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3/19/1997 - Alexis Herman's Bid for Secretary of Labor Looks Good

After her "brief and gentle" confirmation hearing on March 18, propects for Alexis Herman's approval for Secretary of Labor look promising. Herman, who would be the highest-ranking African-American woman in the administration, is a strong supporter of women's rights and minority issues, and was the youngest person ever to head the Dept. of Labor's Women's Bureau.

Herman is the only member of the Clinton cabinet who has not yet been confirmed -- her confirmation hearings were delayed because of questions about her involvement in White House fundraising efforts. But at her hearing, fundraising issues were hardly mentioned, and she was introduced and praised by two conservative Republicans from her home state of Alabama, Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Sonny Callahan.

The Senate will vote on Herman's confirmation after Congress returns from their two-week Easter recess on April 8.


3/19/1997 - Women's Faces Corrupt Men, Says Taleban in Afghanistan

The extremist Islamic group controlling much of Afghanistan, the Taleban, ordered Kabul residents to paint their windows opaque so neighbors would not see women's faces inside the homes. "The face of a woman is a source of corruption for men who are not related to them," said a Taleban official.

Women continue to be harassed and beaten for not wearing the burqa, a shroud that covers women head-to-toe with a patch of gauze over the eyes. Women are still not allowed to attend school or work.


3/19/1997 - Ban on Gay Bias in Schools Passes California Assembly Committee

A bill to ban discrimination against lesbian and gay students has for the first time passed a California Assembly committee. The bill was introduced by the California legislature's first openly gay member, Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica).

Currently in California students cannot be discriminated on the basis of race, religion, education, national origin or disability. Kuehl said her bill simply adds sexual orientation to that list.

Kuehl's bill still must go through more committees and then be voted on by the full legislature. It is not clear whether the bill will pass.


3/18/1997 - D.C. Police Officer Resigns in Light of Domestic Violence Conviction

District of Columbia Police Inspector Adrian D. Barnes has resigned amid findings that he was convicted in the early 1990s of abusing his wife. D.C. Police Chief Larry Soulsby said the recently-promoted high-ranking official did not report serving a year's probation for domestic violence. Officers in the department said that Barnes' domestic abuse charge was well-known, even "common knowledge" according to one retired high-ranking official. Yet Soulsby says he did not know about the incident or conviction until one of his command officers informed him a few days after Barnes' recent promotion.

According to a federal law passed in September, persons convicted of domestic violence are prohibited from carrying a weapon. The U.S. attorney's office is going to determine if Barnes violated the law by carrying a weapon. Law enforcement officers are not exempted from the domestic violence offender gun ban, though there are moves in Congress to gut the ban or to do away with its retroactivity.

Background checks of D.C. police officers are currently done only upon hiring or promotion. Soulsby, whose department has been criticized for hiring officers without doing background checks, says he plans to implement checks every five years.


3/18/1997 - Woman Pilot Takes Off in Amelia Earhart Flight Recreation

Texan Linda Finch took off March 17 on the first leg of her flight to recreate Amelia Earhart's attempted around-the-world flight at the equator. Finch will fly a restored, modernized version of the same airplane Earhart used: a Lockheed Electra 10-E. Finch, a millionaire businesswoman who owns nursing homes, found the plane in Wisconsin, had it shipped to Texas and spent two years restoring it.

Earhart disappeared without a trace over the Pacific Ocean during her flight. Thanks to modern communications systems, Finch's plane will be in constant communication with the ground, and a global-positioning satellite receiver will tell her exactly where she is at all times. Finch will drop a wreath over Howland Island, near where Earhart disappeared.

Updates of the flight will be provided at http:/www.worldflight.org/youcansoar.



3/18/1997 - Kennedy School of Government Grapples With Hate Mail

Following the distribution of white supremacist and anti-homosexual hate mail in student mailboxes at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, faculty and students conducted a "teach in" on March 17 to condemn the acts of bigotry and intimidation. Two separate fliers from a group whose name contains a slur against gays and lesbians; the first flier was given to four students who called for diversity in the faculty and curriculum in a co-authored student newspaper op-ed article. The second letter, which contained slurs against lesbians and gay men as well as people of African, Jewish, Asian, and Hispanic descent, was put in the mailbox of the op-ed editor of the student newspaper, The Citizen. Some have pointed to the overwhelmingly white faculty and student body at the school and a curriculum that does not address issues of lesbian and gay rights or of race as the context in which the hate mail should be considered. The second letter asserted, "We are all in favor of a white, heterosexual school...Our members have been seated both in the faculty and student body for years." Dean Joseph S. Nye Jr. has ordered campus police to conduct an investigation.


3/16/1997 - Supreme Court Allows Clinic Injunction Against Protesters to Stand

In a 6 - 3 decision, the United States Supreme Court has allowed a California state order requiring anti-abortion protesters to keep across a four-lane road from a California abortion clinic. Christine Williams and Citizens for Life had challenged the 1991 permanent injunction, but the California Supreme Court let it stand. The U.S. Supreme Court did not rule, but upheld the California Supreme Court’s ruling by refusing to take the case. Lawyers for the Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo clinic in Vallejo had urged the court not to hear the appeal, pending since 1995, because the protesters carried out "a pattern of harassment and intimidation of (the clinic’s) patients and staff."

The case is Williams v. Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo, 95-576.


3/16/1997 - Gender Gap Emerges in Book Buying

Publishers have noticed that within the past five years, women have increasingly out bought men at bookstores. A 1994 Gallup Poll found that women made up 59 percent of the fiction bookbuyers and 53 percent of the nonfiction book buyers. Further, women are demanding that books they read contain strong female characters. As a result, of the 10 hardcover fiction titles on The New York Times bestseller list, seven feature central female characters and an eighth features a storyline targeted at a female audience.

Women writers are finding an increased audience. Jane Rosenman, the executive director at Scribner recently commented, "When I think of the novelists of our parents’ generation, it was the Mailers and the Roths and the Bellows. In the last 20 years there’s been an absolute burgeoning of first-rate women writers." The increasingly female market has also had a strong effect in the publishing industry’s job market; a Time Warner spokesperson says that approximately three-quarters of Time’s editorial and sale executives are women. The spokesperson noted, "I think it’s fair to say publishing is a business where the editors buy from their gut. And if those guts are female, the odds are you’re going to be getting a greater mix of books with female sensibilities."


3/16/1997 - Howard University Coach who Won Title IX Dispute Creates Championship Team

In 1993 a District of Columbia Superior Court jury award Howard University’s female basketball coach, Sanya Tyler, $2.4 million in a discrimination suit against the university. Tyler had sued because the university failed to treat women’s and men’s teams equally as mandated by Title IX, federal legislation mandating sex equity in sports. The jury found that the women’s team got fewer and weaker resources and money than the men’s team. For example, the facilities for the women were much worse than the men’s, and the coaches did not receive either equal salary or support staff. Though a judge later cut that award to $250,000, Tyler gained a moral victory, and her actions have helped universities throughout the country. Tyler commented, "At the upper echelon of this university, they say they understand what this program brings to the table. What I’m waiting for now is to see if Howard really wants a winner, and, if so, is it willing to puts its money where its mouth is?"

Today, with determination and talent, Tyler has turned out a championship team which it ended this year’s regular play with 23 straight wins and subsequently won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament. Last year, team members wore a shirt Tyler had printed under game jerseys which read, "Destiny is not by chance, it’s by choice." This year, Tyler printed up t-shirts which read, "We are what we constantly do. Therefore, success is not an act, but a habit."


3/16/1997 - Howard University Coach who Won Title IX Dispute Creates Championship Team

In 1993 a District of Columbia Superior Court jury award Howard University’s female basketball coach, Sanya Tyler, $2.4 million in a discrimination suit against the university. Tyler had sued because the university failed to treat women’s and men’s teams equally as mandated by Title IX, federal legislation mandating sex equity in sports. The jury found that the women’s team got fewer and weaker resources and money than the men’s team. For example, the facilities for the women were much worse than the men’s, and the coaches did not receive either equal salary or support staff. Though a judge later cut that award to $250,000, Tyler gained a moral victory, and her actions have helped universities throughout the country. Tyler commented, "At the upper echelon of this university, they say they understand what this program brings to the table. What I’m waiting for now is to see if Howard really wants a winner, and, if so, is it willing to puts its money where its mouth is?"

Today, with determination and talent, Tyler has turned out a championship team which it ended this year’s regular play with 23 straight wins and subsequently won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament. Last year, team members wore a shirt Tyler had printed under game jerseys which read, "Destiny is not by chance, it’s by choice." This year, Tyler printed up t-shirts which read, "We are what we constantly do. Therefore, success is not an act, but a habit."


3/16/1997 - Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament Update: Second Round Scores

East Second Round: North Carolina 81, Michigan State 71; Alabama 61, St. Joseph’s 52

West Second Round: Virginia 65, Utah 46; Georgia 80, Arizona 74

Mideast Second Round: Old Dominion 69, Purdue 65; La. Tech 74, Auburn 48

Midwest Second Round: Colorado 66, S.F. Austin 57; Illinois 85, Duke 67


3/16/1997 - Annie Oakley Star Gail Davis Dies

Actress Gail Davis, who portrayed the "gun-toting, pigtailed rancher" Annie Oakley in the popular 1950s show has died of cancer at age 71. In 1994 Davis, who created the first western to star a female, Annie Oakley, and who starred in many Gene Autry Westerns, received a "Golden Boot" award for her contributions to Westerns. Davis was a skilled rider and crack shot who often did her own stunts.


3/16/1997 - Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament Update: Second Round Scores

East Second Round: North Carolina 81, Michigan State 71; Alabama 61, St. Joseph’s 52

West Second Round: Virginia 65, Utah 46; Georgia 80, Arizona 74

Mideast Second Round: Old Dominion 69, Purdue 65; La. Tech 74, Auburn 48

Midwest Second Round: Colorado 66, S.F. Austin 57; Illinois 85, Duke 67


3/14/1997 - Peru Moves to Strike Law Allowing Rape Offenders to Marry Victims

The Peruvian Legislature moved on March 12th to pass a law which would strike down a a penal code section allowing men who rape women to escape punishment by marrying their victims. The law also allowed men involved in a gang rape to go free if one of the men married the woman. ``It was an important victory not only for women, but for all of Peruvian society,'' Gina Yang of the Manuela Ramos women's rights group told TV Frecuencia Latina after the committee vote. Congresswoman Beatriz Merino, who introduced the repeal measure, was quoted as saying in the government's Andina news agency that, "`A norm that for decades has offended the dignity of all women has been eliminated."


3/14/1997 - Superior Court Rules New Jersey Not Mandated to Provide Benefits to Domestic Partners

A three-member state appeals panel sitting in New Jersey unanimously has ruled that Rutgers University does not have to provide health benefits to domestic partners. The panel concluded that the state is only mandated to provide benefits to spouses of state employees under a law established in 1961. The law, however, does not cover live-in partners who are not married. The decision could ultimately affect all of the state’s 600,000 employees and comes at a time when the state legislature is considering two bills which would outlaw same-sex marriages. New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman is opposed to same-sex marriages, but a spokeswoman said that the governor would not necessarily fight a law which would extend benefits to domestic partners. The state supreme court is not required to review the case because the opinion was unanimous, but parties on both sides of the issue say they expect the state’s highest court will grant review.


3/14/1997 - Operation Rescue Demonstrates in California High Schools

Operation Rescue anti-abortion activists have been picketing four high schools in California. Groups of three to twelve people have been picketing outside schools in the San Juan Unified School District. The protesters were part of a national campaign aimed at young people. But, so far, the tactic is backfiring. Shelley Benvenuti, a 16-year-old junior at Rio Americano commented, "I thought it was totally twisted. I was really upset about it. We are in high school and we know about abortion, and we come to our own conclusions about it. We don’t need people getting in our faces about it. It’s a disgrace." Pam Rubistky, who took her fourteen-year-old son out of school because of the protesters, commented, "I believe in freedom of speech, but I feel this is threatening to my child. If they want to teach my son something, they should go through the school board or the principal. This is totally inappropriate." Another student at Rio Americano, Sarah Campbell 17, commented, "I read the little book they passed out and it’s not factual. Plus, it uses religion in the wrong way. I’m against abortion myself, but I’m totally against this approach."


3/14/1997 - Department of Education Spells Out Sexual Harassment Guidelines

The Department of Education has released guidelines to all schools and colleges on what constitutes sexual harassment. The department called on school officials to use "judgment and common sense" when fighting harassment. The guidelines say that, "In order to give rise to a complaint, sexual harassment must be sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it adversely affects a student’s education or creates a hostile or abusive educational environment." The guidelines give some examples of what does and does not constitute harassment. For example, a basketball coach hugging a player after a good game does not constitute harassment, but persistent and inappropriate hugging does. Students who tell homosexual students they are not welcome at a lunch table does not constitute harassment, but male students who target lesbian students for sexual advances are harassing the students.


3/14/1997 - Rape Drug Outlawed in Florida

A law banning the use of Rohypnol, the so-called "rape drug", has passed both Houses of the Florida Legislature. The drug is slipped into the drinks of unsuspecting sex-crime victims who become unable to resist an attack and often black out. Governor Lawton Chiles is expected to sign the bill because the drug, a sedative 10 times stronger than Valium, has no therapeutic use.


3/13/1997 - Study Finds Rape Victims Not Believed

The Florida Governor's Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence conducted a study which found that women in Florida are not often believed by hospital staff treating them for rape. The study found that the rape victims have only a fifty percent chance of being believed, even though national statistics show that the false report rate for rape is less than two percent. The study also found that hospitals often don't follow through on the proper procedure for collecting evidence and that hospitals charge up to a thousand dollars for investigations that truly cost only a few hundred. Robin Hassler, the executive staff coordinator of the study commented, "The fact that rape victims are not believed is common. There is a high prevalence of non-reporting because once they get involved in the system it can be such a horrible experience."


3/13/1997 - Herald-Leader Names First African-American Female Editorial Page Editor

The Lexington Herald-Leader has appointed Vanessa Gallman to serve as the paper's editorial page editor. Gallman most recently served as a reporter in Knight-Ridder's Washington Bureau where she covered welfare reform and national politics. She has also worked for The Washington Post and The Charlotte Observer. Gallman, who will become the paper's first African-American editorial page editor, commented, "I'm proud to be the first, and I guess the responsibility that carries with it is to be good at the job and open to all kinds of people and different ideas."


3/12/1997 - Annual Mammograms for Women Over 40 May Be Advised

The board of the American Cancer Society will vote during its March 17-22 meeting on whether or not to recommend that women over 40 have annual mammograms. Though scientists are in agreement that annual mammograms for women over the age of 50 significantly cut the number of deaths from breast cancer, the ACS’s current recommendations for women 40-49 are to have mammograms every year or two. A panel of 50 experts convening last weekend in Chicago has advised that more lives could be saved if women in their 40s had annual mammograms, and a spokeswoman for the society said it will likely approve the recommendation. In January, a panel commissioned by the National Cancer Institute failed to reach a recommendation and declared that women in the 40s should decide for themselves whether or not to have annual mammograms. Marilyn Leitch of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, a panel member of the Chicago group, said, “The current average two-year interval between screens may be too long for this age group and their faster-growing cancers.”


3/12/1997 - Non-Invasive Alternative to Hysterectomy Presented

For women with uterine fibroids, non-cancerous growths that cause pain and bleeding, there has not been an alternative treatment to the surgical removal of the uterus, a hysterectomy. At a medical conference in Washington, DC on March 11, doctors presented an alternative procedure called embolization that involves making a quarter-inch incision and using a catheter to cut off blood flow to the fibroid. For eight of ten patients on whom the procedure was performed symptoms improved significantly, and fibroids shrank to a third of their size. Another patient had a decrease of bleeding, and another eventually needed to get a hysterectomy. Mifepristone (formerly known as RU 486) is also being tested as a non-surgical method of treating uterine fibroids. See Feminist Majority Foundation Factsheets for more information


3/12/1997 - Bank of America to Offer Health Benefits to Domestic Partners

Beginning in January 1998, San Francisco-based Bank of America will extend health benefits to same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partners or to one under-65 dependent adult relative of its employees. Enrollment for the medical, dental and vision coverage will begin this fall. Partners are required to have been in “committed relationship that has existed for at least six months, and must be responsible for each other’s welfare on a continuing basis.”

The third-largest U.S. bank, Bank of America spokesman Dennis Wyss said he believed that Bank of America was the only major U.S. bank to offer extended health benefits. Wyss said that one factor in Bank of America’s decision was the San Francisco governing board of supervisors passage of a local law requiring companies doing business with the city to provide equal benefits for married employees and employees with domestic partners. However, Wyss maintained the company had considered extending benefits before the San Francisco ordinance was introduced.


3/12/1997 - Developing World Childbirth Mortality Rates High

According to estimates released at the first world childbirth mortality congress opening on March 10, more than a million women and 8-10 million babies die in childbirth around the world every year. Poor childbirth conditions also result in another five million infants being handicapped for life. Congress president Dr. Daniel Weinstein of Israel said that hemorrhaging was the leading cause of death, accounting for 25% or 140,000 of the 585,000 childbirth deaths occurring in the 78 countries studied. One hundred thousand cases resulted from blood poisoning or septicemia, 75,000 from clandestine abortions and hypertension, 40,000 with obstruction of labor. The remaining 20 % of deaths resulted from indirect causes including anemia, diabetes, malaria and heart disease. Noted among the risk factors were access to emergency medical car, insufficient time between births, and age over 35. Weinstein also noted that girls receive less food than boys in some cultures where food is scare.

The disparities between childbirth mortality rates in different countries are great. The risk of death at childbirth of a Somalian woman is one in seven while the risk for a Spanish woman is one in 9,200. The risk in the U.S. is one in 3,500 compared to one in 7,700 in Canada. The World Health Organization and the United Nations’ Children’s Fund released the figures, compiled in 78 countries that comprise about one-third of the world’s population.


3/11/1997 - Congressional Hearings Held on D&X; New York State Senate Votes to Ban the Procedure

The full Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the D&X abortion procedure on March 11. Participating in the panel were Kate Michaelman, NARAL President; Gloria Feldt, Planned Parenthood President; Vicki Sapporta, National Abortion Federation Executive Director; National Coalition of Abortion Providers President Renee Chelian; Dave Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee; and Helen Avare of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in addition to an anti-choice doctor, two women who had the procedure and one who did not. The Senate and House have reintroduced bills that would ban this form of abortion except in cases where no other procedure would save the life of the woman. President Clinton vetoed the ban in April of 1996 because it made no exception for the health of the woman. On March 12, the House full Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up HR 929, referred to as the “partial birth abortion” ban bill.

Opponents of choice are taking up the debate on the state level as well. Republican-controlled New York State Senate voted 40-19 on March 10 to pass legislation banning the D&X late term abortion procedure. Doctors who performed the surgery would face up to four years in prison unless the life of the woman was threatened. Health Committee Chairman Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said he expected the measure to be defeated in the Assembly where most members of the Health Committee oppose the ban. Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver said he would leave the fate of the bill in the hands of the Health Committee and that it won’t be considered unless exceptions are made for the life and health of the woman. Proponents of the measure have said they will push for a vote by the entire house to force the measure to the Assembly floor. Opponents of the ban maintain that its wording is vague enough that it could potentially ban other types of abortions including a procedure used during the second trimester to save a woman’s health. Gov. George Pataki has said he would sign the measure.