9/17/1997 - Safeway Supports United Farm Workers
Safeway, the nation's second-largest retail food chain, has signed an agreement with United Farm Workers supporting human rights for 20,000 California berry pickers. They join the 27 retail food companies covering 4,630 stores in 41 states and parts of Canada that currently support strawberry workers.
By signing the UFW agreement, Safeway is endorsing the rights of the workers to unionize, to bargain without discrimination, and to demand the enforcement of field and water sanitation laws. This is the first time in over 30 years that UFW and Safeway have worked together on issues concerning agricultural workers.
Investigators looking into the gang rape that occurred in an abandoned classroom last spring criticized school administrators yesterday for not acting on another teacher's advice and possibly preventing it, as well as not reporting the rape to police until a month after the girl reported it to school authorities.
Although an art teacher at August Martin High School in Queens had given several supervisors a memo stating that the empty classroom was being used for sex, three assistant principals, a dean and a custodial worker all failed to take action. In the April 16th memo, the teacher stated that she had found used condoms and a student pass dated the previous day in the locked classroom. A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped there three hours later.
Edward Stancik, the special commissioner of investigation for NYC schools, said the supervisors failed to immediately examine and secure the room, which could have prevented the assault. He is calling for the dismissal of two administrators and disciplinary actions against three others.
The four male students, charged with rape, sodomy, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment, have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting a hearing next month. Three of the four accused have been suspended and are taking classes through an outreach program. The fourth accused has graduated from high school and the rape victim has transferred to another school.
9/16/1997 - Wage Gap Between Women and Men Widens
After two decades of steady growth, weekly earnings for women who work full-time have dropped to just under 75% of men's earnings, down from 77% four years ago.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 1979 and 1993, women's earnings as a percentage of men's rose from 62% to 77%. Economists disagree on the causes of the decline.
Economist Heidi Hartman, director of the Institute for Women's Policy Research said "Anywhere from half to three quarters of the closing of the gender gap was a result of men's real wages falling ... Now men's wages are rising again, so to keep closing the gap, women's would have to be rising faster." Remarking on the widening gap between the rich and poor, she said low-skilled women are concentrated at the low end of the pay scale.
The Republican-appointed head of the Congressional Budget Office, June O'Neill, said that unskilled, unmarried mothers who have been forced off welfare are flooding the job market, thus lowering women's overall wages. Liberal economist Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute agreed, saying that the result of welfare reform has been to drive down wages for the unskilled. "We'd predicted...it would lower wages for low-wage workers as much as 12%. If the point of welfare reform was to lower wages, this is a success."
Republican candidate for Governor James Gilmore said yesterday that he supports strict parental consent laws for abortion.
Gilmore, who opposes all abortions performed after the 12th week, even in cases of rape or incest, surprised both anti-choicers and liberals with his announcement. His Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Donald Beyer, held a rally yesterday with National Abortion Rights Action League President Kate Michaelman and vowed to fight any measures that would further restrict abortion. "I have long believed that we should trust the women of Virginia to make this most difficult decision," he said.
Although currently under a temporary restraining order, Virginia has a parental notification law that does not require parents to give their permission for a minor to get an abortion. Virginia teens do not have to have parental permission or notification to obtain contraceptives.
Brenda Davis, Virginia's spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, said that Gilmore was ignoring the fact that many teenage girls have legitimate fears about telling their parents about a pregnancy, including a fear of violence. "We're asking for a public health nightmare," she said.
9/16/1997 - Gore Pledges Support for Gay and Lesbian Causes
At a National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce ceremony last night, Vice President Al Gore said that he was committed to passing an employment nondiscrimination act, increasing funding for AIDS research, and focusing more attention on hate crimes against gays and lesbians.
The crowd of about 200 was enthusiastic as Gore assured them, that as "full members of the American family," gays and lesbians would "always have a place on our agenda."
9/16/1997 - Diet Drugs Pulled From Market
Citing serious health risks, drug companies pulled two of the most popular diet drugs off the market yesterday.
The Food and Drug Administration found that Dexfenfluramine, sold as "Redux," and fenfluramine, one half of the "phen-fen" combination and sold alone as Pondimin, had caused heart lesions that could indicate weak heart valves in 30% of the patients who took the drugs. Three deaths have already been linked to the drugs. Other health problems reported include shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting, and heart murmurs. "This is one of the most serious incidents of drug injury that we've had in recent years," said Thomas J. Moore, senior fellow in health policy at George Washington University Medical Center.
Manufacturer Wyeth-Ayerst has sent letters to almost half a million physicians and pharmacists asking them to stop all prescriptions, and will put full-page notices in newspapers nationwide. They have also recalled the drugs in Mexico, Canada, and Columbia. Wyeth-Ayerst Vice President Marc Deitch estimates about 600,000 patients are currently taking one of the drugs, and 2 million others have taken them in all.
Unlike amphetamine-based diet pills, Redux and Pondimin work by altering the brain's serotonin levels to make the person feel full.
Frank Clemente of Public Citizen's Congress Watch said that this health scare should cause Congress and the public to think twice about the current FDA reform legislation, because it will give the FDA less control over companies marketing their drugs for unapproved uses.
9/15/1997 - Many Clergy Keep Distance from Promise Keepers
As the date of the Promise Keeper's rally at the Mall in Washington, D.C. approaches, many clerics are speaking out against the organization, saying they are concerned that the Promise Keepers advocate women's oppression and are too closely affiliated with the political Religious Right.
Local clergy say they're discouraging their congregations from attending, as well as offering "alternative visions" for families in the days leading up to the rally. Rev. Dan Ivins of the First Baptist Church in Silver Springs said he distrusted "any movement that would take us backward to a time when women were definitely subordinate to men."
Many varied groups such as the National Organization for Women, the National Network To End Domestic Violence, Church Women United, National Black Lesbian & Gay Leadership Forum, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, The Center for Democracy, The Feminist Majority and Equal Partners in Faith have criticized Promise Keepers. Opponents cite a hidden political agenda inherent in an organization supported by people such as Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Coalition, and James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group. Jerry Falwell, who donated $10,000 towards Operation Rescue's fine for their abortion clinic violence in 1988, is also a strong supporter. These men have also donated hundreds of staff members to Promise Keepers and also publish their books, according to NOW.
The group's leader, Bill McCartney, has also been a vocal opponent of equal rights for gays and lesbians, because they are "a group of people who don't reproduce." He also helped raise funds for the Amendment 2 campaign in Colorado, a bill intended to ban civil rights for homosexuals. Former NOW Action Vice President Rosemary Dempsey said that hate crimes against lesbians and gays "increased dramatically" after the amendment was passed. McCartney, a former Colorado University football coach, also publicly defended two accused rapists on his team in 1989. He has also supported anti-abortion violence by speaking at Operation Rescue rallies.
Many feminists criticize Promise Keepers for their stance on women's role in the family. For example, women are not allowed at rallies, except to help set up events and anointing the men's seats with oil and praying. They are only allowed inside a conference to sell Promise Keeper merchandise. Their belief that women must be kept economically dependent is constantly reiterated, according to the Washington Post. Promise Keeper speaker Tony Evans wrote in "Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper," that men had given up control of their families to their wives, and that they needed to take it back. "I'm not suggesting you ask for your role back, I'm urging you to take it back. There can be no compromise here." Emphasizing the aggressive nature of their ideology, McCartney told a rally of 39,000 clergy in 1996 that "...the fiercest fighting is just ahead...It's wartime!"
On Oct. 4, Promise Keeper leaders hope "Stand in the Gap" will be a "million man march" for Christian men, although the Mayor's Office for Emergency Preparedness estimates the number will be closer to 500,000.
Many groups are expected to stage protests at the Mall on Oct. 4th. Check out NOW's website and our website for upcoming information.
9/15/1997 - Army Toughens Women's Fitness Standards
Because Army men are "irritated" about the different physical fitness standards for men and women, the Army will toughen the women's fitness tests.
An Army investigation panel surveyed 30,000 troops over eight months and found only half the men believed women pull their weight. One of the panel's leaders, Gen. Evelyn Foote, said that the push-up and sit-up requirements especially bothered men, who "cannot accept the fact that because of gender there should be different standards."
Currently, a 25-year-old woman must do 16 push-ups, 45 sit-ups amd run two miles in 19 minutes and 36 seconds, while men must do 40 pushups, 47 sit-ups, and run the distance in 16 minutes and 36 seconds. The Army said the changes for women would be an increased number of push-ups and less time to run.
9/15/1997 - "Ellen" Wins Emmy for Coming Out Episode
"Ellen," the show that inspired controversy when the main character "came out" as a lesbian, has won an Emmy for the writing of the coming-out episode.
When accepting the award for comedy writing, Ellen DeGeneres, the lesbian actress who plays the show's lead, Ellen Morgan, dedicated the award to gay and lesbian teenagers, telling them "There's nothing wrong with you. Don't even let anybody make you feel ashamed of who you are."
Helen Hunt, who won best actress in a comedy series for "Mad About You," said she was "blown away" by DeGeneres' work in that episode, and was proud to be nominated along with her and other women.
Backstage, DeGeneres spoke seriously and lightly about her award and the larger issue of lesbians and gay men in television. "I always felt like an outsider," she said about recognized by her peers. "I never felt like part of the club." Hoping that her show will help people see that gay people are OK, she joked that "growing up, I didn't have that, gay characters. Well, Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda were lovers, but they didn't talk about it."
9/15/1997 - States Find Welfare Reform Difficult
By Oct. 1, the states are expected to have 75% of the two-parent welfare families and 25% of welfare recipients overall on work programs. Federal funding will be cut as punishment, yet only a few states are expected to meet the requirements.
For example, California only has about 20% of their two-parent families working, which can result in federal cuts of $185 million. By 2002, the states are expected to have moved half their welfare recipients into jobs, including 90% of two-parent families. Congress is blaming the states for the low success rates, while welfare reform critics say that the laws were bad to begin with, and that the welfare-to-work rules were not made clear to the states.
9/15/1997 - Miss America Focuses on AIDS, Sex Education
The new Miss America, Kate Shindle, will spend her efforts on AIDS education and making condoms available to high schoolers. Shindle, a 20-year-old student at Northwestern University, said the public needed to realize they cannot "talk kids out of having sex," but that they could "meet them where they are and talk to them about the best ways they can make their behavior safer."
A theater and sociology major, Shindle became concerned about the spread of AIDS in college when a professor and a close friend were diagnosed with HIV.
9/12/1997 - British Woman Wins Rape Suit Against Husband
A 40-year-old mother of five, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has made British legal history by suing and winning damages from her ex-husband for rape.
Her husband paid her 14,000 pounds ($23,000) last November for the 1992 rape that occurred in their former home, but the woman hasn't felt comfortable talking about it until now. She said she still feels "if he wasn't my husband he would have been put away for what he did."
Although she felt the whole thing had been a "terrible ordeal," she said "it has been worth it, especially if it helps other women." In support of civil courts, she said, "I would urge all women to use them in their fight for justice."
9/12/1997 - International Sex Ring Busted
Canadian and U.S. police broke up an international prostitution ring which had bought impoverished southeast Asian women and forced them into the sex circuit.
Following several raids in Toronto and San Jose, Calif., the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service announced Sept. 11 that they had arrested dozens of Thai and Malaysian women and several suspected leaders of the prostitution ring. The women will face prostitution charges and be deported, while the leaders are "probably looking at lengthy jail time in Canada," said RCMP Cpl. Rick Watt.
The sex ring originated in southeast Asia, where young women were sold into slavery for around $18,000. They were smuggled into North America and forced to work in brothels, massage parlors and escort agencies to pay off their "immigration debts."
The police said despite the bust and more predicted arrests, the complexities of Asian prostitution rings meant they were far from victorious.
9/12/1997 - Aide to Conservative Congressman Comes Out
Tracey St. Pierre, the chief of staff for Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla.), announced that she is a lesbian and has quit to work as a lobbyist for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). St. Pierre told this week's The Hill that she will lobby Congress for gay rights through HRC, the nation's largest homosexual organization.
Her announcement stunned her conservative colleagues, as Canady is known for his strong stance against same-sex marriage.
9/12/1997 - Romanian Rape Rates Double
A new study reports men rape a Romanian woman every six hours, according to the Romanian newspaper Adevarul.
Researchers Sorin Radulescu and Dan Banciu of the Sociological Institute of the Romanian Academy said that the number of rapes doubled between 1990 and 1995. They concluded that "Romania seems at present to be a sick society" and that Romanian women "are one of the most victimized groups."
9/12/1997 - Many German Women Victimized, Few Report It
A study commissioned by the German government has found that one in seven women in Germany is raped or sexually harassed at least once in her lifetime, yet only five percent report it to the police.
The regional officials who published the study estimated that between 150,000 and 300,000 women are victimized each year, with 75% under the age of sexual consent. Hesse state prosecuter Wolfram Schaedler said 83% of rape victims know their rapist, and that because many court proceedings are suppressed or delayed until at least two years after the crime, only 52% of suspects are ever indicted.
At a conference Sept. 7 in Saarbruecken, experts warned that repeated questioning and harassment by police and the legal system could lead to psychological disorders in rape victims. Saarland social affairs minister Barbara Wackernagel-Jacobs said that women often experience sexual violence for years before reporting it. "Only when perpetrators are no longer sure of the silence of their victims can violence be reduced."
9/12/1997 - First Lesbian British Minister Comes
In an interview for the Independent in London, junior environment minister Angela Eagle said that she was in a happy, long-term relationship with a woman.
She said the Labour party and her family, including her twin sister who is also a Labour MP, had always been supportive.
While she made the announcement "to get things sorted out," she has no plans to become active for gay rights, or to bring her "very busy" partner to governmental functions.
In a report highly critical of Army officers, an internal investigative panel of senior officials declared in a report released yesterday that "passive leadership has allowed sexual harassment to persist" and that the Army "lacks the institutional commitment" to treat women equally.
Rep. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the reports were "a scathing indictment of the climate and leadership that permits sexual harassment to permeate at all levels of the Army."
The panel recommended 128 actions to help resolve the problems, such as adding more staff to basic training and changing the power structure that allows combat arms personnel (an area forbidden to women, and where men have the least experience dealing with sexual harassment issues) to hold key command positions.
The comprehensive investigation was launched eight months ago after the sexual harassment and assault charges against officers at Aberdeen training grounds. The panel visited 59 Army facilities around the world and surveyed 30,000 troops about their experiences and attitudes about gender relations. A surprising finding was that while 84% of women had experienced unwanted sexual attention, coercion or assault, only 22% said they'd been sexually harassed. 51% of women felt they experienced sex-based job discrimination.
The Senate voted 98-1 Wednesday to grant domestic abuse victims a temporary exemption from welfare work requirements. This provision waives the current welfare reform law's requirement that abuse victims to return to work after a year. Although the Senate has approved the proposal three times before, it has been removed from House-Senate negotiations each time.
The Army has reprimanded the former commander of the Aberdeen training base in Maryland for sexual harassment and misconduct that occured while he was there.
Major General Robert Shadley plans to contest the action, given that military reprimands have been known to end careers. Twelve staff members at Aberdeen were charged with crimes, ranging from verbal harassment to rape. Shadley's defenders claim he was too high in the chain of command to know about their actions, while some members of Congress assert that senior officials need to be held accountable.
Army leaders also recommend that basic training be extended another week to teach "ethics and values" and combat sexual misconduct at military bases worldwide.
Representatives Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., are sponsoring bills that would require insurance companies to pay for 2-day hospital stays and reconstructive surgery for women who have had masectomies.
Because the bill has stagnated in the House Commerce Comittee, the two women are using the Internet to start an online petition to pressure Congress to act.
Chancellor Robert Berdahl of University of California-Berkeley said that over the long term, ending affirmative action in admissions will have a devastating impact on the school's diversity.
Since affirmative action programs in graduate schools were banned starting this fall, the number of blacks and Hispanics in Berkeley's law school has dropped from 52 in last year's entering class to 8 this year.
While Berdahl does not expect undergraduate diversity to plummet as much, he predicts banning affirmative action will spread to other public universities, leading to a nationwide decrease in the number of non-white college students.
D.C. Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby has promised to fire any police officer who has pleaded guilty to or been convicted of domestic abuse. Soulsby, along with hundreds of police chiefs across the nation, is preparing to enforce the federal Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban. This law went into effect on September 30, 1996, and prohibits convicted domestic abusers from possessing firearms or ammunition. The ban applies police and military officers as well as to the general public.
Soulsby also will examine police records, court files and personnel records to identify other officers that have been accused of domestic abuse but were not charged or were acquitted. Soulsby may weed out some of these officers as well, depending on the particular circumstances of each case. "Domestic violence is one of our worst behavioral problems," said Soulsby. "Officers are paid to keep the peace, and some of them can't keep it in their own households. We can't have that kind of behavior. It's illegal, it's inappropriate and it's unprofessional. We're going to stop it."
Eighteen D.C. officers are currently on administrative leave for domestic violence incidents and at least 100 officers have been accused of domestic violence in the past.
9/10/1997 - House Protects Teens' Contraceptive Rights
By a vote of 220-201, the House defeated a bill that would have required federally funded clinics to notify parents in writing five days before providing birth control to minors.
While conservatives argued that government aid to clinics encouraged teen sex, opponents of the bill said it would frighten away teens and increase the rates of STDs and pregnancy.
District of Columbia Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton said, "It's impossible to pretend today that families need only get together and they can straighten this out. There is no family life for many I represent, let alone communication within the family."
An international survey of 1,332 employees and managers in Australia, the United States, Canada and New Zealand found that women managers were thought to work harder than men, to better encourage innovation and change, and to give superior positive feedback to their employees. Women managers were judged better at soliciting new ideas and instituting procedural changes, inspiring employees, and being "open about unpleasant facts." Women were equal to men in mediating conflict, allowing employees to make their own decisions, showing confidence in and "not blaming" an employee.
The survey was conducted by DDI Asia Pacific, a consultancy firm which specializes in executive testing and selection. DDI consultant Linda Bisnette reported, "These results help to discredit the myth that women are unsuited to leadership positions and suggest that men might have something to learn from women about empowering leadership."