An Inclusive Litany


The Hawaii state Supreme Court upheld a state law that lets employees collect worker's compensation for suffering stress caused by being disciplined on the job.

R.R. Donnelley, a large printing firm, was sued for allegedly allowing racist expressions in internal electronic mail among employees.

Emma Cuevas, an Army officer whose training cost $500,000, sought an early discharge so that she could nurse her baby on demand, a child's constitutional right in her view.


To enable visiting American President Bill Clinton to deliver a rousing speech in favor of the environment, Costa Rican officials ordered a swath of pristine rain forest bulldozed and replaced by a 350-foot strip of asphalt. The asphalt helped the President, who was still hobbling from a knee injury, to get to a platform that had been built for the occasion. "The Costa Ricans were eager to pave the walkway for the President," a White House staffer commented. "They seemed to understand how important a photo-op this was for us."

In January 1997, a levee burst and a flood destroyed the town of Arboga, California, killing three people, forcing 32,000 others from their homes, destroying property, damaging habitat, drowning 600 head of livestock, and covering 25,000 square miles with water. Given the poor condition of the levee, the tragedy was not unexpected. Since 1990, the Army Corps of Engineers had reported, "Loss of life is expected under existing conditions, without remedial repairs, for major flood events." But unfortunately for the residents of Arboga, the levee was home to 37 elderberry bushes, and the elderberry bush has been known to shelter the threatened North Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle. Although nobody had seen any North Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetles on any of the bushes, local officials were required to spend six years on studies that cost over $10 million and delayed permission to begin repairs until the summer of 1997, which as it turned out was several months after the flood occurred.

A proclamation by the Governor of the State of California:
WHEREAS, breast-feeding benefits society as a whole by strengthening the bonds shared by mother and infants, and is also an important part of preventative health care, providing mothers with short and long-term benefits, including decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer; and

WHEREAS, compelling scientific evidence indicates that human milk is unique in that it provides infants with optimum growth and development, protection against specific infections and allergies, and positive long-term effects on their health and well-being; and

WHEREAS, the incidence and duration of breast-feeding among women in California are lower than the National Year 2000 Health Objectives, especially among economically disadvantaged women; and

WHEREAS, public health organizations throughout the Golden State are working to educate communities concerning the advantages of breast-feeding, and to create a supportive public environment in order that this important practice may be reestablished as a cultural norm;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, PETE WILSON, Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim August 1997 as Breast-Feeding Awareness Month in California, and I encourage all Californians to support Breast-Feeding as the preferred infant feeding method and a priority in our communities.

IN WITNESS THEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 10th day of June 1997.

Pete Wilson
Governor of California


Bill Jones
Secretary of State

August is also "World Breastfeeding Week." Other commemorations observed throughout the month include:

  • National Catfish Month
  • National Water Quality Month
  • National Romance Awareness Month
  • National Bargain Hunting Week
  • National Smile Week
  • Psychic Week
  • Simplify Your Life Week
  • Mosquito Awareness Weekend [!]
  • American Family Day
  • Friendship Day
  • Sisters' Day
  • Coast Guard Day
  • Book Lovers' Day
  • National Relaxation Day
  • Lavender Liberty Day
  • Bad Poetry Day
  • National Mustard Day

Federal auditors announced that Medicare overpaid health care providers by 23.2 billion in 1996, more than 11 percent of the program's $197 billion in benefits.

The National Organization for Women has launched a campaign to discredit the men's Christian group that calls itself the Promise Keepers. Evoking many of the sentiments that launched the Million Men's March and the more therapeutic aspects of the men's movement, the group urges men to be honest, respectful, nonviolent, and open in their emotions towards their wives, while deploring broken families as a way men abdicate their adult role of leading their families. But according to NOW, this traditional leadership role is inherently sexist. President Patricia Ireland characterizes the Promise Keepers as "a stealth political group formed by people who think the former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed is too liberal." In an article in Ms., Donna Minkowitz also commented that the group suffered from "the fantasy of benevolent domination." At NOW's annual convention, a resolution supporting greater involvement of fathers in family life that declared that men have feelings too was voted down.

Soon after, NOW's conservative counterpart, Concerned Women for America, joined the Southern Baptist Convention's boycott against the Disney empire for its "anti-Christian and anti-moral themes." The group cited the 1940 film "Fantasia, which heightened the awareness of witchcraft as Mickey Mouse played the sorcerer's apprentice. In one scene Mickey conjured up the broomstick to clean the floor, clearly denying God's command to use divination." Spokeswoman Paula Govers also objected to the outfit worn by the cartoon heroine in The Little Mermaid: "She's wearing two tiny little seashells. What are they telling our little girls?"

[Ed.: A Stanford graduate student writing his thesis on patriarchal behavior in animated films announced to a dorm meeting that the same film was "sexist" and "phallocentric."]

Congressman Bill Clay (D-MO), calls it "wasteful spending of taxpayer money," and other congressional members are calling for an investigation into its propriety. At issue is a $175,000 National Science Foundation grant for a study to find out why the best and brightest citizens don't run for Congress. Sandy Maisel, one of the two Colby College political science professors in charge of the study, said that it was not their goal to get more candidates to run for office and that, in her words, "I like the Congress and I like the members of Congress."

The Agriculture Department's Food and Safety Inspection Service defines "mixed nuts" as "the food consisting of a mixture of four or more of the optional shelled tree nut ingredients, with or without one or more of the optional shelled peanut ingredients, of the kinds prescribed by paragraph (b) of this section.... When 2 ounces or less of the food is packed in transparent containers, three or more of the optional tree nut ingredients shall be present.... Each such kind of nut ingredient when used shall be present in a quantity not less than 2 percent and not more than 80 percent by weight of the finished food." Nuts can include almonds, black walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, English walnuts, filberts, pecans, other suitable tree nuts, and peanut varieties such as Spanish, Valencia, Virginia, "or any combination of two or more such varieties."


A coalition that included the AARP, the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Federal, State, County, and Municipal Employees, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare successfully pressured President Clinton to eliminate a commission formed to consider a revision in the Consumer Price Index, which economists claim overstates the true rate of inflation by as much as 1.6 percent.

In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Pasadena City College writing instructor Kay Haugaard notes that lately her students have had trouble expressing moral reservations about human sacrifice. The subject came up when she had her class read Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," a short story about a small American farm town where one person is killed each year to make the crops grow. In the tale, a woman is ritually stoned to death by a large crowd that includes her husband, her 12-year-old daughter, and her 4-year-old son.

While the story always stimulated students' sense of right and wrong whenever she taught it for over twenty years, Haugaard found that discussion now yielded no moral comments, even following her persistent questions. One man said the ritual killing described "almost seems a need." Asked if she believed in human sacrifice, a woman said, "I really don't know. If it was a religion of long standing...." Haugaard writes: "I was stunned. This was a woman who wrote so passionately of saving the whales, of concern for the rain forests, of her rescue and tender care of a stray dog."

[Ed.: Hamilton College philosophy professor Robert Simon wrote in the same issue of the Chronicle that between a tenth and a fifth of his students did not believe that they had the right to condemn the Nazis.]

The American Civil Liberties Union went to court in Long Beach, California, to block a new rule requiring school uniforms. The organization charged that the city's poor couldn't afford to purchase the uniforms, even though the school district had committed itself to providing uniforms to any child needing one. Proponents say that adoption of uniforms eliminates students' need to purchase expensive designer clothes, and that they decrease the incidence of violence and sexual assault while improving attendance. Still, ACLU president Nadine Strossen called the uniforms "enforced conformity."


In the face of a giant new highway bill, congressional lawmakers complained of a stipulation that a percentage of highway funds be earmarked for historical preservation of sites whose only connection to highways is that they are visible from the road. These projects have included restoring a Shaker barn outside Albany for $159,500, preserving the ancient mounds of oyster shells along the Maine coast for $364,000, and even spiffing up the West Virginia State Capitol for $620,000.


The National Federation of the Blind protested that Disney's new Mr. Magoo film is insulting to the blind.

The New York state branch of the National Organization for Women denounced a state bill—proposed in response to the murder of several children by their drug-addicted mothers—that would create the presumption of neglect for infants born with drugs in their bloodstream.

The group says the bill, which it calls the "Criminalization of Pregnancy" act, "repeatedly refers to embryos and fetuses as 'children,' " thus insinuating into law the dangerous notion of "fetal rights." The law would also presumably violate the ban on unwarranted search and seizure by drawing conclusions about a mother's behavior based on the infant's toxicology report. NOW also notes that the proposed law was sexist, ignoring "the genetic effects of paternal drug use and abuse on sperm."

Supreme Court Judge Steven Breyer, commenting on the tendency towards administrative zeal in matters of risk regulation, cited a case he adjudicated, United States v. Ottati & Goss. Following a ten-year cleanup of a toxic waste dump in New Hampshire, the site had been mostly cleaned up and all but one private party had settled on the costs. The remaining firm litigated over the remaining $9.3 million, a sum intended to remove a small amount of highly diluted PCBs and "volatile organic compounds" (benzene and gasoline components) by incinerating the dirt.

The 40,000-page record of the cleanup effort indicated, and all parties seemed to agree, that without the extra expenditure, the waste dump was clean enough for children playing on the site to eat small amounts of dirt daily for 70 days each year free of significant harm. Burning the soil, on the other hand, would have made it safe enough for the children to eat small amounts daily for 245 days a year. But in fact there were no dirt-eating children because the area was a swamp. And the parties involved also agreed that at least half of the organic compounds would evaporate by the year 2000.


A 1996 conference hosted by the Food and Drug Administration on the "FDA and the Internet" dealt with the Internet's challenge to that agency's monopoly on dissemination of medical information. Current law makes it a crime for drug manufacturers to make non-approved statements concerning a drug's usefulness, including aspirin's well-known potential to prevent heart disease. It is even illegal for the manufacturer of a product that the FDA has approved to advertise that its product is FDA approved.

The conference dealt explicitly with the FDA's need to extend regulatory authority over web links and chat rooms. (The Internet's global nature also explained the involvement of numerous concerned representatives from foreign countries outside the FDA's jurisdiction.) The FDA also considered classifying "expert systems" computer software—which help doctors correlate reports of diverse symptoms and effectively replace shelves of medical books—as medical devices subject to the agency's censorship.

The Florida Times-Union reported that a Jacksonville teacher got into repeated book-throwing brawls with students, and wrote rambling letters saying that evil spirits had invaded her students' eyes. She later changed her last name to "God."

Under teacher-tenure laws, it took authorities three years to remove her from the classroom, by which time children had become accustomed to hiding beneath their desks to avoid being hurt by flying missiles.

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, refused to approve disaster relief legislation until tornados were referred to as "natural acts" instead of "acts of God."


Susan John, chairman of New York's Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee and sponsor of a "zero tolerance" bill that would force teens who drive drunk to forfeit their driver's licenses, was herself pulled over and arrested for drunk driving. "This will give me additional insights into drinking and driving," she commented. "It allows me to do my job even more effectively."

At the second United Nations Earth Summit in New York, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Republic of Maldives, warned that if the planet continued to heat up at its present rate due to global warming, his island nation would become "totally submerged" by the run-off from melting polar ice caps. Indeed, Gayoom warned, his nation may not even still exist by the time the next Earth Summit met. But in his speech delivered at the U.N.'s General Assembly Hall, Gayoom offered a possible solution to the impending crisis—one that would not only stem the rising tide of the earth's oceans and save his nation, but an opportunity to create in the process "a shared, a just, a prospering people's world." The Maldives would need more "resource mobilization," additional "technology transfer," increased "capacity building for the promotion of sustainable development," all in the context of "global cooperation."

Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, echoed the need for "international cooperation" with his country, "particularly in the areas of trade, debt relief, provision of financial resources and technology transfer." Saifuddin Soz, Indian minister of environment and forests, also called for increases in foreign aid, while denouncing "efforts to prescribe equal obligations and liabilities on unequal players," a reference to developing nations' often egregious pollution record.

[Ed.: Not only is there no scientific consensus concerning the existence of global warming, but there is also disagreement about what would happen if there were such a trend. One study supporting the warming thesis credibly suggests that increased evaporation would cause ocean levels to drop, with increased precipitation over polar regions causing more water to become sequestered in glaciers.

Sherwood Idso, agriculturalist at the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory in Phoenix, Arizona, has also concluded that man's substantial increase to levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide—a gas that is pivotal to plant growth and often in short supply—would likely cause a "global greening" effect, a sustainable world-wide agricultural boon.]


Following pressure from newspaper editors, Mort Walker, who has drawn the "Beetle Bailey" cartoon strip for 37 years, reluctantly agreed to enter the character of General Amos Halftrack, who ogles his buxom civilian secretary, into sensitivity training. "Some editors of major newspapers expressed concern that if we showed any kind of approval for General Halftrack's behavior, it would look like we were condoning it," Walker said of the cartoon, which runs in 1,800 papers in 38 countries. "Some strips were censored—pulled—because editors feared people might be offended." The secretary received the following apology from General Halftrack: "It's just that I grew up with certain words and attitudes I thought were okay. I'm sorry."

Citizens Against Government Waste determined that there was $14.5 billion in total pork-barrel spending during the 104th Congress, up 16 percent from the previous session. Items included:

  • $3.5 million for "wood utilization research"
  • $445,000 for "improved fruit practices"
  • $4 million for the Gambling Impact Study Commission
  • $330,000 for Stellar Sea Lion research
  • $5 million for the National Defense Center for Environmental Excellence
  • $4 million for the Discovery Center of Science and Technology
  • $2 million for an International Fertilizer Development Center
  • $3 million for the George H.W. Bush Fellowship
  • $3 million for buses and bus facilities in Williamsport and Scranton, Pennsylvania


Following the enactment of Ohio's 1995 welfare reform, which required welfare recipients to work or perform community service while looking for a permanent job in order to receive benefits, Arnold Tompkins, Ohio Director of Human Services, found that a "smokeout effect" had taken place, in which recipients who had been fraudulently working while receiving benefits were forced out into the open. "When you start requiring a lot of people that you didn't require before, [you find that recipients] did have jobs and things before that weren't reported income and things like that. And when you're requiring them to do 20 hours of work or 15 hours of work—they then [say]—"I can't do that because I've got another job." Tompkins estimates that as much as one-third of the drop in welfare claims in Ohio could be a result of previously undetected fraud.

Associate professor of English Jeffrey F. Huntsman in a letter to the editor of the Herald Times of Bloomington, Indiana, March 2, 1997:
I have taught general linguistics, including grammar and usage, to prospective teachers of English for nearly thirty years. I was therefore deeply distressed to find your otherwise potentially useful article "Grammar 101" poisoned by such obsolete, prejudicial, and ultimately damaging terms as "proper/improper," "correct/incorrect," and "good/bad." These terms are at best counterproductive, because they belong respectively to systems of manners, logic, and ethics, not to the socially constrained system of language.

Instead, we should use less judgmental terms, like "standard," and "conventional," and, most useful, "appropriate." I do not mean to suggest that society does not have certain expectations with respect to language usage—quite the contrary. Those expectations, although often arbitrary and capricious, are very real. But such expectations can be recognized and described in ways that do not demean people by using diction that treats them as deficient, diseased, damaged, or depraved. People generally do not like to be attacked, especially about something as intimately identifying as their language....