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12/10/1996 - Archaeologist and Paleoanthropogist Mary Leakey Dies at 83

Mary Leakey, whose discoveries of prehistoric bones and artifacts in East Africa have led to a better understanding of the origin of the human species, died December 9 in Nairobi, Kenya. Leakey's discoveries proved that human evolution began on earth up to 3.6 million years ago and have added credence to Charles Darwin's theory that the earliest human ancestors can be traced to Africa. Previous to her work, the earliest traces of humankind dated back to only 0.6 million years. Gilbert M. Grosvenor, the chairperson of the National Geographic Society commented that Leakey's work, "played a pivotal role in rewriting the history of early humans."

On husband Louis Leakey's frequent trips to the U.S. to lecture, he gave the impression that he made the discoveries his wife had made. Mary Leakey wrote in her autobiography that she lost her professional respect for her husband after he retracted a statement that a skull fragment came from a direct human ancestor.


12/10/1996 - Proposed Netherlands Law Would Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

A proposed law in the Netherlands would give same-sex marriages the nearly identical legal status heterosexual marriages. Lesbian and gay couples would not, however, be allowed to adopt children. The proposal has broad backing in parliament and is expected to become law in early 1998. Though lesbian and gay rights advocates hail the law as a significant step, they are continuing to lobby for adoption rights.

In the United States, a Honolulu judge has ordered the state of Hawaii to issue same-sex couple marriage licenses. The ruling is now on hold while authorities appeal it. In September, President Clinton signed a federal law allowing states to refuse to recognize homosexual marriage licenses issued in other states and stating clearly that the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages.


12/10/1996 - Feinstein Seeks to Amend Welfare Legislation

Stating that welfare reform will devastate California residents, Senator Dianne Feinstein wants to amend the newly-passed legislation. Though mindful that the 105th Congress is not likely to overhaul the welfare reform, which destroys the 60-year-old federal guarantee of cash assistance to the poor, Feinstein is determined to make changes which will accommodate California's large and diverse population.

After talking with welfare directors in counties throughout California, Feinstein's staff has found that some of the legislation's edicts are impossible to attain. In order for welfare recipients to find work within two years, the state would have to provide 160,000 new jobs, three times the number it currently provides per year. The edict that 90 percent of two parent welfare families find work by 2002 may be impossible under any circumstances.

Feinstien's goals include continued federal funding for elderly and disabled noncitizens in the country before this year's enactment of the bill. She would also like to double, from six to twelve weeks, the time allowed for recipients to search for a job. The Senator faces tough opposition from a Republican Congress and Pete Wilson, the Republican California Governor bent on destroying welfare programs in the state.


12/10/1996 - Columbia University Student Allegedly Sexually Tortured Three Women

A Columbia University student charged with assault, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment last week has also allegedly attacked at least two other women. The women told authorities recently that Oliver Jovanovic, 30, attacked them in a manner similar to the way he is charged with attacking a 20-year-old Barnard Student. Prosecutors claims that Jovanovic brought the student to his apartment after dinner, tied her to a chair, undressed her and assaulted her with sex toys for almost a day. He repeatedly threaten to mutilate and kill her, Jeffrey Dahmer style. The two had met in an America Online Chat room. Jovanovic had an appointment to meet with another woman he met in cyberspace next week.


12/9/1996 - Clinton Considers Intervention in Court Battle Over Proposition 209

President Clinton and Attorney General Reno are considering whether the federal government should involve itself in the legal battle over the constitutionality of the Proposition 209, the amendment passed in California last month that seeks to outlaw affirmative action and gut sex discrimination law in the state. The Justice Department has created a list of possible ways the White House could intervene which might include the White House becoming an active participant in the lawsuit waged by civil rights groups to block implementation of the initiative or to file an amicus brief to show support of the lawsuit. The civil rights groups, along with some senior administration lawyers believe Prop 209 may violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it would make it difficult for women and people of color but not members of other disadvantaged groups to seek redress for discrimination.


12/9/1996 - First Four Women Accepted to VMI

Following a U.S. Supreme Court order mandating that the all-male state-supported Virginia Military Institute accept women, VMI has accepted four of the fifteen women who applied to its 1997 entering class. The VMI governing board reluctantly agreed in September to admit women rather than go private


12/9/1996 - British Lord Seeks Women's Equal Rights to Throne

British Lord Jeffrey Archer has asked permission from the House of Lords to introduce a parliamentary bill allowing women equality in the royal succession line. Traditionally, the eldest son, even if he is younger than his sister, has the right to the throne. Under the measure, a future first-born daughter of Prince William, son of Prince Charles, would become the queen even if she also has a younger brother. In speaking to the unelected House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament, Archer asked if anyone felt, "that men are still naturally superior to women."

Although nothing would likely happen for 50 to 60 years, at least until one of Prince William's children succeeded him, the measure is expected to fail because upcoming elections mean parlimentary time is tight. The measure may also meet resistance from male House of Lords members who hold their hereditary seats because of their gender.



12/9/1996 - Study Finds Female Inmate Population Faces Large Assault Risk

A study released by the Human Rights Watch has found that women in state prisons in the U.S. face constant sexual assault and harassment. Since 1980, the number of women incarcerated has increased by over 400 percent, twice the rate of men. Although there are over 64,701 women inmates, only 18 percent of uniformed corrections officers are women. Male officers have been found to abuse their power by assaulting the female inmates. Dorothy Q. Thomas, director of the Human Rights women's project authored the report and stated, "Male officers are sexually abusing female prisoners while the state and federal governments look the other way."

Pressed by correctional associations for clear facts and documentation of the problem's scope, Thomas replied that, "It is impossible to give an accurate estimate because the internal systems for investigating sexual misconduct by officers don't exist." The study did cite numerous allegations brought forth by female inmates, including women in the District of Columbia who filed a lawsuit in 1993 alleging sexual abuse and harassment. One inmate charged that a male correctional officer forced her to engage in oral sex and another inmate claimed she had been raped. In 1994, a District court ruled that the treatment violated the inmates right against cruel and unusual punishment, but the case was later overturned on technicalities.


12/9/1996 - Woman Who Drove 13-Year-Old to Abortion Fined

Rosa Hartford must spend a year on probation, pay a $500 fine, and perform 150 hours of community service for driving a 13-year-old Pennsylvania girl to New York for an abortion. Hartford was sentenced by Judge Brendan Vanston for interfering with the custody of a child. Hartford's lawyer, Kathryn Kolbert of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy said, "branding this caring woman a criminal sends the worst possible message to teen-agers facing unwanted pregnancies or other crises in their lives."


12/6/1996 - Clinton Names Albright First Female Secretary of State

President Clinton named U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright as the new U.S. Secretary of State on Thursday, December 5. Upon receiving Senate confirmation, Albright will become the first female secretary of state.

Albright was born in Czechoslovakia and moved to the U.S. with her parents at age 11 after her family was exiled during the Nazi invasion and then by Joseph Stalin. A graduate of Wellesley College, Albright earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Russian Studies at Columbia University. Fifty-nine year-old Albright, a naturalized American citizen, is known for her work on Bosnia intervention and NATO expansion. She has also taught at Georgetown University and has served as a member of the National Security Council

Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal noted that the first cabinet appointment of the first President to be elected by a women's gender gap is a well-qualified woman. "This appointment is the logical outcome of the appointment of historic numbers of women into senior positions in the first Clinton Administration. With this appointment, President Clinton has broken the historic glass ceiling in foreign policy, sending a signal to the world about the importance of women's leadership and women's rights," Smeal said. Appearing on ABC's Nightline December 5, Smeal noted the importance of having a woman secretary of state in office in the wake of mass rapes used as tools of war in Bosnia and Rwanda and as women in Afghanistan are being forced to stay home from work and school because of a fundamentalist Islamic militia.


12/6/1996 - Canadian Women Commemorate Murders of Female Engineering Students

On December 6, women across Canada will commemorate the murders of 14 women engineering students at the hands of a man who opened fire at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, shouting "You're all fucking feminists. You're women, you're going to be engineers. I hate feminists, I'm against feminism. That's why I'm here." The Canadian Women's Internet Association has been holding a "Candlelight Vigil Across the Internet," inviting other sites to display a candle graphic linking to the vigil site to increase awareness of violence against women. Groups will be holding walks and commemorative events throughout the day. For more information on events, visit the events page from the candlelight vigil site.


12/6/1996 - Study Finds Unnecessary Oral Contraception Panic has International Effects

A newly-released study done by the Birth Control Trust in London found an announcement by the UK's Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) concerning new findings on certain oral contraception was "unnecessarily alarmist" and caused "a needless panic." In October 1995, new information detected an extremely slight increase in risk of blood clotting for certain women taking "third generation" birth control pills. The CSM's incorrect interpretation of the finding caused many women to stop using oral contraception even though it was concluded that no immediate action was necessary. Ann Furedi, Director of Birth Control Trust, said, "Once the UK advice had been broadcast around the world it alarmed women even in countries where the official advice was reassuring." According to the Birth Control Trust, the CSM's announcement produced a rise in unwanted pregnancies because of concern about the safety of oral contraceptives. A rise in abortions is expected to occur. Only in Britain, Germany, and Norway did further research find that women taking the "third generation" pill should switch to other brands.


12/6/1996 - Army Trainers Accused of Rape Face Arraignment

Three Army trainers - two drill instructors and a company commander - were expected to enter a plea on charges of rape and sexual misconduct before a military judge on December 6. The men are charged with crimes including rape, sodomy, adultery, obstruction of justice, fraternization with recruits and conduct unbecoming an officer. A spokesman for Aberdeen Proving Ground said a trial date for early next year will likely be set. Only Staff Sgt. Delmar Simpson has been jailed while Staff. Sgt. Nathanial Beach and Capt. Derrick Robertson remain free.


12/6/1996 - Menopausal Women Taking Estrogen Should Avoid Alcohol

Women who take estrogen supplements to reduce symptoms of menopause may be at a higher risk for breast cancer if they consume alcohol. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported on December 4 that Estrace, a specific form of estrogen supplements, may in fact cause breast cancer in women who drink a considerable amount of alcohol. The study, conducted by Elizabeth S. Ginsburg, a Harvard doctor, is based upon previous studies which indicated that estrogen replacement alone may increase the risk of breast cancer. Ginsburg's recent findings point to the fact that alcohol may factor into the previous studies, particularly in women who consume more than an occasional drink.

Ginsburg notes that Estrace, when combined with alcohol, may triple the blood levels of estradiole, the female hormone which helps reduce the symptoms of menopause. This overdose may be harmful, although further research is required.

Nearly a quarter of women in the U.S. over the age of 50 take estrogen when the ovaries stop producing it after menopause. Estrogen is commonly known to provide bone density and be a common defender of heart disease, the most common cause of death among women.


12/6/1996 - Menopausal Women Taking Estrogen Should Avoid Alcohol

Women who take estrogen supplements to reduce symptoms of menopause may be at a higher risk for breast cancer if they consume alcohol. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported on December 4 that Estrace, a specific form of estrogen supplements, may in fact cause breast cancer in women who drink a considerable amount of alcohol. The study, conducted by Elizabeth S. Ginsburg, a Harvard doctor, is based upon previous studies which indicated that estrogen replacement alone may increase the risk of breast cancer. Ginsburg's recent findings point to the fact that alcohol may factor into the previous studies, particularly in women who consume more than an occasional drink.

Ginsburg notes that Estrace, when combined with alcohol, may triple the blood levels of estradiole, the female hormone which helps reduce the symptoms of menopause. This overdose may be harmful, although further research is required.

Nearly a quarter of women in the U.S. over the age of 50 take estrogen when the ovaries stop producing it after menopause. Estrogen is commonly known to provide bone density and be a common defender of heart disease, the most common cause of death among women.


12/5/1996 - First Lady Condemns Republican International Family Planning Cuts

At a conference in La Paz, Bolivia on December 3, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed the importance of funding for international family planning. Rodham Clinton's linked Republican-led international family planning cutoffs to increased maternal mortality rates in Central and South American as a result of illegal, unsafe abortions. There are nearly 400 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births compared to 8 deaths for every 100,000 births in the United States.

Clinton discussed the economic consequences of maternal mortality rate noting that Republican anti-abortion congress members cut U.S. AID support for family planning initiatives 35 percent last year. "I will share the powerful stories that I have heard here and elsewhere to explain why these programs are critical," Rodham Clinton noted referring to women at a health clinic and a community bank she visited earlier in La Paz. Clinton later stated "East, West, North and South, there is a growing appreciation of women's contributions in and outside the home - and a greater understanding that everyone in society benefits when women are allowed to claim the political, economic, social and civic power they are due."

The conference, entitled "The Rights of Women and Children within the Framework of Sustainable Human Development," included Rodham Clinton, Bolivia's first lady Ximena Iturralde-Sanchez and other first ladies of the Americas. The theme of the sixth annual conference was devoted to the continuation of family planning and maternal health for women as well as the obliteration of poverty among women and children worldwide.


12/5/1996 - Witnesses Testify that Simpson Beat Nicole

Contradicting O.J. Simpson's recent testimony that he "never" hit or beat ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, several prosecution witnesses in the wrongful death trial against Simpson have testified that Simpson did indeed beat Nicole. Simpson's friend Al Cowlings, visibility uncomfortable on the stand, testified that Nicole said Simpson hit her and caused the wounds visible on photos from 1989. Nicole had to go to the emergency room for the wounds, and Simpson later pleaded no-contest to charges of spousal battery.

Dog groomer India Allen testified that she saw Simpson hit Nicole in a parking lot in the early 1980s. Pharmacist Albert Aguilera said he saw Simpson slap Nicole and Nicole fall down on a beach in 1986. Family friend Donna Estes and tennis pro Jackie Cooper both said Simpson talked about his problems with Nicole and then-girlfriend Paula Barbieri during a weekend a few weeks before the murders of Nicole and Ron Goldman on June 12, 1994.

On videotaped testimony shown on December 4, Paula Barbieri said she broke off her relationship with Simpson by leaving him a phone message on the day of the murders. Barbieri testified that the messages Simpson left for her later in the day before the murders asked what went wrong between them and led Barbieri to believe that Simpson had received her "dear John" message. The prosecution theorized at the criminal trial in which Simpson was found not guilty that Simpson snapped emotionally after Barbieri's break-up.

Nancy Ney, a volunteer at the battered women's shelter Sojourn House in Los Angeles testified that a frightened woman named Nicole called the shelter's hotline five days before the murders. The woman said her "high-profile" ex-husband of eight years had threatened to kill her. Ney said the caller's voice was consistent with other tapes of Nicole and that the caller said she was about the same age as Nicole and had two young children. Ney testified, "She said he (her unidentified ex-husband) told her a few different times that if he ever caught her with another man, he would kill her." According to the shelter's policy, Ney never asked the caller's last name.

A costumer for an exercise video Simpson taped in May 1994 also contradicted Simpson's testimony that he never owned a dark sweatsuit similar to the one that left fibers on the murder victims.


12/5/1996 - Clinton Names Albright First Female Secretary of State

President Clinton named U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright as the new U.S. Secretary of State on Thursday, December 5. Upon receiving Senate confirmation, Albright will become the first female secretary of state.

Albright was born in Czechoslovakia and moved to the U.S. with her parents at age 11 after being forced out of her home country by Adolf Hitler and then Joseph Stalin. Albright, a naturalized American citizen, is know for her work on Bosnia intervention and NATO expansion.


12/5/1996 - Hawaii Judge Puts Hold on Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Circuit Judge Kevin Chang, who ruled December 3 that a ban on same-sex marriages violated the Hawaii state constitution, has put the ruling on hold pending a state appeal. Chang agreed with state attorneys that allowing same-sex couples to marry would be problematic in the event that Hawaii's Supreme Court overturns his ruling. Attorney General Rick Eichor said he will file an appeal within 30 days, effectively sending the case back to the state Supreme Court which ruled in 1993 that a ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional unless there was a compelling state interest. Chang ruled earlier this week that the state had failed to show a compelling state interest to ban same-sex marriages.

In September, President Clinton signed into law the "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) which would allow states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. According to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, some 15 states have passed legislation barring same-sex marriage or recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. Seventeen other states have thrown out such measures. Massachusetts Gov. William Weld has said he considers DOMA unconstitutional and maintains same-sex couples married in Hawaii would "be entitled to all the benefits and burdens of marriage" in Massachusetts.
Human Rights Campaign spokesman David Smith said that lesbian and gay activists will work to overturn DOMA if the Hawaii ruling is upheld.



12/5/1996 - Republicans in Congress Plan for Another Attack on Affirmative Action

Florida Republican Rep. Charles Canady, chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution said he plans to reintroduce legislation to do away with affirmative action for women and people of color in the federal government. After his bill won approval by his subcommittee in March, Republican leadership dropped the bill as a priority, and no other committees or panels took up the measure. A similar bill sponsored by then Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole also never made it out of committee.

California contractor Ward Connerly, chair of the campaign for the anti-affirmative action measure Proposition 209, is planning to form a national organization to abolish affirmative action for women and people of color and to advocate need-based programs instead.


12/5/1996 - Battered Wife Who Shot Husband Gets Early Release from Prison

New Hampshire Gov. Steve Merrill's five-member Executive Council voted unanimously to release June Briand from prison on work-release in April. Briand has served nearly 10 years in prison for fatally shooting her abusive husband. She was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, but her lawyer hoped last month's hearing would land Briand in a halfway house sooner than April. Briand pledged to help other battered women upon her release from prison, which is conditional upon good behavior.


12/4/1996 - Hawaii Judge Legalizes Same-Sex Marriages

Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Kevin Chang ruled on December 3 that the state must recognize same-sex marriages because the state government had failed to show that there was a "compelling state interest" to prohibit same-sex marriages. Chang ruled that a ban on same-sex marriages violates the state's constitution, making Hawaii the first state to recognize same-sex marriages. The state Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that Hawaii had to show the "compelling state interest" to justify the ban which appeared unconstitutional. State Deputy Attorney General Rick Eichor plans to file for a stay of Chang's order to buy time to study the ruling and said he would make an appeal to the state Supreme Court if the stay is not granted.

Attorney Dan Foley originally filed suit in 1990 on behalf of three same-sex couples. Of Tuesday's ruling, Foley said, "I couldn't have gotten more; we got 100 percent."

In September, President Clinton signed into law the "Defense of Marriage Act" which would allow states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. According to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, some 15 states have passed legislation barring same-sex marriage or recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. Seventeen other states have thrown out such measures.


12/4/1996 - Women's Groups Press for Equality in Cabinet

Women's groups are pushing the Clinton administration to diversify the Clinton cabinet and appoint women to key spots including one of several vacancies in national security positions. Women's rights leaders are waiting to see if U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright will be named the first woman secretary of state. Clinton has said less about appointing women to key positions than he did four years ago and has delayed making any appointments due to the Thanksgiving holiday and his hoarse voice after a 12-day Asian tour. Clinton has appointed more women to judgeships and Cabinet posts than previous presidents, but white men are still the aides present for important decision-making and with whom Clinton seems most comfortable.


12/4/1996 - Civil Rights Groups Seek to Block UC from Enforcing Prop 209

A coalition of civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, announced that it would ask U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson on December 5 to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the University of California from implementing Proposition 209, the passed constitutional amendment that seeks to outlaw affirmative action programs and to gut sex discrimination law in the state. Last week, Henderson issued a temporary restraining order to bar Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and Attorney General Dan Lungren from implementing Prop 209, indicating there was a strong probability that the initiative would be found unconstitutional. The restraining order will remain in effect until December 16 when Henderson will hear arguments in favor of a preliminary injunction to freeze implementation of the measure until a trial decides its constitutionality. The ACLU indicated that the University of California planned to continue its implementation of Prop 209 despite Henderson's ruling, affecting the admission of students for fall 1997.


12/4/1996 - Women Demand Fair Compensation For Hazardous Breast Implants

Dow Corning, once a leading manufacturer of silicone breast implants, is now under intense scrutiny from women concerning a settlement award issued December 2, offering breast implant recipients compensation for related medical problems associated with the implant procedure. Dow Corning had been a supplier of breast implants since 1964 until questions were raised concerning the safety of the implants. Women alleged implants were causing immunity-related diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In 1992, the FDA issued a moratorium on all implants while their safety was disputed.

In response to over 15,000 lawsuits filed against the company since 1994, Dow Corning has now offered a $2 billion proposal to settle all implant claims. However only $600 million offered would be distributed among women in out-of-court settlements. The remaining $1.4 billion would be available for women contingent only upon a single trial demonstrating that the implants do in fact cause disease.

Women and their lawyers have criticized the plan's distribution claiming that $600 million is not enough to meet the needs of over 300,000 implant recipients. Sybil Niden Boldrich, a former implant patient who had her implants removed, noted that out-of-court settlements would only award each woman about $2000. "You can't sell these things for 30 years and just give women $2000 and tell them to go away," Boldrich stated.