Dear Friend and Reader:
Three or four times a year, everyone who knows something about astrology goes through a ritual called Mercury retrograde. Everyone who doesn’t know about astrology gets to have the experience, not sure what it is though perhaps suspecting that something weird is going on.
The Path of My Soul. Illustration by Nina Gabriel.
We are now approaching the first of four Mercury retrogrades spanning between early February 2014 and early February 2015. The upcoming retrograde begins Feb. 6 with Mercury in Pisces and ends on Feb. 28 with Mercury in Aquarius. What I call the echo phase and what other astrologers call the shadow phase began Jan. 22. The after-retrograde echo phase begins when Mercury stations direct and runs through March 20.
Typically the retrograde itself lasts three weeks, but the whole process — wherein Mercury is dancing around approximately the same 15 degrees of the zodiac, lasts for two months. Hence, while Mercury is retrograde just 19% of the time, the retrograde effect can be felt about half the time. It’s the most concentrated around the days when Mercury changes direction. These are called the stationary points, or stations retrograde and direct.
Associated with lost keys, late or lost payments, disk drive failures and communication mishaps, Mercury retrograde does not have a very good reputation. Yet some people love it — if you’re the creative type, or if you have a slightly tweaky mind, if you like the feeling of swimming against the current, you might be one of the people who looks forward to Mercury retrograde happening. If you’re very sensitive to it for whatever reason, you might take a more cautious approach. Other people seem impervious to it, like it’s not even happening or has no effects. By now you probably know where you stand with this.
Every Mercury retrograde has its own unique pattern, and little clusters of three retrograde events tend to have similar themes as well. Each will influence your personal chart in a distinctive way. In 2014, all of the retrogrades start early in water signs, then track back into air signs. That describes scenarios of having some kind of emotional or aesthetic response (the water sign) that is then understood or analyzed (the air sign).
Mind, Body and Soul. Illustration by Nina Gabriel.
Thanks to the Internet, more people than ever know about Mercury retrograde. The idea is now lodged in popular consciousness as what’s likely the most familiar technical astrological concept. I just searched Google and got 405,000 results for Mercury retrograde (with the term in quotation marks).
Personally, I didn’t hear about it online. In my first journalism job, I worked for The Echoes-Sentinel, a gritty weekly newspaper in New Jersey. Flo Higgins, my first editor as a professional writer, happened to be an astrologer. She was about 65 years old, with long white hair and a fiery point of view, who had probably read the chart of everyone for 100 miles around.
The paper was part of a newspaper chain, the Recorder Publishing Co. Nobody believed in astrology, but we knew better when it came to Mercury retrograde.
Flo could, and regularly did, terrify the entire company with this one, sending the vibrations throughout the central New Jersey countryside, even getting the stunned attention of nerdy newspaper reporters trained not to believe anything. Nothing ever got into print, of course. The newspapers were too serious for astrology.
Mercury retrograde meant everything was about to go wrong. Flo was so convincing that even Jim, who ran the production facility and could take apart and reassemble a printing press blindfolded, had a paragraph taped to his office door, copied from Debbi Kempton-Smith’s infamous Secret’s From a Stargazer’s Notebook, warning everyone who visited:
Don’t Sign, Don’t Buy: Mercury is Retrograde.
This was my introduction to astrology. That was the first paragraph of an astrology book I ever read. Soon, newcomers to Echoland took it for granted that the Full Moon had something to do with how the mayor was acting, and when the production facility smelled like electrical smoke, it was clearly because Mercury was retrograde.
“Don’t sign, don’t buy” is the usual advice for the retrograde of Mercury. I’ll explain in a moment why that makes sense. It’s also associated with things getting lost, electronic devices going wonky, and being dissatisfied with what you purchase. Communication often comes under strain when Mercury is retrograde. For someone with a scientific or logical mind, the question is: what do all these things have in common?
Birds of Paradise. Illustration by Nina Gabriel.
Yet there are more humanistic approaches to the topic. “While delays and misunderstandings do seem to happen, I’ve noticed a magical trend — that people and ideas return, for integration, resolution and more,” writes Molly Hall on About.com.
People returning to our lives out of the mists of time is one potential effect of any inner planet retrograde, one of their more mysterious qualities.
But what is this event really about? And how might it work?
Let’s start with Mercury, the planet. This fleeting little world, the one closest to the Sun, is associated with the mind, with ideas and with communication. Mercury is the messenger of the gods, and also the trickster. It’s associated with, as in it’s the traditional ruler of, Gemini and Virgo, two mutable signs (mentally oriented, flexible, a bit nervous). Both of those signs have signs opposite them that are ruled by Jupiter (Sagittarius and Pisces).
In modern astrology, Mercury picks up many of its ancient associations — for example, the messenger function translates to mail and telegraph. It’s associated with communication of all kinds, communication devices, computing devices, commerce and the flow of money (rather than acquiring wealth — that seems to be more about Mars). Surrounded as we are by all of these devices, and nonstop messaging, and by financial instruments (such as debit cards) that are morphed with communication devices (such as the World Wide Web), we have given Mercury a lot of power in our lives.
Hence, Mercury retrograde is probably more powerful in our lives than it ever was. We swim in an ocean of things ruled by Mercury. Our consciousness is fully immersed in them; in many ways so is our identity. With the advent of handheld devices that go on the Internet, this seems to transcend economic barriers now more than ever.
In English the word mercurial means “sprightly, volatile, quick,” associated with the speed with which the planet Mercury moves, and how fast and how frequently it seems to change directions (that is the retrograde). It can have a sharp wit and seem smarter than you — Bob Dylan has been described as mercurial and he’s also a Gemini, one sign that Mercury rules.
Fire & Water. Illustration by Nina Gabriel.
Mercury is the Roman incarnation of the Greek god Hermes, and these figures show up throughout Western mythology.
In Norse mythology, he gets the role as presiding officer of the gods rather than as messenger — though of course that supposed role as messenger is a disguise for a much more significant function.
In Egyptian mythology he is the mighty Thoth, who was nobody’s messenger, or fool; he was responsible for the development of writing and science, maintaining the state of the universe and assisting with the judgment of the dead. Picking up on the ambivalence theme, Thoth was a mediator between good and evil, making sure that neither had a decisive victory in an ongoing struggle that continues to this day.
There’s also an association to the element mercury, or quicksilver, the only metal that is a liquid at room temperature. Mercury’s androgynous and liquid quality hints at a certain ambivalence. The old astrology books describe the planet’s nature as neither male nor female. Between metrosexuality and the LGBTQ movement, we have some clues that gender roles and relationships are coming under the increasing influence of Mercury.
It’s interesting that mercury the metal is a persistent environmental contaminant, and one that is known to interact with and disrupt the normal action of sex hormones. The element mercury is known to artificially induce androgyny.
Iron, Not Quicksilver: From Astronomy to Psychology
Mercury retrograde happens when the planet Mercury passes between the Earth and the Sun. Because Mercury’s orbit is about 84 days, this happens three times a year. While the retrogrades typically last about 22 days, there is a margin on either side of two to three weeks where the influences can be felt.
Mercury is not made of mercury. It has a huge core with a very high density, leading astronomers to believe that it’s made mostly of iron. In fact Mercury is believed to have the highest iron content of any planet in the Solar System.
Over the Rainbow. Illustration by Nina Gabriel.
This is all another way of saying Mercury retrograde means a huge magnet passes between the Earth and the Sun, making its closest pass to our planet at the same time. This may explain why devices act weird, but I think that it also helps explain why the mind gets wonky, such as the tendency to lose things, or to perceive problems as being worse than they are — the nervous system runs on electricity. The mind is a device that is, at least on the physical plane, rooted in electricity and magnetism.
In my view, the effects of the retrograde are evenly distributed between a perceptual event and one in the world outside the mind. The combined interaction is powerful, the more so for not being easily discernible as a reality or as an effect of the mind. A purely mental phenomenon seems to be associated with a Mercury retrograde effect, so notice how your mind is handling problems or puzzles when they arrive. I have observed that the approach to a problem really does suggest whether and how that problem will be solved.
With the space remaining I will pass along, in summary form, some of what I have learned about Mercury retrograde. I don’t mean what I have learned from books — I mean what I have observed tracking, experimenting with and doing consulting about every Mercury retrograde since 1994, and some going back to 1987.
I agree with “don’t sign, don’t buy.” That is, when you can avoid doing so. I have experimented with making purchases during or near Mercury retrogrades. Most of the time it turns out I don’t need or don’t use what I purchased. Sometimes it does not work, works strangely or does not do what I intended it to do. So I divide my life into times when I buy things and times when I
I will usually (as in 99% of the time) make major purchases only with Mercury direct and out of echo phase. There are rare exceptions, but not so many. If you buy something during a retrograde, try not to be too attached to it, or expect a break-in period, while you work out the bugs. Sometimes things work out just fine. Really, most things can wait a week or two or three. If they cannot wait, be extra conscious of all the factors involved in the sale, don’t rush the process, keep your paperwork and make sure there is a good return policy. Choose carefully and get a good one, whatever it is.
The Way of Mother Nature. Illustration by Nina Gabriel.
As for contracts, it’s not always possible to determine when you sign your lease or make the deposit, but I have been known to make landlords wait for weeks before even leaving a deposit. (Hi Stefan!)
Plan ahead and use what flexibility you have. It’s worth finagling this to your advantage when you can. The operative events are the first payment and the signature on the contract.
The problem if you sign with Mercury retrograde, or about to retrograde, is that something is likely to reverse itself — an elementary illustration of what it could mean that Mercury changes directions. Or, you will learn something you wish you had known sooner. Which leads to my second point.
There are legitimate questions of what to do when you have a house closing scheduled for during Mercury retrograde, if you have to start a new job, or you get the bug to have that new car. I plan to write more about this; there are some basic approaches that can be applied, one of which is to understand exactly what is in the contract or commitment and not make any promise that you cannot keep.
If the situation involves significant amounts of money, a real commitment or the potential for a real inconvenience, it might be a good idea to talk to an astrologer who truly knows what they are doing with Mercury retrograde. [I can usually handle this kind of consultation in-and-out much of the year.]
The truth comes out when Mercury stations, either retrograde or direct. Mercury has a way of shaking out information, especially right as it stations. You can count on this. If you’re working on a mystery, or a riddle, or an investigation, or research, or trying to solve any mental puzzle, keep it going till the next Mercury station retrograde. Just to be sure, wait for the second batch of information just as Mercury stations direct. This is one reason you want to wait before signing or buying.
If an item of communication is missed, don’t assume you’re being ignored. Many people shoot off one email and expect a reply. With spam filters, busy people processing hundreds of emails a day and odd errors like emails not arriving, it’s better to give people the benefit of the doubt. Give people a day or two to respond, and if they don’t, send over a friendly one-liner to the effect of, “Hey I emailed you, just want to make sure you saw it.”
The Music of My Soul. Illustration by Nina Gabriel.
If communication gets dicey, pick up the phone. We are getting better at communicating online, but still, it can be difficult to relay feelings or basic concepts, especially with Mercury retrograde. The moment things get weird, such as if there is a misunderstanding, pick up the phone and clarify — before things get out of control or real misunderstandings happen. It’s better not to conduct arguments by email. It has all the sensitivity of sniper fire. Err on the side of being human.
Resolve the past, plan the future. I have found that the best use for Mercury retrograde is to tidy up what you’ve left unresolved in the past. Clean your desk, organize your stuff, contact old friends, go through your email and see if you missed anything important. While you’re at it, collect your ideas and figure out what you’re going to do next. Plot and scheme. Use the various qualities of the retrograde to refine your plan over time, then plan a launch sometime after the station direct.
If it may not be broke — don’t fix it so fast. One phenomenon I’ve noticed during Mercury retrograde is that things seem broken or like they are malfunctioning but are not really. Or, the problem is one thing but you think it’s another. Or, the problem is not as bad as you think. Therefore, before tearing everything apart, or spending a lot of money, or sending anything back to the factory, troubleshoot carefully and try simple solutions. Break out pure logic and apply that as a tool. Look for temporary workarounds and see if the issue resolves on its own. I’m suggesting you avoid solving a problem that doesn’t exist, or worse, making a bigger problem than you thought you had.
Always remember that Mercury is the trickster.
That means he, she or it can be tricky, and you need to use your mind — not have your mind be tricked. Mercury is a kind of a game. Be a good sportsman and keep your sense of humor.
About the Artist: Nina Gabriel is an artist, poet and writer working from her home-based studio in Los Angeles, CA. She says: “To produce art is the most satisfying experience for me and the results of my work I would like to share with as many people as possible thus spreading my spirit far and wide. It is my sincere wish that my art and poetry bring peace, happiness and joy to anyone that appreciates it. I also hope that it will bring forth many positive feelings such as love, faith, confidence and truly all the good that life has to offer.” Visit her blog here.
Section Writing and Editing Credits: News items below are written and edited by a team consisting of Hillary Conary, Anne Craig, Eric Francis, Elizabeth Michaud, Amanda Painter, Susan Starr, Chad Woodward and Carol van Strum. Page assembled and coded by Anatoly Ryzhenko. Special thanks to the Fact Checkers List, which goes over each edition on Thursday night — and to our main astrology fact-checker Alex Miller, and Amanda, who goes over all their suggestions. Our editions are also proofread and fact-checked by Jessica Keet.
Inner Planet Retrogrades, One After the Next
We’re approaching the end of Venus retrograde in Capricorn, which happens in one week, on Jan. 31. Venus stationed retrograde just shortly after the southern solstice on Dec. 21, beginning the first Venus retrograde exclusively in Capricorn since the winter of 1802-1803.
Mercury looks over his home planet. Image from Crystalinks.
Venus will move about one more degree retrograde from where it is today, coming about one degree from Pluto in Capricorn. Venus stations at 13 degrees and 33 minutes — a degree position that will remain sensitive for a while.
Thirteen-plus Capricorn and the themes of the Venus retrograde will come into focus as Pluto moves into that spot over the next few weeks, where it will be for the exact grand cross of April 23. This gives Venus an honorary seat at the table for that event, kind of like Elijah at a Passover seder.
No sooner does Venus station direct than Mercury stations retrograde in Pisces Feb. 6, which will last through Feb. 28. Then the next day, Mars stations retrograde in Libra.
This close sequence of inner planet retrogrades will call for careful planning, having contingency plans for important projects, being mindful of communication in relationships, and careful focus on financial matters.
The Sun is in Aquarius
Meanwhile, the Sun is now in Aquarius, the sign of groups. The smallest group is that of two people, which is challenging because we are a society that believes in ‘majority rules’. In a couple it’s easy to have a split vote. Therefore, some form of consensus needs to be used, which emerges as a theme of the coming week.
The potential to clarify and heal some relationship issues is coming to the fore this weekend, and a simultaneous aspect may grant either the mental stamina to make real progress, or else the pitfall of stuck thinking. The astrology involves asteroid Juno (emotional needs, jealousy, desire for justice) conjoining centaur Chiron (awareness, individuality, healing) in Pisces.
This happens at the same time Mercury in Aquarius squares Saturn in Scorpio. Both aspects are exact Saturday. So we get a potentially complex emotional situation at the same time there is a stressful aspect influencing communications.
Chart for Juno conjunct Chiron, concurrent with Mercury square Saturn. Notice that the Moon is conjunct Saturn, which could add the feeling of emotional complexity to a situation that is already seeking the level ground of trust. Remember, trust is emotional, not mental.
Juno conjoining Chiron in Pisces suggests a possible rebellion in marriage — perhaps stepping out of your past relationship patterns and the emotional patterns that ground them.
It might also manifest as a healing crisis in the realm of the vision you hold for your intimate partnerships. If so, it might be that you’re recognizing that the old ideas you were given about relationships and marriage, starting from Cinderella forward, are no longer relevant to your existence.
In any kind of interpersonal relating, it’s one thing to hold out a creative, positive vision toward which to aspire. It’s another thing to proceed as if that vision is your current reality, if doing so ignores the ways in which one is still clinging to outmoded or self-sabotaging behavior models and tactics. Those attachments to what is not working anymore need to be seen and addressed in tangible ways.
The asteroid Pallas in Virgo is in the equation; it’s currently opposite Juno-Chiron, representing a kind of standoff. Pallas speaks to the strategy angle of the equation. Pallas is political in nature, and could represent taking a legalistic or warrior approach when such is unnecessary. Don’t overthink your situation, and be careful who you deem an adversary; what you want is a dialog that includes a balance of thought and feeling, and gently working through any obstructions you may encounter.
Mercury square Saturn, which occurs on Saturday in the midst of these aspects, speaks to the theme of trust, particularly trusting oneself. If you reach a block of some kind (an impasse, a mental obstruction, a sense of being emotionally jammed, or a block to communication), pause and take up the question of trust. You can only trust someone else when you trust yourself. That is the place to start.
It’s not possible to have a relationship that is actually loving, without actual trust. I don’t know how this gets left out of the talk about the birds and the bees, but it’s never too late to figure out.
– Eric Francis, with additional writing by Amanda Painter.
No More Uncle Sugar to the Rescue
Mike Huckabee unofficially announced his presidential candidacy yesterday when he revived the reproductive rights issue in a speech before the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting.
In his speech, at the “Lunch with Mike Huckabee” event, he described women desperately seeking out their next birth control fix, wanting the government subsidies given to them by “Uncle Sugar” Democrats.
Planets from left to right are: Chiron, Juno, Nessus, Venus, Pluto, Ceres, the Moon and Pallas Athene. Not shown is Taurus rising.
Here’s what would-be Pres. Huckabee said to his fellow Republicans, in a meeting that was open to the press, revealing just how much he knows about birth control and women’s reproduction. Get ready.
“Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women,” Huckabee told his audience at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in downtown Washington. “That’s not a war on them. It’s a war for them. And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”
No, The Onion did not write that. It almost seems like they did. It’s just as funny. But I don’t think the humor was intentional — unless there is a subversive on the speech writing team. Which is starting to seem like a possibility.
Not like there is anything else important happening in the world, for example Fukushima leaking plutonium into the Pacific, inflation rivaling the Lira, the planet heating up despite a chilly winter, genetically modified corn leaping out of your cereal bowl, chemical spills, ‘bomb train’ wrecks and political corruption from the ground to the top floor? No worries about wars and famine and the oil running out? No mention of banksters and Wall Street? Why bother with those criminals when you can go after women?
Huckabee’s presentation was scheduled for 12:30 pm Thursday. A few minutes ago, I gave up chasing employees of the Renaissance Hotel (where the presentation happened) to get the time he started, and went with the stated time. It’s a very interesting chart. Here is the relevant portion.
Note that the ascendant is in Taurus, 27+ rising. Centaur Nessus, which often reveals the theme of sexual and emotional abuse, is exactly square the ascendant (which is the horizon). Nessus is directly overhead when the event starts. Making matters more interesting, the Moon, significator for all things feminine, is conjunct Ceres, the planet of mothers and daughters, and it’s exactly trine Nessus.
Video image of Huckabee’s remarks. Full video here. Sorry about the 30-second advertisement. Whatever it is, you don’t need it.
So the combination is Taurus rising, Moon, Ceres and Nessus — all aligned to within one degree. It looks like this chart was cast by an astrologer for a good fee. Said another way, it reveals the Republicans’ disdain for women and total lack of empathy for the female human condition on the planet.
He simply does not get it. I am loathe to deny consciousness, but if he does get it, who is this message supposed to reach, except for a bunch of men who also don’t get it? Or a bunch of women jealous that some other woman might want to use birth control (i.e., be sexually active)?
The presence of Nessus is evidence of intent — and a hint that this is going to come back to him, as events involving Nessus almost always do.
There is one other aspect pattern in the chart — the Juno-Chiron-Pallas pattern mentioned above in the SKY section. Pallas, which addresses politics, is inserting itself into the deeply personal Juno-Chiron conjunction — intimate matters of relationship and marriage. Also in the same pattern is Venus, which rules the chart, about to station direct close to Pluto.
Do most women get it? Almost. This chart says: not all the way. It still seems like legitimate political discourse. Over time, and not much time, that seems poised to take a step in public consciousness. One last political note: the political argument against birth control is that Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision that guarantees the right to contraception, is the precedent for Roe v. Wade, the decision that guarantees the right to abortion on demand.
There is a political strategy at work here.
As I Live and Breathe: Water Vapor Detected on Ceres
Scientists have observed Ceres, the largest asteroid (classified as a dwarf planet), giving off puffs of water vapor every once in a while — conveniently giving the Dawn spacecraft another item to study when it stops by Ceres next year around this time.
Ceres is almost round like Earth, suggesting it may have a rocky inner core, a thick water-ice mantle, and a thin, dusty outer crust. Image: NASA/ESA/A. Feild (STScI).
Although the amount of water vapor being released is very small, it hangs around just long enough to create a modest atmosphere around Ceres — but only part of the time. Seems perfectly fitting for the planet named after the goddess of agriculture (among other things), in whose mythology we find the creation of the seasons.
The presence of water on Ceres has been suspected since 1978, when certain observations combined with the planet’s strikingly round size suggested that an icy exterior formed after the core softened and separated into layers eons ago.
According to Sky and Telescope, the team at the European Space Agency’s Herschel observatory, led by Michael Küppers, hypothesizes two possible mechanisms explaining the watery exhalations:
“The interior of Ceres could still be warm enough to drive a little bit of water outward through deep fractures. Or maybe the surface occasionally warms enough for a little ice to sublimate and escape, carrying away loose dust and exposing fresh material.”
Dawn will have two different instruments at its disposal when it reaches Ceres, fresh from studying the asteroid Vesta. The goddesses should be pleased.
Dirty Deeds: This Week in Corruption
While the far right wrings its collective hands over marriage equality and marijuana legalization, examples abound that an aspect of morality some may consider a bit more, uh, fundamental is being routinely ignored — that pesky bit about greed and hypocrisy. Profiteers are hoping we’ll all keep paying attention to Justin Bieber’s latest misstep while they quietly line their pockets. Here, for your outrage and entertainment, are some of this week’s examples:
As the Midwestern and Northeastern parts of the United States struggle through the roughest winter in recent memory, you might think it good news that propane production is at an historic high — even though the increase is partly a byproduct of fracking for natural gas, at least people will be able to keep warm inexpensively, right?
Video still from The Daily Show gets the point across, with a nod to the movies — but you just can’t make up some of this stuff.
Nope. Home users are struggling with short supplies and record high prices, largely because oil companies can make more exporting to other countries. Gotta love that Invisible Hand of the Free Market, especially when it’s pulling the blankets off you on a frigid night.
But systemic corruption is not just an American illness, or even just a capitalist problem. The Guardian reports this week that Chinese fat cats are equally busy plundering the populace and stashing the proceeds in offshore accounts. Meanwhile, 300 million Chinese survive on less than two dollars a day.
Systems, of course, are built and used by individuals. Cases of individual corruption tend to look stupid and mean-spirited in the light of day, as witness the indictment of Virginia’s former First Couple, Bob and Maureen McDonnell. The McDonnells are accused of promoting iffy health products peddled by a good buddy who happened to give them a lot of fancy presents.
At stake for ‘regular folk’ would be a million-dollar fine and decades of lost freedom — unlikely here. Although the indictment may sink McDonnell’s chances for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, as Dana Liebelson and Tim Murphy point out in Mother Jones, “If recent history is an indication, he’ll probably get a reality show.”
To end on a slightly lighter, or at least more ridiculous, note, Toronto’s conservo-fabulous and insanely libertine (how do you even be that?) Mayor Rob Ford slipped and fell back into the headlines this week. He was caught on video ranting drunkenly about his troubles; seems it’s everyone else’s fault. His reality show got canceled after the first episode this fall. Shocked?
And that, dear friends, is how they operate.
Time Takes Its Toll at Fukushima and Beyond
Fukushima Daiichi is not the only nuclear power plant dealing with problems. In addition to a new leak discovered at Fukushima, two operating plants in the U.S. have announced issues with faulty equipment in the past week.
News of a water leak in Unit 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has surfaced, less than a month after the plant’s operator (TEPCO) reported steam seen rising from the same building. Unit 3 experienced a total core meltdown of used fuel containing plutonium.
Radioactive waste will last a lot longer than the nuclear plants that produce it, as depicted in this viral image.
Highly radioactive water has been seen pouring into a drain inside of the Unit 3 building on the first floor of the destroyed reactor, the utility said. The water flow was recorded by a camera installed on a remote-controlled robot that was being used to clean up rubble from the damaged reactor building on Saturday. The water is flowing toward the basement, where there is already a large accumulation of radioactive water.
A video of the water flow was released by TEPCO and posted on its website. As of Tuesday, the company released a statement stating that it thinks the water flow has reduced, and has posted an updated video.
In the U.S., two nuclear power plants are now dealing with their own problems. The Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant in Wake County, North Carolina, went offline last Saturday morning when smoke was detected coming from a transformer that powered the turbine. Duke Energy Progress, the operating company, said in press reports that no flames were seen and there was no threat to public safety.
This same plant was shut down twice last year by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that oversees nuclear power. It was shut down once in May due to signs of corrosion, and then again last month because of a crack in the containment vessel that is supposed to hold in radiation.
Monday, the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio, alongside Lake Erie, reported that radioactive material had been found in the water from a leaking steam pipe. The plant says tritium was detected in a groundwater monitoring station, and they are working on repairing the leak.
This is the second leak of radioactive steam from this plant since the first was discovered in June 2013. FirstEnergy Corporation, the plant’s operator, says that none of the contaminated water ever left the plant and, of course, there was never any risk to the public.
Equipment malfunctions will continue to be a problem for the nuclear industry as power plants deteriorate with age. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average age of nuclear reactors is 33 years. A study done by the University of Munich reports that half of the 104 nuclear plants in the U.S. have been operating for more than 30 years.
As we know that radiation dispersed by nuclear power plants has deleterious effects on all biological life forms, it may be taking its toll equally on the buildings that keep its contaminants at bay. As old and outdated nuclear power plant facilities approach their decommissioning phase, a whole new set of risks and challenges emerge, proving just how dangerous and unsustainable nuclear power truly is.
‘Bomb Trains': Crude Oil Transportation a Deadly Roulette Game
In the wake of the most recent major derailment of a train carrying oil from the Bakken shale, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and its Canadian equivalent have issued a joint call for stronger safety standards.
A firefighter walks past a burning train on July 6, 2013, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where most of downtown was incinerated. Philly got lucky. Photo: Mathieu Belanger/Reuters.
The latest derailment occurred at 1:00 am on Jan. 20 in Philadelphia. A 101-car CSX train was crossing the Schuylkill Arsenal Bridge when seven cars derailed, six of them loaded with crude oil. The bridge crosses both a river and a heavily trafficked expressway and runs through a densely populated area with two university campuses and a children’s hospital.
No one was injured and no oil was spilled — this time. But the same cannot be said of other recent derailments involving what crews have taken to calling “bomb trains.” A December 2013 derailment near Casselton, North Dakota, caused an explosion and intense fires. A 20-car derailment in early November sent flames shooting 300 feet into the sky over rural western Alabama. And what happens when derailed cars explode in populated areas was made horribly clear last July, when a derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec, killed 47 people and destroyed 30 buildings.
Even without immediate fatalities, spills are environmentally devastating. Bakken crude is loaded with volatile toxic chemicals, and the railroad industry plans to start handling it like toxic waste. Meanwhile, early data indicates there were 400,000 rail cars full of the stuff rolling in 2013 and 137 “releases,” compared to just one in 2009.
The railway industry estimates that retrofitting the problematic DOT-111 freight cars often used for crude will take about 10 years. New safety requirements are expected to be published sometime next year.
Improved GMO Detection Test Released; Anti-GMO Law Challenged
By combining two existing tests for GMO identification, a Chinese research team has developed a comprehensive test that they claim is 97% accurate for “known commercialized modification” of crops developed up to 2012. They claim this test is twice as accurate as any other, and that it is expandable to include future genetic modification.
Kauai resident Monica Arnett protests controversial GMO bill in front of County Building. Photo: Leo Azambuja.
Welcome news to farmers owning conventional fields, who face the constant menace of crop contamination from windborne GMO seeds landing them in legal and economic difficulty, through no fault of their own and without much recourse.
“Despite strict regulations, unauthorized GMOs have been occasionally released into the market. There is thus an urgent need for high-capacity monitoring of GMOs,” wrote the research team, led by Li-Tao Yang from Jiao Tong University, China.
Meanwhile, in Hawaii, the residents of Kauai might be wishing for this method of “high-capacity monitoring” to prove their points in court. Dupont, Syngenta and Agrigentics Inc. have filed a federal lawsuit, claiming that the island of Kauai’s anti-GMO law is unconstitutional. The three companies collectively lease 11,500 acres on Kauai for test farms and research facilities. They grow a mix of biotech seed crops, including corn, soybeans, canola and rice.
The anti-GMO law requires large agricultural companies to disclose pesticide use, report genetically engineered crops, and create buffer zones between pesticide-sprayed fields and public areas like schools, hospitals and homes. Planet Waves last reported on the bill on Oct. 11, 2013; it was subsequently passed in November and is set to take effect in August.
Councilman Gary Hooser, who co-introduced the bill, said the lawsuit is an attempt to bully the residents of Kauai and maintain secrecy around what pesticides they are using.
“These companies do not want our county to set a precedent that other communities are going to follow,” he said.
What do Mercury in Aquarius and graffiti art have in common? For one thing, both have to do with the eruption of some new, sudden expression of individuality in the midst of what has become solid, concrete and seemingly unchanging; yet those unexpected outbursts of thought and communication themselves crystallize into permanence as the paint dries. At least, until the next street artist comes along with a new idea and some fresh spray cans.
In “Limitless,” a time-lapse video shot and cut by Selina Miles and produced as part of a film series by spraypaint-maker Ironlak, four graffiti artists (going by the handles Sofles, Fintan Magee, Treas and Quench) are let loose in a massive, abandoned warehouse with astonishing amounts of paint.
Mercury may slow down as it nears its retrograde and direct stations, but the rest of the time it’s moving in fast-forward — just like this video, brought to you by the oh-so-Aquarian Internet.
The Mars Effect: Audio Previews and Featured Articles
This week’s broadcast of Planet Waves FM features an audio overview of the entire the Mars Effect project, in addition to previews of individual signs. Please give it a listen — especially if you have never purchased one of my annuals; the richness indicated in the previews is only the tip of the iceberg compared to the full readings. By the way, the featured articles in The Mars Effect, which have been written by about a dozen colleagues of mine on various themes related to the upcoming Mars retrograde in Libra, are free to anyone to read. Please check them out and let us know what you think.
Have you ordered your 2014 readings by Eric Francis yet? The Mars Effect (our 16th annual edition!) has just published, and includes in-depth audio and written readings for your Sun, Moon and rising signs. We always receive a flood of positive feedback for these readings, and it shows just how meaningful they are. One customer wrote, “Every minute of Eric’s reading is worth gold.” We’re offering you a special package price of $79 for all twelve signs, available only to current Planet Waves members. Or you may purchase individual signs for $29.95.
Your Monthly Horoscopes — and our Publishing Schedule Notes
Your extended monthly horoscopes for February are published below in this issue. We published your extended monthly horoscopes for January on Friday, Jan. 3. The Moonshine horoscopes for the Capricorn New Moon were published Tuesday, Dec. 31. We published Moonshine horoscopes for the Cancer Full Moon Tuesday, Jan. 14. Please note, we normally publish the extended monthly horoscope on the first Friday after the Sun has entered a new sign; Inner Space usually publishes the following Tuesday.
Aries (March 20-April 19) — Give partners and loved ones extra time and wiggle room to hesitate. Give them extra space to be self-centered. While you’re at it, give yourself that space as well; once you figure out you need these things, you’ll be more understanding of why others do as well. Over the next few weeks, you will gain a better understanding of where both you and partners are coming from. Remember that a partner or loved one’s lack of confidence may be associated with a memory that long predates your association. People will often allow their own past impressions to influence or even dictate what happens in a present-time situation. Ideally we would not do this, however, it’s more likely that the first step is learning to notice when it’s happening. This is the theme of the year for you — to know and understand the nature of projection, perhaps the most common psychological phenomenon. Projection is when you see something about yourself existing exclusively outside of yourself. As a clever writer recently pointed out, projection can only happen in the dark. So the first step is to gradually turn up the lights so you can see what is happening. The second step is to keep asking yourself what belongs to you and what belongs to someone else, and not to be satisfied with an answer till you have several points of documentation.
Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Venus will soon complete a rare retrograde (nothing of its kind has happened since 1803), which has taught you many things about the social conditioning that helped shape your character. One theme is the extent to which people who influenced you as a child were serving their own interests but tried to make it seem like they were doing you a favor. While this helped make you into the gritty and self-reliant person that you are, it’s taken a cost — and you seem determined to reclaim what you’ve given up. When the retrograde ends on Jan. 31, you may be left with the feeling that you’ve come close to some profound truth but could not break through to the core idea. The barrier between how far you’ve gone and what you actually want to possess is thin enough to push your hand through. It may not look that way, but it will feel that way if you use your tactile senses. In practical terms, when you encounter a belief about yourself or about the world, notice how you feel. Anything involving guilt can be considered suspect. Same for obligation you feel that does not have something productive in it for everyone, or where you come out on the short end of the deal. Question any form of any equation that includes, “You should dislike yourself because…”
Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Current aspects may have you rethinking a career or business plan. That’s actually a great idea. You seem to have a good idea, though what you need to do is balance your idealistic concept of what is possible against a diversity of practical concerns. Give yourself time for this — you seem to be involved in a thought process that will take about six weeks. My first question is not ‘is this thing too idealistic’ but rather, are you reaching for what you know would be the very best goal? However, before you get there, I suggest you strip your plan down to its most basic elements — what you want and why, what you need and why, what you want to accomplish. Consider how you manage your reputation. To what extent is your strategy defensive (laying low, protecting your supposed image) and to what extent is your strategy proactive (carefully cultivating the reputation you want, and deserve, for what you’ve accomplished)? Gradually, your logical mind will take over, and I suggest you run all your ideas through this particular mental filter. Keep reducing your idea till you’ve arrived at the bare essence, and understand every element of your plan or idea. Then toward the end of the month, you’re likely to rethink it yet again, only this time with greater clarity. At that point you will find the missing piece, the creative gem, the love in the dream.
Cancer (June 21-July 22) — I suggest you concern yourself less about how you are perceived by others and use that energy to focus on the substance of your goals. We live in a time when appearances are dangerously overtaking reality, and when glamour as a metric is prevailing over the quality of someone’s character. You could say this has been going on since the first motion picture was released, yet in truth it’s something that is happening from moment to moment. You continually get the choice which to feed, appearance or reality. Meanwhile, in a similar vein, you seem ready to question a belief that until now you’ve taken for granted. This belief is influencing a relationship. It’s not showing up as definitively helpful or unhelpful, but rather as something that you need to understand thoroughly. The belief is influencing the way you make your agreements with others, in a sense, biasing you. It will indeed be helpful if you know what that bias is, and you will soon have the clarity and mental tools to do so. This is a matter calling for careful analysis, of your own thought patterns as well as the specific elements of your commitments. What do you expect of others and what do they expect of you? How realistic are those expectations and what are they grounded in? You will have happier relationships for knowing these things.
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — You seem to be seeking a compromise on a matter involving shared finances, or perhaps more accurately, a question about sexual values in an intimate relationship. The scenario seems to be going in the direction of someone’s fantasy of how things can be, though leaving out some of the more obvious practicalities. This is definitely a scenario that deserves to have logic, data or some form of science prevail, rather than any form of make-believe or let’s see what happens. And logic will indeed prevail, so I suggest you hold the line and be patient while the planets shuffle around in a pattern that describes the renegotiation of the relationship in a more holistic way. In other words, the discussion is likely to start on one topic, and then expand into other topics that are related on the level of shared values. This comes down to understanding the values you have in common, and those that you do not. I would remind you here that you’re in a somewhat vulnerable position when it comes to others overpowering you. It will not work so well to resist forcefully, so instead, I suggest you use persistence. Time is on your side. What is obvious to you will become obvious to others as the discussion moves along, and the result will be a new understanding of your relationship, built on level ground.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — If you’re hesitating about a relationship commitment, I would remind you that there is no rush. You may sense that you’re heading for deep water, or like you’re gradually being drawn into a situation that you don’t fully understand. When you are ready, this may be fully appropriate. Yet if you’re uncertain of yourself, slow down and observe your environment. The first thing to listen to is your intuition. If you suspect that you’re not being given full information, or if you have a hunch that you’re in any way being deceived, then pause and begin to look more deeply into the facts. You don’t need to do this in an accusatory way, but rather in a way that seeks grounding in objective information. Consciously seek the truth, and make sure that you actually understand what you learn. Address any denial factor that may be present; be mindful of what you ‘don’t want to know’ or ‘refuse to believe’. This process will take a bit of scrupulous honesty with yourself, though there may be clues that get you closer to the heart of the matter. I suggest you investigate with extra care any situation involving alcohol, or the influence of mood-altering drugs, be they prescription or otherwise. The question to ask is: how is this influencing your relationship to reality? How is it influencing intimacy? You want to know.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — The past five weeks of Venus retrograde seem to have been designed to help you understand the impact of your family history, and your complex emotions. The two are related; partly why your emotions are so complex is because you filter them through so many past impressions and memories. Yet many of those are not your own; they are habits and values you picked up from various people who influenced you. Take the time to sort out what belongs to you and what does not. Once you claim what is your own and let go of what belongs to others, you will feel a lot less lost, and be able to call yourself more fully present. This does not necessarily involve severing ties to anyone, though at times that is necessary. But it will help you immensely to know when someone else’s emotions became a point of orientation for you more important than your own feelings, and to see the distortion that created. That may go in two directions at once — being overly self-centered at times, and not being able to find your center at others. Understanding why you are the way you are is a theme that persists through most of the year. You’re likely to continue your review of the past, which is for the sole purpose of helping you know yourself better. That, in turn, will help you have clearer, more trusting relationships.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — It’s essential for your wellbeing to sort out what influences in your life are nourishing and which are depleting. This is not as easy as it seems in a society where it’s considered normal for people to eat unhealthy food for the sake of ating, to have relationships for the sake of relationships and to purchase many things that they don’t need and barely even want. Since that is the cultural standard, it’s necessary to take the time to figure out whether something you take in — be it food, entertainment, information, family influences or emotional contact — actually sustains you. It would be worthwhile to consider this question in the context of any sexual influence as well. I think the concept of ‘addiction’ is overused and misunderstood, but it begins to have meaning when there is the quality of some influence potentially controlling your life. If during the next few weeks you find yourself at a full stop, or feel like you can no longer effectively negotiate with yourself, that’s the time to take some time and inquire about the issue of control. There is often an associated question about whether you want the responsibility implied by self-determination. The most common reason I’ve seen people abandon their power is because it seems to offer liberation from the consequences of their own mistakes. That’s one form of liberation that will never serve you.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You could have things be a lot easier than they currently are; you seem to have figured out that allowing yourself to be involved in complex situations is a way of learning about yourself. You seem to be in a scenario where your connection to someone else is like a personal development laboratory, or where you’re seeking self-actualization in the context of a relationship. You may have also figured out that such a thing does not work for you, and are resisting being so immersed in someone else, or anyone, with every cell in your being. There does seem to be a question lurking behind all of this, which is the extent to which you allow yourself to feel your feelings, and whether you need the assistance of someone else who resonates with you. This is a good question, with many implications — though the main theme is that of emotional independence. You would do well to ask, especially under your current astrology, whether that is possible, and if it is, what it means. At one extreme of the spectrum is the loner, with no emotional investments. At the other is someone codependent, whose emotional state is totally invested in what others think. The balancing point is healthy interdependence. That is built of mutual respect, self-reflection, communication and honoring for yourself and for everyone else what measure of freedom we have here on Earth.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Something seems to have happened to you over the past couple of months, involving coming into deeper contact with your creative gifts and your sexuality. You probably know or can guess that I consider these elements of humanity to be closely related, stemming right from the same source. To develop one, it’s essential to develop the other. Venus retrograde in your sign beginning at the solstice, spanning through the end of January, has done something magnificent for you: you have embodied something that was previously abstract or that existed in potential. You have taken steps to reclaim gifts that may have previously made you nervous, that you took for granted or considered something that only had relevance when you were younger. Here is the ongoing challenge: Devotion to artistry and the arts of erotic love requires self-focus. Even in our narcissistic culture, that can be considered suspect, and it can certainly be an irritant (or threatening) to people who have never considered any such quest. You need courage to persist on this mission, and you need to be willing to wrap your whole life around what will seem like a form of over-focus. Yet the idea is not to get lost in yourself — in order for your work or your discovery to have relevance, it’s necessary to find yourself. You are well on the way. Keep going.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Something is shifting for you on a deep inward level, which may feel like the healing of a kind of isolation or loneliness that has followed you around for a while. This has taken you a step closer to your soul, just when you were wondering if such a thing was even possible. Pay attention and you’ll notice that this keeps happening, with a slightly different feeling each time, though each time feeling like you’ve seated yourself in your own existence a little more firmly. It helps to make peace with the solitary nature of existence, or at least the compelling sensation of that effect. It’s the feeling of being alone in the universe that is a step in the awakening of every spiritually conscious person. That sensation of isolation does two things — it can come with the choice to give up looking outside yourself for what you can only find within; and it’s what opens the space to have the awakening of how alone you are not. That awakening is the dawn of authentic selflove. Nearly everyone who arrives there has earned it. They have faced their own darkness, to some real extent, and the mystery of their own existence. You are not done, but if your charts mean anything, you’re working with many more resources than you had just a few short months ago.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — You may feel like you’re dancing around the choice to immerse yourself totally in who you are — as if you’re playing a game of approach-avoid. Let’s assume that is true for a moment. When you feel any kind of approach-avoid, the first thing to check for is guilt. Fully soaking in your own reality implies that you will be yourself, and express yourself, without any reservations. Approach-avoid might show up as hesitancy with people knowing who you actually are, as if hiding it from yourself could in some way prevent them from finding out. That almost never works. People already recognize you and most are grateful for the example you provide. Some don’t seem that way, it’s true; you make some people nervous. I suggest, however, that you not underestimate the influence you have even on their lives. That said, it does not matter what anyone else thinks. Rather than avoiding anything, you actually seem to have come close to a discovery that you want to investigate, or have made an observation about yourself that you want to verify with some additional inner questing. I believe you’re about to discover how much sense you make; that is, that your seemingly most unworldly dreams, when subjected to logical analysis, actually make perfect sense. My saying this matters little, though — when you figure it out, it’ll rock your world and boost your confidence.
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