests on behalf of undergraduate applicants' admission. King maintains that about 60 of those applications received some positive consideration. King also acknowledged that although the UC system discourages letters of recommendation, letters that are sent do indeed get taken into account; in some cases, letters from VIPs make a crucial difference.
Earlier in the week, the Los Angeles Times reported that UC President Richard Atkinson and the official he assigned to investigate such admissions favors have themselves handled requests from VIPs in recent years. In 19 of the most recent undergraduate cases documented in thank-you notes to Atkinson and computer print-outs, almost half of the students were admitted after inquiries by VIPs.
5/17/1996 - Hormone Regimen May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer
According to University of Southern California Scientist Malcolm Pike, a regimen of vigorous exercise to delay puberty and hormone treatments to induce artificial menopause can reduce the risk of breast cancer by as much as 95 percent. The regimen would reduce the amount of estrogen exposed to a woman's breast tissue by shortening her reproductive life. Pike cited better nutrition, earlier menstruation, and pregnancy occurring later in life as reasons why breast cancer rates have increased in recent decades in industrialized societies. Pike said delayed menarche and early menopause significantly decrease women's rates of breast cancer, noting that women whose ovaries are removed by age 30 reduce their risk of breast cancer by 85 percent. Pike and other researchers have developed a combination of drugs to create an artificial menopause.
On Thursday, a group of 89 Filipino women who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops during World War II rejected all compensation from the privately funded "Asian Women's Fund." About 50 of the women, dressed in black, demonstrated Thursday (5-16) outside the Japanese Embassy to protest the Japanese government's refusal to directly compensate the women and to take responsibility for wartime atrocities against 200,000 women.
Earlier this week a prominent member of the Asian Women's Fund, Mutsuko Miki, resigned because of Japan's refusal to directly compensate and apologize to the women
On Wednesday (5-15), a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing met on the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act, part of the 1994 crime law. Asking that the Act be fully funded, chief sponsor of the legislation Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) testified that he had not been able to persuade lawmakers to restore $1.3 million requested for the training of state and federal judicial personnel for this year. Others testifying included Attorney General Janet Reno who said that domestic violence must be curbed to control violent crime in general, and Denise Brown, sister of Nicole Brown Simpson, who argued that judges "need to be educated on the complex dynamics involved in domestic violence."
The first woman to sue in federal court under the Act, named as Jane Doe, has filed a lawsuit against her millionaire husband for spousal abuse and gender-motivated violence. Doe alleges her husband, whom she is in the process of divorcing, treated her like a slave and made her take care of his mistress' poodle.
Wednesday (5-15) was Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz' deadline for Catholics in his diocese to quit 12 groups or face excommunication. The list of the groups Bruskewitz deemed unacceptable includes Planned Parenthood, Catholics for a Free Choice, and Call to Action, a group advocating discussion of the ordination of women and married men. Excommunicated Catholics may attend Mass but are not allowed to get married in the church or receive sacraments. Some members of the Lincoln, Nebraska diocese plan to ignore the order.
In a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on legislation to allow states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, gay and lesbian rights activists said the measure was divisive and politically motivated. Along with other Democratic colleagues, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC) accused supporters of the bill, which would define marriage as the "legal union between one man and one woman," guilty of "fanning the flames of intolerance and seeking to divide people against each other." Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) asked her colleagues supporting the bill what part of "all" in "liberty and justice for all" they did not understand.
5/16/1996 - New Breast Cancer Drug Gets FDA Approval
On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the new drug Taxotere to treat breast cancer patients who do not respond to standard treatment, including chemotherapy. Given intravenously every three weeks, Taxotere has demonstrated in trials that it can shrink tumors. Like Taxol, an drug approved in 1994 to treat breast cancer, Taxotere can cause serious side effects. Taxotere, in the same family as Taxol, can cause additional loss of white blood cells and can affect liver function
5/15/1996 - Sailor Discharged After Sexually Harassing Women
Chief Petty Officer George Powell has been discharged from the Navy. Powell had been convicted of groping two women sailors - one aboard a commercial airplane in October - was penalized in rank and pay, and was sentenced to 89 days in confinement. Powell, 49, will not receive retirement benefits, but he is eligible to apply for Veterans Administration medical benefits.
The National Basketball Association will be publicizing the U.S. women's basketball team, the first women's national team recruited by USA Basketball a full year before the Olympics. NBA Properties markets the team, negotiating deals between it and corporate sponsors, licensees and television partners. It also creates advertising campaigns and helps plan exhibition games for the team.
Although the $50,000 salary each woman receives from USA Basketball hardly compares to what her male counterparts make, women's basketball is getting increasing coverage on networks, and corporate sponsors pay several hundred thousand dollars for advertising time during the games. Several of the women team members also have their own athletic shoe endorsements. Next summer, the NBA plans to launch a women's league to be located in several NBA cities.
Postmenopausal women taking estrogen therapy may find reduced accuracy in their mammogram screenings for breast cancer. According to Dr. Mary Laya, a University of Washington assistant professor of medicine, estrogen replacement therapy often increases breast tissue density which increases the overall difficulty in reading mammograms. It may also lead a physician to mistakenly diagnose benign but dense breast tissue as cancer, or to miss a small tumor.
One quarter to one third off all postmenopausal women in the U.S. take estrogen replacement drugs to reduce symptoms of menopause or to prevent diseases such as osteoporosis and heart disease. Laya says women having estrogen replacement therapy should be told there may be more false alarms, and that women with a family history of breast cancer need to weigh the risks of the disease against the many benefits of estrogen therapy. In Laya's study, the number of undetected cancers in women taking estrogen was very small.
Candice Gingrich urged her brother Speaker Newt Gingrich to "stop this Congressional gay-bashing" on the eve of a House hearing on an anti-same-sex marriage bill. Candace, an out lesbian said, "The raising of this issue now, at the national level, is nothing more than election-year scapegoating of one group of Americans." While the bill would not outlaw same-sex marriage in any state, it would define marriage federally as the "legal union between one man and one woman" and would allow states to disregard same-sex marriages performed in other states. The bill attempts to head off effects of an expected court decision in Hawaii that would legalize same-sex marriages in the state.
Efforts to raise the minimum wage are favorable to 81 percent of people polled by USA Today/CNN/Gallup. Democrats are leading the fight to raise the minimum wage. The Republican proposal to repeal the gas tax is favored by 56 percent. Of the 3.66 million workers earning the minimum wage of $4.25/hour, 63 percent are women.
North Carolina state representative Ken Miller was publicly censured by the state House of Representatives Monday (5-13) for sexually harassing women. A House Ethics Committee found that Miller had made unwanted advances and inappropriate sexual remarks to three women, including a 16-year-old volunteer page. The committee recommended the public censure after an expulsions proposal failed. The first order of business at the beginning of the 1996 session, the censure was the first public humiliation in the state House since the 1880s. Miller's vote aside, the House voted unanimously to censure. After the listening to the resolution condemning his behavior, Miller left the chamber and proceeded to a legislative clerk's office where he introduced proposed legislation to eliminate welfare programs.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday (5-13) that the University of California allows children of alumni to apply as residents of California, giving them an admissions advantage. California residents can typically be admitted to the UC system with lower grades and test scores than applicants from other states. The "legacy" admissions policy considers children of alumni "bona fide residents."
The findings contradict UC's persistent claim that it does not offer preferences to "legacies," especially since the Board of Regents' July 20 decision to outlaw affirmative action programs for women and people of color. UC officials plan to issue a report on the topic of preference toward well-connected children of VIPs later this week.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to reinstate a lawsuit brought by male professors at Virginia Commonwealth University who objected to giving women faculty members pay raises to eliminate disparities in salary. A pay equity study had shown women making far less money than their male counterparts of similar rank and experience. Off the 770 tenured or tenure-track professors in the study, 187 were women. Male full professors made an average of $66,740, while women of the same rank earned an average of $58, 990. After the release of the study, the university spent $440,000 to increase the salaries of women. The men's objections to the pay raises will now be heard by a jury.
Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has called Sen. Dole's anti-same-sex marriage bill a "sleazy" attempt to divide President Clinton and his supporters. While Clinton has said he does not favor same-sex marriages, he has not taken a position on Dole "Defense of Marriage Act" which would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and would allow states to discount same-sex marriages performed in other states. Frank calls the move against same-sex marriages "another Willie Horton," citing the negative ads used against 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis to depict the former Massachusetts Gov. as soft on crime.
Officials at Mitsubishi Motor Corporation announced Tuesday (5-14) that they have hired former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin to investigate claims of sexual harassment at the company's Normal, Ill. plant. The former Republican Congresswoman will investigate the claims filed by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in what could be the largest sexual harassment case in U.S. history.
5/13/1996 - Muslim Women Discuss Equal Rights
Two hundred people from 20 nations attended "Beijing and Beyond," a weekend conference called to discuss rights denied to Muslim women and to urge Muslim communities to pursue the goals for the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women held last September in Beijing, China. The Sisterhood is Global Institute sponsored the conference and issued a background dispelling the notion that male domination of Muslim societies is mandated by the Koran. Asma Khader, president of the Jordanian Women's Union said, "We show that violence against women is against the law, and try to show that our religion does not give this right to men." Commenting that problems confronting Muslim women are shared by non-Muslim women, Yasmeen Murshed of the Bengali Center for Analysis and Choice said, "What confronts us are issues of basic human rights."
5/13/1996 - NOW Protests Mitsubishi
National Organization for Women chapters across the country picketed Mitsubishi auto dealerships this weekend to protest the company's handling of charges of pervasive sexual harassment at its Normal, Ill. plant. Carrying signs that read, "Solutions, not retaliation" and "Mitsubishi, women are watching," the protesters expressed their outrage over Mitsubishi's denial of the claims made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the behalf of over 300 women as well as the company's threats to its employees that they could lose their jobs as a result of the allegations and decreased sales.
Mitsubishi has until mid-June to respond to the EEOC lawsuit, but has indicated it is searching for a new law firm to represent the company. After a Friday meeting with EEOC lawyers following a month-long absence of official contact, Chicago EEOC director John Rowe said, "Our essential understanding is that the next contact will be a court filing by Mitsubishi."