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US Navy: for first time in history four women of color command war ships

Four US Navy officers have made history this week – and breaking new ground in a traditionally white and male-dominated field.

For the first time in US Navy history, four women of color are now commanding war ships at the same time, NBC News has reported.

The four officers, Kimberly Jones, LaDonna Simpson, Kristel O’Cañas, and Kathryn Wijnaldum, recently said that there have been dramatic changes for women serving in the Navy over the years.

The Navy “looks different in the fact that as an ensign, I looked around and at that time, there were not many senior female officers that I could necessarily go to for gender-specific questions,” Jones, who joined the Navy more than two decades ago, remarked in an interview clip obtained by People magazine.

“I may not have felt comfortable asking my male boss,” Jones also said. “Now, to their credit, they were phenomenal leaders. However, when it came time [for] some of those more intimate conversations on how to plan your career with a family, as a mom, that did not exist.”

She added: “And I was overseas, so the population was slightly smaller. And now walking this waterfront, there are leaders, there are role models, at every rank…That is something that I hope ensigns, young sailors, gravitate towards and take advantage of.”

These four women are all based at Norfolk Naval Station, in Virginia. They are all “Nuclear Surface Warfare Officers” – a qualification which is “extremely competitive” to obtain, according to the US Navy.

All four women “have spent a considerable amount of their time serving aboard nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and in nuclear-related shore duty billets,” the Navy noted.

Simpson said that while she was never discouraged from going after her career goals, she did not have many female role models.

“The Navy has been very supportive of my journey and my professional training. There weren’t any voices in the Navy that said that I could not achieve this goal,” Simpson said. “The only limitation was the fact that women as a whole hadn’t been on board combatant vessels until, I believe, it was 1994.”

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Biden pledges to tackle ‘scourge’ of sexual assault in US military

Joe Biden on Monday pledged to tackle what he called the “scourge” of sexual assault in the US military while also ordering a review of rules from Donald Trump’s administration dealing with such crimes on college campuses.

Biden, the US president, and his vice-president, Kamala Harris, both spoke from the White House on Monday to mark International Women’s Day.

Biden announced the nomination of two female officers, Gen Jacqueline Van Ovost and Lt Gen Laura Richardson, to become four-star commanders.

The president spoke about what the US can do to make sure that all women are fully supported and respected in their careers within the US military, from fair promotions, to making sure women’s careers do not suffer when they have children, to ensuring that the military supplies “body armor that fits women properly”.

He added: “This is going to be an all-hands-on-deck effort to end the scourge of sexual assault in the military.”

And in a first step toward reversing a contentious Trump administration policy, Biden ordered his administration to review federal rules guiding colleges in their handling of campus sexual assaults.

Biden directed the education department to examine rules that the Trump administration issued around title IX, the federal law that forbids sex discrimination in education.

Biden directed the agency to “consider suspending, revising or rescinding” any policies that fail to protect students.

Biden also signed a second executive order formally establishing the White House gender policy council.

“The policy of this administration is that every individual, every student is entitled to a fair education – free of sexual violence – and that all involved have access to a fair process,” Jennifer Klein, co-chair and executive director of the gender policy council, told reporters at a White House briefing.

Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, made sweeping changes to the way colleges respond to sexual harassment and assault, with provisions that bolster the rights of the accused and narrow the scope of cases schools are required to address.

Civil rights groups say DeVos’s policy has had a chilling effect on the reporting of sexual assaults, and also pushback from colleges that say the rules are overly prescriptive and burdensome to follow.

“This is an important step,” said Shiwali Patel, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. “The title IX rules changes that took place under the Trump administration are incredibly harmful, and they’re still in effect.”

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US will retaliate for Iraq missile strike when it chooses, defense secretary says

The US will do what it sees as necessary to defend its interests after a rocket attack this week against the Ain al-Sada airbase in Iraq, which hosts American, coalition and Iraqi forces, the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, said on Sunday.

Iraq to quickly investigate the incident at the base in the western Anbar province and determine who was responsible. US officials have said the incident fit the profile of a strike by Iran-backed militia.

“We’ll strike, if that’s what we think we need to do, at a time and place of our own choosing. We demand the right to protect our troops,” Austin said.

Asked if Iran had been given a message that US retaliation would not constitute an escalation, Austin said Iran was fully capable of assessing the strike and US activities.

“What they should draw from this, again, is that we’re going to defend our troops and our response will be thoughtful. It will be appropriate,” Austin said. “We would hope that they would choose to do the right things.“

There were no reports of injuries among US personnel after the attack but an American civilian contractor died after suffering a “cardiac episode” while sheltering from the rockets, the Pentagon said.

Iraqi officials said 10 rockets landed at the base but the Pentagon was more guarded, saying there were 10 “impacts”. It said the rockets appeared to have been fired from multiple sites east of the base, which was targeted last year by a ballistic missile attack directly from Iran.

In February, US forces carried out air strikes against facilities at a border control point in Syria used by Iranian-backed militias including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada.

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