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Early on March 29th, Taliban religious rulers stoned an Afghan woman to death who had spent time with a man who was not one of her relatives. The young woman attempted to leave the country with the man but was caught and stoned to death for violating strict Islamic law imposed by the Taliban which states that a woman found with a man not in her family faces the death penalty. The Taliban-run radio Shariat did not comment on whether or not the woman had a trial or what, if anything, happened to the man. Under the Taliban’s extremist rule, women are not allowed to work, attend school, or spend anytime out of the house unless they wear an all-enveloping burqa
Fearless, composed, and ready-to-rumble, the Lady Volunteers of Tennessee played Sunday night with the heart of champions to win their second consecutive NCAA title. Pat Summit coached her team to its fifth national championship and became the second most winning NCAA championship coach, male or female (John Wooden of UCLA leads with 10). Summit had tied Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp for second with four prior to her March 30 win over Old Dominion. Champique Holdsclaw led the University of Tennessee’s 68 - 59 win with 24 votes and was voted the tournament’s most valuable player for her efforts. Old Dominion had beaten Tennessee earlier in the year and was on a thirty-three game winning streak heading into the championship game. Coach Summit played a videotape of her locker room speech after the season’s loss to Old Dominion left the Lady Volunteers 10-6 before the game; in it she told her players that they were good enough to win in March. After the game, Summitt commented, "This championship will always stand out. They played the toughest schedule and didn’t fold."
Kentucky plays Arizona tonight for the men’s NCAA championship.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a federal appeals court should reconsider its ruling striking down a criminal conviction of a judge accused of assaulting five women. The federal appeals court had ruled that because federal prosecutors used a 1874 law that makes its a crime for government officials to deprive someone of their rights "protected by the Constitution", the conviction could not stand against former Tennessee Judge David Lanier, convicted of sexually assaulting five women. The Federal Court argued that no similar Supreme Court decision had established freedom from sexual attacks by government officials as a constitutional right. In their ruling, the Supreme Court did not explicitly establish such a right, but told the appeals court to restudy its earlier ruling because it did not consider itself to be the sole harbinger of such rights. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, writing for the court, stated, "We think it unsound…that only this court’s decisions could provide the required warning."
The Court firmly rejected Lanier’s arguments that he was not acting "under the color of law" when he assaulted the women and thus could not be tried with the federal ruling. His lawyers argued that the women finally submitted to him because of his prominence in a small town, not because of his judicial position. One woman testified, however, that he reminded her that he was hearing the custody case involving her child.
The Case is U.S. v. Lanier, 95-1717
Ella Maillart died at her mountain chalet in Chandolin, Switzerland on March 27th at the age of 94. Maillart founded Switzerland’s first women’s field hockey club and was a member of the Swiss sailing team in the 1924 Olympics. In 1935 she authored Forbidden Journey, an account of her trek into the closed city of Sinkiang in Chinese Turkestan. In the 1930s, Maillart also had a brief film career in Berlin; traveled to Moscow; walked across the Caucasus Mountains; and attempted to put together a Russian female field hockey team. Her travels in the 1930s led to two other books Turkestan Solo and Among Russian Youth: From Moscow to the Caucaus. Maillart’s travel credo was, "Nobody can go? Than I shall go," and she lived up to every word of it.
On her 7-month, 3500-mile trek from Beijing to Kashmir through Chinese Turkestan, she left with only two pounds of marmalade, a rifle a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, writing paper, a Leica camera and Peter Fleming. Though she often traveled alone, she thought it best to have a companion on this trip in case she landed in prison for traveling in forbidden territory. In 1947 she traveled again with a companion, this time a sick, morphine-addicted friend; of that trip, she wrote the book The Cruel Way: Two Women and a Ford in Afghanistan. During the course of her life, Maillart also worked as a French teacher in Wales, a secretary, a traveling saleswoman, a competitive skier, a sculptor’s model and a movie stuntwoman.
3/28/1997 - Experts Expect Appeals Panel to Revive Prop. 209
Last year, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson issued a preliminary injunction against the anti-affirmative action Proposition 209, thus temporarily keeping California affirmative action programs in place until the Courts settled the proposition’s constitutionality. Now, a conservative 9th Circuit Court of Appeal panel’s refusal to hear full arguments before it decides whether or not to overturn the injunction has led many legal analysts to predict that the panel will overturn the injunction and effectively wipe-out California’s affirmative action programs. The conservative make up of the panel also has many legal analysts accusing the pro-209 forces of "judge shopping" to obtain a favorable ruling. Although many believe that the judges on the panel believe that 209 is constitutional, as a "motions panel" they can only overturn the injunction if believe that the District Judge "abused his discretion" in ordering the injunction. As Erwin Chemerinsky, a USC Law Professors explains, "[the judges would have to find] that Henderson doesn’t know the law…I think it would be extremely difficult to fund an abuse of discretion."
Arkansas Republican Governor Mike Huckabee has promised to sign a bill passed by the State Legislature which outlaws the abortion D&X procedure. The law stipulates that doctors who perform the procedure could face up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Georgia, Michigan, Utah and Ohio have passed similar laws. Abortion clinics and doctors are challenging the Michigan law in courts for being unconstitutional.
The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports released results of a study today which show the female high school athletes receive better grades, are less likely to drop out of school, more likely to go to college, and develop fewer health problems than their non-athletic counterparts. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala used the study’s results as a spring board to encourage more girls to enter sports. She commented, "The good news is, today, more girls are getting into the game than ever before. [However,] there are still too many people who think getting fit isn’t feminine and not enough opportunities [exist] for girls to participate at every level. Young girls are still twice as likely to be inactive as young boys. And girls living in poverty – especially girls of color – still face even greater obstacles. That must change."
3/28/1997 - Kentucky State Senator Seeks to Exclude Lesbian and Gay Couples from Domestic Violence Law
Kentucky State Senator Tim Philpot advocates an amendment to the Kentucky domestic violence law which would exclude lesbian and gay couples from its protection. Currently, the law covers unmarried couples who live together, formerly lived together or have a child in common, spouses and some relatives. The law won’t be heard until 1998, but Philpot is already pushing the amendment and domestic violence protection advocates are pushing back. Sherry Currens of the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association commented, "Clearly we need to focus on the need for safety and that all people have the right to safety that are victims, no matter what their (sexual) orientation is. This is a witchhunt. I mean, we’re losing perspective here.
One million Nike shoes are made monthly by women some as young as 15, who work 12 hour days, for 20 cents an hour, in overheated, noisy and unhealthy conditions. The labor cost per shoes runs below $2, the shoes retail for up to $149. These revelations come after a 16-day inspection of four Vietnamese plants by the U.S. based Vietnam Labor Watch. Thuyen Nguyen reported that, "Supervisors humiliate women, force them to kneel, to stand in the hot sun, treating them like recruits in boot camp." During an eight hour period, women were allowed only two sips of water and one bathroom break. At one of the plants, supervisors forced 56 women who had worn non-regulation shoes to run around the plant in the hot sun; twelve of the women became so sick that they had to be hospitalized. The incident occurred on March 8th, International Women’s Day. The investigation also observed multiple violations of minimum pay requirements and overtime work regulations.
For the first time since 1982, all teams headed to the women’s NCAA Final Four are coached by women. Tennessee has Pat Summitt (who has coached four championship teams), Stanford Tara VanDerveer, Notre Dame Muffet McGraw and Old Dominion Wendy Larry. Women now also make up 64 percent of the head coaching jobs for women’s teams, an eleven percent increase over the low 58.5 percent in 1988. Basketball is one of only seven sports in the NCAA in which women coaches make up more than 51 percent of coaching positions, in all divisions women make up approximately 2 percent of coaching jobs in men’s sports. Notre Dame’s McGraw recently noted that the progress of women coaches in basketball reflected an overall phenomenon regarding women’s play, "The way the women’s game has gone now, playing in front of sellout crowds, making big money – five or six years ago, we craved all that. We used to think, wouldn’t it be great if we had 10,000 people, if coaches made $100,000 and we had shoe contracts. Well, we do have that, now."
3/27/1997 - Number of Female Owned Businesses Soaring
According to the National Foundation of Women Business Owners, women own approximately 8 million businesses in the United States, employ over 18.5 million people and generate $2.3 trillion in sales annually. And, the number of women owned businesses is increasing faster than the overall growth for U.S. businesses in all 50 top metropolitan areas. The Foundation’s study 1996 Facts on Women-Owned Businesses indicates that New York City had the most women-owned businesses with 248,700 of them and Portland and Vancouver followed closely. The study found that San Francisco was representative of the national trend where, "Women-owned businesses increased 61 percent over the past nine years, employment more than tripled and sales increased nearly four-fold. As of 1996, San Francisco’s 80,800 women-owned enterprises employed 217,000 people and generated over $31 billion in sales." Over all, businesses in the city grew only 39.7 percent during the same time. Carol Pisante, of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce commented, "We have definitely seen an increase in the number of women starting their own businesses. They are a remarkably upbeat, positive group who have very high expectation of their success. A lot of that comes from a climate open to new ideas, new products, new ways of organizing businesses. There is a lot of pioneer spirit out there."
The Reverend Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, has launched a letter writing campaign to General Motors, Chrysler and Johnson & Johnson asking them to pull their adds for the Ellen "coming out" episode. During an hour long special in May, the lead character Ellen will reveal that she is a lesbian, drawing protest from Falwell. He commented, "Stop spending your dollars to underwrite a program that Disney and ABC have decided to use to corrupt the views and values of our children. All Christians need to make their voices heard. Falwell also resorted to elementary school tactics by mispronouncing Ellen Degeneres’s name, Ellen "Degenerate
Abortion clinics and doctors have filed a lawsuit which claims that a Michigan ban on "partial birth" abortions is unconstitutional. The suit alleges that the vaguely drafted legislation would allow officials to prosecute doctors for any abortion conducted after the first trimester. The ACLU has also joined in the fight by asking the U.S. District Court for a preliminary injunction to block the ban before it goes into effect at the end of March.
3/27/1997 - NIH Seeks Older Women for Health Study
The National Institute for Health is seeking for nearly 100,000 additional women to participate in a ten year study of women’s health. The agency is looking primarily for women over the age of sixty, having already recruited the requisite number of women between the ages of 50 to 59. The agency is studying whether post-menopausal women age 50 to 79 need to take estrogen and vitamins to protect against bone loss. It is also studying whether or not low-fat diets help prevent heart attacks and breast and colon cancer.
3/27/1997 - Maine Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Ban
Avoiding a fall referendum campaign, Maine legislators approved a ban on same-sex marriages by a 24 to 10 vote. On March 25th the Maine House had voted 106 to 39 to approve the ban. Governor Angus King is expected to sign the measure. If signed, Maine becomes the 18th state within the past year to ban same-sex marriages
The Pentagon announced on March 24th that President Clinton has nominated Major General Claudia J. Kennedy to become the army's first female three-star general. Clinton has also nominated Kennedy to serve as the deputy chief of staff for intelligence; she has served as the assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence since 1995. The Senate is expected to confirm the nomination. If nominated, the Air Force would remain the only military branch without a three-star flag female officer.
3/26/1997 - Clinton Administration Tells Texas Schools to Aggressively Enforce Affirmative Action Programs
Officials from the United States Department of Education have warned Texas officials that the state's school system will lose federal funding if it does not use affirmative action programs in admissions. Texas Attorney General Dan Morales earlier directed the schools not to consider race at all when make admissions decisions because of a recent 5th Circuit Federal Court ruling, Hopwood v. Texas which claimed that the 1978 Bakke decision allowing affirmative action programs was no longer viable. The education department's office of civil rights, however, has directed that the ruling only applied to a special type of admission's policy no longer pursued in Texas and that it did not wipe out affirmative action programs altogether.
Norma Cantu, the head of the civil rights division at the education department, said that Texas schools were bound by a 1992 Ayers v. Fordice ruling in Mississippi which mandated that states continue to root out current discriminatory practices and vestiges of past discrimination. Cantu commented, "The Texas Attorney General's office has interpreted the 5th Circuit decision much more broadly than necessary. Unless the facts are identical to those in place at the time at the University of Texas Law School, universities may use appropriate affirmative action." Many believe that the Supreme Court will have to hear a case involving affirmative action and settle the discrepancy between the 5th Circuit Court's ruling and the Supreme Court's previous rulings on affirmative action.
Women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene should start receiving early mammograms as early as age 25, according to a researchers at the Women's Health Care Center at the University of Washington. The March 25th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association contains the results of a study which reiterates that the BRCA genes cause five to ten percent of all breast cancer cases and that women who carry the genes should begin having yearly mammograms between the ages of 25 and 35. Women with a flawed BRCA1 gene have a 65 percent risk of contracting ovarian cancer and an 85 percent risk of breast cancer. Women with the BRCA2 mutation have a 55 percent risk of ovarian cancer and 85 percent risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society projects that doctors will diagnose 180,200 women with breast cancer this year.
3/26/1997 - 911 Delay Allows Rapists to Attack Woman
A woman, walking along a highway late at night, noticed a van slowly following her. Frightened, she picked up a nearby phone and dialed 911. The operator instructed her to remain by the phone and that a deputy was on the way. Thirty-five minutes later, deputies arrived at the scene. Within that time, two men from the van abducted and took turns raping the woman. After the attack, the 26-year-old woman walked to Pasco County, called the deputies and reported the attacks.
The slow 911 response came from the same Hillsborough County, Florida department which took 34 minutes to show up to a house where someone else had reported hearing a woman screaming because she was being beaten. By the time they responded to that call, a man who had served time for earlier abducting, raping and cutting off the forearms of a teen-age hitchhiker in 1978, Lawrence Singleton, had brutally killed another woman in his home. The excuse for the slow response to the murder was a shift change and rush- hour traffic. The excuse for this latest slow response: the deputy on the way stopped off to assist in an unrelated search of suspected car thieves.
3/26/1997 - Millions of Women Have Low Iron Levels
A new study published in the March 25th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that approximately 7.8 million women and girls lack sufficient iron in their diets. An additional 3.3. million more women and girls have the severe iron deficiency called anemia. The study, conducted by Anne Looker and colleagues at the National Center for Health Statistics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, also found that iron deficiency was twice as high in women of color as it was in white women. The deficiency was also more common among poor women with less education
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is attempting to intervene in a sex discrimination lawsuit against Home Depot, Inc. The EEOC asked a federal court to allow it to join an attempt by 22,000 women employees of the store to form a class action. The women, from 312 stores east of the Mississippi, claim that the company routed them into lower paying jobs and routinely denied them training and promotions. The chain is already facing a sex discrimination suit in New Jersey and a class action sex discrimination suit on the West Coast. If allowed to join in the case, it will be the largest sex discrimination suit the EEOC has participated in to date. James Lee, the regional director for the EEOC in New York commented, "We believe that the facts will show that there's widespread discrimination on the part of Home Depot against women. We feel it's the sort of case with national importance that the agency needs to bring it resources to bear on."
The State Department is on alert: women's furtherance world-wide is a central priority of America's foreign policy. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has told all U.S. diplomats that she and President Clinton are committed to improving the status of women throughout the world. At an International Women's Day ceremony, Albright outlined the policy and said, "Advancing the status of women is not only a moral imperative, it is being actively integrated into the foreign policy of the United States. It is our mission. It is the right thing to do, and frankly it is the smart thing to do." Albright travels today to North Carolina to urge Senator Jesse Helms, who as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has bottled up the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to ratify the 1979 Convention.
To show this commitment has action behind the words, the State Department has contributed funds to a volunteer group in Pakistan that runs a school for Afghan refugee girls, and in Namibia, the U.S. Embassy has used its discretionary funds to combat sexual violence against women. Next month, two dozen Russian judges and law enforcement officers travel to Washington, D.C. where the State and Justice Departments will meet with them to attempt to stop clandestine trafficking in Russian women. The women are told by organized crime figures that they will appear in folk music troupes and are then sold into prostitution rings.
Last year President Clinton decided to invest $5 million government dollars in a fund to provide loans and training for Bosnian women. First Lady Hillary Clinton joined Albright for the International Women's Day Celebration and commented, "What this administration believes, is that if half the world's citizens are undervalued, underpaid, undereducated, underrepresented, fed less, fed worse, not heard, put down, we cannot sustain the democratic values and way of life we have come to cherish."
3/25/1997 - Common Gene Doubles Risk of Breast Cancer
Forty percent of women carry a gene which can double the risk of breast cancer and is responsible for nearly thirty percent of all breast cancer cases. The gene, CYP17, controls estrogen production and influences girls as they go through puberty. Researchers at the University of Southern California presented this information to the American Cancer Society on March 24th and signaled a different trend in breast cancer research. Most researchers have focused on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that substantially increase the risk of breast cancer, but that are very rare. These researchers were looking for genes that were more common and found them in CYP17, although this gene was not as determinative in contracting the disease.
3/25/1997 - Georgia Passes D & X Ban
Georgia lawmakers have passed a bill which bans the D & X abortion procedure. Governor Zell Miller has said he will sign the bill which outlaws the procedure unless the woman's life is in danger.
During her trip to Africa with daughter Chelsea, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has continuously stressed that the plight of women, their pains and triumphs, worldwide are a natural point for forging a new relationship between the United States and Africa. During her trip to Tanzania, where an international tribunal is investigating crimes against women during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Rodham Clinton met with 25 girls who had just climbed Africa's highest mountain. While in Rwanda, the First Lady visited the international criminal tribunal and took part in a discussion regarding sex crimes. She taped a radio address on the issue which was broadcast throughout Rwanda.
Rodham Clinton also attended a roundtable discussion concerning regarding the status of Tanzanian women. She attended a similar discussion last week in Zimbabwe where the women reported the similar complaint that they were oppressed by a patriarchal social system. The women in both countries described prevalent sexual abuse, a lack of education, and a need for better reproductive health care. Rodham Clinton commented that while women in the U.S. enjoyed greater freedoms, "[they still confront] cultural, psychological and social obstacles" that diminish their self-confidence. She also said that African American and American women could learn a great deal from each other if they exchanged their life experiences.