Republican says pregnant women are “hosts,” even if some people “refer to them as mothers”

A pregnant woman is just a “host” for a fetus, according to Virginia state Sen. Steve Martin.

The Republican legislator representing Virginia’s 11th district made the comment in response to a Valentine’s Day card from a reproductive rights group calling on him to protect reproductive health options in the state.

“I don’t expect to be in the room or will I do anything to prevent you from obtaining a contraceptive,” Martin wrote on Facebook. “However, once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.”

Martin went on to call reproductive rights advocates “sick people.”

Martin’s claim that he does not “expect to be in the room” or “do anything to prevent you from obtaining a contraceptive” is, of course, entirely disingenuous. He is a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion, which would ensure affordable access to healthcare and contraception for people across Virginia.

It should probably go without saying, too, that Martin does not support abortion rights.

The creep has edited his post since everything blew up and he realized that average folks aren’t as willing to join the Republican war on Women as are his acolytes in the anti-abortion movement. Fortunately, plenty of folks on the Left have screengrabs and are using them to reference what he originally said.

It may be too late for monarch butterflies if the EPA doesn’t deal with weed killers

Conservationists say they want tougher rules limiting the use of a common weed killer to save America’s dwindling population of monarch butterflies.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, in a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency, said current levels of use of glyphosate — first marketed under the brand name Roundup — are wiping out milkweed, the only plant upon which monarch caterpillars feed.

That’s having a significant negative effect on the life cycle of the beloved orange-and-black butterflies, which migrate back and forth across the United States, Canada and Mexico…

“The tenfold increase in the amount of glyphosate being used corresponds with huge losses of milkweed and the staggering decline of the monarch,” Fallon told the Los Angeles Times. “We are seeking new safeguards desperately needed to allow enough milkweed to grow.”

The EPA is scheduled to complete a new review of glyphosate rules in 2015, but “given the rapid decline in monarch numbers, the EPA should take immediate steps to review and restrict glyphosate’s uses,” the council’s petition says.

Do you think the potential extinction of a butterfly that is part of the whole culture of our continent means anything inside the plastic brains of our bureaucrats and politicians? Some of these folks spend their entire careers working at never doing anything that brings notice.

Is there someone inside those offices ready to shout loud enough to bring an orange-and-black butterfly into higher priority?

Five of the web’s oddest communities

For a while, one of the UK’s free morning newspapers – Metro – ran a column named The Ridiculant. Its tagline was “things we found down the back of the internet”.

Because it’s down there – right down there, if you stretch a bit – where you can find some of the most intriguing, compelling and downright bizarre corners of the web.

Places where people all over the world gather for the most pointless of reasons, yet feel some reward from it.

The BBC decided to stick its hand down the back of the internet to see what it could find. The results, in no particular order, and for no particular reason, can be found below…

Please note: Due to our policy on linking to sites that may contain offensive language beyond the BBC’s control, you may have to find your own way to some of the communities here via your favourite search engine.

Carpets for Airports

Singapore is famous for many things, but did you know its airport is also home to “one of the most psychologically terrifying carpets in the world”?

Counting

For some reason, almost 5,000 people are part of Counting, one of Reddit’s many ‘subreddits’ (that’s the name given to individual sections on the site which anyone can create).

Thomas the Dank Engine

Here’s rapper Eminem as Thomas the Tank Engine

Ice chewers

And if you thought ice was simply frozen water, think again – the site’s users share tips on recipes. Put a pinch of yoghurt inside the tray, suggests one person, and freeze it for about three to four hours. “Trust me guys its unreal!”

Birds with Arms

Birds with Arms started out as an image-manipulation challenge posed way back in 2008, but now boasts a Reddit community of more than 60,000 people.

So, don’t ever think your blog may be too esoteric, too personal or impersonal, too weird to attract a following. While the numbers for my personal blog are perfectly manageable – in part because of arguments I lost with both WordPress and Google – the same sort of posts have regularly appeared in the past at sites with eyeball numbers running at 5 million views a week.

I’m satisfied with what I have here – and the folks who drop by are the best. Mostly.

Woman living off grid ordered by Florida court to “plug in”

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Court rules drinking filtered rainwater is unsafe

A Florida woman who has been living off the grid for about a year and a half was told that she has one month to “plug in” or deal with the authorities.

Cape Coral woman Robin Speronis doesn’t have any city power or water running into her house and relies on solar panels and treated rain water to survive. “I’m choosing to live without being dependent on the system…”

Officials from Cape Coral Code Compliance met with Speronis and her attorney about the situation last week…A magistrate ruled that Speronis was guilty of not being hooked up to a water supply that had been approved by the town.

Speronis has indicated that she doesn’t plan on changing her lifestyle.

“I don’t have to justify my life. They have to. That’s the way our system of justice works. They have justify it. I don’t,” Speronis said.

I’m not surprised at any of the “liberty-centered” Confederate states ruling against an individual who chooses to live off the grid. First off, the city isn’t making money from selling her electricity or water. Second, they were all embarrassed when she was interviewed by a local TV station about her lifestyle. It wasn’t until then that she was charged by the city.

The usual crap ideology about being clever and classless and free has always been nothing more than window dressing for conservative politicians who above all else want everyone to conform to their own narrow definitions of how to live and marry. And eat and drink. And sing.

Pentagon’s “Deep Cuts” are phony – Press swallows every drop

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The Pentagon said on Monday it would shrink the U.S. Army to pre-World War Two levels, eliminate the popular A-10 aircraft and reduce military benefits in order to meet 2015 spending caps, setting up an election-year fight with the Congress over national defense priorities.

The pre-War Army was less than 270,000. The Sequester brings current levels down to about 450,000. Hegel actually wants more than that.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, previewing the Pentagon’s ideas on how to adapt to government belt-tightening, said the defense budget due out next week would be the first to look beyond 13 years of conflict, shifting away from long-term ground wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.

He cautioned, however, that the country needed to be clear-eyed about the risks posed by lower budget levels, which would challenge the Pentagon to field a smaller yet well-trained force that could cope with any adversary, but might not be able to respond simultaneously to multiple conflicts…

Defense analysts said the budget priorities sketched out by Hagel would begin to move the Pentagon in the right direction on issues like military compensation reform and eliminating waste but could have difficulty winning support from lawmakers facing mid-term elections to Congress…

The proposed cuts ran into resistance from senior lawmakers in both houses of Congress.

Representative Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said it would be “foolish” to change military benefits before a report on the issue next year, while Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Pentagon would have “heavy challenge” convincing lawmakers to retire the A-10 fleet.

Hagel said the Pentagon plans to reduce the size of the Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers. The Army is currently about 520,000 soldiers and had been planning to draw down to about 490,000 in the coming year.

A reduction to 450,000 would be the Army’s smallest size since 1940, before the United States entered World War Two, when it counted a troop strength of 267,767, according to Army figures. The Army’s previous post-World War Two low was 479,426 in 1999…

Despite a congressional rebuff of Pentagon efforts to reform personnel costs in recent years, the defense chief announced a series of new steps to try to curb military and civilian personnel spending, which now makes up about half its budget.

Hagel said the department would seek a 1 percent raise in pay for military personnel but would slow the growth of tax-free housing allowances, reduce the annual subsidy for military commissaries and reform the TRICARE health insurance program for military family members and retirees.

Let the farce be with you! Political hacks representing everyone you can think of who profits from military expenditures will be howling like monkeys in heat. Either road, Hagel is actually asking for an increase of $151 billion over sequester limits over the next five years. Just cuts in the proportion spent on some Air Force hardware.

In a bullshit ploy worthy of Ronald Reagan, Obama and Hagel put forth a budget calling for increases above sequester levels – and call it “Deep Cuts”. Mass media from newspapers to local TV stations quote this crap as if it was something more than a PR release. Over the past 50 years, the actual drawdown in military size after one of our imperial wars has been negligible.

Here’s another easy way to cut expenses, folks. Bring our troops home. We have over 750 bases in more than 150 countries doing exactly nothing except making it clear to them furriners we are the cops of the world. A soldier inside the United States costs taxpayers half of what it costs to support one on the other side of the world.

Of course, that means having a Department of defense actually concerned with defense – instead of being enforcers for American foreign policy.

Stanford University bans smoking – and the sale of tobacco

One of the world’s top universities is taking a smoking ban a step further this week, as Stanford University prohibits the sale of tobacco as well as smoking on campus.

Campus shops at the Californian university will have to end the sale of all tobacco products from 1 March…

The university says allowing tobacco sales is “inconsistent” with its work on promoting health.

It means that retail outlets, such as the students’ union and a petrol station, will have to stop selling tobacco – including cigarettes, e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

This high-profile US university, which has been a launch pad for many Silicon Valley industries, is the latest US university to tighten its prohibitions on smoking.

The university, in California’s Bay Area, has nearly 700 buildings and occupies more than 8,000 acres. It regularly appears in the top fives of global university league tables…

The university is an advocate for the health and well-being of its entire community, and tobacco sales are inconsistent with our many programmes that support healthy habits and behaviours,” said assistant vice president, Susan Weinstein.

Overdue.

Oil Patch CEO turns into a NIMBY – Presto! Just like that.

Exxon Mobil’s CEO has joined a lawsuit to stop construction of a water tower near his home that would be used in the fracking process to drill for oil…While fracking — hydraulic fracturing of rock to release pockets of oil — has raised complaints from environmentalists around the country, Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson’s opposition to a project in his own neighborhood is interesting, given how deeply Exxon Mobil is involved in the process.

Tillerson appeared at a Town Council meeting in Bartonville, Tex., the wealthy enclave near his Dallas home last November to join in the protest over the water tower…The lawsuit contends the project would create “a noise nuisance and traffic hazards.” Trucks would be needed to haul and pump water.

The tower, being built by Cross Timbers Water Supply, would rise 15 stories, the Journal says. It’s adjacent to Tillerson’s 83-acre horse ranch and not far from an 18-acre homestead. Tillerson is devoting considerable time to the matter: he sat for three hours in the lawsuit last May and attended an all-day mediation session in September, besides his Town Council appearance.

Among the others opposing the project are those who are not exactly known for environmental crusading: former U.S.House Majority Leader Dick Armey and his wife are the lead plaintiffs.

Creeps like Tillerson and Armey – especially the latter – are up to their armholes in scumsucking rightwing politics. That they are hypocrites enough to join the Not In My BackYard brigade shouldn’t surprise anyone. They are stellar examples of the sort of thugs who will embrace the words of constitutional freedom – while denying them to anyone who questions the royal entitlements of their wealth.

Armey in particular – since he chose the jive designation of Tea Party for the current incarnation of the Confederate White Citizens’ Council – and picked out the flunkies who “spontaneously” brought it to the public ear and eye.

Thanks, Mike

Maersk loses 517 containers from freighter – not 70

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A French environmental group says it will sue a Danish shipping company for failing to fully report the loss of hundreds of containers during a violent storm.

The complaint by Robin des Bois accuses the company, Maersk, and the crew of the Svenborg Maersk of “unacceptable light-mindedness”…

The 20-foot and 40-foot shipping containers fell off the ship this month off the coast of France during a storm with 30-foot waves and 60-knot winds…

The containers were found missing when the ship docked in the Spanish port of Malaga for repairs.

Maersk initially reported 70 containers were lost. On Wednesday, it upgraded the total to 517.

The environmental group called the lost containers “a permanent danger for fishermen, coastal communities and the environment.” It said Maersk was guilty of pollution and “abandoning waste.”

The company said 85 percent of the containers were empty. The rest contained dry goods; none carried hazardous materials.

I hope authorities require online publication of a detailed listing for each container, contents, safety requirements and proof of insurance. All certainly exist inside the bowels of the Maersk computers.

First of all, this will aid local coppers when they have to deal with containers washing ashore. No matter where. Second, this would press Maersk essentially to prove they’re not continuing to lie about what happened.

NSA ordered to stop tapping Merkel’s phone — settles for senior government officials

The National Security Agency has stepped up its surveillance of senior German government officials since being ordered by Barack Obama to halt its spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bild am Sonntag paper reported on Sunday.

Revelations last year about mass U.S. surveillance in Germany, in particular of Merkel’s mobile phone, shocked Germans and sparked the most serious dispute between the transatlantic allies in a decade.

Bild am Sonntag said its information stemmed from a high-ranking NSA employee in Germany and that those being spied on included Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a close confidant of Merkel.

“We have had the order not to miss out on any information now that we are no longer able to monitor the chancellor’s communication directly,” it quoted the NSA employee as saying…

Berlin has been pushing, so far in vain, for a “no-spy” deal with Washington. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is due to visit the United States on Thursday but he has said he doubts such a deal would have much effect…

The mass-circulation paper said the NSA was monitoring 320 people in Germany – mostly politicians but also business leaders. Hayden said Washington did not spy on corporations in order to help U.S. firms gain competitive advantage.

Nice to see more NSA employees doing some whistleblowing. Edward Snowden’s belief in the US Constitution must be rubbing off on more and more government spies. What will our politicians do about this lapse into integrity?