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Brussels, Monday, April 23, 2007

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Monday Morning Newsletter

Eric Francis
Dear Friend and Reader:

Have you had the feeling of living through a month every day? There are no eclipses to blame, just some good old ordinary celestial speedup. But when things start moving, it can really seem amazing how freakin' long they took to get moving.

Checking in with the astrology, this letter is sent under the waxing Cancer Moon, which has just squared Mercury. The Sun is approaching Chiron's discovery degree -- the "rainbow bridge" degree at 4 Taurus. Venus and Mars are in the spotlight; Venus is exactly square Mars now; she will soon square the lunar nodes; and then square Uranus.

Then Mars will make a conjunction to Uranus in Pisces. That is a lot of Venus and Mars -- enjoy. (By the way, Mars currently crossing the North Node and Venus square the nodes are what is likely to be giving the feeling of an eclipse. This is because the nodes carry the energy of an eclipse all the time, and we can really FEEL Venus and Mars so viscerally. Also, by late Monday night or early Tuesday morning when you are reading this, the Moon is in Leo and soon to make an exact occultation to Saturn, in fact a kind of an eclipse.)

I have a few housekeeping points from Friday to go over, and a couple of announcements involving teaching and travel in the United States. For those, please skip to the bottom. The May horoscope is being sent separately.

New Paltz PCB Clarification and Follow-up

First from the journalism department. With my latest foray into New Paltz PCBs, Planet Waves is now whipping around on the cosmic ice rink of investigative reporting, which is a game I feel one must play well or not at all. This is a correction, of sorts. In Friday's edition, you may recall that we linked to a Google search, which we said was New Paltz + PCBs. Actually due to some intercontinental miscommunication, the search returned New Paltz + PCBs + PlanetWaves, which only gave you hits from our sites and those of our cousins. That may have looked like we were trying to bias the results -- it was an error.

Here is the real search, New Paltz + PCBs, no quotes.

While we're on the subject, click it and notice what comes up first: the college's very own "fact sheet" on the incident. If you want to see how a polluter lies, this is Exhibit A. They all do the same thing: they take the most dangerous place and try to convince you it's the safest place. It's like the guys in moonsuits and respirators thumping on your front door to tell you everything is fine.

"There is a uniquely low risk of any PCB contamination at New Paltz today," this document informs the campus community. Yes, uniquely low -- when the stuff is everywhere that I have personally taken a sample and many places besides. Notably, it does not mention dioxin, dibenzofurans or dioxin-like PCBs -- all of which are known problems on the New Paltz campus.

It continues, "New Paltz is probably unique because the extensive cleaning and testing program following the incident identified and cleaned many of the PCBs that would be found in almost all modern buildings constructed before the chemicals were banned in 1976."

Cleaned many of the PCBs, as in not all of them?

And I love the words "probably unique" stuck together; that is adorable. It reminds me of something I would have read marking an English 101 paper at New Paltz. This is a CYA statement: Cover Your Ass. New Paltz, they say, is uniquely [clean], but the chemicals were used everywhere in the industrialized world, so if you got any you didn't get it here. Make a note: they have summed up their entire legal defense in this one statement. Their problem is they have also admitted they know they have a problem. Fraud is subtle; it is a self-concealing crime. Attempts at concealment are also evidence of its commission. The college's entire fact sheet is, read correctly, an admission of the problem.

It goes on, "The [cleanup] program covered the five buildings primarily affected and 29 other buildings on campus. The criteria used to clean the surfaces in buildings were 10 times more stringent than Federal EPA standards."

Actually, there were six buildings that were severely damaged, the four dorms, the Coykendall Science Building (the biggest building on campus) and Parker Theater (the most public). Notably, the fact sheet leaves off Capen Residence Hall, where the administration is now apparently claiming that no incident occurred. This is the building where Jen Folster, who died of leukemia, first got sick. A haze of PCB smoke reached the third floor, and in 2004, I personally found PCBs in a radiator, an air vent and in an electrical conduit in Capen Hall.

The statement that the cleanup criteria are 10 times more stringent than the EPA's is a nice way of saying "we left PCBs behind everywhere, but slightly less than the feds allow."

Then more CYA for good measure: "Until 1976, PCBs were widely used in roofing materials, fluorescent light ballasts, glue, carbonless paper, transformers and capacitors. PCBs are found in low levels in most buildings today." Translation: if you're sick, you didn't get sick here, it was from some other uniquely clean place.

Question: If PCBs were banned in 1976, what were they doing next to your kid's bedroom in 1991? Also, I have challenged the college to test the president's own house for "low levels of PCBs" for a comparison study and nobody is particularly interested.

I look forward to seeing this fact sheet with an exhibit tag on it. We have archived it on our own servers for the public record.

Our Brother's Keeper: Redux

Due to an editing error, we botched up Judith Gayle's article in the Friday edition, rendering some parts of it incomprehensible. We have redone the piece and posted it to its own page. We've also tightened up our editing procedures in response to this problem. Apologies to Jude.

The Chart for Virginia Tech

I've had a lot of requests for information about the chart for the Virginia Tech shooting Monday. I did the horoscope, though somewhat briefly, covering for Priya's blog on Tuesday. Here is that essay, with the chart. It is strange how many of the issues have borne out, though I did miss the involvement of antidepressants in my first reading. At the moment I plan to return to this astrology, doing the natal chart of Cho Seung-Hui on Friday, unless something else comes up. It is an instructive chart and well worth looking at. Till then, I recommend this article by long-time Planet Waves subscriber Alexander Chee, the Visiting Writer at Amherst College, who does an excellent analysis on how he would have handled this situation had Cho Seung-Hui been in one of his classes.

Teaching and Travel in the United States

Finally, I am feeling the calling: I plan to be in the United States more, doing astrology sessions and seminars in American cities. For workshops, I like to work in a small-group format (under 20 participants, and as few as seven). There are two time formats, full day, or prior evening then full day. I am offering three topics at the moment: Chiron Process in Astrology; a discussion workshop called Compersion in Relationships, designed for individuals and couples who want to open up their ability to communicate the unspeakable; and finally, a writing workshop for a small group in a custom format. This can be astrological writing or some other form. I would be happy to convey what I can about horoscope writing, as well as the basics of essay writing and blogging. Journalism can be taught quite effectively, and I welcome the opportunity to share what I have learned and am learning.

We're currently looking for hosting for one of these workshops in the Hudson Valley of New York for some time in May. If you would like to get involved, please drop an email to There is no schedule at this point, but likely cities in the next six to 12 months are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Phoenix, Boston and New York. If you live in one of those cities and would like to take part, offer space or help organize the event, please contact us, specifying the name of your city in the subject header of your email.

Thanks for reading. Planet Waves Monthly for May is being sent in a separate mailing.

Yours and truly,
Eric Francis
Brussels, Belgium

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