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Topics - Kristopher

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Other Comics / Is it time for an African superhero to save the day?
« on: July 24, 2015, 11:37:15 am »
The year is 2025, the prosperous Lagoon City has been overrun by alarming skeletal drones and corrupt politicians. It bares little resemblance to the hometown Wale Williams left five years before. But the young Nigerian has bigger problems -- his estranged but brilliant inventor father has disappeared. His pursuit of a parent will lead him to a nanosuit his father built, which provides him with superhuman abilities and a destiny to protect the city he loves.

"E.X.O: The Legend of Wale Williams" is the fast-paced, afro-futuristic graphic novel from Roye Okupe. A software and web developer by day and graphic designer by night, the passionate Nigerian has spent the last several years trying to bring his dream of a homegrown hero to life.

Since the time of great Melanoid boxers like Tom Molineaux  and Jack Johnson, the sport of boxing has always had a racial under current that attracts and intrigues fans.

In the time leading up to the record breaking Mayweather vs Pacquiao bout that took place in Las Vegas this weekend,many non-Melanoid boxing fans and media representatives were suspected of using code words and smoke screens to hide their racial hatred for Mayweather. Many people were bringing up issues about Mayweather that had nothing to do with the fight like his past domestic violence charges,that he has already served time for.

Many of these people tried to deny that there were racial undertones to their criticism. But after Mayweather won the fight with Pacquiao, many of these same sports fans stopped using code words and they took to twitter to express how they really felt about Mayweather and Black people in general:

Other Comics / Iceman "Comes Out" As Gay
« on: April 22, 2015, 07:41:20 am »
Original "X-Men" member Iceman is set to make a big revelation this week: he's gay.

The iconic character makes the surprise declaration in the All-New X-Men #40, which is available in stores and online April 22. Pages from the new book show an intimate conversation between a young Iceman, or Bobby Drake, and pal Jean Grey.

After Iceman comments on how hot he finds his female teacher, the telepathic Jean sees right through her friend's thinly-veiled declaration and tells him outright that she knows he's gay.

As a number of publications have already pointed out, the Iceman depicted in this new installment is the teenage version of the character displaced in time. The older, present-day Iceman that audiences are familiar with from the series, identifies as straight.

In an email statement, All-New X-Men writer Brian Michael Bendis told The Huffington Post that Iceman's storyline will continue to evolve in future books, and that the decision to make the character a gay man was in keeping with contemporary social dialogue around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

"There are thousands, if not millions, of stories of people who, for many different reasons, felt the need to hide their sexuality," he said. "The X-Men, with the conceit of time travel, give us a fascinating platform in which to examine such personal journeys. This is just the first little chapter of a much larger story that will be told.”

In 2012, Marvel Comics made waves when it was announced that its first openly gay hero, super speedster Northstar, would tie the knot with his longtime civilian boyfriend, Kyle Jinadu, in an issue of “Astonishing X-Men.”

Still, Iceman's declaration breaks fresh ground in that the character was one of the original "X-Men" created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963.

Check out pages from All-New X-Men which depict Iceman's coming out below:

The White House's YouTube account just published a video interview between President Obama and reporter, author, and creator of HBO crime drama The Wire, David Simon. Simon is the interviewee, and speaks frankly about the nation's policing problems, from the drug war to over-incarceration. Who's to say why President Obama invited the lead writer from one of his television shows to chat in the White House, but the video feels like an opportunity for the President to illuminate a number of controversial conversations about changes that need to be made about how our nation polices itself.

Also, Omar is President Obama's favorite character. President Obama has great taste.

An ethnically diverse cast is paying off in a big way for Furious 7.

The Universal movie opened to a franchise-best $384 million over the weekend at the global box office, including $143.6 million domestically — the biggest debut since The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in November 2013 ($158 million). More impressive, its global bow was the fourth-best of all time.

According to Universal, 75 percent of the audience in North America was non-Caucasian, generally in line with previous installments. Hispanics, the most frequent moviegoers in the U.S., made up the majority of ticket buyers (37 percent), followed by Caucasians (25 percent), African-Americans (24 percent), Asians (10 percent) and other (4 percent).

"The importance of diversity of the ensemble cast in the Fast and Furious franchise has been an integral part of the success of the brand," said Rentrak box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "There is literally someone within the cast that is relatable on some level to nearly every moviegoer around the world, and this has paid big dividends at the box office and also in terms of how casting decisions will be made in the future for these types of large-scale action epics."

Dergarabedian and other box office pundits are hard-pressed to think of another franchise that is as ethnically diverse, even as Hollywood in general is criticized for a lack of diversity both behind and in front of the camera.

Furious 7's ensemble cast includes Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson and, of course, the late Paul Walker. Christopher "Ludacris" Bridges, martial artist Tony Jaa and Djimon Hounsou also star.

"Someone that I admire quite a lot recently said this is a franchise that really looks like America, and there are characters that everyone can relate to. I think that's a big plus," said Universal president of domestic distribution Nicholas Carpou.

Overseas, Furious 7 opened to $240.4 million, the No. 3 foreign opening of all time and likewise pointing to the broad appeal of the cast. The movie delivered huge results in Latin America, Europe and Asia (Mexico led with $20.8 million, followed by the U.K. with $19 million). In 26 countries, the movie delivered the biggest opening weekend of all time, including Mexico and Taiwan ($10.3 million).

The desire to see Walker one last time no doubt contributed greatly to Furious 7's stunning performance. Universal intended to open the seventh installment on July 11, 2014, but production was halted in November 2013 when Walker died in a tragic car crash during a Thanksgiving hiatus.

Hudlin TV / Latina.Com Thinks “Empire” Should Include Latinos
« on: March 25, 2015, 05:16:07 am »
Latina Magazine has a few issues with Fox’s top-rated show “Empire.” So many issues, they created a listicle of sorts to break down just what’s wrong with the show. Although their post is titled “10 Things Empire Gets Wrong About The Hip-Hop Industry,” one of the gripes they have is that the show doesn’t showcase Latino actors.

Where are the Latinos?

Though it’s an exciting, juicy, melodramatic show, Empire does the Latino community a huge disservice by positioning the entire hip-hop business as black and white — literally. In the pilot episode, when Lucious announces the upcoming IPO, he looks upon a conference room filled with black executives, with only two or three white businessmen in the group. The same is true of the A&R executives over which Anika (played by Grace Gealey) presides in the “False Imposition” episode. There are plenty of Latino publicists, managers, agents, lawyers, and executives within every record label, so why don’t we see any on the show? Not a single one? C’mon now! To ignore the Latino community in a series centered on hip-hop music is to perpetuate the myth that, somehow, we weren’t involved in the birth and evolution of this genre, which is not only offensive, but also inaccurate.

I guess the same thing can be asked about, and its former print magazine. How many times did they feature Afro-Latina models besides LaLa from MTV? Nearly never.

Is it up to “Empire” to include every ethnicity in the show? It’s not as though Black people are always featured in telenova’s on Telemundo or Univision? Next, you’ll have Asians complaining they’re not included either!

A college baseball player committed an error on social media that cost him a place on his team.
First baseman Joey Casselberry was booted off the Bloomsburg University team after calling 13-year-old Little League phenom Mo'ne Davis a "slut" on Twitter, Associated Press reported.
And he will remain off the squad even though Davis wrote the school an email asking that he be reinstated, TMZ reported.
"Everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance," she told ESPN in the interview above. But the school held firm, saying the player had violated policy.

Casselberry tweeted in reaction to a report that the Disney Channel was planning a biopic about Davis, the first girl to pitch her team to a victory in the Little League World Series. She made the cover of Sports Illustrated and was named AP's Female Athlete of the Year.
"Disney is making a movie about Mo'ne Davis?" he wrote. "WHAT A JOKE. That slut got rocked by Nevada."

The Pennsylvania school acted swiftly, announcing Casselberry's dismissal via the same medium that got him into trouble in the first place.

Casselberry apologized on Twitter as well before his account was deactivated, reported. He wrote: "An example that one stupid tweet can ruin someone's life and I couldn't be more sorry about my actions last night. I please ask you to forgive me and truly understand that I am in no way shape or form a sexist and I am a huge fan of Mo'ne. She was quite an inspiration."

Writing / Rocket Crockett: From Shanghai to Harlem!
« on: March 02, 2015, 10:15:32 am »
Rocket Crockett and the Shanghai She-Devil
by Christopher Chambers

Dusky derring-doer and Korean War jet jockey Lt. Rufus "Rocket" Crockett has thwarted a plot to flood America with a new species of heroin. But he has offended a terrifying, irresistible enemy: the Shanghai She-Devil. Her recompense? His flesh, his very soul. In this homage to 1950s pulp, our hero battles gangsters on the streets of Harlem, assassins in the High Sierras, and MiGs in the skies over the South China Sea toward his showdown with an ancient evil! Author Christopher Chambers’ high flying hero takes to the skies once more in Rocket Crockett and the Shanghai She-Devil from Pro Se Productions! "This stew of Cold War adventure, sorcery and post-modern cheek carries echoes of both Quentin Tarantino and Iceberg Slim, but it’s safe to say that Christopher Chambers has found a pulp niche all his own!" --Louis Bayard, New Times Bestselling author of "Roosevelt's Beast" and "Mr. Timothy" “Strap in, adjust your goggles and get ready for a rip-roaring adventure as Christopher Chambers burns his storytelling jets incandescent in Rocket Crockett and the Shanghai She-Devil.” Gary Phillips, Black Pulp and Nate Hollis.

“Rocket Crockett,” says Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of and Partner in Pro Se, “is as straight up Pulp as you can get.   Christopher takes a Pulp standard, puts his own spin on it, and places him in a War that many writers don’t Pulp in. Crockett has his own distinctive voice, and not simply because he’s a black character, although that informs the story tremendously.   Crockett is a man in a world that doesn’t make sense, one that he doesn’t necessarily care for, and one that offers him all sorts of chances to go wrong.  And each time, Crockett chooses the path that makes him a hero.  Pro Se is more than proud to add Christopher Chambers and Rocket Crockett to our New Pulp line up.”

Concerning his creation being considered a Pulp character, Chambers states, "Pulp isn't schlock or stupid. Pulp is there to give you a belly laugh or a snicker, or shriek of terror or a growl of passion. Pulp is the seed that gave you the top films and TV shows of the 20th and this century. Rocket Crockett is homage to that seed."

Christopher Chambers is a Professor of Communications at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and the author of Angela Bivens thrillers for Random House. He also co-edited the iconic The Darker Mask: Heroes from the Shadows collection. He is a PEN Malamud short story finalist.

Oh yeah, cover artwork by yours truly  ;)

Other Comics / Hip Hop Family Tree
« on: February 11, 2013, 01:27:26 pm »

The lore of the early days of hip hop has become the stuff of myth, so what better way to document this fascinating, epic true story than in another great American mythological medium — the comic book? From exciting young talent and self-proclaimed hip hop nerd Ed Piskor, acclaimed for his hacker graphic novel Wizzywig, comes this explosively entertaining, encyclopedic history of the formative years of the music genre that changed global culture.

Originally serialized on the hugely popular website Boing Boing, Hip Hop Family Tree is now collected in a single volume cleverly presented and packaged in a style mimicking the Marvel comics of the same era. Piskor's exuberant yet controlled cartooning takes you from the parks and rec rooms of the South Bronx to the night clubs, recording studios, and radio stations where the scene started to boom, capturing the flavor of late-1970s New York City in panels bursting with obsessively authentic detail. With a painstaking, vigorous and engaging Ken Burns-meets-Stan Lee approach, the battles and rivalries, the technical innovations, the triumphs and failures are all thoroughly researched and lovingly depicted.

Piskor captures the vivid personalities and magnetic performances of old-school pioneers and early stars like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the Funky 4 + 1, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, The Sugarhill Gang, and three kids who would later become RUN-DMC, plus the charismatic players behind the scenes like Russell Simmons, Sylvia Robinson and then-punker Rick Rubin. Piskor also traces graffiti master Fab 5 Freddy's rise in the art world, and Debbie Harry, Keith Haring, The Clash, and other luminaries make cameos as the music and culture begin to penetrate downtown Manhattan and the mainstream at large.

Like the acclaimed hip hop documentaries Style Wars and Scratch, Hip Hop Family Tree is an exciting and essential cultural chronicle and a must for hip hop fans, pop-culture addicts, and anyone who wants to know how it went down back in the day.

“What’s especially interesting to me is that the comic isn’t about technology. It’s about hip hop and comics and the New York City scene years ago.” – Rick Marshall,

"These comics [are] almost too good to be true... If you’re a lover of hip hop and / or graphic novels, these are a must!" – Burlesque Design

"They say the story of Jesus is the greatest ever told, but JC didn’t steal a DJ mixer during the New York Blackout of '77 or bomb a subway car with Fab 5 Freddy. With his 'Hip Hop Family Tree,' comics artist Ed Piskor delves into the history of hip-hop and gets straight-up biblical, penning a 'who-begat-whom' with a b-boy twist." – Jonathan Zwickel,

"Piskor's strip is funny and warm, tossing in a few keen nods to two cultures that have shaped him..." – Jason P. Woodbury, Phoenix New Times

Michael Caesar > Uncle Ruckus: The Boondoggle About The Boondocks

Once upon a time, a snarky little comic strip rose from relative obscurity to become fodder for Sunday morning political pundits and shaking heads along Washington DC’s beltway. Speaking truth to power in regards to some of the most influential events of our time (a series of strips had a lead character calling a tip line to report Ronald Reagan for funding terrorism or positing Condoleeza Rice as a “female Darth Vader type that seeks a loving mate to torture”), The Boondocks became a socio-political court jester, calling out corruption and foolishness on a national stage.

Some funny things happened on the way to the Cartoon Network, however, as the transition to Adult Swim saw some … changes from the printed version. First, the freedom of basic cable meant no more of the profanity restrictions offered by newspaper syndication. Many of the voices who supported MacGruder fell by the wayside. However, Adult Swim made the conscious effort to bleep out every curse word … except one. The notorious “n-word” was allowed to fly free (and repeatedly) into the ears of millions of viewers around the world, desensitizing audiences to the term while protecting their delicate sensibilities from words like “f***” or “sh**” (one word’s “not so bad” perhaps? Adult Swim’s subsequent Black-themed animated series Black Dynamite made the choice to minimize the word’s usage and bleep it when it was used, most notably in the pilot).

The most glaring change from strip to screen was the reduction of cast members, most notably leaving out Michael Caesar, who was the common sense counterpoint for the radicalized Huey Freeman and his nihilistic, apolitical brother Riley, who often balanced and grounded the discussion. Likewise, classmates Jazmine Dubois and Snoop Dogg-loving Caucasian schoolgirl Cindy McPherson have largely drifted out of view. Without the larger, more diverse group of voices the discourse became less balanced and more caustic, less political Huey and more Riley as well as … well, this …

A smattering of Michael Caesar’s cleverness and mellowed politics got rolled into the character of Huey Freeman, but on the other end of the spectrum we were treated to the self-hating, overwrought, profane and white loving image you see before you, a broken, embittered pathetic shell of a human being who’s on his way to getting a live action feature film after becoming an unofficial representative for the show, Urkel-style. Promoting the kind of imagery railed against in Bamboozled, the audience is supposed to take the slur-spouting, hate-generating caricature as some kind of satire, but in these days of data overload, the slurs are most of what people hear.

Did something “happen” to writer Aaron MacGruder? Did the overwhelming sums of cash from merchandising and licensing change something in his core, shifting his singular politicized voice into a less savvy, less intelectual collaborative effort? Without a telepath, there’s no way for most people to know. What we can know is that the work changed, the voice changed, and not in a way that history could look back upon and say, “this contributed to the future of a people, but instead could only be said to use America’s never-ending love of Black people being mocked and denigrated to fatten certain bank accounts.

Moreover, how is it that a man with a successful television show available on DVD, with multiple books in print and revenue from years of being nationally syndicated (not a small piece of change) doesn’t have either $200,000 (the Kickstarter’s target goal) in cash or the ability to turn to any of a laundry list of people in Hollywood to just sign that over. There are cars parked at the Standard on Sunset that cost more than that. Crowdsourcing this project implies that there’s something rotten in the animated state of Maryland.

For Black people who support this direction, this work, it’s particularly vexing, as it essentially does three things …

It makes racists think, “we were right, look at the value they as ascribe to themselves!” (obviously paraphrased because, of course, most racists can’t even spell “ascribe,” let alone properly use it in a sentence)

It gives people who follow a belief that such depictions of Black people are not only acceptable but normal, meaning more degraded and debased examples are needed to escalate in order to be noticed in the future (Eazy E leads to Tupac, Tupac leads to 2 Chainz and Trinidad James, et cetera)

It makes a certain noxious racial slur so commonplace that it becomes common, throwaway discourse for everyone from Guatemalen-American teenagers playing ball in their back yard to Kevin Smith on a Chicago stage in front of 800 people, opening up the door for increases in its common usage.

What’s most ironic about this is the first voice one would expect to have the right opinions about this sort of thing — not just the idea of an Uncle Ruckus movie (especially appearing, in essence endorsed at the Image Awards by the same NAACP the strip often harangued), but Django Unchained or even the slew of recent pieces noting how few Black people have broken through Marvel & DC’s four-color ceiling — would be Michael Caesar, with just the right amount of wit and wisdom, ready to hand out an Elder Award for how embarrassing this debacle has become.
Perhaps one day, when all is said and done, we’ll uncover exactly where Uncle Ruckus buried him, two lonely dreadlocks still peeking up from the sod.


Other Comics / Monthly Storytelling Gets the Shaft[
« on: January 30, 2013, 12:43:54 pm »
Monthly Storytelling Gets the Shaft

It was the kiss heard round the world.

Doctor Octopus, who had recently taken over Spider-Man's body, kissed Mary Jane Watson (unaware of the switch) passionately in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #700, telling her he intended to renew their relationship. Before the kiss itself, he expressed how he was plotting to be with her, and she at one point tore open his shirt (revealing the Spider-Man costume). The villain pretending to be a hero looked at her lasciviously and clearly desired to have a romantic relationship with her...

And that, coupled with Superior Spider-Man #2's cover of the pair kissing again (or more accurately, Ock/Spidey stealing a kiss from the redhead), set off an internet firestorm, led by many respected commentators who one would assume know comics. People who have contributed to the industry through reports, criticism, and intelligent discussion started a fierce argument based, in the end, seemingly entirely on assumption and speculation.


And now, with Superior Spider-Man #2 out and on the shelves, it all ends with Otto (again, somewhat gross and lasciviously) accessing Peter's memories about his time with MJ. With great memories come great feelings, and now legitimately caring for her, decides to break things off entirely. Aside from that first big kiss in ASM #700 that set off the internet, all Otto wound up getting was a few pecks on the cheek.

Now, the conversation about rape and how it's portrayed/the subject is handled in comics and indeed all media is an extremely important (and sensitive) one, but not the subject of this article. We won't be covering that today, and indeed, Steve Wacker didn't discuss it at the time because it doesn't actually happen in either of these comics. As Wacker said himself on Twitter when this first came up, "It's an important topic, but I think it's diminished by this kind of craziness." Indeed, the only problem with how people approached the issues raised by ASM #700 and the subsequent covers is that they went after writer Dan Slott and editor Stephen Wacker simply because of potential. It seems to imply an ignorance of the serial nature of comic book storytelling, or at least a refusal to acknowledge it.

In two days of Twitter conversation about the subject, Wacker consistently tried to roll with any questions, and merely argued that readers should continue reading. His only direct comments about the issue itself were that the scene in ASM did not depict sex (true), and that people needed to read the first few issues of Superior to know how the story would play out. In other words, he did his exact job as editor of a serialized story — he told people to read it serially, as it came out, and didn't spoil what his writer had, at that point, already written.

What this really speaks to is the nature of serialization in the internet age. With feedback and conversation truly instantaneous via Twitter and other social networks, solicitations showing covers and teasing at storylines three months ahead of time, and a constant need for immediate gratification, it seems that comic book readers may be losing the ability to simply enjoy serial fiction. Rather than thinking about what actually happens in the pages of a just-read book, readers have been trained — partially by themselves and peers in the internet indignation machine, partially by the culture of previews and interviews (of which we acknowledge our role in) — to always be thinking several months ahead in the future.

But covers have traditionally been misleading. Quick moments and cliffhangers and provocative covers — these are not only intended but necessary parts of a serial. Covers have nearly always had misleading elements, from announcing the death or retirement of a character to a misleading moment of passion between an unlikely pair. The whole point is to have a reader say "wait - what?" and have an intense desire to see what happens next. About a year and a half ago, another Marvel Comics cover showed a surprising kiss. Was Cyclops cheating on Emma Frost (who he had cheated with — mentally — on Jean Grey, of course)? Why would Storm be in his embrace and not with, you know, her husband at the time? Of course, it wound up being a misleading cover, showing an alternate reality. Indeed, scenes of romance and death are a traditional method of teasing readers to try to bring more eyes to the next issue. Again, it's merely the definition of serialization.

What people were angry about at first was the mere suggested possibility of more than a kiss, then the anger turned more towards Wacker and Slott's unwillingness to accept their argument, or, in their own defense to tell readers how the story would play out a month in advance of the issues where the resolution took place. And that's just not how serial storytelling is supposed to go.

So what's the solution? Should solicitations not go out over the internet? That seems impossible at this stage, and fans have clear and easy access to the monthly Previews catalogue, anyway. Should creators and editors stay off of social networks and not interact with fans? Again, both impossible and frankly a bit silly. The positive examples of interaction are often overshadowed by the extreme fringe negatives with attacks and death threats, but the positeves tend to actually be more frequent and outweigh the negatives, with fans getting a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the media they so enjoy.

No, the only real solution is for fans themselves to take a step back into the days when serial adventures were taken one at a time. Just because there can be an instant reaction doesn't mean there has to be one.

At the very least, the tone of the far-too frequent internet indignation machine should be measured against both what we know and what we just think we know.

Vox Populi / Get Over It! We Are Not All Created Equal
« on: January 29, 2013, 10:38:11 am »
Get Over It! We Are Not All Created Equal
by Capt Katie Petronio

As a company grade 1302 combat engineer officer with 5 years of active service and two combat deployments, one to Iraq and the other to Afghanistan, I was able to participate in and lead numerous combat operations. In Iraq as the II MEF Director, Lioness Program, I served as a subject matter expert for II MEF, assisting regimental and battalion commanders on ways to integrate female Marines into combat operations. I primarily focused on expanding the mission of the Lioness Program from searching females to engaging local nationals and information gathering, broadening the ways females were being used in a wide variety of combat operations from census patrols to raids. In Afghanistan I deployed as a 1302 and led a combat engineer platoon in direct support of Regimental Combat Team 8, specifically operating out of the Upper Sangin Valley. My platoon operated for months at a time, constructing patrol bases (PBs) in support of 3d Battalion, 5th Marines; 1st Battalion, 5th Marines; 2d Reconnaissance Battalion; and 3d Battalion, 4th Marines. This combat experience, in particular, compelled me to raise concern over the direction and overall reasoning behind opening the 03XX field.

Who is driving this agenda? I am not personally hearing female Marines, enlisted or officer, pounding on the doors of Congress claiming that their inability to serve in the infantry violates their right to equality. Shockingly, this isn’t even a congressional agenda. This issue is being pushed by several groups, one of which is a small committee of civilians appointed by the Secretary of Defense called the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service (DACOWITS). Their mission is to advise the Department of Defense (DoD) on recommendations, as well as matters of policy, pertaining to the well-being of women in the Armed Services from recruiting to employment. Members are selected based on their prior military experience or experience with women’s workforce issues. I certainly applaud and appreciate DACOWITS’ mission; however, as it pertains to the issue of women in the infantry, it’s very surprising to see that none of the committee members are on active duty or have any recent combat or relevant operational experience relating to the issue they are attempting to change. I say this because, at the end of the day, it’s the active duty servicemember who will ultimately deal with the results of their initiatives, not those on the outside looking in. As of now, the Marine Corps hasn’t been directed to integrate, but perhaps the Corps is anticipating the inevitable—DoD pressuring the Corps to comply with DACOWITS’ agenda as the Army has already “rogered up” to full integration. Regardless of what the Army decides to do, it’s critical to emphasize that we are not the Army; our operational speed and tempo, along with our overall mission as the Nation’s amphibious force-in-readiness, are fundamentally different than that of our sister Service. By no means is this distinction intended as disrespectful to our incredible Army. My main point is simply to state that the Marine Corps and the Army are different; even if the Army ultimately does fully integrate all military occupational fields, that doesn’t mean the Corps should follow suit.

I understand that there are female servicemembers who have proven themselves to be physically, mentally, and morally capable of leading and executing combat-type operations; as a result, some of these Marines may feel qualified for the chance of taking on the role of 0302. In the end, my main concern is not whether women are capable of conducting combat operations, as we have already proven that we can hold our own in some very difficult combat situations; instead, my main concern is a question of longevity. Can women endure the physical and physiological rigors of sustained combat operations, and are we willing to accept the attrition and medical issues that go along with integration?

As a young lieutenant, I fit the mold of a female who would have had a shot at completing IOC, and I am sure there was a time in my life where I would have volunteered to be an infantryman. I was a star ice hockey player at Bowdoin College, a small elite college in Maine, with a major in government and law. At 5 feet 3 inches I was squatting 200 pounds and benching 145 pounds when I graduated in 2007. I completed Officer Candidates School (OCS) ranked 4 of 52 candidates, graduated 48 of 261 from TBS, and finished second at MOS school. I also repeatedly scored far above average in all female-based physical fitness tests (for example, earning a 292 out of 300 on the Marine physical fitness test). Five years later, I am physically not the woman I once was and my views have greatly changed on the possibility of women having successful long careers while serving in the infantry. I can say from firsthand experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not just emotion, that we haven’t even begun to analyze and comprehend the gender-specific medical issues and overall physical toll continuous combat operations will have on females.

I was a motivated, resilient second lieutenant when I deployed to Iraq for 10 months, traveling across the Marine area of operations (AO) and participating in numerous combat operations. Yet, due to the excessive amount of time I spent in full combat load, I was diagnosed with a severe case of restless leg syndrome. My spine had compressed on nerves in my lower back causing neuropathy which compounded the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. While this injury has certainly not been enjoyable, Iraq was a pleasant experience compared to the experiences I endured during my deployment to Afghanistan. At the beginning of my tour in Helmand Province, I was physically capable of conducting combat operations for weeks at a time, remaining in my gear for days if necessary and averaging 16-hour days of engineering operations in the heart of Sangin, one of the most kinetic and challenging AOs in the country. There were numerous occasions where I was sent to a grid coordinate and told to build a PB from the ground up, serving not only as the mission commander but also the base commander until the occupants (infantry units) arrived 5 days later. In most of these situations, I had a sergeant as my assistant commander, and the remainder of my platoon consisted of young, motivated NCOs. I was the senior Marine making the final decisions on construction concerns, along with 24-hour base defense and leading 30 Marines at any given time. The physical strain of enduring combat operations and the stress of being responsible for the lives and well-being of such a young group in an extremely kinetic environment were compounded by lack of sleep, which ultimately took a physical toll on my body that I couldn’t have foreseen.

By the fifth month into the deployment, I had muscle atrophy in my thighs that was causing me to constantly trip and my legs to buckle with the slightest grade change. My agility during firefights and mobility on and off vehicles and perimeter walls was seriously hindering my response time and overall capability. It was evident that stress and muscular deterioration was affecting everyone regardless of gender; however, the rate of my deterioration was noticeably faster than that of male Marines and further compounded by gender-specific medical conditions. At the end of the 7-month deployment, and the construction of 18 PBs later, I had lost 17 pounds and was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (which personally resulted in infertility, but is not a genetic trend in my family), which was brought on by the chemical and physical changes endured during deployment. Regardless of my deteriorating physical stature, I was extremely successful during both of my combat tours, serving beside my infantry brethren and gaining the respect of every unit I supported. Regardless, I can say with 100 percent assurance that despite my accomplishments, there is no way I could endure the physical demands of the infantrymen whom I worked beside as their combat load and constant deployment cycle would leave me facing medical separation long before the option of retirement. I understand that everyone is affected differently; however, I am confident that should the Marine Corps attempt to fully integrate women into the infantry, we as an institution are going to experience a colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for females.

There is a drastic shortage of historical data on female attrition or medical ailments of women who have executed sustained combat operations. This said, we need only to review the statistics from our entry-level schools to realize that there is a significant difference in the physical longevity between male and female Marines. At OCS the attrition rate for female candidates in 2011 was historically low at 40 percent, while the male candidates attrite at a much lower rate of 16 percent. Of candidates who were dropped from training because they were injured or not physically qualified, females were breaking at a much higher rate than males, 14 percent versus 4 percent. The same trends were seen at TBS in 2011; the attrition rate for females was 13 percent versus 5 percent for males, and 5 percent of females were found not physically qualified compared with 1 percent of males. Further, both of these training venues have physical fitness standards that are easier for females; at IOC there is one standard regardless of gender. The attrition rate for males attending IOC in 2011 was 17 percent. Should female Marines ultimately attend IOC, we can expect significantly higher attrition rates and long-term injuries for women.

There have been many working groups and formal discussions recently addressing what changes would be necessary to the current IOC period of instruction in order to accommodate both genders without producing an underdeveloped or incapable infantry officer. Not once was the word “lower” used, but let’s be honest, “modifying” a standard so that less physically or mentally capable individuals (male or female) can complete a task is called “lowering the standard”! The bottom line is that the enemy doesn’t discriminate, rounds will not slow down, and combat loads don’t get any lighter, regardless of gender or capability. Even more so, the burden of command does not diminish for a male or female; a leader must gain the respect and trust of his/her Marines in combat. Not being able to physically execute to the standards already established at IOC, which have been battle tested and proven, will produce a slower operational speed and tempo resulting in increased time of exposure to enemy forces and a higher risk of combat injury or death. For this reason alone, I would ask everyone to step back and ask themselves, does this integration solely benefit the individual or the Marine Corps as a whole, as every leader’s focus should be on the needs of the institution and the Nation, not the individual?

Which leads one to really wonder, what is the benefit of this potential change? The Marine Corps is not in a shortage of willing and capable young male second lieutenants who would gladly take on the role of infantry officers. In fact we have men fighting to be assigned to the coveted position of 0302. In 2011, 30 percent of graduating TBS lieutenants listed infantry in their top three requested MOSs. Of those 30 percent, only 47 percent were given the MOS. On the other hand, perhaps this integration is an effort to remove the glass ceiling that some observers feel exists for women when it comes to promotions to general officer ranks. Opening combat arms MOSs, particularly the infantry, such observers argue, allows women to gain the necessary exposure of leading Marines in combat, which will then arguably increase the chances for female Marines serving in strategic leadership assignments. As stated above, I have full faith that female Marines can successfully serve in just about every MOS aside from the infantry. Even if a female can meet the short-term physical, mental, and moral leadership requirements of an infantry officer, by the time that she is eligible to serve in a strategic leadership position, at the 20-year mark or beyond, there is a miniscule probability that she’ll be physically capable of serving at all. Again, it becomes a question of longevity.

Despite my personal opinion regarding the incorporation of females into the infantry community, I am not blind to the fact that females play a key role in countering the gender and cultural barriers we are facing at war, and we do have a place in combat operations. As such, a potential change that I do recommend considering strongly for female Marine officers is to designate a new secondary MOS (0305) for a Marine serving as female engagement team (FET) officer in charge (OIC). 0305s would be employed in the same way we employ drill instructors, as we do not need an enduring FET entity but an existing capability able to stand up based on operational requirements. Legitimizing a program that is already operational in the Corps would greatly benefit both the units utilizing FETs and the women who serve as FET OICs. Unfortunately, FET OICs today are not properly screened and trained for this mission. I propose that those being considered for FET OIC be prescreened and trained through a modified IOC with an appropriately adjusted physical expectation. FET OICs need to better understand the infantry culture and mindset and work with their 0302 brethren to incorporate FET assistance during specific phases of operations to properly prepare them to serve as the subject matter experts to a regimental- or battalion-level infantry commander. Through joint OIC training, both 0302s and FET OICs can start to learn how to integrate capabilities and accomplish their mission individually and collectively. This, in my mind, is a much more viable, cost-effective solution, with high reward for the Marine Corps and the Nation, and it will also directly improve the capabilities of FET OICs.

Finally, what are the Marine Corps standards, particularly physical fitness standards, based on—performance and capability or equality? We abide by numerous discriminators, such as height and weight standards. As multiple Marine Corps Gazette articles have highlighted, Marines who can run first-class physical fitness tests and who have superior MOS proficiency are separated from the Service if they do not meet the Marine Corps’ height and weight standards. Further, tall Marines are restricted from flying specific platforms, and color blind Marines are faced with similar restrictions. We recognize differences in mental capabilities of Marines when we administer the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and use the results to eliminate/open specific fields. These standards are designed to ensure safety, quality, and the opportunity to be placed in a field in which one can sustain and succeed.

Which once again leads me, as a ground combat-experienced female Marine Corps officer, to ask, what are we trying to accomplish by attempting to fully integrate women into the infantry? For those who dictate policy, changing the current restrictions associated with women in the infantry may not seem significant to the way the Marine Corps operates. I vehemently disagree; this potential change will rock the foundation of our Corps for the worse and will weaken what has been since 1775 the world’s most lethal fighting force. In the end, for DACOWITS and any other individual or organization looking to increase opportunities for female Marines, I applaud your efforts and say thank you. However, for the long-term health of our female Marines, the Marine Corps, and U.S. national security, steer clear of the Marine infantry community when calling for more opportunities for females. Let’s embrace our differences to further hone in on the Corps’ success instead of dismantling who we are to achieve a political agenda. Regardless of the outcome, we will be “Semper Fidelis” and remain focused on our mission to protect and defend the United States of America.

Vox Populi / Israel admits forcing birth control shots on Ethiopian women
« on: January 28, 2013, 12:42:30 pm »
Tel Aviv - After Israel was accused of forcing Ethiopian women to accept injections of the contraceptive Depo-Provera in an attempt to lower birth rates among black immigrants, an official has for the first time admitted use of the drug among Ethiopian women.

In a letter to the Israeli Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu, Sharona Eliahu-Chai of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, demanded that the Israeli health authorities stop administering the injections immediately. The letter also demanded that the authorities conduct an investigation into allegations stemming from the practice.
The Association of Civil Rights in Israel is a group that represents several women’s rights and Ethiopian immigrants’ groups.

The National reports that Hedva Eyal, project coordinator of a women's rights research group, said in Haifa: "I believe there is a deliberate targeting of these [Ethiopian] women."
According to The National, Eyal and other activists say that the birth rate in the Ethiopian community in Israel has halved in the past 10 years. Eyal's civil rights group and six others have asked the Israeli health ministry to explain the widespread use of Depo-Provera injections among Ethiopians.

Haaretz reports an Israeli government official has for the first time acknowledged the practice of injecting women of Ethiopian origin with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera.
Haaretz reports that the Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu, has instructed the four health maintenance organizations in the country to stop the practice immediately. The Israeli ministry and other state agencies have for long denied allegations that the government-funded health facilities were targeting Ethiopian women for selective use of the contraceptive.
Gamzu’s directive instructed "all gynecologists in the HMOs not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment."

The drug is given by injection every three months, The National reports. Doctors consider it a birth-control method of last resort because of the side effects associated with its use.

Israel: Ethnic cleansing?
Observers note that the ministry's response side-stepped the allegation raised that the authorities were targeting Ethiopian women. The response did not say whether there were explicit policy guidelines underlying prescription of the drug or for how long government-funded health facilities have administered the drug to African women of Ethiopian origin. The response also gave no hint about how many women of Ethiopian origin were involved.

The allegation that the Israeli authorities were targeting Ethiopian women for prescription of the drug Depo-Provera was first reported five years ago. The National reports that in 2009, Eyal supervised a study that showed that 57 percent of Depo-Provera users in Israel were Ethiopian, although their community was less than 2 per cent of the population.

The National reports that about 90,000 Ethiopians have immigrated to Israel since the 1980s, but rabbis have questioned the claims that the Ethiopians are Jews and many Israelis also doubt it.
According to The National, "Ethiopians... face widespread discrimination in jobs, housing and education and... their blood donations were routinely discarded." According to Eyal, "the unspoken policy is that only children who are white and Ashkenazi are wanted in Israel."

A report by the Israel Education Television said medical staff pressure Ethiopian women to take Depo-Provera at transit centers in Ethiopia where they are prepared for immigration.
Indepth Africa reports that interviews with 35 Ethiopian immigrants provided evidence that explain the almost 50-percent decrease in birth rate among Israel's Ethiopian community in the past decade.

According to one of the women interviewed, “They told us they are inoculations. They told us people who frequently give birth suffer. We took it every three months. We said we didn't want to." According to the report, officials threatened to deny some applicants entry into Israel if they refused to accept the injection.

In her 2009 study, Eyal described the drug use as part of an "unspoken [official] policy" aimed to "reduce the births in a community that is mostly black and poor."

Israel a racist state?
The National reports that allegations of racism against the Israeli state have been an issue among the more the 60,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Israel.
Rioters injured many asylum seekers in Tel Aviv in May last year after politicians incited them with speeches against illegal Sudanese and Eritreans. According to The National, Miri Negev, a politician of the ruling Likud party, told supporters asylum seekers were a "cancer in our body."

According to reports, the state of Israel routinely denies refugee status to Africans fleeing war zones. Israel is reportedly building a detention facility in the Negev desert to house African immigrants and asylum seekers, The National reports.

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