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1/3/1997 - Supreme Court to Consider Constitutionality of Federal Law Used to Prosecute Sexual Harassment Claims

On January 7th, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in United States vs. Lanier and consider the constitutionality of using a Reconstruction-era federal statue for prosecuting state and local officials. The case involves Tennessee Judge David W. Lanier who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexually assaulting five women who worked at the courthouse, including forcing them to engage in oral sex with him,. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his conviction, however, because federal prosecutors used a federal statute originally intended to protect African-Americans from local government brutality during the Reconstruction era.

Federal prosecutors have used the statute to bring to justice state and local officials who have victimized citizens but who are not generally prosecuted because of their ties to their states’ criminal law system. As a case in point, Lanier is a judge, the brother of the local prosecutors and his family has dominated Democratic party politics in the area for decades. The federal law states that it is a crime for anyone acting under the "color of law" to deny someone his or her "rights [as] protected by the Constitution." Federal prosecutors have used interpreted this Civil Rights Law to cover sexual assault because women have a right to bodily integrity. They have also used the law extensively in prosecuting prison guards who abuse prisoners. The Appeals Court ruled that, because the Supreme Court has not interpreted the law to cover such abuses, federal prosecutors cannot try persons under it because they cannot extend or create criminal law. U.S. Solicitor General Walter Dellinger commented in response that, "it is clear beyond all doubt that an intentional sexual assault by a state official, lacking any conceivable justification, is a deprivation of liberty without due process of the law, and therefore may be prosecuted under Section 242 as a willful violation of rights protected by the Constitution."

1/3/1997 - Ireland Consider Reforms in Handling Violent Crimes Committed Against Women

A working group established in 1995 by the National Women’s Council of Ireland and funded by the Department of Justice has recommended eighty-four reforms to the Minster of Justice in dealing with violent crimes against women. Minister of Justice Mrs. Owen has pledged that some of the recommendations will go into effect immediately. Some of these reforms include giving rape victims their own teams in court and keeping them appraised of each step in the legal process. The report found that, "men’s violence against women and children is at crisis levels" in Ireland. It also found that too little attention is focused on the violence women face in the home (most of the legal and media attention is focused on "stranger danger"), only ten to fifteen percent of domestic abuse if reported. And, while half of rapes are reported, the conviction rate remains small.

1/3/1997 - Girl Expelled From School for Wearing Lipstick Files Suit

A thirteen-year-old girl, suspended from a Pikeville, Kentucky school for wearing black lipstick, is back at school, sans lipstick, but is filing suit against the school. School officials suspended Karla Chapman on November 13th for wearing lipstick which caused a "distraction" to other students. She was suspended for three days and was then turned away three times when she came back to school wearing the lipstick. She is currently being transferred to a school where wearing black lipstick will not make her a student in bad standing. The American Civil Liberties Union has helped Chapman file a lawsuit which claims that the school’s dress code is too vague.

1/3/1997 - Women Slowly Making Progress in Workplace

A new study conducted by the Population Reference Bureau has found that women have made slow progress toward achieving equity with men in the workplace. The study found that between 1970 and 1995 the share of women 25 to 54 who work outside the home climbed from 50 percent to 76 percent. Women have also continued to increase their numbers among college graduates. In 1993, among whites, women earned 54 percent of bachelors degrees and 44 percent of doctoral degrees in 1994. Among African-Americans, women earned 63 percent of bachelor degrees and 55 percent of doctoral degrees in 1994. The study also found, however, that women continue to remain responsible for the majority of housework, even as their hours at work are increasing. Women also continue to face a large wage gap.

1/2/1997 - Oklahoma Abortion Clinic Bombed

Two bombs were thrown inside of a Tulsa, Oklahoma abortion clinic on New Year's Day. No staff or patients were injured because the clinic had been closed for the holiday; the clinic did sustain minor smoke and fire damage. Sherri Finik, director of the Reproductive Services Clinic said that the clinic has added motion sensors to its security system and will remain open. The police are investigating and have not yet identified any suspects.

1/2/1997 - Dallas Cowboy Stars Accused of Sexual Assault

A twenty-three year-old woman has accused Dallas Cowboy players Michael Irvin and Erik Williams of sexually assaulting her at Williams' home in Dallas. The woman claims that Irvin held a gun to her head while Williams and another man raped her. Irvin is already on probation after pleading no contest to a cocaine possession charge.

1/2/1997 - Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Washington Times Appeal in Sex Discrimination Suit

On December 15th, the Supreme Court refused to hear arguments in The Washington Times Corp. vs. Derman, a sex discrimination suit the newspaper lost in lower courts. Last year, a federal jury awarded Julie Berman $47,185 in compensatory damages and $789,185 in punitive damages after finding that the Washington Times had discriminated against the graphic artist in its promotion department. The paper alleged in its appeal that Berman's lawyer improperly addressed the jury in the closing arguments by alleging that the paper had tried to cover-up the discrimination and deliberately destroyed paperwork. The appeals court upheld the award, stating, "The jury had sufficient evidence before it to support the conclusion that the Times deliberately created intolerable working conditions for Berman, either in retaliation for her internal complaints of harassment or because of her sex."

1/2/1997 - Female Cadets' Lawyers Ask for Hazing Evidence from the Citadel

The lawyers of female Citadel cadets who were hazed during their first semester by upper-class cadets have requested evidence from the military institute. The lawyers are asking for a cassette tape taken from one of the women, Jeanie Mentavlos, when the upper-classmen discovered a concealed tape recorder she wore to prove the harassment occurred and the names of anyone who came in contact with the tape. The lawyers are also asking for a statement and anyone who came in contact with it that Mentavlos reportedly made to the school after she was hit across the face with a cardboard and wounded. And, the lawyers are requesting documents related to the confiscation of pornographic materials, weapons, alcohol, branding tools and fire-making material taken from cadets. The lawyers want to assess whether it is safe for the women to return to campus after the December break.

1/2/1997 - Supreme Court Asks Clinton Administration's Advice on Same Sex-Harassment Suit

The Supreme Court has asked the Clinton Administration to consider whether or not same-sex harassment violates federal law. The Court has put on hold a decision of whether or not to hear a case involving a man allegedly harassed by his male co-workers and supervisor at an oil rig until it hears an opinion from the Justice Department. Joseph Onacle alleges that his direct supervisor, John Lyons, and another supervisor, Danny Pippen, sexually harassed and threatened to rape him while he worked at the Sundowner Offshore Services oil rig. Though he reported the incidents to the companies top level officials, no action was taken. A federal judge throw out the case, stating that same-sex harassment is not covered by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the case, Oncale vs. Sundowner Offshore Services last May.

12/23/1996 - Department of Justice Enters Prop 209 Legal Fray

President Clinton's Press Secretary, Mike McCurry, announced on December 20th that the Department of Justice will intervene on behalf of opponents of the anti-affirmative action California Proposition 209. McCurry said that the President, who strongly opposes Prop 209, and lawyers for the Department of Justice examined the Constitutional issues involved in the proposition thoroughly before deciding to intervene. The department now contends, along with opponents of the Prop 209, who have brought suit against it, that it denies women and people of color opportunities available to other groups, such as veterans. The department is basing its case mainly on a 1982 Supreme Court ruling in Washington vs. Seattle School District in which the Court struck down a local ordinance limiting school busing. The Court ruled that the ordinance made it harder for African-Americans to petition the government for remedies against discrimination. Though the President opposed Prop 209, he did not want to act against the voters of California unless he had a Constitutionally sound basis; McCurry said, "the president as the chief constitutional officer has to act."

12/23/1996 - Three College Basketball Players Taped Alleged Gang-Rape

After watching a videotape made by three former college basketball players accusing of recording their gang-rape of a female student, a judge has decided the men will stand trial. Four men accused of raping or helping to rape the woman were expelled from Southwestern Michigan College on November 7, six days after the alleged attack on a 19-year-old woman who had passed out in an apartment near campus.

12/23/1996 - Jury Award Upheld Against Anti-Abortion Groups

The 14th Court of Appeals in Houston, Texas decided on December 19 to uphold a $1 million jury award against two anti-abortion groups who staged demonstrations at Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas during the 1992 Republican Convention. The three-judge panel ruled that the group's use of firebombing and death threats was "highly offensive and repugnant

12/23/1996 - South Carolina Naval Brig Under Investigation for Sexual and Racial Harassment

The Navy and Air Force are investigating charges of sex and race harassment at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station. The Post and Courier papers said they received two written Navy reports indicating a climate of racial and sexual tension at the brig. The report did not recommend immediate punishment for the military prison's Navy Commander George Admire, but it did acknowledge that he might not be able to resume his post beyond a scheduled command change in April.

12/23/1996 - South Carolina Naval Brig Under Investigation for Sexual and Racial Harassment

The Navy and Air Force are investigating charges of sex and race harassment at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station. The Post and Courier papers said they received two written Navy reports indicating a climate of racial and sexual tension at the brig. The report did not recommend immediate punishment for the military prison's Navy Commander George Admire, but it did acknowledge that he might not be able to resume his post beyond a scheduled command change in April.

12/23/1996 - Serial Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Exposed

The Washington Post reported Sunday, December 22, on a number of sexual harassment cases in the workforce. One major incident of “serial” sexual harassment in which a harasser’s actions impact numerous women involved Dan Wassong, chief executive of cosmetic company Del Laboratories. After 15 women told the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Wassong had asked them for oral sex, assaulted them, urinated with the restroom door open, worked in his underwear and used offensive language, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Del and Wassong alleging that Del tolerated the harassment waged by Wassong. Without admitting wrongdoing, Del settled the case in 1995 for $1.2 million.

In another case of serial sexual harassment, women at Baker and McKenzie, the largest law firm in the U.S., complained that partner Martin Greenstein inappropriately touched them, pressured them for sex, made sexual remarks, and caused their ultimate resignation. A judge significantly reduced the $7 million settlement granted to the secretary who was harassed by Greenstein after he was transferred to another office; Baker and McKenzie have appealed the verdict with a decision expected next year. A number of witnesses testified that Greenstein talked about hot-tubbing and made other inappropriate gestures or comments, but lawyers for Baker and McKenzie expect further reduction of the settlement.

Though Baker and McKenzie terminated Greenstein in 1993, the Post reports that many companies prefer to allow harassers to stay on than risk an accusation of wrongful termination. Sexual harassment expert Freada Klein said that she has been told by companies who pay off women who bring complaints, “this is the cost of doing business ... this guy brings in millions of dollars in business a year,” refusing to acknowledge the cost to the women who are harassed.

12/23/1996 - Women Demand Resignation of Indiana Representative from Army Sex Scandal Panel

Vice President of the National Organization for Women Karen Johnson said that Rep. Steven Buyer (R-Indiana) should step down from the Congressional panel investigating claims of pervasive sexual harassment at Aberdeen Proving Ground's Ordnance Center in Maryland. Buyer, an Army Reserve major, said that the scandal was the result of a "few bad apples." Johnson said Buyer's Army position represented a conflict of interest.

12/23/1996 - Curious George Co-creator Dies at Age 90

Margret E. Rey, part of the husband and wife team which created the mythical Curious George died on December 22nd in her Cambridge home. She had suffered a heart attack three weeks earlier. She helped create the monkey character while she and her husband were living in Paris during the 1930s. They smuggled an unpublished manuscript out of France when they escaped before Hitler's occupation. Houghton Mifflin published the first story in 1941; the Reys subsequently wrote six more books about Curious George's antics. Margret went on to write 28 Curious George books with Alan J. Shalleck.

Born in Germany, Rey studied at the Bauhaus, the Academy of Art in Duesseldorf and at an art school in Berlin. She held her first one-woman watercolor show in Berlin in the early 1920s. She later worked as a newspaper reporter, an advertising copywriter and photographer. Making her way to New York after escaping Paris with her husband, Rey went on to create more children's books and oversee the Curious merchandising projects. Moving to Cambridge in 1971, she became a large benefactor: donating $1 million each to the Boston Public Library and the Beth Israel Hospital's Center for Alternative Medicine for Research.

12/20/1996 - Clinton Appoints Alexis Herman to Secretary of Labor

Clinton has appointed his close aide, Alexis Herman, to become the Secretary of the Department of Labor. Herman has previously served as the Director of the Women's Bureau in President Carter's Labor Department and has served as the vice-chair for the Democratic National Committee. She has most recently served as the White House public liaison, where she enjoys a close working relationship with the president.

This appointment brings Clinton's overall appointment of women number to eight, larger than any previous administration. Other female appointments include: Janet Reno, Attorney General; Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State; Donna Shalala, Department of Health and Human Service; Janet Yellen, Chief Economic Advisor; Carol Browner, Environmental Protection Agency; Aida Alvarez, Small Business Administration and Charlene Borshefsky to U.S. Trade Representative.

12/20/1996 - Citadel Makes Changes to Address Hazing Incidents

The Citadel has announced that it plans to station overnight, adult supervisors to all barracks. This change, taking effect next month, was instituted to try and prevent the hazing incident which happened to two female cadets this past semester. The women reported the hazing to their student cadet supervisors but the supervisors did not take any action. The Citadel claims that the women could have reported the incidents to active-duty military officers assigned to their company, but failed to do so. The women's parents claim that they called school officials several times. The Citadel and FBI are both looking into the incidents and plan to discipline any adult officers if warranted.

12/20/1996 - Clinton Considers Changes to Welfare Legislation

Clinton aides helping the President with the 1997 budget have disclosed plans to increase some welfare programs radically cut in last year's welfare legislation. The plans include an additional $13 billion, aimed mainly at aiding legal immigrants, especially immigrant children and disabled immigrants. The plan also includes plans to give indigent people with high housing costs continued food stamps. Under the planned changes, persons who are actively looking for jobs but cannot find them will also be allowed to continue receiving food stamps. Earlier, leaks in the administration warned that the President's budget included $1 billion in cuts to housing for the poor. The President has apparently decided against the cuts, however.

The Administration expects that any changes will be met with strong opposition from a Republican-led Congress and is explicit in its approval for the overall direction and changes in the 1995 Welfare Reform legislation. Support for the changes, however, is expected to come from moderate GOP Governors whose state's are starting to feel the adverse effects of the drastic welfare cuts.

12/19/1996 - VOA Sex Discrimination Suit Coming to Close

Voice of America, a government sponsored overseas radio broadcasting program, faces sex discrimination claims in excess of $500 million dollars. Twelve years ago, a federal judge ruled that VOA discriminated against women in its hiring practices. Now, a special master, law professor Stephen A. Saltzburg, is in the process of deciding how much, if any, each of the 1,100 women bringing claims against VOA will be awarded. So far, he has awarded eight women a total of $4.7 million and denied claims to two others. On top of the monetary awards, the government must set up retirement accounts for all the women who have successful claims. The government has failed twice in getting a Federal Appeals Court to overturn the case and is now considering appealing directly to the Supreme Court.

The discrimination allegedly occurred between 1974 and 1984. It included hiring discrimination in various fields within VOA, such as writer/editor, foreign language broadcasters, foreign information or production specialists, and radio broadcast or electric technicians. One woman, Lynn Goldman Barrett, sent in an application along with her husband; they had essentially the same experience, having co-owned Mirasound Studios Inc. He was given a job as a recording technician immediately and she was not, even though there were plenty of job openings at VOA. At the first hearing, the government claimed it never received her application, even though it was sent in the same package as her husband's. Then she reapplied in 1982 and the government claimed she was not qualified. She protested and then was told she would need to fill out an additional form, which did not exist. Saltzburg wrote in his opinion, awarding her $562,481, "Women and men were treated differently. There were openings for 'warm bodies' as long as those bodies were male."

12/19/1996 - Social Security Cuts Disproportionally Affect Women

A proposed plan to base Social Security on an average of 38 instead of 35 years work will disproportionally hurt women. An Advisory Council on Social Security plans to deal with cuts including the above change in calculating benefits. Only 15% of women have been in the workforce for an average of 38 years while 57% of men have worked that long. Women often take years off of work to raise children and this affects their average work years. Edith U. Fierst, a council member, commented, "It would be unfortunate if mothers, pressured by fear of poverty in old age, gave up opportunities to stay at home with young children...In an ideal world the father of her children would take care of the mother's retirement needs..." However, many fathers are absent and when couples divorce, the woman generally loses the right to share her husband's retirement benefits. Fierst notes that government statistics show that the largest segment of the poor elderly are widows, who have a poverty rate in excess of 40%.

12/19/1996 - Clinton to Appoint Janet Yellen Council of Economic Advisors Chair

President Clinton has offered the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, the panel which advises the President on economic issues to Brown (B.S.) and Yale (Ph.D.) University Graduate Janet Yellen. Yellen, who has taught economics at Harvard, London School of Economics and at Berkeley, has most recently served on the Federal Reserve board. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she is married with one child.

Clinton continues to meet today with outgoing Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, current Chief of Staff Irksine Bowles and Vice-President Al Gore to finalize his appointments for a December 20th press conference. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Elizabeth Moller is a strong possibility for Energy Secretary. Clinton aide Alexis Herman and Representative Esteban Torres (D-CA) are both being considered for Secretary of Labor.

12/19/1996 - Woolf and Bloomsbury Group Biographer, Quentin Bell, Dies at 86

Viriginia Woolf's nephew and biographer Quentin Bell died on December 15th in England. Born to Woolf's older sister, Vanessa Bell, Bell spent his childhood with the now legendary Bloomsbury group and eventually became its most sensitive biographer. Growing up with such figures as E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, Vita Sackville-West, and Virigina Woolf, Bell, in his fair-minded writing, brought the group to life. He once described a visit from Woolf as, "a warm capricious breeze blowing in from the southwest and bringing with it a kind of amazed joy." He also revealed, for the first time, that her two brothers had sexually molested her during her childhood. And, in Bloomsbury Recalled he expressed anger and disappointment at his father's fascist leanings.

12/19/1996 - Doctor Gives Up License Amid Re-newed Charges of Sexually Abusing Female Patients

A Somerset, Kentucky doctor who has twice been on probation for allegedly sexually abusing female patients, has given up his license amid new charges. The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure required a nurse to monitor the examinations because Dr. Russell C. Holtzclaw had been placed on probation in 1987 and 1993 for sexual misconduct. He examined a 17-year-old's breast and body without the nurse monitor and made inappropriate comments about her body during the examination. Holtzclaw is also under investigation for his financial dealings with two elderly and now deceased female patients. He had been placed on probation for three years in 1987 because of a patient's complaint of sexual misconduct. He was again placed on probation in 1993 for allegedly attempting to rape and sexually abuse a patient while exposing himself to her. He later gave the woman's mother $5000 to keep quiet about the incident. In the same year, three other patients filed complaints of sexual misconduct.