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The Reverend Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, has launched a letter writing campaign to General Motors, Chrysler and Johnson & Johnson asking them to pull their adds for the Ellen "coming out" episode. During an hour long special in May, the lead character Ellen will reveal that she is a lesbian, drawing protest from Falwell. He commented, "Stop spending your dollars to underwrite a program that Disney and ABC have decided to use to corrupt the views and values of our children. All Christians need to make their voices heard. Falwell also resorted to elementary school tactics by mispronouncing Ellen Degeneres’s name, Ellen "Degenerate
Abortion clinics and doctors have filed a lawsuit which claims that a Michigan ban on "partial birth" abortions is unconstitutional. The suit alleges that the vaguely drafted legislation would allow officials to prosecute doctors for any abortion conducted after the first trimester. The ACLU has also joined in the fight by asking the U.S. District Court for a preliminary injunction to block the ban before it goes into effect at the end of March.
3/27/1997 - NIH Seeks Older Women for Health Study
The National Institute for Health is seeking for nearly 100,000 additional women to participate in a ten year study of women’s health. The agency is looking primarily for women over the age of sixty, having already recruited the requisite number of women between the ages of 50 to 59. The agency is studying whether post-menopausal women age 50 to 79 need to take estrogen and vitamins to protect against bone loss. It is also studying whether or not low-fat diets help prevent heart attacks and breast and colon cancer.
3/27/1997 - Maine Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Ban
Avoiding a fall referendum campaign, Maine legislators approved a ban on same-sex marriages by a 24 to 10 vote. On March 25th the Maine House had voted 106 to 39 to approve the ban. Governor Angus King is expected to sign the measure. If signed, Maine becomes the 18th state within the past year to ban same-sex marriages
The Pentagon announced on March 24th that President Clinton has nominated Major General Claudia J. Kennedy to become the army's first female three-star general. Clinton has also nominated Kennedy to serve as the deputy chief of staff for intelligence; she has served as the assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence since 1995. The Senate is expected to confirm the nomination. If nominated, the Air Force would remain the only military branch without a three-star flag female officer.
3/26/1997 - Clinton Administration Tells Texas Schools to Aggressively Enforce Affirmative Action Programs
Officials from the United States Department of Education have warned Texas officials that the state's school system will lose federal funding if it does not use affirmative action programs in admissions. Texas Attorney General Dan Morales earlier directed the schools not to consider race at all when make admissions decisions because of a recent 5th Circuit Federal Court ruling, Hopwood v. Texas which claimed that the 1978 Bakke decision allowing affirmative action programs was no longer viable. The education department's office of civil rights, however, has directed that the ruling only applied to a special type of admission's policy no longer pursued in Texas and that it did not wipe out affirmative action programs altogether.
Norma Cantu, the head of the civil rights division at the education department, said that Texas schools were bound by a 1992 Ayers v. Fordice ruling in Mississippi which mandated that states continue to root out current discriminatory practices and vestiges of past discrimination. Cantu commented, "The Texas Attorney General's office has interpreted the 5th Circuit decision much more broadly than necessary. Unless the facts are identical to those in place at the time at the University of Texas Law School, universities may use appropriate affirmative action." Many believe that the Supreme Court will have to hear a case involving affirmative action and settle the discrepancy between the 5th Circuit Court's ruling and the Supreme Court's previous rulings on affirmative action.
Women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene should start receiving early mammograms as early as age 25, according to a researchers at the Women's Health Care Center at the University of Washington. The March 25th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association contains the results of a study which reiterates that the BRCA genes cause five to ten percent of all breast cancer cases and that women who carry the genes should begin having yearly mammograms between the ages of 25 and 35. Women with a flawed BRCA1 gene have a 65 percent risk of contracting ovarian cancer and an 85 percent risk of breast cancer. Women with the BRCA2 mutation have a 55 percent risk of ovarian cancer and 85 percent risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society projects that doctors will diagnose 180,200 women with breast cancer this year.
3/26/1997 - 911 Delay Allows Rapists to Attack Woman
A woman, walking along a highway late at night, noticed a van slowly following her. Frightened, she picked up a nearby phone and dialed 911. The operator instructed her to remain by the phone and that a deputy was on the way. Thirty-five minutes later, deputies arrived at the scene. Within that time, two men from the van abducted and took turns raping the woman. After the attack, the 26-year-old woman walked to Pasco County, called the deputies and reported the attacks.
The slow 911 response came from the same Hillsborough County, Florida department which took 34 minutes to show up to a house where someone else had reported hearing a woman screaming because she was being beaten. By the time they responded to that call, a man who had served time for earlier abducting, raping and cutting off the forearms of a teen-age hitchhiker in 1978, Lawrence Singleton, had brutally killed another woman in his home. The excuse for the slow response to the murder was a shift change and rush- hour traffic. The excuse for this latest slow response: the deputy on the way stopped off to assist in an unrelated search of suspected car thieves.
3/26/1997 - Millions of Women Have Low Iron Levels
A new study published in the March 25th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that approximately 7.8 million women and girls lack sufficient iron in their diets. An additional 3.3. million more women and girls have the severe iron deficiency called anemia. The study, conducted by Anne Looker and colleagues at the National Center for Health Statistics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, also found that iron deficiency was twice as high in women of color as it was in white women. The deficiency was also more common among poor women with less education
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is attempting to intervene in a sex discrimination lawsuit against Home Depot, Inc. The EEOC asked a federal court to allow it to join an attempt by 22,000 women employees of the store to form a class action. The women, from 312 stores east of the Mississippi, claim that the company routed them into lower paying jobs and routinely denied them training and promotions. The chain is already facing a sex discrimination suit in New Jersey and a class action sex discrimination suit on the West Coast. If allowed to join in the case, it will be the largest sex discrimination suit the EEOC has participated in to date. James Lee, the regional director for the EEOC in New York commented, "We believe that the facts will show that there's widespread discrimination on the part of Home Depot against women. We feel it's the sort of case with national importance that the agency needs to bring it resources to bear on."
The State Department is on alert: women's furtherance world-wide is a central priority of America's foreign policy. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has told all U.S. diplomats that she and President Clinton are committed to improving the status of women throughout the world. At an International Women's Day ceremony, Albright outlined the policy and said, "Advancing the status of women is not only a moral imperative, it is being actively integrated into the foreign policy of the United States. It is our mission. It is the right thing to do, and frankly it is the smart thing to do." Albright travels today to North Carolina to urge Senator Jesse Helms, who as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has bottled up the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to ratify the 1979 Convention.
To show this commitment has action behind the words, the State Department has contributed funds to a volunteer group in Pakistan that runs a school for Afghan refugee girls, and in Namibia, the U.S. Embassy has used its discretionary funds to combat sexual violence against women. Next month, two dozen Russian judges and law enforcement officers travel to Washington, D.C. where the State and Justice Departments will meet with them to attempt to stop clandestine trafficking in Russian women. The women are told by organized crime figures that they will appear in folk music troupes and are then sold into prostitution rings.
Last year President Clinton decided to invest $5 million government dollars in a fund to provide loans and training for Bosnian women. First Lady Hillary Clinton joined Albright for the International Women's Day Celebration and commented, "What this administration believes, is that if half the world's citizens are undervalued, underpaid, undereducated, underrepresented, fed less, fed worse, not heard, put down, we cannot sustain the democratic values and way of life we have come to cherish."
3/25/1997 - Common Gene Doubles Risk of Breast Cancer
Forty percent of women carry a gene which can double the risk of breast cancer and is responsible for nearly thirty percent of all breast cancer cases. The gene, CYP17, controls estrogen production and influences girls as they go through puberty. Researchers at the University of Southern California presented this information to the American Cancer Society on March 24th and signaled a different trend in breast cancer research. Most researchers have focused on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that substantially increase the risk of breast cancer, but that are very rare. These researchers were looking for genes that were more common and found them in CYP17, although this gene was not as determinative in contracting the disease.
3/25/1997 - Georgia Passes D & X Ban
Georgia lawmakers have passed a bill which bans the D & X abortion procedure. Governor Zell Miller has said he will sign the bill which outlaws the procedure unless the woman's life is in danger.
During her trip to Africa with daughter Chelsea, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has continuously stressed that the plight of women, their pains and triumphs, worldwide are a natural point for forging a new relationship between the United States and Africa. During her trip to Tanzania, where an international tribunal is investigating crimes against women during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Rodham Clinton met with 25 girls who had just climbed Africa's highest mountain. While in Rwanda, the First Lady visited the international criminal tribunal and took part in a discussion regarding sex crimes. She taped a radio address on the issue which was broadcast throughout Rwanda.
Rodham Clinton also attended a roundtable discussion concerning regarding the status of Tanzanian women. She attended a similar discussion last week in Zimbabwe where the women reported the similar complaint that they were oppressed by a patriarchal social system. The women in both countries described prevalent sexual abuse, a lack of education, and a need for better reproductive health care. Rodham Clinton commented that while women in the U.S. enjoyed greater freedoms, "[they still confront] cultural, psychological and social obstacles" that diminish their self-confidence. She also said that African American and American women could learn a great deal from each other if they exchanged their life experiences.
Revising earlier guidelines, the American Cancer Society announced on March 23rd that women in their forties should receive annual mammograms. The National Cancer Institute is expected to make similar recommendations this week. In January, a federal advisory panel concluded that women in their forties should consult their doctors and make their own decisions regarding the yearly mammograms. The finding was criticized by some in light of new evidence presented to the panel which shows decreased breast cancer deaths for women in their forties who receive the yearly mammograms.
3/24/1997 - Ellen "Coming Out" Episode to Air April 30; ABC Refuses to Air Lesbian and Gay Rights Commercial
On April 30th, Ellen Degeneres's television character Ellen will reveal that she is a lesbian. The hour-long episode, which will air in one or two segments, includes guest appearances by Oprah Winfrey, k.d. lang, Melissa Etheridge and Billy Bob Thornton. Immediately following the episode, Degeneres will make her own sexuality clear during an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC's Prime Time Live.
Heralded for its progressiveness in airing the first sitcom to feature a lesbian or gay lead character, in an ironic twist ABC Network has refused to air an ad from a lesbian and gay rights group. The ad shows two co-workers surprised that their company has fired a fellow worker for being a lesbian. It is designed to garner support for a federal law banning job discrimination to persons based on sexual orientation. David Smith, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign commented that ABC, "determined that an actual depiction of a fact of life for gay people in this country falls under the judgment of controversial advertising. We strongly disagree with that judgment on their part." The Campaign has found 59 of the 79 local markets are willing to run the ad and will do so during local ad time.
A law passed by Congress last September which outlaws female genital mutilation in women under 18 takes effects on March 29th. The law, shepherded through Congress by ex-Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder (D-CO), makes the procedure a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison. An estimated 100 million women worldwide have undergone the procedure and approximately 160,000 females have been subjected to the procedure in the United States. The procedure can involve cutting the hood of the clitoris or the more drastic step of removing the clitoris and tissue at the entrance to the vagina.
Former Miss USA Shannon Marketic has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and his brother, Prince Jaji Jefri Bolkiah held her against her will and tried to turn her into their "sexual toy." Marketic is also suing Kaliber Talent Consultants who sent her to the Sultan's palace promising that the engagement would be modeling and a promotion, while aware that she was being sent to work as a "prostitute" for the Sultan and his friends. The first day at the Sultan's palace, when Marketic realized sex was expected of her, she requested to leave but was allegedly put under house arrest. At night she was allegedly forced to dance at parties, engage in sex and during the day was forced to watch movies of prostitutes killed. One guest allegedly shouted at her, "What do you think you are here for? You might have been Miss USA but you're a whore now." After 32 days of being detained, Marketic was given her passport and return ticket and given twenty minutes to pack and leave.
Marketic is suing the Sultan, believed to be the wealthiest man in the world, for $90 dollars. The Sultan has denied ever meeting Marketic.
A circulating petition claims that The Phillip-Morris Tobacco Company has released a new music recording label entitled, "Woman Thing Music" in order to attract more women to smoking. The company will give away free CD's of its female recording artists to persons who buy two or more packs of Virginia Slims Cigarettes. Martha Byrne a soap opera star for "As the World Turns" began a ten-city tour in February to promote the new label and a petition aimed at her and "As the World Turns" has circulated to expose the hazards of smoking. In 1994, 25 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 24 smoked and smoking among teenage girls has increased for five consecutive years.
For more information about the petition or concert protests, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids at 1-800-284-KIDS.
3/21/1997 - House Votes to Ban D&X Abortion
The House of Representatives voted 295-136 on March 20 to ban the use of the D&X abortion method except in cases where it would save the life of the woman. The ban makes no exception for using the procedure when the woman's health is at stake. Doctors performing the procedure could face up to two years in prison and a fine for performing the procedure. The father of a fetus can sue a woman who has undergone the procedure if he is married to her.
The margin in the House is sufficient to override a presidential veto. Numbers in support of the ban have risen in part due to the recent claim by Ron Fitzsimmons, Executive Director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, that he lied about the number of D&X abortion performed annually. At a congressional hearing on the bill, NCAP President Renee Chilliun and other abortion rights leaders stood firmly against the bill and demonstrated the need for reproductive rights decisions to be made between women and their doctors, and not by lawmakers. Rep. Nita Lowney (D-NY) said, "This ban will put Congress directly in the operating room and impose the federal government in the doctor-patient relationship."
The Senate currently falls some seven votes short of a veto-proof vote and will likely wait until late April to vote on the measure. Last April, President Clinton vetoed the same identical measure because it made no exception for the woman's health. He has stated he will veto this bill as well.
Civil Rights Lawyers filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education on March 19, alleging that the University of California, having abolished affirmative action in graduate admissions, discriminates against women and people of color. The complaint claims that criteria favoring whites and men are still considered in UC's graduate admissions, a violation of equal educational opportunity requirements which would make the UC system ineligible for $1 billion in federal funds. In UC Berkeley's Boalt Law School, added weight is given to the grade point averages of applicants from predominantly white Eastern colleges while grades from predominantly black Howard University and Cal State Los Angeles (where black and Latino students comprise one-third of the student population) are discounted. The projected enrollment of Boalt's applicants of ethnic and racial minorities other than Chinese, Japanese and Korean is likely to fall to four percent in the fall of 1997 down from 25 over the past several years. Minority enrollment at UC Berkeley's College of Engineering is expected to drop by 33 percent while women's enrollment will likely drop by 25 percent using the remaining selection criteria without affirmative action.
Arguing that the graduate admissions policies at UC "have a discriminatory effect" on women, blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the NAACP, the California Women's Law Center, and Equal Rights Advocates filed the complaint. Affirmative Action will be abolished in undergraduate admissions at UC for Fall 1998.
Aberdeen Proving Ground's Capt. Derrick Robertson pleaded guilty and was sentenced on March 20 to only four months in prison on charges of adultery, sodomy, conduct unbecoming an officer and failing to obey a general lawful order. Roberston admitted to having sex with a 20-year-old female private under his command who came to him seeking advice about sexual harassment and abuse she had experienced from another male officer. Robertson could have been sentenced to up to 10 and a half years in prison for those charges and was cleared of the more serious charges of rape, indecent assault, and the obstruction of justice.
Seven other Aberdeen staff members have been charged with criminal sexual offenses, three of whom face courts-martial. Two others have agreed to discharges. Robertson, the first to face a court-martial, was the highest-ranking officer accused of sexual misconduct at Aberdeen. Newspaper accounts of the trial described Robertson as "relaxed" and "smiling" during the proceedings. The plea-bargain stipulated one year in prison but suspended eight months of that sentence.
The Congressional Women's Caucus has called for prosecution of sex offenders to be the Army's top priority despite recent concerns that investigators have been overzealous. The NAACP recently criticized the investigation and held a press conference in which five white female recruits said investigators tried to coerce them into saying they were raped by black men despite the fact that they had never made such charges. Over 50 women have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse since the Aberdeen investigation opened in November, and members of the Congressional Women's Caucus have urged that the Army investigation be allowed to run its course.
On CBS' "60 Minutes," to air Sunday, March 23, two male cadets at South Carolina's the Citadel military college said that they reported incidents of hazing suffered by former cadet Jeanie Mentavlos to their tactical officer and that they were told to keep quiet about the abuses. Mentavlos and Kim Messer, two of the first four female cadets to enter the formerly all-male college, left the school at the end of the fall semester because of alleged hazing and sexual harassment. Two men in their company, Echo Company say they when they reported the repeated incidents of hazing, which included the igniting of Mentavlos' sweatshirt, the active duty military officer told one of the cadets, "Your roommate needs to keep his mouth shut and you need to tell him to keep his mouth shut." Both cadets say they were threatened with the loss of their Marine Corps commissions if they pursued reporting the charges. The Citadel denies their story and says the two were disciplined for failing to report the hazing. The cadets will be named on the March 23 program on which Mentavlos, her brother, Michael, and parents will appear.
3/20/1997 - Keep Guns Away from Abusers, says New York Times
A New York Times editorial urges members of Congress to support the law that prohibits anyone convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a gun, and reject two bills that would gut that law. The law has come under attack from police organizations because it does not exempt police officers from the gun ban. The New York Times responds, "If anything, officers should be held to higher standards of conduct than ordinary citizens. Domestic violence is also an indication of an inability to deal with anger, a sound reason to remove guns from officers with this problem." Police groups argued that the law would throw too many police officers out of a job. But the editorial points out that many police departments, such as the New York City police department, do not hire police officers with misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence anyway. The gun ban law was passed last fall by a vote of 97 to 2 in the Senate. Source:
After her "brief and gentle" confirmation hearing on March 18, propects for Alexis Herman's approval for Secretary of Labor look promising. Herman, who would be the highest-ranking African-American woman in the administration, is a strong supporter of women's rights and minority issues, and was the youngest person ever to head the Dept. of Labor's Women's Bureau.
Herman is the only member of the Clinton cabinet who has not yet been confirmed -- her confirmation hearings were delayed because of questions about her involvement in White House fundraising efforts. But at her hearing, fundraising issues were hardly mentioned, and she was introduced and praised by two conservative Republicans from her home state of Alabama, Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Sonny Callahan.
The Senate will vote on Herman's confirmation after Congress returns from their two-week Easter recess on April 8.