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5/30/1996 - FDA Approves New Ovarian Cancer Drug
On Wednesday (5-29), the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug topotecan for the treatment of ovarian cancer in patients who do not respond well to chemotherapy and other treatments. SmithKline Beehcam Pharmaceuticals will begin selling the drug under the name Hycamtin in several weeks. The drug inhibits an enzyme that is essential for tumor growth and is expected to help women in advanced stages of the disease. Its 17 percent rate of shrinking tumors is comparable to that of the widely-used ovarian cancer drug taxol, but the side effects of topotecan may be more severe. Approximately 26,700 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and 14,800 lose their lives fighting the disease.
The American Association of University Professors has released a report calling for the University of California to reverse its July decision to dismantle affirmative action programs for women and minorities throughout the UC system. The report from the 44,000-member organization called the decision ill-advised, and indicated that the political motivation leading toward the decision was inappropriate. Meanwhile, the July decision itself is being charged as unlawful by the UC-Santa Barbara student newspaper, the Daily Nexus. The Nexus and one of its reporters have filed a lawsuit charging that Gov. Wilson and the UC Regents decided the issue in private before it was submitted for public debate and a public vote. An open meetings law forbids a quorum, or nine members of the board, from discussing in private their votes on a future action. According to the suit, which seeks an injunction barring implementation of the anti-affirmative action decision, regents were lobbied to support the resolution and were contacted by phone before the measure came for a public vote.
In response to affirmative action policies on another campus, President Clinton is urging the Supreme Court to allow the University of Texas to continue using race as a factor in admissions to achieve the goal of a diverse campus. In an amicus brief, lawyers for the administration wrote that the UT law school has "a compelling educational interest in maintaining a racially diverse student body." In March, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the school's affirmative action policy was unconstitutional, and the state has since filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. Solicitor General Drew S. Days III warned that, if allowed to stand, the ruling would eliminate affirmative action programs throughout the circuit, affecting Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and the ruling could return many prestigious institutions to being predominantly white, prolonging the effects of past segregation.
At the opening of a five-day meeting United Nations meeting in the Philippines, U.N. experts called for action to put an end to violence against migrant women workers. As increasing rates of unemployment and poverty force more women, often Asian, to seek work in foreign countries, the risk of physical and sexual abuse against the women by employers could rise, they warned. The Philippines is considered the world's largest supplier of domestic servants.
Last week, the National Organization for Women and Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH and Rainbow Coalition announced plans to expand their boycott of Mitsubishi, the Japanese auto maker accused of allowing the sexual harassment of hundreds of women. The groups are urging consumers to boycott Chrysler Corporation which buys some of its cars from Mitsubishi. Until Mitsubishi settles the sexual harassment lawsuits -- filed by 29 women individually and by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of hundreds of female workers -- and produces a plan to ensure fair treatment of women and minorities, the groups plan to continue the boycott and picketing
Financial services company Smith Barney is being sued by three women on claims of sex discrimination. The current employee and the two former employees suing the company allege that the firm discriminates against women in hiring, training, promotion, and pay, and that women were demoted for getting pregnant or taking maternity leave. In addition to allegations of physical abuse, the lawsuit, filed in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also contends that women were routinely intimidated and insulted. The women claim that a fraternity-like atmosphere pervaded the Garden City, NY office where men allegedly gathered in a basement room called the "Boom Boom Room" to drink Bloody Mary's. Alleging that the firm consistently refused to stop men from sexually harassing women, the lawsuit states that male employees joked that women who didn't "behave" would be dealt with in the "Boom Boom Room" and that allegations of sexual harassment would be "deliberated" there. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, back pay, promotions, seniority, and a declaration that the practices at Smith Barney violate federal and state laws. Smith Barney has denied the allegations
According to an article in Monday's Wall Street Journal, the number of sexual harassment claims on Wall Street is rising. Although women have made strides in the financial world in the last 20 years, women still make up only about 15 percent of the over 100,000 brokers nationwide. The low numbers can lead to a locker-room-like atmosphere in which women are criticized for being too sensitive or not having a sense of humor. The Journal reported on several such cases including another suit against Smith Barney in which a woman was told she was not sexually harassed and that the company would take no remedial action against the man who alleging threatened her into resigning because she refused him sex.
5/28/1996 - New Pap Smear Method Gets FDA Approval
A new method of obtaining Pap smears has been approved by the FDA in the hopes that it will produce less smudged slides and enable technicians to see cells more clearly to check for cancer. Using the ThinPrep 2000 Pap test by Cytyc Corp., doctors will place cervical cells in a vial and the cells will be filtered before getting smeared on a slide. The removal of excess blood or mucus should make the cells easier to read and require fewer women to get retested because of unreadable slides.
5/28/1996 - Old Catholic Church in Germany Ordains Two Women
Two women were ordained as priests in the Old Catholic Church in Konstanz, Germany. Angela Berlis, 33, is a theologian and Regina Pickel-Bossau, 48, is a teacher. The ordination ceremony highlighted the divisions in the Catholic church, coming less than three weeks before a scheduled visit by Pope John Paul II who has opposed the ordination of women using the strongest language possible short of declaring infallible dogma. The Old Catholic Church -- the first Catholic body to admit women as priests -- has about 230,000 members worldwide while the Roman Catholic Church claims 1 billion members.
The House voted 281-144 Thursday (5-23) to approve a 90-cent raise in the minimum wage, rejecting a Republican proposal to exempt small businesses from paying the minimum wage and overtime. Fifty cents of the increase would go into effect July 1, with the remaining 40 cents to follow a year later, eventually bringing the minimum wage to $5.15 and hour up from $4.25. Democrats had been fighting to raise the minimum wage, and President Clinton had criticized Republican attempts to exempt the nation's 3 million small business from wage requirements. Of those earning the minimum wage, 63 percent are women.
President Clinton and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. Robert Dole debated Thursday (5-23) about late-term abortions. After Dole criticized Clinton's veto of a late-term abortion ban, Clinton accused Dole of succumbing to political pressure on the issue and of disregarding the threats to women's lives and health posed by the ban of the rare abortion procedure known as intact dilation and evacuation. In his rebuttal, Clinton referred to the five women who spoke at the veto-signing ceremony and who testified that the procedure was necessary for them to escape permanent physical disability. From Milwaukee, Clinton asked Dole, who had attacked the President's morals (while speaking to Catholic newspaper editors in Philadephia), "What would Senator Dole say to those five women who stood up there with me?" Clinton continued, "I'm a little skeptical when politicians piously proclaim their morality. He has to answer to those five women." The abortion ban would have allowed the procedure only to save the life of the woman, but not to protect her health or future fertility.
5/24/1996 - Naval Lt. Commander Faces Court-Martial for Rape
Lt. Commander Donald Clause faces a court martial at the Washington Navy Yard next week on rape charges. Clause allegedly raped a civilian co-worker last June 29 and is also charged with adultery, sexual harassment and conduct unbecoming an officer. Clause allegedly sexually harassed the woman repeatedly between June 19 and the end of July, creating a hostile work environment and violating a 1993 Navy order against sexual harassment.
According to a Baltimore television station, genetic tests link Clause to the victim's three-month-old baby, allegedly the result of Clause's rape of the woman in his office. Clause, on active duty since May 1983, could be dismissed from the Navy, jailed, fined and forced to forfeit pay if convicted.
Sheriff Sherman Block has announced that he will increase by nearly three times the amount of time spouse abusers spend in jail. Despite concerns of jail overcrowding, batterers will now have to spend almost 70 percent of their sentences in jail as opposed to less than 25 percent of the sentence time like everyone else in Los Angeles jails. Amid concerns of domestic violence heightened by the O.J. Simpson trial, the Sheriff's Department last year added alleged spousal abusers to the short list of suspects who cannot be freed on their own recognizance because of overcrowded jails. The new sentence-serving guidelines follow the April murder of a pregnant woman and her 2-year-old cousin by her husband, a convicted abuser who served only five days of his 30-day sentence. Domestic violence advocates would prefer longer sentences for batterers but view Block's announcement as a step in the right direction.
5/22/1996 - Doctors Fail to Follow-Up on Ovarian Cancer
A study done by the National Cancer Institute has found that doctors routinely fail to check for the spread of cancer in 90 percent of the cases of women having surgery for early-stage ovarian cancer. In 1994, a panel drew up guidelines for the treatment of ovarian cancer, including recommendations that surgeons should take samples of lymph nodes and fat from the stomach after removal of the ovary to detect the spread of microscopic tumors. If cancer spread is detected, doctors could recommend possible treatments. In presenting the findings at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, Dr. Edward Trimble said that doctors need to be better educated about the importance of taking samples during and after the surgery.
Supporters of abortion rights have create a support fund to help with legal costs incurred in the case to protect All Women's Health Services executive director, Jude Hanzo. On Thursday (5-16), Oregon Judge __ granted a permanent stalking order against militant anti-abortion extremist Paul deParrie. DeParrie targeted Hanzo with a "S.H.A.M.E." campaign to "Stigmatize, Harangue, Agitate, Mortify and Expose Abortionists" and let protests at her house. Legal costs, already high, could rise if deParrie follows through on his plan to appeal the ruling. Contributions can be made to: Legal Support Fund, c/o All Women's Health Service, 1020 NE 2nd Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97232, phone (503) 233-0808
Laurie Koehn, 14, won first place in the Don Nelson/Tara VanDerveer International Shootout National Championship basketball competition held in Chicago, Ill. on Saturday (5-18). Kansas native Koehn made 48 of 50 free throws and 42 of 50 three-point shots at the competition to top all other competing state champions, male and female, including Ed Palubinskas, holder of basketball scoring records from two Olympic games. The International Shootout benefited the Cerebral Palsy Athletic Association.
The Supreme Court's Monday 6-3 decision to strike down a Colorado anti-lesbian and gay rights constitutional amendment will have far-reaching effects on the future of the lesbian and gay rights movement. The court ruled that lesbians and gay men cannot be denied government benefits and protections because of their sexual orientation. All concurring judges signed the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who referred to the Justice John Harlan's dissent against upholding separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case. Kennedy's brief but strongly-written statement said that public "animus" toward homosexuals does not legitimate discrimination. The extent to which the ruling will affect lawsuits over same-sex marriage, lesbians and gay men in the military, and employment discrimination remains to be seen. Kennedy wrote that the protections which Amendment 2 sought to withhold were basic protections taken for granted by most people, far from the label of "special" used by proponents of the measure. That this decision was reached by a conservative court adds to the weight of its importance. Dissenting were Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Justice Clarence Thomas.
5/22/1996 - South Carolina Bans Same-Sex Marriage
On Monday, South Carolina joined the ranks of Idaho, South Dakota, and Utah as the fifth state to ban same-sex marriages. Gov. David Beasley signed the bill which he hoped would "send a very clear message" about the state's position on the issue.
In what is considered one of the biggest victories for supporters of lesbian and gay rights, the Supreme Court Monday (5-20) struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment banning laws that protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court majority in the 6-3 decision, declaring that the 1992 measure would deny lesbians and gay men their constitutional rights. The court said the law unfairly singles out people for discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and that it would deny lesbians and gay men an equal voice in government.
Supporters of lesbian and gay rights lauded the decision. Beth Barrett of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said of the ruling, "It's a victory not just for gays and lesbians but for all who believe in civil rights." The amendment, which was adopted by referendum in 1992 and sought to outlaw legal protections for lesbians and gay men, was never enforced because of an immediate court challenge by lesbian and gay rights supporters as well as three cities that had already enacted ordinances protecting the rights of lesbians and gay men.
In a ruling Thursday (5-16), Oregon Judge Thomas L. Moultrie barred anti-abortion activist Paul deParrie from having any contact with Jude Hanzo, executive director of All Women's Health Services. DeParrie's concealed weapon permit was also revoked. Hanzo has said deParrie, a prominent advocate of anti-abortion violence, harassed her for over a year, calling her at home and sending her letters, circulating flyers with her picture, and organizing two protests outside her home. If deParrie violates the order, he will face charges. In his ruling, Judge Moultrie used a 1995 Oregon anti-stalking law aimed to protect citizens from alarming or unwanted contacts.
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.