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1/23/1997 - Albright Unanimously Confirmed by Senate

Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State on January 22 after the Senate voted 99 to 0 to confirm her to the cabinet. She immediately choose two highly experienced officials for the top jobs at the State Department. Thomas Pickering, a senior professional diplomat in the Foreign Service will serve as the secretary for political affairs, the third-ranking job in the State Department. Stuart Eizenstat, who has recently served as the under secretary of commerce for international affairs, will become under secretary for economic affairs in the State Department. Albright has also chosen her former chief of staff Elaine Shocas to serve her as chief of staff at the State Department.

1/23/1997 - West Point Cadet on Trial for Raping Female Cadet

On January 22, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point begun a court martial against a male cadet accused of raping a female cadet during a party. The female cadet alleges that James P. Engelbrecht forced himself on her even though she told him repeatedly to stop and to get off of her. This is the first rape trial at the academy in which a cadet is accusing another cadet since the academy has admitted women in 1976. The panel of seven Army officers, all male, will decide the case; five of them must find the defendant guilty for there to be a conviction.

1/23/1997 - Supreme Court Puts Off Deciding Whether or Not to Hear Affirmative Action Case

This week, the Supreme Court was expected to announce whether or not it would hear Board of Education of Piscatony v. Taxman, a case which could sharply restrict affirmative action programs. Instead, the Court asked the Justice Department whether it believes federal law allows an employer to prefer an African American worker over a white one, if the workplace is already racially balanced. It could take months for the Justice Department's response.

1/23/1997 - Italian Cabinet Votes to Allow Women in Military

On January 22, the Italian cabinet voted to allow women to serve as soldiers in the country's armed forces. It also voted to allow men drafted for military service to perform community service instead. The draft law now goes to parliament for passage.

1/22/1997 - Device Explodes Near Planned Parenthood Clinic in D.C.

At 7:45 a.m. on January 22, the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, a device exploded one block from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington, D.C., one mile from the White House. Just days after two bombs exploded near a clinic in Atlanta, Georgia and another bomb exploded in a Tulsa, Oklahoma clinic, police say a man carrying the device was walking toward the clinic and fled in the direction of the Mayflower Hotel after the device exploded. The man has said he found the device in a lamp post. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) planned to hold a luncheon in honor of the anniversary with Vice President Al Gore, Tipper Gore and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in attendance later that afternoon in the Mayflower Hotel.

Abortion rights activists have been on alert and defending clinics all weekend in anticipation of increased abortion clinic violence surrounding the Roe v. Wade anniversary. Anti-abortion activists planned to march down Constitution Avenue in the afternoon of the 22nd in conjunction with the “March for Life.”

1/22/1997 - Military Sex Scandal Widens

The Army announced January 21 that it has charged a fourth instructor at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground with sexual misconduct. Maintenance Instructor U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Theron Brown has been charged with adultery and sodomy involving two female trainees and a female civilian and with violating rules against socializing with students. Brown will face a court-martial and up to six months in prison.

In Charleston, South Carolina, federal court records show that officials at the Citadel military college knew about allegations of sexual harassment made by Jeanie Mentavlos months before she withdrew from the college in January. Mentavlos and Kim Messer, the other female cadet who left the school this month because of sexual harassment, have stated that the Citadel knew about the harassing behavior and failed to put a stop to it. The Citadel has asserted that it responded to the complaints promptly, yet at a January 8 Justice Department oversight hearing on the integration of women at the Citadel, Col. Joseph Trez admitted under cross-examination that he met with Mentavlos’ father in October to hear complaints that Jeanie was experiencing sexual harassment.

Mr. Mentavlos agreed to lessen the charge against a cadet to shoved a piece of cardboard in his daughter’s face because he was told the cadet had a record of “outstanding performance.” Yet in the 13 months previous to the offense, the cadet had been punished for both major and minor violations which Trez dismissed at the hearing as happening “a long time ago.” After the charges against the cadet were downgraded from major to minor violation, the cadet retaliated against Mentavlos by shoving a rifle against her face, causing her to hit her head against a wall, and forced her to hold the rifle in front of her while in tears.

Valorie K. Vojdik, lawyer for the women who sued to gain admittance to the Citadel, and lawyers for Mentavlos and Messer say the Citadel’s failure to stop the harassment is indicative of a larger pattern of negligence on the part of the school toward protecting the women cadets. The lawyers maintain the state has appropriated no extra money to aid in the process of assimilating the women into the formerly all-male college. The state supported the Citadel’s fight against coeducation.

1/22/1997 - Former Hooters Waitress Sues for Sexual Harassment

Phillips quit after the slapping incident at the bar, and her lawyers are seeking class-action status on behalf of some 1,000 “Hooters Girls.” The lawsuit states, “Hooters put its female employees at risk of sexual harassment through its uniforms it required them to wear and the marketing of its restaurants.” Phillips said she was aware that her job required her to wear shorts and a t-shirt, “but in return,” Phillips stated, “Hooters agreed to protect me from sexual harassment. I was not protected, and when I tried to complain, I was told I had no federal rights.” The restaurant claims that the signing of the Hooters policy means employees give up their right to pursue sexual harassment claims. Phillips was sued by Hooters because Phillips did not agree to arbitrate under the company’s policy. Lawyers want to prohibit the company from using its arbitration policy.

Phillips is seeking back pay and benefits, reinstatement and compensatory and punitive damages. Another former Hooters waitress in Madison, WI filed a federal lawsuit on the same day, alleging that she was fired for complaining about sexual harassment from male employees.

The phone number for Hooters employees to call for more information about joining Phillips’ suit is 1-800-749-3141.

1/22/1997 - Woman Nominated to Head National Park Service

Yosemite Superintendent B.J. Griffin has been nominated to head the National Park Service by Congressman George Radanovich (R-CA) whose district includes Yosemite. Griffin is the first woman superintendent of the 104-year-old national park and has been described by Radanovich as “one of the most effective people ever to serve the public interest at Yosemite.” Radanovich wrote to Deputy Secretary of the Interior John Garamendi to recommend Griffin after Roger Kennedy resigned as National Park Service director last week. New legislation requires that the director be confirmed by the Senate

1/22/1997 - Judge Rejects Doubled Bail for Alleged Rapist

Alex Kelly, the alleged rapist of two high school girls in the late 80s, will face a $1 million bond instead of the $2 million sought by the prosecution. In 1987, Kelly fled to Switzerland just before going on trial for the rapes and remained a fugitive in Europe for eight years. Kelly is scheduled to be retried in April after his first trial for one of the rapes ended in a hung jury in November.

1/21/1997 - Albright Unanimously Confirmed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously voted to confirm Madeleine Albright as the first female Secretary of State of the United States on January 20th. The full Senate should vote on her confirmation by January 22nd. The committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del) said that he expected her confirmation to "sail through the senate."

1/21/1997 - Martin Luther King Jr. III Starts Pro-Affirmative Action Group

In response to Ward Connerly's founding of a national group to wipe out equal opportunity programs for women and people of color, Martin Luther King's eldest son has founded and will head Americans United for Affirmative Action. The new Atlanta-based group will work to preserve affirmative action. King commented on January 18th near the memorial of his father, "Our country is currently embroiled in a backlash against hard-won gains made during the civil rights movement - namely, affirmative action."

1/21/1997 - Woman Sues Estee Lauder Exec for Harassment

Estee Lauder employee Barbara Gretzen filed a $1 million sexual harassment against a top male executive of the company on January 14 in Manhattan Supreme Court. Gretzen’s suit alleges that she had to take a job in another division at a lower salary in order to avoid unwanted sexual advances by Aramis men’s division president Robert Nielsen. According to Gretzen’s suit, Nielsen allegedly told Gretzen that he had an erotic dream about her and had “sexual thoughts” about her constantly. Gretzen alleges that Nielsen cost her a promotion to executive assistant for Estee Lauder chairman Leonard Lauder and also relinquished the possibility of a promotion to marketing after Gretzen told her his unwanted advances made her uncomfortable.

1/21/1997 - Global Summit for Women Draws Hundreds to Miami

Hundreds of women from 44 nations around the world attended the Women’s Global Summit in Miami January 9-12. The conference, organized by Irene Natividad, focused on economic empowerment for women. The summit addressed the issue of how to define and market indigenous natural human resources and skills. Participants learned that women’s unpaid work is estimated at $11 trillion while the global informal economy itself is worth $17 trillion. Jobs, work, and family were cited as major concerns for women around the world. One of the successes mentioned was the fact that 400 women-owned businesses in the Philippines saw income increase of 78 percent. In Japan, president of General Engineering Company Mr. Mitsumasa Kawai opened a school for entrepreneurs after receiving 4,000 applicants for four grants to enable women to start their own businesses. Kawai noted at the conference that many Japanese women who study in the U.S. choose not to return to Japan because “Japan is very much behind the U.S.” in economic opportunities for women. Yet women comprise only 10 percent of almost 13,000 corporate officers in 500 of the largest companies in the U.S., according to the group Catalyst. The Global Summit offered women the opportunity to learn about economic opportunities for women around the world.

1/20/1997 - Oklahoma Abortion Clinic Bombed

The Reproductive Services Clinic was bombed on January 1, 1997 and again on January 19th. The abortion clinic, which offers a variety of family planning services, sustained minor damage and was closed for an afternoon after a bomb went off at the back of the clinic. No one was injured, and police do not yet have any suspects. A woman, identified only as Terry, who has worked at the clinic for fourteen years was outraged and commented, "Certain groups would consider this a victory, but what it is is an outright attack on women's rights."

This bombing came three days after an Atlanta abortion clinic was bombed twice and a month after an abortion doctor in New Orleans was stabbed fifteen times around the neck, chest and shoulders by an anti-abortion extremist.

1/20/1997 - Albright Unanimously Confirmed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously voted to confirm Madeleine Albright as the first female Secretary of State of the United States on January 20th. The full Senate should vote on her confirmation by January 22nd. The committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del) said that he expected her confirmation to "sail through the senate."

1/17/1997 - President Calls Abortion Clinic Bombing an Act of Terror

President Clinton, in a statement issued after an abortion clinic was bombed twice on January 16th, said, "The double bombing at a women's health clinic in Atlanta this morning was a vile and malevolent crime. Make no mistake: anyone who brings violence against a woman trying to exercise her constitutional rights is committing an act of terror. It is always wrong. And it should be punished severely." Demanding that abortion violence be categorized as "domestic terrorism," Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, commented, "We were horrified and outraged by news of this tragedy, but hardly surprised, since our press conference was called to bring attention to the persistent violence being targeted at abortion clinics nationwide."

The abortion clinic in Atlanta was bombed twice on January 16th; one blast going off at 9:30 in the morning and the other less than an hour later. The first bomb did not injure anyone, but did destroy the abortion clinic, which was on the ground floor of a in a high rise office complex. The second bomb injured officials and people who had gathered to investigate the first bombing. Ironically, at the same time the bomb went off in Atlanta, women's rights and abortion rights activists were holding a press conference in Washington D.C. to warn Americans that clinic violence is not a thing of the past. Though clinic violence has been decreasing, a 1996 Clinic Violence Survey conducted by the Feminist Majority Foundation indicates that one-third of clinics still experience severe abortion-related violence

1/17/1997 - Afghan Woman Beaten for Having Bare Ankles

Taliban militants in Kabul, Afghanistan beat a woman with a belt on the street as a crowd watched, witnesses said on January 16. A fighter from the militia said the woman was being punished for violating a strict Islamic dress code by leaving her ankles uncovered. Other women have been beaten publicly since September 27 when the Taliban took over the Afghan capital and decreed that women must cover themselves from head to toe in an expensive, restrictive garment called a burqa. The Taliban has also forbid women and girls from attending school and working. During the Ramadan holiday, restrictions are tighter. Women are allowed to leave their homes to attend a funeral, visit patients in hospitals, or to buy food, but are not to “go out of their houses without a legal excuse,” according to a document prepared for the Department for Promoting Virtue and Suppressing Vice.

1/17/1997 - Simpson Prosecutors Present Nicole’s Letter About Beating

In the wrongful death trial against O.J. Simpson, prosecutors presented the defendant with a letter written by his slain ex-wife in which Nicole Brown Simpson said O.J. “beat the holy hell out of me” during a 1986 argument. Nicole’s letter also made reference to “the New Year’s Eve beat-up” which led to Simpson pleading no contest to spousal battery. The letter went on “I called the cops to save my life, whether you believe it or not. I’ve never loved you since or been the same.” In the early weeks of the current civil trial, Simpson said he had “never” beat Nicole.

On January 15, the defense lost its bid to an appeals court that 30 additional photos of O.J. Simpson wearing Bruno Magli shoes not be admitted into evidence. The defense had previously tried to argue that one such picture was a fake before the 30 additional photos taken by another photographer were discovered. Simpson has denied owning a pair of Bruno Magli shoes, the type of shoe believed to have left bloody footprints at the scene of the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

1/17/1997 - New Breast Cancer Gene Identified

A paper published in this week’s Journal of Biological Chemistry reveals the discovery of a new gene that may play a role in breast cancer. Molecular biologists Hava Avrahman and Sheila Licht say the new gene, CHK, is “off” in normal breast tissue and in benign abnormalities but turns on when breast tissues becomes cancerous. Dr. Jerome Groopman, another researcher on the study, said this discovery suggests that CHK is “part of breast defense against cancer.” Any hereditary nature of the gene is not known.

Stanford University researchers have announced in the journal Cell that they have found a tumor suppressor gene called TSG101 which is absent from cancerous tissue in late-stage breast cancer patients but is present in non-cancerous tissue from the same patients.

1/17/1997 - Women Alumnae Wielding More Financial Power

Women alumnae are increasingly giving high donations to their schools, and reaping the benefits. Women are beginning to take a more active role in policy making committees and on University councils. Women who join the UCLA Women and Philanthropy Group give $25,000 over a period of five years and serve on a committee to help shape campus policy. At least twelve such councils now exist for women donors, whose universities are beginning to see as an untapped source of economic resources. Most universities are also finding, however, that the women donors want to see their money aid women on campus. Groups often want more women tenured as faculty, scholarships set aside for women students, money set aside to recruit female athletes, and programs created to help women enter the workforce.

At Harvard University, for example, a group calling itself the Committee for the Equality of Women at Harvard boycotted the school’s $2 billion capital fundraising program. They urged Radcliffe and Harvard alumni to put their money into an escrow account which would be withheld until Harvard added more tenured women to its faculty. Peggy Schmertzler, chair of the committee, said that women at the school held only 11.5 percent of tenured positions on the faculties of arts and sciences; nationally women hold 22.6 percent of such tenured positions. So far, the account has accumulated more than $500,000. Subsequently, Harvard has formed a Women and Leadership Task Force of 41 alumnae to serve in an advisory capacity. The Washington Post has a full report on what motivates women to give to their alma mater, accessible from the related on article on the paper’s Web site.

1/16/1997 - Abortion Clinic Building in Atlanta Sustains Two Explosions

At 9:30 a.m. on January 16, a professional building in the northern Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs containing the office of the Atlanta Northside Family Planning Services sustained two explosions. No one was injured in the first blast which police think may have been a bomb, but the explosion broke windows and rocked nearby buildings. However, at least six people, including a cameraman and an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, were injured in a subsequent blast in a dumpster outside the building an hour later. The second blast also damaged two cars parked near the dumpster and scattered debris over the area. Police Lt. C.C. Cass said, “It appears that the clinic was the target of (that) explosion. We can’t confirm, but it appears to be some kind of explosive device.”

As a security precaution, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell dispatched extra police officers to all abortion clinics in the city. Employees of the clinic were able to exit the clinic safely after the blast. Employee Antonette Simms said she believed the first explosion to have taken place in the front portion of the clinic. The clinic is located on the ground floor of a five-story building. A federal task force has been set up to investigate the explosions.

1/16/1997 - New Feminist Majority Foundation Survey Finds Severe Anti-abortion Violence Still Plagues Almost One-Third of Clinics

The Feminist Majority Foundation was joined by National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood Federation of America in releasing current statistics on clinic violence and calling for improved law enforcement response. At a press conference at the National Press Club on January 16, the Feminist Majority released its survey which found that that 29.5% of clinics faced severe anti-abortion violence in 1996. Severe types of violence included death threats, stalking, bombings and bomb threats, arsons and arson threats, blockades, invasions and chemical attacks. When gunfire, home picketing, and vandalism are combined with the other violence variables, the number of clinics and offices experiencing some form of violence, harassment or intimidation rises to 45.8%.

The data refute a spate of recent news articles that have claimed that clinic violence is over. Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal said, “Our systematic, social science survey contradicts recent impressionistic news accounts that say clinic violence is a thing of the past. Although the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act continues to be an effective tool in reducing clinic violence, our data and our day-in-day-out work with clinics tells us that the violence has by no means ended. Just two weeks ago a physician in New Orleans was brutally stabbed 15 times by an assailant who then traveled to a Baton Rouge clinic, where he was found lying in wait for a second physician. Fortunately, because of the vigilance of pro-choice advocates in New Orleans, this man, who is from Texas is now behind bars and is being charged with attempted murder.”

The survey also shows a correlation between incidence of violence and the response of law enforcement. Smeal said “The survey shows conclusively that better law enforcement has the capacity to decrease violence.” Buffer-zones were also found to be effective in decreasing violence.

Smeal noted that awareness of continued violence was important for pro-choice activists, clinics and the media, especially as the twenty-fourth anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches and increased anti-abortion activity at clinics is expected.

1/16/1997 - Reno Speaks Out for Affirmative Action While Opponents Announce National Group

In her first major address devoted solely to civil rights, Attorney General Janet Reno spoke at a Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama about the continuing need for affirmative action to help women and people of color overcome discrimination. “We cannot say that we have completed our journey when even today blacks and Hispanics -- and in many cases, women -- still have a harder time getting into college, renting an apartment, getting a job, or obtaining a loan,” Reno said. “The next four years will see our continued attack on the legacy of discrimination that has created so much inequality and that continues to have a devastating impact on our society.”

Meanwhile, opponents of affirmative action and equal opportunity have created a group called the “American Civil Rights Institute” funded by foundations and individuals. Sacramento contractor Ward Connerly and others who led the fight to pass Proposition 209 in California, the measure aimed at outlawing affirmative action for women and people of color and gutting sex discrimination law, are behind the new organization. Founders and advisers include Thomas L. Rhodes, president of the conservative National Review, and Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist.

1/16/1997 - Attorney for Paula Jones Made Sex Jokes on Videotape

Gilbert K. Davis, attorney for Paula Jones and Republican candidate for Virginia attorney general made jokes about stripping and offering to help a client get in Playboy magazine, according to a videotape released by client Ramona Lemons Hines. Noting the hypocrisy of Davis’ nationally-televised comments about sexual harassment and President Clinton in light of the videotape, Hines said, “Gil Davis doesn’t live by the standards he talks about.” In the video, Davis says to Hines, “I know what you want to do. You want to take your clothes off. You want to take al of your clothes off and expose your body.” Davis also cranes his neck to kiss the camera lens, tells Hines to leave the Playboy idea “in my hands,” and jokes about barmaids dressed in shredded cellophane. Hines was looking for a buyer for the tape, but released it on January 14. Local news in Roanoke, Virginia covered the story and showed excerpts on television.

Davis is running in a June 10 primary for the Republican nomination for attorney general. He lives in Fairfax County, Virginia.

1/16/1997 - Feminist Majority Condemns Atlanta Bombing, Calls for Classification of Anti-Abortion Violence as Domestic Terrorism

New Survey Finds Severe Anti-abortion Violence Still Plagues Almost One-Third of Clinics

As the Feminist Majority Foundation, National Abortion Federation, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America were holding a press conference this morning on anti-abortion violence at clinics, we received word that yet another clinic has been destroyed by a bomb. We were horrified and outraged by news of this tragedy, but hardly surprised since our press conference was called to bring attention to the persistent violence being targeted at abortion clinics nationwide. In fact, our newly released 1996 National Clinic Survey had revealed an increase in clinic bombings between 1995 and 1996.
Passage and enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and pro-choice vigilance have reduced the percentage of clinics experiencing severe violence from over 50% in 1995 to 29.5% today. But to further reduce the violence we believe that anti-abortion violence must be classified as domestic terrorism and that increased federal, state, and local law enforcement resources must be allocated to crack the reign of terror.

Unacceptably high levels of violence continue at abortion clinics, putting clinic personnel, patients, and abortion rights in peril. As today’s bombing and our survey amply demonstrate, clinic violence is not a thing of the past. Our data and our day-in-day-out work with clinics tell us that the violence has by no means ended. Just two weeks ago a physician in New Orleans was brutally stabbed 15 times by an assailant who then traveled to a Baton Rouge clinic, where he was found lying in wait for a second physician. Fortunately, because of the vigilance of pro-choice advocates in New Orleans, this man, who is from Texas is now behind bars and is being charged with attempted murder.

Our survey shows conclusively that better law enforcement has the capacity to decrease violence. Clinics which reported ‘excellent’ law enforcement response experienced lower levels of violence than those which characterized law enforcement response as ‘poor.’ Clinics with buffer zones saw greater decreases in violence than those without buffer zone protection.

On the eve of the 24th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and an anticipated weekend of anti-abortion activities at clinics, it serves no one’s interest to allow pro-choice activists, clinics, and the media to be lulled into a sense of false security. Instead, we need to focus on improving response at all levels of law enforcement.