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Administration officials announced Thursday that President Clinton has decided to impose a three-year moratorium on any new federal programs that reserve contracts for companies owned by women or minorities. The conditions for reintroducing the set-aside programs falling under the moratorium would be so strict it is unlikely they would ever return. The administration did, however, allow federal agencies to use other kinds of preferences if they can justify them. These might include giving price breaks or extra points when evaluating contract bids by minority or woman-owned companies.
While Clinton limited affirmative action in contracting, a House subcommittee voted 8-5 along party lines in favor of H.R. 2128, the "Equal Opportunity Act of 1996" introduced by Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla). The bill, which has a counterpart introduced by Senator Dole in the Senate (S. 1085), would eliminate all affirmative action programs within the federal government. After an intense debate lasting over three hours, the House Constitution Subcommittee approved the bill, which will now go to the Judiciary Committee. The bill would not allow the government to "require or encourage" contractors to use race or gender-based "preferences," which it defines as "an advantage of any kind..." The legislation would eliminate a 30-year-old executive order program which requires most federal contractors to maintain written affirmative action plans with goals and timetables.
On Friday, the Parliament of India passed a resolution that supported setting aside one-third of all state and national legislature seats for women. Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, who backed the measure, told the lower house (Lok Sabha), "I assure the house we are entirely in agreement with the spirit of the resolution. Every year we are taking steps to ensure the empowerment of women." The non-binding resolution was also passed by the upper house (Rajya Sabha) and would have to be ratified by the legislatures of India's 25 states and win the backing of the president in order to become law.
In recent months, women's rights activists have stepped up their campaign for quotas in order to combat the fact that they are increasingly left out of political decision-making.
At a press conference on Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers announced their plan to introduce a bill that would repeal a provision of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which makes it a crime to provide information about abortion on the Internet. The provision, which was not in either the Senate or House version and went unnoticed until President Clinton had signed the bill last month, applies the 1873 Comstock Act to the Internet and makes it illegal to send material on abortion through the mail or across state lines. The fine is $250,000 and/or five years in prison.
Speaking at the press conference were: Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Although Attorney General Janet Reno has called this provision of the bill unconstitutional and the Clinton administration has said it will not enforce the provision, supporters of the new bill warned that an anti-choice president in the future could choose to prosecute those violating the provision. Such a decision would put many women's and abortion rights organizations in jeopardy.
Called a "high tech gag rule," the provision would curtail the ability of health care advocates, women's rights activists, abortion providers, and all Internet users to share and exchange information. The Feminist Majority Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit in conjunction with the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy and other women's rights and reproductive rights organizations to challenge the ban. Both sides in the case of Sanger v. Reno agree the ban on information is unconstitutional, but the plaintiffs warn that if the law remains on the books, it could be enforced under an anti-choice administration. Lawmakers cite this as another setback for women's health, and the Feminist Majority Foundation considers it an "outrageous affront to freedom of information and women's rights."
Three U.S. servicemen were convicted of raping a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by a panel of three judges at the Naha District Court Wednesday. In sentences considered tough by Japanese standards, Navy Seaman Marcus Gill and Marine Pfc. Rodrico Harp each received sentences of 7 years in prison, while Marine Pfc. Kendrick Ledet was sentenced to 6 1/2 years. Prosecutors had asked for 10 years, arguing that the girl was kidnapped, beaten, brutally raped, and abandoned. Judge Shinei Nagamine told the courts, "This was an extremely heinous and bold crime. It was all the more serious because it was carefully planned."
Prosecutors say that on the evening of September 4, 1995, the three forced the girl into their rental car after she left a stationary shop. They then beat and bound her as Gill drove to a deserted road in a sugar cane field where the girl was raped and abandoned. All three confessed to a role in the attack. Gill admitted raping the girl and Ledet and Harp said they only helped abduct her upon Gill's urging but did not rape her. The court ruled that blood stains from the victim found on Harp's underwear proved he raped her. The judges gave Ledet a lighter sentence because he attempted to rape the girl but was unable to when he realized how young she was.
Lawyers for the defendants criticized the Japanese legal system and said they will appeal, with the families of the defendants saying the verdict was unfair. The defendants themselves showed no emotion as the verdict was read.
On Tuesday night, the Hawaii House approved a bill to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot defining marriage as existing between a man and a woman, following a debate in which half of its 51 members rose to speak. Earlier in the day, the Senate had narrowly approved a bill creating "domestic partnerships" for gay couples, giving them the same benefits and obligations that married couples have under state law but not extending benefits covered by federal law, such as joint tax filing.
A 1993 state Supreme Court decision ruled that it was illegal discrimination to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples unless there is a compelling state interest. According to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Rey Graulty, domestic partnerships would nullify the 1991 lawsuit (filed by three gay couples), resulting in an almost certain legalization of same-sex marriages.
Unless lawmakers create a compromise by the time the legislative session ends April 29, the question will go back to a lower court on August 1. The House and Senate positions are so far apart, a court decision is more likely than a legislative compromise.
In several states, lawmakers interested in restricting no-fault divorce have suggested "cooling off" periods and mandatory counseling for couples wishing to divorce without establishing who is at fault. Some of the momentum to change the laws comes from religious conservatives and father's rights groups. A sociology professor at the University of Southern California, Constance Ahrons suggests that one reason for the push to make divorce more difficult is a backlash against welfare mothers and could be a response to concerns about single-parent families and juvenile crime. Keeping people married could also be seen as a way to control welfare costs, she says.
A law proposed in Idaho would have forced couples involved in no-fault divorce cases to go into counseling and would have required that they be legally separated for a year before divorcing. The bill was dropped after advocates against domestic violence warned that victims could be put in more danger by such a waiting period. Opponents to the bill said that government had no business interfering in private lives, especially with safety issues at stake.
3/7/1996 - New Rules Proposed for Contracting
The White House has sent a memo to general counsels throughout the government proposing new rules for all federal departments that would require proof of discrimination before awarding race-based government contracts and would limit such contracting. The rules would disallow strict set-aside rules that designate specific numbers of minority contracts, and such "race-conscious" procurement would only be allowed after credible evidence of discrimination is found by a "disparity study."
Last year, President Clinton called for a review of all affirmative action programs, pledging to "mend not end" them. He said affirmative action programs were necessary because of ongoing discrimination, but said he would overhaul them.
On Wednesday, Virginia became one of the last states to comply with the National Voter Registration Act, which facilitates voter registration by enlisting motor vehicle offices and posting mail-in voter applications at numerous public places. Gov. George Allen had failed in his attempt to show that Congress was unconstitutionally dictating election laws to the states and opening up the process to potential fraud.
Ten state Democratic leaders praised the beginning of motor-voter registration in Virginia. However, the program opened with little fanfare as some of the motor vehicle offices did not make the option of registering known to customers or even make forms visible. Others presented the option to each customer.
3/6/1996 - New York Governor Bans Use of Lie Detector Tests on Rape Victims; Government Bans Sedative Blamed for Date Rape
On Tuesday, Gov. George Pataki of New York signed legislation prohibiting law-enforcement officials from subjecting rape victims to polygraph tests. A previous law merely barred authorities from requiring the use of such tests. "Survivors of sexual assault should not be victimized a second time with frequent and grossly insensitive requests to take a polygraph test," Pataki said. "This bill takes a long- overdue step forward in protecting the rights of sexual assault victims." Pataki also cited the fact that emotional responses of victims while being questioned about the crime can affect the test and give the false impression that they are lying.
Advocates for rape victims have maintained that victims can be discouraged from reporting the crime if there is the potential of being subjected to a lie detector test. According to Maud Easter, the executive director of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, "Polygraph tests have symbolized the climate in which victims do not come forward because they do not expect to be believed." Easter said passage of the bill was "one important step toward creating a new climate of respectful treatment for victims of sexual violence."
In a separate development, a sedative known as Rohypnol was banned for importation Tuesday, as the government called the pill a growing threat to teenagers and young adults. The drug, manufactured in 60 countries and used legally in 60 nations for insomnia, has often been associated with date rape. Women have reported being assaulted after their drinks were spiked with the drug which creates a drunk, sleepy feeling that peaks after two hours and lasts about eight. The drug had been gaining popularity in Florida and Texas, and is manufactured by the Swiss-based F. Hoffman La Roche & Co.
3/6/1996 - Female Soldier from U.S. Raped in Bosnia
Officials announced Tuesday that an American woman soldier was raped early Saturday morning in the area of a Czech battalion in northern Bosnia. The investigation was focusing on Czech soldiers with the NATO-led peace mission. The soldier was evacuated Sunday to the Taszar Air Base in Hungary for treatment. U.S. Army Europe spokeswoman Capt. Leela J. Dawson-Hamm said the soldier was being provided with medical care and legal counsel. Stars and Stripes reported the soldier was in good condition and was being attended to by a full-time rape counselor.
Dawson-Hamm said the U.S. Army will now put greater emphasis on training soldiers about traveling in groups, using the buddy system and being aware of possible dangers. Currently, all American soldiers reportedly receive sexual harassment prevention training as part of their annual training. "The soldiers can be confident that incidents of this nature will be fully investigated and violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Dawson-Hamm said.
Neither Dawson-Hamm nor Stars and Stripes had details on the circumstances of the rape. Czech officials have jurisdiction over the investigation which is being conducted together with American officials.
Last Thursday, a northern California group called the Freedom To Marry Task Force presented 1,600 letters opposing an anti-gay bill to California Assemblywoman Sheila James Keuhl of Santa Monica, who opposes the bill. The bill was introduced by Assemblyman William J. Knight and passed by the Assembly 41-33 on January 31, 1996; it would invalidate "any marriage contracted outside this state between individuals of the same gender."
The move signals a conservative trend in 18 other states to deny government recognition to same-sex marriages and is a result of the expectation of a ruling by the end of 1997 in Hawaii that would sanction same-sex unions. Utah and South Dakota have already enacted laws denying recognition to gay marriages, and members of the U.S. Senate are drafting a "Defense of Marriage Act" to define marriage in federal policies as the legal union of one man and one woman.
The issue is also affecting the Republican Presidential campaign; the evening before the Iowa caucuses, a "marriage protection" rally was held in Des Moines, drawing Pat Buchanan as well as written support from Senator Bob Dole, Steve Forbes, and former Gov. Lamar Alexander.
According to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, legislation is pending in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
3/6/1996 - Navy Approval for Demi Moore Film Uncertain
The Washington Post reports that the Pentagon has not yet decided whether or not to aid production of "G.I. Jane," a new Demi Moore movie about the Navy. According to the Post, Moore has appealed directly to President Clinton to urge Pentagon approval of the project. The Pentagon often helps military-related movie productions with equipment or logistical assistance for reimbursement, especially if the movie will help recruitment efforts. (Source: The Washington Post - March 6, 1996)
Putting aside the Post's sexist comment that the Moore film would help recruitment because "Hello? Demi Moore in a diving outfit? Roll the cameras," the Pentagon should see the movie as an boon for much-needed recruitment of women in the Navy.
California Gov. Pete Wilson is urging Presidential candidate Bob Dole to speak up on the issue of affirmative action before it gets claimed by Pat Buchanan. At a debate two weeks ago, the Rev. Jesse Jackson predicted that Wilson would end up supporting Buchanan for president because of Buchanan’s strong stand against affirmative action programs for women and people of color. Wilson, who ran for President on the issue of dismantling affirmative action and has been at the heart of the anti-affirmative action initiative self-titled the "California Civil Rights Initiative," denied Jackson’s claim.
Wilson is wary of the controversial Buchanan, unwilling to taint the affirmative action issue which the GOP hopes to use to its advantage in the fall campaign against President Clinton. California’s primary takes place on March 26, and Wilson thinks Dole, an early backer of the California initiative, should be more vocal about his anti-affirmative action views. Wilson worries that Buchanan, whose anti-woman and anti-immigrant views are widely known, could underscore the extremist tone of the initiative, causing it to lose support. A Wilson aide criticized Dole’s silence on the issue and said Dole should "set the tone for this debate" and make his support of the CCRI known.
3/5/1996 - Anti-Choice Measures Rejected in Virginia
In a setback for antiabortion forces in Richmond, the Virginia House of Delegates defeated a measure Monday to make the killing of a fetus a criminal act of murder. "Feticide" would have become a crime punishable by 20 years to life in prison. Pro-choice voices said the measure would begin to erode the legal right to abortion. Twenty-five other states have already extended legal protection to the fetus in criminal cases.
In another defeat for anti-choice factions, the Senate Education and Health Committed voted down a bid which would require doctors to notify parents if they perform abortions on patients younger than 18. Although this measure was defeated for the second time this year, both sides predicted that some form of the legislation would emerge from the General Assembly this year. Anti-abortion forces plan to add parental notification to another bill and prompt a fight on the Senate floor. Introduced every year in Virginia since 1979, these bills have already moved further this session than ever before.
3/5/1996 - Defense Witnesses Say Salvi Heard Voices
In the abortion clinic murder trial of John Salvi, defense witness Dr. Phillip Resnick was cross-examined Monday. The psychiatrist acknowledged that Salvi only revealed some of his paranoid delusions after learning that his lawyers planned an insanity defense. Salvi did not bring up certain topics during two interviews with Resnick following the December 1994 attacks.
It was only on the day before the trail started that Salvi talked about a conspiracy to force birth control on Roman Catholics and said it was "justifiable" to kill people interfering with a currency system just for Catholics. Resnick acknowledged that Salvi never talked about justifiable homicide until the day before the trial.
The defense attempted to show that Salvi was insane with testimony from a friend who said Salvi heard voices when he read the Bible.
In an appeal Monday, the Supreme Court said that a 90-minute sex education and AIDS education program held at a school assembly did not violate religious freedom or parents’ right to raise their children as they saw fit. Two former Massachusetts high school students and their parents had objected to the program; their lawsuit had been thrown out by a federal judge and the First Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld the dismissal. The appeals court ruled that parents do not have the right to "dictate the curriculum at the public school to which they have chosen to send their children." A state court lawsuit is still pending.
Suzi Landolphi of the Hot, Sexy, and Safer production company said she has made the presentation more than 5,000 times and had never been sued. In 1992, she was a guest speaker at Chelmsford High School where she combined humor, audience participation and explicit references to warn students about the danger of contracting AIDS through sexual intercourse. Jason Mesti and Shannon Silva, both aged 15 at the time, were in the audience.
The claims regarding "freedom of religion" were rejected when the appeals court noted that the plaintiffs "do not allege the one-time compulsory attendance at the program threatened their entire way of life." The case is Brown vs. Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions 95-1158.
3/5/1996 - Clinton Proposes Funding Decrease for Military, Increase for Education and the Environment
President Clinton announced a proposal Monday to reduce the fiscal 1997 military budget by $9.2 billion to $242.6 billion. His plan includes reductions in spending on both new weapons and operations and maintenance.
Clinton also said Monday he will veto a spending bill needed to keep the government open past March 15 if Congress does not provide more money for education and environmental protection this year. Vetoing the spending bill could result in another government shutdown.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Resnick testified last week that accused murderer John Salvi suffered delusions brought on by paranoid schizophrenia when he killed two and wounded five at two Brookline, Mass. abortion clinics in December 1994. Resnick’s defense testimony contradicted the evidence of Salvi’s careful planning provided by the prosecution. Two witnesses testified to watching Salvi practice shooting his rifle at close range days before the shootings, and a hairstylist testified that Salvi had his long curls cut off shortly after the killings, altering his appearance.
While the public seems outraged by rising crime rates and worried that some guilty people do get away with murder, Salvi’s trial is one of several currently using the insanity defense. Resnick testified that Salvi did know the legal ramifications of his actions and tried to prevent his capture, but that Salvi’s delusions governed his mind such that he could not understand the "moral wrongfulness" of his acts and was therefore legally insane.
If convicted, Salvi would serve a mandatory life sentence in jail. If acquitted by reason of insanity, he would be confined to a mental hospital but could be freed if doctors later conclude he is sane.
3/4/1996 - Buchanan’s Supporters Want to Ban Abortion
According to a new CNN-TIME Election Monitor, a clear majority of Pat Buchanan’s supporters want the Republican platform to include a call for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. In contrast, of supporters of the other major Republican candidates, less than a quarter want such an amendment. The survey interviewed 1,002 registered Republicans between February 24 and 27.
News sources reported last week that co-chair of Buchanan’s national campaign Michael Farris attended a January event that honored people convicted of killing abortion clinic workers and of bombing abortion clinics, and advocated using violence to prevent abortion. The organizer of the event, Michael Bray, has signed a "justifiable homicide" petition and acknowledged Farris from the podium.
Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal was quoted last week in the Kansas City Star as saying "It’s chilling that one of the national co-chairs of a presidential candidate attended a banquet where convicted felons, including murderers, were honored and praised. The people in his campaign are hanging out with people who are extreme not only on race but on sexual equality issues," said Smeal. Although Farris maintains he left the event early, Smeal pointed out that he "never denounced it or said These people are going too far.’"
3/4/1996 - Most Sex Offenders Assault Children
The Justice Department released a report Sunday showing that two-thirds of state inmates imprisoned for rape had committed their crime against a child. Three out of four of the victims in the sexual assaults were girls, and 88 percent were known to the assaulter.
"This high rate of child victims is behind the heightened concern and the growing number of states passing laws that provide for notifying neighborhoods when sexual predators move in," said David Beatty, acting director of the National Victims Center. As part of the largest state prisoner survey ever undertaken, the findings were based on interviews with more than 14,000 convicts in 277 prisons in 45 states. The prisoners were serving time for violent crime in 1991. The study found that 13 percent of the total number of these prisoners had raped or sexually assaulted children.
Across the nation, women’s rights groups and civil rights groups are galvanizing support to defeat an initiative on the November ballot in California which would end state and locally sponsored affirmative action programs. At a press conference last week after the initiative supporters filed more than their required signatures, the Campaign to Save Women’s Rights and Civil Rights announced that the initiative would not only harm women and people of color in hiring, contracting, and college admissions but would also gut laws prohibiting sex discrimination.
Prema Mathai-Davis said, co-chair of the anti-initiative Campaign that consists of a coalition of 100 groups, said "Those who would steal our rights and confiscate our opportunities have made their move and we are here to tell them that this is as far as they’ll go." Mathai-Davis is national executive director of the YWCA of the U.S.A., one of the backers of the Campaign which also includes the Feminist Majority, the National Organization for Women, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, said that five other states -- Florida, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Illinois -- have similar initiatives as do the U.S Congress and 17 state legislatures. Organizers of the anti-initiative Campaign say their greatest challenge is educating the public on what the initiative, deceptively called the "California Civil Rights Initiative" will do. The words "affirmative action" appear nowhere in the text, and the media has given little coverage to the Clause C which says discrimination on the basis of sex is permissible if it is "reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public employment, public education, and public contracting."
Opponents of the initiative say many programs are at risk as a result of this language, including those that target girls for science classes and ones that select women for jobs like firefighters. To demonstrate the potential effect on girls’ sports opportunities, five local high school girls on the basketball team dribbled a ball at the news conference.
Since polls show college students largely in favor of affirmative action, opponents of the initiative are planning to mobilize student votes to defeat the CCRI. Smeal said that students from around the country are planning to spend the summer in California while others will work phones, canvass and distribute information on the negative effects of the initiative and the impact California could have on other states and the federal government. "We are up against a well-fueled, deceptive machinery, but what we’ve got is people power," Smeal said.
Scientists have concluded that BRCA1, the human breast cancer gene, is a true "suppressor gene" and causes cancer only when it mutates to yield to a faulty protein. Two research teams have discovered that the same genes can halt or shrink the growth of human breast and ovarian cancers, and even make some tumors disappear. The experiments used human cancer cells transplanted into laboratory mice but were considered a major advance raising new possibilities to drugs and gene therapy for types of breast and ovarian tumors.
One research team was led by University of Washington geneticist Dr. Mary-Claire King, who pinpointed the location of the breast cancer gene five years ago in a lab at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Jeffery Holt , a cell biologist at Vanderbilt University, lead the other team. Their findings are reported in the March issue of the journal Nature Genetics
According to the American Political Network, the Republican Congress that reconvenes Tuesday after a winter break will follow a strategy that is "far less aggressive" than last session’s 100-day "forced march" centered around the "Contract with America." House Speaker Newt Gingrich and GOP leaders are reportedly moving on a "more patient agenda with fewer issues, instead of trying to change the political landscape in one swoop." One intention is to introduce a new batch of spending bills stripped of the social riders on abortion and other issues that last year were political "flash points" with the White House and Democratic leaders.
Congres is expected to vote on legislation protecting parents from "government intrusion" in issues such as their children’s sex education and medical treatment, according to the Christian Coalition’s Brian Lopina. Congress plans to send previously-passed legislation banning the late-term D&X abortion procedure to Clinton and hopes to override his expected veto. (See news item: 2-28-96: Change in Abortion Bill Urged by Clinton). Some anti-choice opponents will also "switch... tactics in hopes of broadening support" and will push for adoption legislation, including a $5,000 adoption tax credit and a measure promoting interracial adoption. Both measures were part of the vetoed budget.
According to Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, "A lot of issues with a values component are going to be front and center all through this year."
The defense called former New Hampshire state Sen. Robert Preston to the stand Thursday to testify that he remembered accused murderer John Salvi screaming in a Roman Catholic church on Christmas Eve 1994, two days before he attacked two abortion clinics. Preston testified that Salvi ranted that the church wasn’t doing enough to help Catholics, who Salvi said were being persecuted and were in danger of losing their homes. During Preston’s testimony, Salvi pressed his hands together as if in prayer.
Witnesses said Salvi shouted at the priest and the congregants attending the 5 p.m. Mass at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Seabrook, N.H. Salvi’s lawyers say that Salvi was insane at the time he killed two and wounded five others at two abortion clinics in Brookline, Mass. The prosecution maintains that Salvi was sane and that he was a man angry at his father who attended the church with him.
Salvi’s father, a key witness for the defense, says he thought his son would "grow out of" his bizarre behavior and that he regrets not seeking help when his son withdrew into Bible reading and spoke of watching people turn into vampires. Prosecutors implied that Salvi’s father had a well-documented history of protecting his son, and that he would say anything to that end. The judge refused to allow testimony on that subject.
Salvi would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted. If acquitted by reason of insanity, he would be confined to a mental hospital but could be released if authorities later find him sane.
2/29/1996 - Navy Cook Sentenced for Sexual Harassment
On Tuesday, Chief Petty Officer George Powell was convicted of indecent assault, simple assault, and drunk and disorderly conduct for sexually harassing an enlisted woman on a commercial jet in October of 1995 and another woman on a flight in November. The 23-year-old woman on the October flight had testified that Powell, 49 grabbed her breast and said "honk" and put his hand between her legs while she slept in the seat next to his.
Powell was sentenced by a military judge in San Diego to 89 days in the brig, demotion one rank, and reduced pay. He faces additional loss of rank and pay if he does not complete alcohol treatment. Powell has testified that he is an alcoholic suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome and that he was so drunk he does not remember the assault.