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Drug maker Novartis AG must pay $250 million in punitive damages to over 5,000 current and former female employees, a jury ruled on May 19, two days after finding a U.S. division of the company discriminated against women over pay, promotion and pregnancy, Reuters reported. An attorney for the women had argued in court that the jury should award the women between $190 million and $285 million in punitive damages, which is about 2 to 3 percent of the company’s $9.5 billion 2009 revenue, Reuters reported May 18.

On May 17, the same jury found that Novartis had systematically denied promotions, paid less and subjected to discrimination 5,600 women represented as plaintiffs in a 2004 class action. In that ruling, the jury awarded $3.3 million in compensatory damages to 12 of the women who testified at the six-week long trial.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Maria Longhitano, a married teacher and a member of the breakaway Old Catholic Church, will be ordained May 22 as the first female priest in an Anglican Church, reported BBC News on May 13. Longhitano will not be a Roman Catholic priest; Pope Benedict remains opposed to having women serve as priests.
  • Legal departments in several large U.S. corporations are setting aside $30 million of work for women- and minority-owned law firms, reported the May/June issue of Diversity and the Bar. The National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms will partner with these corporation and help match their needs with the association’s firms. "Forty-six percent of our firms do not do business with Fortune 1,000 companies and this is the beginning of a change," said Karen L. Giffen, president of The National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms’ board of directors.
  • New research by the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center points toward another way to check for ovarian cancer, reported the Houston Chronicle on May 20. A blood test, known as the CA-125 test, looks for an elevated level of protein that appears in ovarian cancer cells. The same test is being used to check if ovarian cancer patients no longer have the disease. The center’s study followed 3,252 initially-healthy women of post-menopause age over nine years. Five cases of ovarian cancer were caught during the study using the test. A similar study in the U.K. that will be published in 2015 will have results based on a 200,000-participant pool.
  • The University of Southern California women’s water polo team won its third national championship on May 16 in dramatic fashion by beating top-seeded Stanford, 10-9, at San Diego State’s Aztec Aquaplex, reported the LA Times. The University of Southern California finishes the season with a 25-3 record and their seventh consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Coach Jovan Vavic celebrated his eighth national championship (five men’s and three women’s), and the third time he claimed men’s and women’s national titles back-to-back.
  • The first commercial to offer advice on abortion services will be screened on British TV next week, provoking an enthusiastic welcome from advocates of women’s sexual health and outrage from anti-abortion groups, The Guardian reported May 19. The advertisement from Marie Stopes will be screened on May 24, offering what the organization says will be "clear, non-judgmental information" on unplanned pregnancies and abortion services. Marie Stopes said it decided to screen the commercial after a study found fewer than half of British adults knew where to go for specialist advice about an unplanned pregnancy other than their general practitioner. It also found that 76 percent of adults believed advertisement for services offering advice on unplanned pregnancy should be allowed on television at "appropriate times," the article reported.
  • To help identify and expand the reach and impact of local measures to improve the well-being of women and girls, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced the Secretary’s Innovation Award for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. This award, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, is intended to enable individuals and organizations to address female empowerment more effectively in new and sustainable ways and to encourage others to join them. The two 2010 award winners will each receive a grant of up to $500,000 to advance their work.




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Janine Denomme, 45, a female priest, is being denied a Catholic burial after her May 17 death, reported Chicago Public Radio May 18. Denomme was ordained a priest in April by a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, but the group is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Because the Roman Catholic Church excommunicates women who pursue ordination, Denomme’s funeral mass will be held at a Methodist church. She is not allowed to be buried at a Catholic parish. Denomme, an active Catholic who challenged the church’s ban on female priests, died of cancer, reported Windy City Times May 17.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe claimed fellow football players flew in women to entertain them during out-of-town games, reported USA Today May 20. Bowe’s comments were originally from an ESPN interview on May 19. Bowe specifically commented on a 2007 away game in San Diego, Calif., during his first season with the team. Former Chiefs player Jimmy Wilkerson spoke about the trip and disagreed with Bowe’s statement, reported USA Today May 21.
  • NYPD Detective Oscar Sandino was charged with demanding sex from a woman he arrested in 2008 on drug charges, reported the New York Daily News on May 18. Court papers from the federal prosecutors said, "The persistent and repetitive nature of the defendant’s misconduct demonstrates that he is a sexual predator." The prosecutors are also looking at a 2006 incident where Sandino allegedly coerced a woman into having sex with him in order to help her cousin’s court case. Sandino has served 13 years on the force and could be looking at three years of jail if convicted.
  • A man hacked and wounded six young women with a meat cleaver in southern China in the latest of a spate of copycat knife attacks that have caused a growing security scare across the country, The Telegraph reported. The May 16 incident took place at a market in the city of Foshan in Guandong province; it is the seventh attack aimed at women and children in recent weeks. The attacker, a man in his mid-20s named only as Mr. Xie, apparently singled out young women as his victims, entering numerous shops and restaurants and hacking and slashing at the women’s heads and shoulders.
  • After more than a week of on-site interviews and investigation, a delegation of U.S. lawyers, health professionals and community activists found continued high rates of rape and gender-based violence in Haiti’s displaced persons camps throughout Port-au-Prince, according to a press release from MADRE. Human rights attorneys and community members found that women face a grave lack of security necessary to prevent and respond to the sexual violence crisis. Medical services are overwhelmed and unable to meet women’s health care needs stemming from the assaults. The majority of women and girls report being raped by groups of armed, unknown assailants who often beat them during the attack and threaten them with further violence. Women who report rapes to the police say they have been turned away, not taken seriously or told to notify the police only if they see their rapists again.


  • Caster Semenya, a South African female runner, plans to return to competition in June, reported Agence France-Presse May 21. Semenya’s gender was called into question by the International Athletic Association Federation after her September 2009 win in the 800 meter event at the World Athletics Championships, reported the Daily Mail. Semenya submitted to a gender test after media organizations began reporting she was a hermaphrodite. The test results are expected to be released soon.
  • The French cabinet has approved a bill making it illegal to wear clothes designed to hide the face in public, the BBC reported May 19. The legislation amounts to a ban on the full-face Muslim veil. Women wearing the veil in public could be fined, and men judged to have forced them to do so could be imprisoned. The bill puts France on course to become the second European country after Belgium to declare the wearing of such veils illegal in public places. France’s Parliament still needs to approve the bill and the country’s top legal advisory body has warned it may be unenforceable, the article reported.
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists presented research on a non-hormonal medication called Flibanserin that was found to improve women’s sexual desire, reported the CBS Early Show May 18. The drug, currently in development, was originally created as an antidepressant, but after a 24-week treatment with Flibanserin, women found a an increase in their sexual desire, reported the Times of India May 19.
  • Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., a candidate in this November’s New York Attorney General race, came under scrutiny this week for campaign donations and her views on drug reform. Rice’s recent flip flopping about Rockefeller-era drug reform have raised concern about her level of liberal stance, reported the New York Daily News on May 19. Rice is advocating for a rollback of the 1973 laws about the sentencing of drug offenders that she had previously said she supported. New York law firm Weitz and Luxenberg donated over $200,000 to Rice’s campaign, reported the New York Times May 18. The firm is one of the largest personal injury firms in the United States. Rice, the first female district attorney of Long Island, N.Y., most likely will be running against incumbent Attorney General Andrew Cuomo if she wins the Democratic primary and is considered Cuomo’s personal pick to secede him.
  • Rep. Joe Sestak defeated incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter for the U.S. Senate nomination in Pennsylvania, despite his decades in public office and his endorsement by President Barak Obama. At 10:23 p.m. on May 18, Sestak had 53 percent of the vote and Specter, 47 percent. Specter’s concession speech was terse and promised to keep working for Pennsylvania. First elected to the Senate in 1980 on Ronald Reagan’s coattails, Specter changed parties to run as a Democrat after he determined he could not win as a Republican, in part because of growing Tea Party influence. NARAL Pro-Choice America, based in Washington, D.C., and other pro-choice organizations endorsed Sestak. Specter had voted to support the so-called "partial birth" abortion bill in the Senate, according to the Washington Post.
  • Blanche Lincoln, one of 17 women in the Senate, failed to win the majority of votes in the Arkansas Democratic primary May 18. She is now forced to enter a runoff election with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter to be held in three weeks, according to the Associated Press. She is the first significant Democratic casualty from the passage of health care reform. The victor of the June 8 vote will face Republican U.S. Rep. John Boozman in November. He chose not to run for reelection to his House seat in order to run for the Senate. With 81 percent of the state’s 2,516 precincts reporting, Lincoln held 44 percent and Halter had 43 percent of the Democratic primary vote counted. A third candidate, businessman D.C. Morrison, drew enough votes to force the runoff. Lincoln, 49, was criticized by the left and right over the health care debate. Organizations on the left criticized the senator for opposing efforts to create a public option in the new health care law. Republicans criticized her for voting to support the Senate health care bill that was signed into law.
  • A British survey shows that men are more likely to tell lies than women and they feel less guilty about it, the BBC reported May 18. In a poll of 3,000 people, researchers found that the average British man tells three lies every day, equivalent to 1,092 a year. However, the average woman lies 728 times a year–around twice a day.