"It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it."

-- George W. Bush (commenting on embryonic stem cell research in
the midst of United States-financed and instigated global warfare).

Introduction by Eric Francis

ASTROLOGY and history can be tracked many ways, one of which is the microcosmic moment. Such has arrived in the form of the recent Mercury retrograde, which is actually still ongoing since Mercury won't reach new territory until August 13. The landscape so far includes two New Moons and one Full Moon, as well as a Cancer solstice chart that looked a bit like a snake pit on crank.

We all know the news is biased. If we followed events in the personal lives of our readers, we would obviously have more diversity than you get here. Nobody's birthday party gets mentioned on the numerous pages that follow, or the great new apartment, or the excellent dinner you made for your mom. There was that mind-bending orgasm experienced by Molly in Okoboji. You don't get any of that in this chronology. I don't think anyone goes to the park with their dog once. Kenny Lay goes on vacation but doesn't come home.

We do have scientific developments with the usual psychotic religious resistance. Lesbians are going to be able to breed. There's the awesome stem cell issue. A guy gets part of an artificial brain. The Shuttle takes off -- and lands -- in the midst of astrology not often kind to techy little gadgets.

I'll be amazed if you get through this timeline. If I were you, I would quit after about the fifth entry; you will have the picture. As for the astrology, I've added a brief description of the day's aspects for each day we cover. Only a few aspects are chosen -- the ones that felt most descriptive of the current era. So it's a partial story, and by the way, some of it is told in planets you haven't heard of yet. The odd-named planets are either centaurs or trans-Neptunian objects; no asteroids are used in this particular discussion. Three other points make appearances as well: the Galactic Center (core of the Milky Way) at around 27 Sagittarius; M87, a nearby galaxy with a huge black hole at its center just past 1 Libra; and the Great Attractor, at 14 Sagittarius. These are all points associated with different galactic bodies.

I don't have a clue what most of them mean, either, but this is how I am endeavoring to find out. In three years we'll all look back at the timeline and say, of course. In the middle of it all was a Full Moon conjunct Okyrhoe.

Quick Review of the 20th Century | Quick Preview of the 21st Century

June 17th | Mercury enters shadow phase in Cancer. Venus sextile Pelion. Mercury square 1992 QB1. Moon occults Uranus. Pholus trine Elatus. Mercury retrogrades in water signs are relatively rare in this phase of Earth history. The last time Mercury stationed retrograde in Cancer was June 23, 2000. We are now in a water-cycle. The most recent retrograde, in March 2006, was in Pisces. There was a retrograde in Scorpio in late 2005.

Sri Lankan forces have been accused of targeting a church in the north-western district of Mannar. It comes after early-morning clashes in Mannar between the Sri Lankan navy and Tamil Tiger rebels, in which more than 30 people were said to have died. Some 200 people had been sheltering at the church when a grenade was thrown in, causing death and injury.

June 18th | Crantor enters Scorpio (retrograde). Mars conjunct Saturn. Sun opposite Galactic Center. Mercury trine Pelion.

Japan has warned it will lodge a "fierce" protest with the United Nations Security Council if North Korea test-fires a long-range missile. The untested Taepodong-2 is believed to have a range of up to 6,000km (3,728 miles) with a light payload, allowing it to reach parts of the United States.

June 19th | Mars square Jupiter. Venus opposite Hylonome Uranus station retrograde.

Spain's Catalonia region won a degree of independence from Madrid in a referendum Sunday that some observers said eventually could lead to the break-up of the nation. Nearly 75 per cent of voters in this north-eastern region of Spain approved the plan in a binding referendum that gives Catalonia sweeping new powers to run its own affairs.

Iraqi prosecutors today asked a judge to sentence Saddam Hussein to death for his role in the killings of 148 villagers after a 1982 assassination attempt in the village of Dujail. Saddam, his half-brother and co-accused Barzan al-Tikriti and six other defendants face death by hanging if found guilty for their roles in the killing of 148 Shi'ites in Dujail.

Pro-whaling nations have won their first vote towards the resumption of commercial whaling for 20 years. Anti-whaling countries say they will challenge the decision.

The US Episcopal Church has chosen a woman as its next leader - Katharine Jefferts Schori  - making it the first church anywhere in the Anglican denomination to do so. In other words, Episcopalians have a girl pope! The choice could prove controversial, as most other Anglican churches around the world do not even allow women to be bishops. This is the same church that ordained a gay man as archbishop, and ordained an eloquent parrot as a minister, breaking the highly controversial species barrier.

June 20th | Saturn opposite Chiron. Mars sesquiquadrate Pluto.

The new UN Human Rights Council has the aim of re-invigorating the UN's approach to human rights but the problem of overcoming decades of past failures. The old Commission was packed with human rights violators, who got on becaue their names were on lists of regional leaders.

June 21st | Sun enters Cancer (solstice). Mars trine Ixion.

Another of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's trial defense lawyers has been shot dead. Two other defence lawyers were murdered last year in the early stages of the trial, which is set to end next month.

The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has reopened the abortion debate by urging the government to change the law. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor argues that technological advances mean abortion laws are outdated. Murphy-O'Connor has called on ministers to lower the 24-week abortion limit in the UK at a private meeting at the Department of Health.

The world's top scientists call for "evidence-based" teaching of evolution in schools.
"We know of schools in various parts of the world where the children are told that the Earth is about 8,000 years old," said Yves Quere, co-chair of the Inter Academy Panel on International Issues, the global network of science academies. This kind of thing is a problem in the United States, where kids are taught that dinosaurs lived 5,000 years ago to fit the Bible creation story a little better.

June 22nd | Jupiter square Saturn. Jupiter square Chiron. Sun square M87.

Spanish legislators passed a resolution on Wednesday, describing the U.S. treatment of inmates at the Guantanamo military prison as torture and demanding an immediate closure of the prison. This as a response to reports of a triple suicide of prisoners held at the U.S. prison on June 10, 2006.

June 23rd | Mars sesquiquadrate Galactic Center.

Seven people suspected of plotting to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and other targets have been arrested by the FBI. The suspects include five US citizens and two foreigners, including a Haitian. They are said to be Muslim, and were seen doing calisthenics late at night.

Our solar system has two new named bodies: Nix and Hydra. Previously called S/2005 P 2 and S/2005 P 1, the two moons were discovered a year ago in orbit around Pluto. The discovery of the new bodies was announced on October 31. "They're the 'Halloween moons' of Pluto," said Alan Stern, a planetary astronomer with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, whose team made the find.

June 25th | Cancer new Moon square Aries Point. Venus entered Gemini on 24th. Venus opposed Pholus on 24th.

Just a year after Israel's pullout from Palestine, Hamas militants reportedly tunneled into Israel, killed two Israeli soldiers and captured another -- demanding the release of 1,500 prisoners held by Israel.

June 26th | Mars sesquiquadrate Bienor. Mercury trine Bienor. Mars trine Great Attractor.

Israel's prime minister has promised prolonged and extensive military action to free an Israeli soldier missing and presumed held captive in southern Gaza. "We will reach everyone, no matter where," Ehud Olmert said in a speech in Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas ordered his security services on Monday to find a kidnapped Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip.

June 27th | Mars quincunx Uranus. Pelion stations retrograde.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged Israel to "give diplomacy a chance" in the standoff over an Israeli soldier held by Palestinian militants. "There will be no negotiations, no bargaining, no agreements." Mr Olmert, Israel prime minister, said.

The Council of Europe accused states of colluding with the CIA on secret flights transferring prisoners to third countries where they could be tortured. Europe's human rights body has called for steps to ensure terror suspects never again "disappear into thin air" from European soil. Authorities in several European countries actively participated with the CIA in these unlawful activities, also called "rendering." Prisoners are rendered in order to locate them in a country where torture is tolerated.

June 28th | Mars trine Quaoar. Sun quincunx Nessus. Mercury (direct) enters Leo.

Israeli forces have taken up position in southern Gaza after an overnight incursion aimed at freeing a soldier captured by Palestinian militants. "We have no intention of staying in Gaza. We have a central goal and that is to bring Gilad home", said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

June 29th | Venus trine Nessus. Mercury trine Pholus. Okyrhoe conjunct Varuna. Saturn sesquiquadrate Pluto. Neptune sextile Asbolus. Venus conjunct Chaos. Sun trine Jupiter.

Israeli troops have detained eight Palestinian ministers and dozens of officials from the ruling Hamas group in raids across the West Bank. "It was simply an operation against a terrorist organisation," an Israeli army spokeswoman said.

July 1st | Venus trine Chiron. Venus quincunx Jupiter. Mercury sextile M87.
A huge explosion ripped through a busy Baghdad market, killing at least 66 people. The new government has been battling to improve Baghdad security, and last weekend unveiled a national unity plan. But the attack was the worst incident in the capital for weeks.

July 2nd | Mercury septile Venus. Venus sextile Saturn. Mars sextile Chariklo. Bienor stations retrograde. Venus quintile Bienor. Venus opposite Ixion.

Israel has attacked the Palestinian prime minister's Gaza City office as it ratchets up the pressure over its captured soldier. "We will strike and will continue to strike at Hamas's institutions," said Interior Minister Roni Bar-On.

July 3rd | Sun square Rhadamanthus. Venus trine Rhadamanthus.

An asteroid, 2004 XP14 passes Earth in a close encounter which scientists say posed no danger to our struggling little world. Too bad, really. It is among 783 asteroids currently classified as potentially hazardous by the Minor Planet Centre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, because of its size and proximity to Earth. Estimated at half a mile (800m) wide, XP14 came within 270,000 miles (433,000km) of the planet - only slightly further away than the Moon.

Militants believed to be holding an Israeli soldier for more than a week have given Israel until 0300 GMT Tuesday to free Palestinian prisoners. Israel would otherwise have to face "the consequences," stated the Hamas military wing. The European Union called for the immediate and unconditional release of the soldier, as well as the release of Hamas politicians detained by Israel last week in the West Bank.

Three Palestinian militant groups that captured an Israeli soldier gave Israel less than 24 hours Monday to start releasing 1,500 Palestinian prisoners or "bear all the consequences." The ultimatum came as Israel made good on its promise not to let Gaza sleep until the soldier was freed, firing artillery shells and missiles into the coastal strip, and massing troops and tanks along the Gaza-Israel border.

Judges for Cambodia's long-awaited Khmer Rouge genocide trials have been sworn in, a key step towards bringing former leaders to justice. The swearing-in ceremony "erases the negative speculation people have had in the past that there won't be any trial," said Reach Sambath, a spokesman for the tribunal administration office. Some 1.7m people are thought to have died during Cambodia's harsh Khmer Rouge regime, between 1975 and 1979, which came in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. he US bombing of Cambodia in 1970 opened the way for the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge.

July 4th | Mercury stations retrograde. Saturn trine Ixion.  Mercury square Huya.

Ken Lay, the former Enron CEO, is reported to have died of a massive heart attack while vacationing in Colorado. This occurred just prior to his sentencing for numerous counts of fraud associated with his activities as CEO.

The Israeli soldier held by Palestinian militants remains alive, an Israeli spokesman has said. As a deadline set by the militants passed, one of the groups holding Gilad Shalit said they would not kill him, but there would be no more talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered the military to continue its offensive in Gaza and urged patience in the quest to free a captured soldier.

Militants in Gaza launch a homemade rocket into the Israeli city of Ashkelon; there are no serious injuries. The attack spread fear in Israel that Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip have made significant progress in expanding the range of their rockets.

A force of Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles moved into northern Gaza and was re-occupying former Israeli settlements in the area. "Our presence there doesn't mean that we intend to remain in the Gaza Strip. We simply want to prevent firing at our towns," said Ben-Elieze, the Israeli government minister.

A 300m section of a sea wall was intentionally breached to begin the creation of the UK's largest man-made marine wetland. The £7.5m government-funded project aims to replace bird habitats lost to development, improve flood defences, and create leisure opportunities.

The US shuttle Discovery, with seven astronauts on board, blasted off at Cape Canaveral in a fiery picture-perfect liftoff Tuesday, the first shuttle launch ever on a US Independence holiday. However, falling debris once again raised questions relating to astronaut safety in a takeoff that occurred the same day Mercury stationed retrograde. Discovery, carrying 48-year-old German astronaut Thomas Reiter to the International Space Station for a six-month stay, launched after two countdowns were stopped on the weekend due to bad weather. Eight minutes after the 1838 GMT launch, Discovery reached its Earth orbit, sending the spacecraft on its way for the two-day journey to the station that orbits 400 kilometres above Earth.

North Korea test-fires at least six missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2, despite repeated warnings from the international community. Because the missiles are theoretically capable of delivering nuclear warheads, this sets off a huge, dramatic nuclear crisis that actually goes back a ways, which hardly anyone notices because 1. They're roasting chicken on the barbecue; 2. They were lighting off fireworks and didn't see the missiles go by; 3. They were blind and deaf and did not have a Braille internet station. 4. All of the above. More information at this link.

July 5th | Mars opposite Neptune. Venus opposite Great Attractor.

Israeli forces thrust deeper into Gaza Thursday, killing at least 17 Palestinians and militants and occupying former Jewish settlements in the biggest offensive since leaving the territory last year.

July 6th | Sun trine Uranus. Mars quintile Chaos. Mars trine Asbolus. Venus square Uranus. Venus opposite Quaoar. Venus square Uranus.

Twenty-two Palestinians and an Israeli have reportedly been killed in the bloodiest day of violence since Israel pushed into the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials deny any plans to reoccupy Gaza.

China and India have opened a historic trade route that had been closed for nearly half a century. "We hope the reopening of the silk route will improve relations between the two countries," said China's ambassador to India, Sun Yuxi.

July 7th | Sun quincunx Quaoar. Mercury sextile M87.

Israel has consolidated its hold on the Northern Gaza Strip, with air strikes in which at least three Palestinian militants have been killed. Meanwhile an Israeli minister suggested that if the soldier was released some Palestinian prisoners could go free. Until now Israel has said it will not negotiate a prisoner swap, originally suggested by Islamic militants Hamas as a solution to the crisis.

South Korea suspends food aid to North Korea because of its controversial missile tests, reports said. The move came as Japan presented the UN Security Council with a binding draft resolution calling for sanctions against North Korea. The draft is backed by the US and the UK, but opposed by two other permanent Council members, China and Russia, both of whom want a non-binding statement without the threat of sanctions.

July 8th | Sun conjunct Varuna. Mars trine 1992 QB1. Nessus trine Thereus. Venus trine Chariklo.

Palestinian government calls for cease-fire. Israel refuses without release of soldier. 

US 'finds Iraq killing failings'. In other words, US Marine officers at all levels failed to investigate conflicting reports of killings in the Iraqi town of Haditha, a report quoted by US media says. A number of women and children were among those killed in an incident that has become the most serious allegation against US troops in Iraq since the invasion.

A 62-year-old child psychiatrist has become the oldest woman in Britain to have a baby.
The baby was conceived through IVF using a donor egg and was the result of the couple's fifth and final attempt at the process, which cost £10,000. The child is born with a Sun-Varuna conjunction in its natal chart.

July 9th | Uranus square Quaoar. Amycus stations direct.

Nearly 150 people, including many children, are feared dead after a Russian airliner crashed in Siberia. About 55 people were injured, Russian officials said. The plane was carrying 192 passengers and eight crew. All the crew were said to have died. Just two months ago, on 3 May, an Armenian Airbus A320 flying to Sochi in Russia crashed into the Black Sea killing all 113 people on board.

More than 100,000 people have gathered in Mexico City to support demands for a recount after last weekend's hotly disputed presidential election. Mr Lopez Obrador, the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), said ahead of the rally: "The votes were counted but were badly counted. They were counted to favour the right-wing candidate."

Gunmen in the Iraqi capital Baghdad have killed at least 40 people at a fake police checkpoint, in an apparent sectarian attack against Sunni Muslims. Officials said the shooting could be in retaliation for a car bomb that killed at least two people at a nearby Shia mosque on Saturday.

July 10th | Mercury enters cancer. Venus trine Neptune. Sun square Chariklo. Mercury trine Pholus (second time).

The largest trial of senior Serbian officials has begun at The Hague's International War Crimes Tribunal. Six men, including ex-President Milan Milutinovic, face war crimes charges over the actions of Serb troops during the conflict in Kosovo in 1999.

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) passenger plane has crashed on a domestic flight, killing all 45 people on board, officials say.

Scientists have proved for the first time that sperm grown from embryonic stem cells can be used to produce offspring. Stem cells are special because they have the potential to develop into any tissue in the body. This pokes a hole in the theory that using stem cells = murder, since you can make fetuses from them. But those fetuses could potentially be aborted at some point. They could also be born. Good or evil? It's all very confusing.

July 11th | Capricorn Full Moon. Sun quintile M87. Sun conjunct Okyrhoe. Sun is about to square Asbolus. Huya stations direct.

Palestinian medics report chemical burns on patients in Gaza, raising concerns that Israel was using chemical weapons. Israel has begun new wave of air strikes in the Gaza Strip after pledging to intensify its military offensive on the territory that has killed 51 Palestinians in two weeks.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has denied American-led coalition forces are losing the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan. The number of "terrorists" being killed meant it was hard for them to say coalition forces were losing, he said.

Robert Novak told prosecutor his sources in Valerie Plame leak case. The journalist who first identified a C.I.A. officer said that he revealed his sources voluntarily, but reluctantly

The go-ahead has been given for a new crop of UK nuclear power stations. Industry secretary Alistair Darling told MPs nuclear power needed to be part of the mix of energy supply for the UK over the next 40 years.

The Bush Administration announced today it would comply with the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The apparent shift in its stance was prompted by a Supreme Court ruling last month which held that prisoners could not be tried by military tribunals and did have civil rights under the United States constitution.

More than 160 people have been killed and 460 injured by seven bombs in Mumbai (Bombay, India). There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, which are the worst in the city for more than a decade.

July 12th | Sun square Asbolus. Venus square Pelion. Sun biquintile Great Attractor. Sun sextile Sedna. Mercury sesquiquadrate Great Attractor. Mercury trine Crantor.

Lebanese guerrillas have captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, triggering the first Israeli land incursion into the country since 2000. Hezbollah, a combined social and military organization, recognized as a political party in Lebanon, says it captured the soldiers to secure the release of Lebanese and other detainees held in Israeli prisons.

US condemns Hezbollah for the kidnappings, and blames Iran and Syria for the attacks.

The bodies of 23 people have been found following the kidnapping of bus drivers northeast of Baghdad. The latest violence comes as US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Baghdad for meetings with US commanders and Iraq officials.

Enron witness Neil Coulbeck found dead in park in Scotland. He is reported to have been the executive who authorised the transfer of Enron assets to the investment vehicle operated by the "NatWest Three," although there was no suggestion that he had profited personally from this transaction.

Ken Lay's memorial attracts power elite. George H.W. Bush, James Baker among attendees at packed church for the Enron founder; minister at the ceremony compares fallen energy titan to Jesus.

Microsoft fined 280.5m euros ($357m; £194m) by the European Commission for failing to comply with an anti-competition ruling. Microsoft's general counsel, Brad Smith, insisted the company had met the commission's demands, and said it would appeal the decision.

Tornados reported north of New York City. Amid the heavy winds, one building collapsed in Hawthorne, New York, about 30 miles (48 km) north of New York City, but no serious injuries were reported.

July 13th | Mars square Hylonome. Sun square 1992 QB1. Mercury trine Bienor.

Israel blasts Beirut's airport, highways, military bases in furious retaliation campaign. Israel's target was allegedly Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militant Shiite faction which has a free hand in southern Lebanon and also holds seats in Parliament. Hezbollah began the current conflict Wednesday with a cross-border raid that captured two of Israel's soldiers.

Israel is imposing an air and sea blockade on Lebanon as part of a major offensive after two soldiers were seized by the militant group Hezbollah. The offensive in Lebanon follows a day of heavy fighting in which the Israelis suffered their worst losses on the border for several years.

Iran warns Israel not to attack Syria. Iran has close ties with Syria, and with Hezbollah.

More troops may be needed in Baghdad, U.S. General Says. "Terrorists and death squads" were responsible for the surge in sectarian killings here in recent weeks, and that there might be a need to move more American forces into the capital to prevent the deadly cycle from worsening. Foreign fighters, though, account for only a small percentage of the daily violence in Iraq; most of it occurs at the hands of nationalist and sectarian militias.

Intensifying violence in the Middle East on Friday stoked fears of an oil-supply disruption in the region, pushing oil prices above $78 a barrel. Because oil accounts for more than 50 percent of the cost of gasoline, pump prices, now averaging $2.96 a gallon nationwide, are likely to climb, analysts said. The wholesale price of gasoline is near a 10-month high. With oil futures climbing 5 percent in the past week, stock prices tumbled and OPEC tried to reassure the market by stressing its commitment to "order and stability."

A sensor implanted in a paralysed man's brain has enabled him to control objects by using his thoughts alone. A team of scientists inserted the device, called a neuromotor prosthesis (NMP), into an area of the brain known as the motor cortex, which is responsible for voluntary movement.

In vitro fertilization 'need for father' rule may go. The UK public health minister has given the clearest indication yet that fertility clinics will no longer be able to refuse treatment to single women and lesbians.

July 14th | Mars trine Pluto. Sun trine Pelion. Venus opposite Pluto. Moon occults Uranus.

Israel has hit the Beirut offices of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, but the militant was unhurt in the raid, his group says.

G8 summit begins in St. Petersburg, Russia. A microphone picked up an unaware George W. Bush saying that Syria should press Hezbollah to "stop doing this shit" and that his secretary of state may go to the Middle East soon, amongst other now-infamous statements.

Full transcript: Bush and Blair's unguarded chat.

Astrology report on Live Lunch conversation by Eric Francis on

Seven former Bosnian Serb officers have gone on trial at The Hague war crimes tribunal for alleged involvement in the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica. The trial, the largest yet staged at The Hague, is one of just a handful dealing with the killing of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the UN safe haven.

July 15th | Venus sextile Mars. Chiron trine Chaos. Deucaliom sations direct. Sun semisquare Chaos.

An Israeli air raid has killed at least 17 Lebanese civilians who were fleeing southern border areas. The exact location of the Israeli action is not clear, but Syria has denied that Israel hit targets in its territory.

Putin, at the G8 summit, tells Bush he would not like to have Iraq-style democracy. The embarrassing exchange between the Russian and US leaders underscores how the war in Iraq has damaged the standing of the United States, to the point where even modest encouragement for democratic reform is met with ridicule.

July 16th | Moon on Aries Point. Sun trine Hylonome. Venus opposite Galactic Center.

Outed spy Valerie Plame sues Dick Cheney and other top United States officials. Filed with the U.S. District Court in Washington, the complaint accuses Vice President Dick Cheney, former top aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and presidential adviser Karl Rove of violating the couple's rights to free speech, privacy and equal protection by conspiring to reveal Plame's CIA identity, ostensibly in revenge for Wilson's criticisms of the reasons for the Iraq war. The filing came on the same day that Robert Novak, whose syndicated column first reported that Plame was with the CIA, revealed that Rove was one of his sources for the information.

Rockets fired by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon have killed at least eight people and wounded dozens of others in the coastal Israeli city of Haifa.

The US president, in St Petersburg for the G8 summit, has insisted Israel is defending itself against terror and Hezbollah is the root of the crisis. French President Jacques Chirac spoke out in defence of Lebanon. A common G8 position on the middle east crisis will not be easy with a clear division emerging between the US on one hand, and France and Russia on the other.

North Korea has angrily denounced a United Nations resolution condemning its missile tests and said it would build up its military arsenal. The UN resolution demands that North Korea suspend its ballistic missile programme, and bars all UN member states from supplying North Korea with material related to missiles or weapons of mass destruction.

July 17th | Pholus enters Scorpio (retrograde). Sun quincunx Pluto. Mars conjunct Orcus. Venus square Bienor. Mars trine Galactic Center.

American Marines herded hundreds of U.S. citizens onto a landing craft on a Beirut beach on Thursday to escape a week-long Israeli bombardment of Lebanon.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair have called for an international force to be sent to Lebanon. It is unclear which countries would contribute to the force, and what its mandate would be.

Eighteen months after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, hundreds have died after a giant wave struck the Indonesian island of Java. Their deaths have raised questions about the failure of a promised Indian Ocean tsunami early warning system to sound an adequate alert.

Queens electricity blackout begins. Con Ed says only 2500 customers affected.

Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney reveals that Big Dig tunnel has over 300 areas where bolts were coming apart from the tunnel roof. Tunnel remains closed.

Hundreds of Muslims have been questioned by police in the Indian city of Mumbai following last week's serial bombings. This has created a growing sense of uneasiness among the city's four million Muslims, who have come out in strength to condemn the attacks.

France sent Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to Beirut to express support for Lebanon, President Jacques Chirac's office said. The prime minister was set to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to express French support for and solidarity with the Lebanese, Chirac's office said in a statement.

US space shuttle Discovery and its six astronauts returned safely to Earth on Monday, touching down in Florida after a problem-free 13-day mission to the International Space Station. Twin sonic booms announced the shuttle before it roared through thick cloud cover and landed at Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral at about 500 kilometres an hour, its parachute bursting open to slow the craft before it rolled to a stop. The next space shuttle launch is set for August 28, when the Atlantis is to lift off with four huge solar energy panels bound for the ISS.

July 18th  | Sun conjunct Mercury (retrograde). Mars quintile Jupiter.

Foreign governments are stepping up the evacuation of their citizens from Lebanon, as Israeli warplanes carry out a seventh day of air strikes.

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice argues against a cease fire without effecting lasting changes in the region first.

A car bomb attack in the southern Iraqi city of Kufa has killed at least 53 people and left 103 injured. Shia Muslims in Kufa, 160km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, have been the frequent targets of attacks.

July 19th | Venus enters Cancer. Venus square M87. Mercury quincunx Pluto.

US President George W Bush has vetoed a controversial bill, overwhelmingly supported by the House and Senate, which would have lifted a ban on federal funding for new embryonic stem cell research. "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it," he said on Wednesday. Polls suggest most Americans back the research, which scientists hope will lead to cures for serious illnesses.

July 20th | Venus trine Huya. Venus trine Deucalion. Mercury trine Hylonome.

Israeli soldiers are fighting Hezbollah militants inside the Lebanese border, Israeli military officials say. Lebanon's president has called for an immediate ceasefire, calling Israel's offensive - which has killed 300 people, most of them civilians, and displaced 500,000 - a "massacre".

UN warns that war crimes may be being committed in Gaza and Lebanon regarding indiscriminate killing of civilians. Louise Arbor , UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, "Indiscriminate shelling of cities constitutes a foreseeable and unacceptable targeting of civilians... Similarly, the bombardment of sites with alleged military significance, but resulting invariably in the killing of innocent civilians, is unjustifiable"
There is an obligation on all parties to respect the "principle of proportionality", she said.

Lebanese doctor reports that Israel using chemical weapons in Lebanon. Eight mummy-like bodies were taken to the hospital on Monday and photos taken of the corpses. Two children's bodies showed no indication of wounds resulting from an explosion.
"I have the impression that a poisonous product penetrated the body via the skin. Death follows with almost 100 percent certainty," the professor said.

Indonesia has recorded its 42nd human bird flu death, bringing the country level with Vietnam as the worst affected by the disease. Indonesia has been criticised for its reluctance to cull fowl in infected areas - a measure that experts say is the best way to stem the spread of the disease.

The world needs a new global organisation dedicated to stemming the loss of plant and animal species. The 2006 Red List of Threatened Species showed more than 16,000 plants and animals sliding towards their demise, including a third of amphibian species and a quarter of mammals.

The largest tear in the Earth's crust seen in decades, if not centuries, could carve out a new ocean in Africa, according to satellite data. Geologists say a crack that opened up last year may eventually reach the Red Sea, isolating much of Ethiopia and Eritrea from the rest of Africa. The 60km-long rift was initially sparked by an earthquake in September.

July 21st | Mars square Crantor. Sun trine Bienor. Sun trine Crantor.

Israel has called up thousands of reserve troops and told civilians to quit southern Lebanon immediately, amid threats of a large-scale incursion.

Ta Mok, one of the main leaders of Cambodia's brutal Khmer Rouge regime, has died in the capital Phnom Penh. Ta Mok was expected to be one of the first people tried for genocide and crimes against humanity at UN-backed hearings due to start next year.

Police in India have arrested three men in connection with a series of bombings that killed more than 180 people in the city of Mumbai. The three belong to a banned group, the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi).

Gail Sacco pulled green grapes, bread, lunch meat and, of course in this blazing heat, bottles of water from a cardboard box. A dozen homeless people rose from shady spots in the surrounding city park and snatched the handouts from her.

Condoleeza Rice said that a quick cease-fire "will be a false promise if it returns us to the status quo." She added that Hezbollah is the source of the problem in Lebanon and must be disarmed. "We must work urgently to create the conditions for stability and lasting peace," Rice said. "What we're seeing here," she said, "are the birth pangs of a new Middle East."

July 22nd | Sun enters Leo. Mars square Pholus. Mars enters Virgo. Sun trine Pholus.

Israel has massed soldiers and tanks on the border with Lebanon and called up thousands of reserve troops, in a possible prelude to a ground offensive.

The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday. The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said.

With fears of a humanitarian crisis growing, Israel opened up its blockade of Lebanon's ports to allow the first shiploads of aid to arrive, and tens of thousands of Lebanese fled north to escape Israeli army incursions.

Israeli jets knocked out TV and phone masts in the east and north of Lebanon, while ground troops carried out operations in two southern villages. However, Israel has insisted it has no plans for a large-scale invasion.

US President George W. Bush said Saturday that one of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's chief goals on her upcoming Middle East trip would be to try to isolate Iran and Syria. Secretary Rice will make it clear that resolving the crisis demands confronting the terrorist group that launched the attacks and the nations that support it," Mr Bush said.

China deaths spark cover-up claim with the number of people killed in a storm that hit southern China last week has risen to more than 500 - more than double the original estimate.

The misery of a five-day blackout that has darkened large swaths of Queens during the hottest week of the year erupted into fury yesterday after Con Edison disclosed that the blackout is 10 times larger than it had previously reported. The development sparked an angry response, with residents and city leaders branding the utility incompetent and a state lawmaker calling for a criminal investigation.

July 23rd | Sun biquintile Pluto. 1992 QB1 stations retrograde. Venus quincunx Venus.

In Sidon, 14 people were injured and a mosque was destroyed in the first strikes on the southern port city. The UN's humanitarian chief Jan Egeland has been touring shattered districts of Beirut, and said the devastation was "a violation of humanitarian law".
Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert said Sunday that the current Israeli offensive against Lebanon would "last a very long time," as he addressed a Cabinet meeting Sunday. According to a senior Israeli government official, Olmert said: "The diplomatic process will not come at the expense of destroying infrastructures of terror and this process will take a very long time.

Doctors treating Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have called for an international investigation of the types of weapons being used by Israel, as many of the patients have burns that are indicative of possible chemical weapon use by Israel.  The organs, particularly the kidney and spleen, of the victims continue to burn even after the person has been declared clinically dead, according to doctors in hospitals throughout the Gaza Strip.
The trial of Saddam Hussein resumed on Monday without the ousted Iraqi leader, who was being fed through a tube on Sunday after 16 days on hunger strike.

The torture of prisoners in US custody in Iraq was authorised and routine even after the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light, a US-based rights group says. "It is now clear that leaders were responsible for abuses in Iraq," Mr Sifton, John Sifton, author of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, said. "It's time for them to be held accountable".

The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate, alarming research suggests. And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.  

A star on the brink of exploding as a spectacular rare supernova has been glimpsed by international astronomers. These are among the brightest phenomena in the Universe, radiating five billion times as much light as the Sun. "It could be tomorrow, but most likely it'll be 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 years from now," says Jeno Sokoloski.

July 24th | Sun sextile M87. Sun square Huya. Mercury trine Pelion. Venus sextile Thereus.

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, meets Tony Blair in London today as violence in Iraq reaches a new crescendo and senior Iraqi officials say the break up of the country is inevitable.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has blamed the US for the collapse of global trade talks. US conditions attached to cutting farming subsidies were "unacceptable" for developing countries, he said. But the US said it was "fully committed" to the talks and blamed Europe for its lack of ambition over reaching a deal to cut farming tariffs.

Ministers from European Union member states have agreed to continue funding research on embryonic stem cells. Some countries oppose the research, but scientists say the cells are the key to treating diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Last week US President George W Bush used his veto for the first time to limit federal funding for the research.

Pakistan has begun building what independent analysts say is a powerful new reactor for producing plutonium, a move that, if verified, would signal a major expansion of the country's nuclear weapons capabilities and a potential new escalation in the region's arms race.

The first prisoner at Guantanamo Bay to be turned over to a foreign government for prosecution was released Monday by the Spanish Supreme Court , which found that the evidence against him was insufficient to support a conviction. Hamed Abderrahaman Ahmad, known as the "Spanish Taliban," was captured by Pakistani soldiers while leaving Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and handed over to the US, which extradited him to Spain in February 2004.

July 25th | Leo New Moon. Sun/Moon square Decaleon. Sun/Moon quintile Sedna. Mercury conjunct Okyrhoe.

Four United Nations observers have been killed in an Israeli air strike on an observation post in south Lebanon. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "shocked" at the "apparently deliberate targeting" of the post. Israel has expressed "deep regret"

Almost two weeks into its military assault on Hezbollah, Israel said Tuesday that it would occupy a strip inside southern Lebanon with ground troops until an international force could take its place. The announcement raised the prospect of a more protracted Israeli involvement in Lebanon than the political and military leadership previously signaled or publicly sought.

Pakistan is building a new nuclear reactor that enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year in what would be a major expansion of its nuclear program and could prompt an intensified arms race in South Asia, a report said Monday. While U.S. officials knew about the reactor project, congressional aides said Congress was largely unaware until a report in the Washington Post on Monday citing an analysis of satellite photos and other data by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

Gripped by a 10th straight day of 100-degree heat, California sweated out the possibility of more blackouts Tuesday as the number of suspected heat-related deaths climbed to at least 56 and the rotting carcasses of thousands of dairy cows and other livestock baked in the sun.

Sensors in space have recorded the dramatic increases in land temperatures and air pollution as the UK swelters in record-breaking heat. The images show major cities like London, Birmingham and Liverpool experiencing the highest levels of the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

MySpace, the world's most popular networking website, has restarted after being shut down for more than half a day following a power cut. The company blamed the closure on record-breaking heat in Los Angeles where its data servers are held.

An abortion bill aimed at stopping people from helping pregnant girls skirt parental-notification laws has gained passage in both houses of Congress, but sticky political and policy disputes stand between it and President Bush's desk, the Associated Press reported. Just moments after the Senate passed its version 65-34 late Tuesday -- with the support of 14 Democrats -- Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., used a procedural motion to halt its progress. "Transporting minors across state lines to bypass parental consent laws regarding abortion undermines state law and jeopardizes the lives of young women," Bush said in response to the Senate's approval of the bill.

July 26th | Sun biquintile Galactic Center. Mars semisquare Veruna.

International leaders are meeting in Rome to discuss how to end the fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas and bring humanitarian aid to Lebanon. But efforts to secure peace in the troubled region have been made more difficult by the diplomatic storm which blew up after Mr Annan accused Israel of deliberately bombing a UN observation post in southern Lebanon, killing four UN peacekeepers.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, at Middle East crisis talks in Rome, has called for an immediate ceasefire from both Hezbollah and Israel and accuses Israel of targetting UN observation posts. According to an initial UN investigation into the incident the observers were subjected to a six-hour bomb attack by Israeli forces during which they called Israel's military 10 times to tell them to stop.

Nine Israeli soldiers have been killed in fierce clashes with Hezbollah militants in south Lebanon. More than 405 Lebanese and 51 Israelis have died in violence since Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on 12 July.

Surrounded by yellow Hezbollah flags, more than 60 Iranian volunteers set off Wednesday to join what they called a holy war against Israeli forces in Lebanon.
Organizers said the volunteers are carrying no weapons, and it was not clear whether Turkey would allow them to pass.

Israeli strikes killed 23 people in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, including 16 militants and a mother and her two young daughters, in the deadliest day of fighting since Israel withdrew from the coastal strip last year.

UK drugs firm GlaxoSmithKline believes it has developed a vaccine for the H5N1 deadly strain of bird flu that may be capable of being mass produced by 2007. Mr Garnier, Glaxo chief executive, said he recently met US President George W Bush to discuss the vaccination programme. Following that meeting, Glaxo received $272m (£148m) of funding, earmarked in part to develop new technologies to produce vaccines.

Queens lights come on, but parts of Staten Island lose power. About 14,000 customers in Staten Island lost power this afternoon because of downed electrical wires, Consolidated Edison said. The power outage came hours after the company said a lengthy blackout in western Queens had ended.

In a dramatic turnaround from her first murder trial, Andrea Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity Wednesday in the drowning of her children in the bathtub. The 42-year-old woman will be committed to a state mental hospital and held until she is no longer deemed a threat. If she had been convicted of murder, she would have been sentenced to life in prison.

Slovene Foreign Minister Calls for "Compromise" on Kosovo Status. "A solution should not be forced upon anyone. Both sides must find the proposed solution acceptable. I believe that an agreement can be reached which would be beneficial for everyone," Rupel said following his talks with Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic.

July 27th | Venus trine Jupiter. Moon occults Mars. Sun conjunct Elatus. Sun is about to oppose Nessus.

Israel says Wednesday's decision by key world powers not to call for a halt to its Lebanon offensive has given it the green light to continue. The European Union has dismissed an Israeli minister's remark that it had been given the green light to continue.

Israel is calling up more reservists to boost its military campaign in Lebanon. But ministers did not decide to launch a larger ground offensive - a day after Israel suffered its biggest one-day loss of the 16-day conflict.

Al-Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has said in a video the militant network will respond to attacks on Muslims in Lebanon and Gaza. Al-Qaeda could not remain silent in the face of a "Crusader war" and now saw "all the world as a battlefield open in front of us", he said.

Two explosions in a central Baghdad district have killed at least 27 people, Iraqi police say. President Bush announced that US troops would be deployed to the Iraqi capital to deal with the deteriorating security situation.

US President George W Bush has signed into law a 25-year extension to the Voting Rights Act, one of the key pieces of civil rights legislation. Speaking at a White House ceremony, Mr Bush said Congress had reaffirmed that all men were created equal.
"My administration will vigorously enforce the provisions of this law, and we will defend it in court," the president added.

The North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun is in Malaysia, along with officials from the other five nations involved in multilateral dialogue with North Korea over its disputed nuclear programme but North Korea remains defiant.

The trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity has been adjourned until 16 October when a verdict is expected. Saddam Hussein's defence team has been boycotting the trial to demand tighter security, after the deaths of their three colleagues, and replacement lawyers have been named.

A Russian rocket carrying 18 satellites has crashed soon after lift-off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket crashed some 25km (15 miles) away, without causing injuries on the ground, but all of the 18 satellites on board were destroyed.
Seventeen of the satellites were being launched for foreign customers, including the US and Italy.

More than 95% of e-mail is junk, be it spam, error messages or viruses, report mail monitoring firms. Only 1% of net addresses could be regarded as legitimate sources of mail.

Scientists say they have made a crucial step forward in understanding and treating endometriosis. This painful condition affects between 10 to 15% of women.

28th July | Sun opposite Nessus. Sun square Thereus.

Israel is continuing its bombardment of Lebanon, with dozens of air strikes leaving at least five people dead.

Tony Blair will press George Bush today to supporta ceasefire in Lebanon as part of a UN security council resolution next week "as a matter of urgency"

N Korea threatens to quit talks

The heat wave that has been baking California since mid-July is being blamed for about 100 deaths across the state

The US should immediately shut all secret detention facilities used in its campaign against terror groups, the UN Human Rights Committee has said

Related: Detainee abuse charges feared.

With New Yorkers already fuming about reports that the feds downplayed the danger of Ground Zero dust, the White House gave EPA chief Christie Whitman the power to bury embarrassing documents by classifying them "secret."

29th July | Mercury stations direct. Mercury square Asbolus (near miss). Mercury square 1992 QB1. Chiron square Thereus. Venus septile Mars. Sun is about to oppose Chiron.

The UN has warned the deaths of four of its personnel in southern Lebanon may deter countries from contributing to a future peacekeeping force in the area.

Israel has rejected a United Nations call for a three-day truce in southern Lebanon, as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returns to the region.

An international force must be quickly dispatched to Lebanon, US President George W Bush has said.

The US state department has dismissed as "outrageous" a suggestion by Israel that it has been authorized by the world to continue bombing Lebanon.

The Israeli army has pulled out of the Gaza Strip after a two-day operation in which at least 29 Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council have agreed on a draft resolution giving Iran until 31 August to suspend uranium enrichment.

July 30th / 31st | Moon is in Libra. Sun opposed Chiron on Sunday 30th, and is biquintile Uranus Monday 31st, and Uranus squares Great Attractor. Venus trined Uranus Sunday. Mercury continues to gain forward momentum. Asbolus stationed retrograde Monday.
The UN Security Council has expressed its "shock and distress" at an Israeli attack in which at least 54 Lebanese civilians, many of them children, were killed. More than 30 children died in the raid on Qana on Sunday, the deadliest Israeli attack since hostilities began. The statement was approved by a unanimous vote of the 15-member council at an emergency session on Sunday. It also called for a permanent and sustainable ceasefire, but not an immediate truce as urged by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Washington continues to oppose calling for an immediate ceasefire at the UN. The United States has also refused, so far, to call for a ceasefire.
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz says Israel cannot agree to an immediate ceasefire, despite a partial halt to air strikes on south Lebanon. He said Israel intended to "expand and strengthen" its operations in Lebanon. Isreal had initially offered to stop the bombing for 48 hours to determine how so many civilians were killed.

Gunmen wearing Iraqi police uniforms kidnapped 25 people in a commercial district in central Baghdad, interior ministry officials said. Mass kidnappings have become a feature of the sectarian violence across Iraq. There have been regular reports that Iraqi police are involved in abductions and so-called death squads, but little concrete evidence.
Neither man talked about failure, but that was the subtext to the meeting between US President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. The upsurge in sectarian violence which has coincided with the crackdown, has seen the Iraqi civilian death toll rise to about 100 per day.
Internet law professor Michael Geist says the issue of free speech and the power of the net to disseminate comment is far from being resolved in law.

The Pentagon is keeping a close eye on what its troops post online, with special attention being paid to videos that show the aftermath of combat. There is no specific policy that bans troops from posting graphic material. Sites such as YouTube and have hundreds or thousands of clips from soldiers, some set to rock music.
US scientists have found a way to reverse muscular dystrophy (MD) in mice, offering hope of a cure for humans with muscle-wasting diseases.

Researchers have developed a "man-made" scorpion venom to be used in the treatment of brain tumors. So far the technique has been tested in 18 patients and further trials are under way, a report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology says.
The left-wing candidate in Mexico's disputed election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and his backers are occupying the capital's main square and avenues. Thousands of people are reported to have set up camp overnight in the historic Zocalo Plaza and the Reforma Boulevard, blocking traffic on one of the capital's main roads.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has urged Iran to increase investment in his country's oil and gas assets. Visiting Tehran as part of a foreign tour, Mr Chavez also pledged Venezuela would "stand by Iran at any time and under any condition". Mr Ahmadinejad described Mr Chavez as a "brother".

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to promote Britain as an ideal place for stem-cell research when he meets US biotechnology firms late. Mr Blair is on a four-day visit to California to try to boost co-operation between the state and the UK. While US President Bush has used his veto to limit federal funding for stem-cell projects, California has passed legislation that would allow it to raise up to $3bn to finance related research.

The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has said he wants to work more closely with Vietnam as part of his alliance against American imperialism. In Hanoi, the two countries signed a number of agreements including one on developing oil and gas reserves.

August 1st | Moon enters Scorpio. Sun sesquiquadrate Pluto. Saturn quincunx Uranus and trines Great Attractor.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro has temporarily delegated power to his brother Raul after suffering intestinal bleeding which required surgery. The proclamation on the handover was read on Cuban TV by Castro's personal assistant, Carlos Manuel Valenciaga, on 1 August.
Urging President Bush to turn all U.S. efforts toward "ending this madness," a leading Republican from Nebraska's, Sen. Hagel, breaks with Bush on Mideast. "The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now," Sen. Chuck Hagel said. "President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. The Bush administration has refused to call for Israel to halt its attacks on southern Lebanon.
Some 15,000 reservists could be called up for the wider offensive Israeli forces are pushing deeper into southern Lebanon after Israel's cabinet unanimously agreed to widen the ground offensive against Hezbollah. One minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, says Israel needs 10 days to two weeks to clear Hezbollah from the border.

Top Indian and Pakistani officials have met for the first time since the Mumbai (Bombay) train bombings last month and pledged to pursue peace talks. Peace talks were stalled after Mumbai blasts.
In their first meeting since then the foreign secretaries said that the peace process was important for both the countries.
Government ministers have lost their court appeal against a ruling which said six control orders used against terror suspects broke European human rights laws. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision issued by a European judge earlier this year that orders made against six suspects were too severe and should be quashed.

August 2 | Moon is in Scorpio. Sun is square Jupiter. Mars quincunx Chiron.

Up to 10,000 Israeli troops pushed into Lebanon on a wider front today after the Israeli cabinet decided to widen its offensive, aiming to push Hezbollah back from the border before a cease-fire is declared and a multinational force is deployed there.
Tony Blair flew back to Britain from the United States tonight to face a growing backlash in the Labour Party about his backing of George Bush's stance in the in the Israel-Lebanon conflict. And a senior official at the United Nations joined Labour backbenchers in expressing dismay that Mr Blair had refused to back international calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Seven people from the same village have been hospitalised in Indonesia with suspected bird flu, officials say. The group is from Karo district in Northern Sumatra province, where seven members of one family died of the deadly H5N1 virus in May. Their deaths sparked fears that the virus was mutating into a form which could pass easily from human to human, but experts later ruled this out. Currently, one must contact an infected bird to contract this particular strain of flu, which is unusually deadly.
A series of hidden texts written by the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes are being revealed by US scientists. Until now, the pages have remained obscured by paintings and texts laid down on top of the original writings. Using a non-destructive technique known as X-ray fluorescence, the researchers are able to peer through these later additions to read the underlying text.
A distant world that escaped the likely fate of the Earth - being toasted to a crisp when the Sun grows old and dies - has been discovered by UK astronomers. The brown dwarf withstood being swallowed by a red giant and is now locked in a perpetual dance with the remains of the larger star. Club Med plans a resort for the brown dwarf to be opened in 2012.
Cannabis use around the time of conception may prevent women getting pregnant, a study of mice suggests. University of Nashville researchers found an ingredient in the drug binds to receptors present in early embryos. The ingredient prevents transport and implantation of embryos in the womb by interfering with the delicate system. It is already known that cannabis lowers the sperm count of men.

August 3 | Luna enters Sagittarius, and Venus is quincunx Neptune.

The Indian government plans to ban the employment of children under 14 in hotels, restaurants and teashops and as domestic servants. According to government figures, there are nearly 13 million child workers in India.
The former chief of ISI, Maj. Gen (R) Hameed Gul has "predicted" that America would definitely attack Iran and Syria simultaneously in October. His comments came after attending the Hamdard Majlis Shoora, Tuesday evening. He also condemned the lackluster and weak reaction of Pakistan and Islamic bloc about Israel’s attack of Lebanon.
The Israeli press reported that the Bush Jr administration is encouraging Israel to attack Syria. If Israel attacks Syria as it did when it invaded Lebanon in 1982, Iran has vowed to come to Syria's defense.
More than 900 Lebanese people have been killed in three weeks of fighting with Israel, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has said. The UN has said that many of the Lebanese dead are children.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is in Benin as part of a tour aimed at strengthening ties with Africa. On Wednesday he visited Mali, where he promised $100m a year in petroleum products to help fight poverty.
A heat emergency is in place in New York City, as high temperatures grip the east of the United States for a second day. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has urged residents to conserve energy to avoid the blackouts experienced last month.

Tony Blair said on Thursday he was "hopeful" that the United Nations Security Council would agree a resolution implementing a cease-fire in the Middle East within the next few days.

The head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid, acknowledged Thursday that Iraq could descend into civil war. "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular. And that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war," he testified at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. However, many commentators have been saying for years that if Iraq is not currently in a civil war, then what is a civil war?

The Venezuelan ambassador to Israel has been recalled by the president, Hugo Chavez to show his "indignation" over the military offensive in Lebanon.  

August 4th | Moon is in Sagittarius. Sun is sesquiquadrat Galactic Centre. Mercury is semisquare Mars, and Venus sextile Sedna.

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, said he has recalled his country's ambassador to Israel to show his "indignation" over the military offensive in Lebanon.
The UK's home secretary, John Reid, has lost an appeal against a High Court Ruling that gave nine Afghan Refugees discretionary leave to stay in the UK. He had argued that he should be able to limit their ability to work and 'enjoy other freedoms'. The nine had come to the UK after hijacking an aircraft in 2000.
The UK's largest retailer aims to cut the four billion plastic bags it dishes out annually by 25% within two years, it said today.
Tesco will award Clubcard points to people who recycle old carriers or pack up their shopping in other bags.

A pair of planet-like objects 400 light years away that have baffled astronomers because instead of orbiting a star, they float freely, circling each other. Separated by about six times the distance between the Sun and Pluto and inhabiting the constellation of Ophiuchus, the bigger of the two is 14 times larger than Jupiter and twice the size of its companion.

For the first time, the French government has been confronted with scientific evidence that its nuclear tests in the Pacific caused an increase in cancer on the nearest inhabited islands.
Negotiations are continuing at the UN in New York on the wording of a resolution urging an end to fighting in Lebanon and Israel. France has circulated a draft proposal, but is still locked in talks. The BBC's James Robbins in New York examines the possible outcomes.

A military prosecutor branded four US soldiers war criminals as he pressed for them to face a court martial. The men are accused of murdering three Iraqi detainees in cold blood close to the central city of Samarra in May.
Artwork that changes to suit a viewer's mood has been created by scientists. The technology, developed by a UK/US team, enables a digital painting to recognise a person's emotional state and respond accordingly.
A blood test could detect the earliest stage of breast cancer, early stage research has suggested. Among 345 women the blood test picked up 95% of cancers, making it much more sensitive than existing tests. Detecting cancers earlier is crucial to saving more of the 500,000 people who currently die from breast cancer each year around the world.

In India a follow-up study on pesticide content in soft drink brands concludes that average pesticide residue, was 23 times higher than acceptable standards. It also suggests that little has changed since the earlier controversy on the subject that stretched from February 2003 to November 2004. So-called acceptable poison standards in food are a ruse -- an understatement -- because they don't factor in the synergistic effects when you mix the compounds, as so often happens, or burn them when cooking.

Aug 5th | Luna is in Sagittarius. Mercury quincunx Pluto.

A controversial project to build a dam in Turkey has re-emerged. The dam -- which would be the second largest in Turkey by volume of water, is to be sited on the upper Tigris River. Opponents believe it will devastate the area's environment and cultural heritage, as well as displacing more than 50,000 people. The World Bank has refused to finance the Ilisu Dam because of these and other environmental concerns. It is also worried about the potential for conflict if Syria and Iraq become belligerent about the amount of water siphoned off by Turkey

Israeli commandos have clashed with Hezbollah fighters during a raid on the southern Lebanese city of Tyre.

Thousands of demonstrators have joined a march in London calling for a ceasefire in Lebanon. But Israel was not the sole focus of criticism. There was widespread condemnation of Tony Blair's conduct and the actions of the US.

Relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq are to set up a new political party called Spectre aimed at bringing about the defeat of government ministers. Spectre plans to contest as many as 70 seats at the next general election.

Cuba has dismissed a broadcast message from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to its people urging them to push for democracy. Everyone knows banana companies have nothing to do with freedom.

Serious concerns are being raised about the counting of votes in the Democratic Republic of Congo's first multi-party elections in 40 years.

The death toll from Tropical Storm Prapiroon in southern China has so far risen to at least 55, with 17 people still missing, state media report.

At least 14 people have been killed in a spate of attacks and fighting in northern Iraq. The sudden eruption of violence in Mosul has come as a surprise, since the end of last year the city - once a hotspot for violence - has been largely calm.

Sri Lanka forces and Tamil Tiger rebels have kept up an exchange of mortar and artillery fire in the north-east, in the worst violence for four years.

World leaders have been urged to put more money into developing new energy technologies to tackle global warming. Royal Society president Martin Rees wants a publicly funded international research programme, he says a pledge to increase governments' investments in energy technologies should have been made at the recent G8 summit in Russia.

Aug 6th | Moon enters Capricorn. Sun is quincunx Uranus, and trines Great Attractor.

At least 15 people have been killed in a barrage of Hezbollah rocket strikes on northern Israel.

Israeli forces have detained the Speaker of the Palestinian parliament at his home in the West Bank.

An Iraqi army medic has told a military hearing in Baghdad how he found the bodies of four Iraqis allegedly murdered by US troops. It is one of a series of atrocities being blamed on US forces in Iraq.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has told a German newspaper he does not rule out an assassination attempt on Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah by the Israeli military and that the normal rules of war did not apply to Nasrallah, who was not a head of state but "the chief of a terrorist organization." Can we get any friendlier?

US governors are closing ranks in opposition to a proposal in Congress that would let the president take control of the National Guard in emergencies without consent of governors.

Cats that died during an outbreak of bird flu in Iraq last February were infected with the H5N1 virus. Researchers said their findings support the idea that cats can be infected with H5N1 and may play a role in transmitting it

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander will seek powers to create toll roads across the UK, reports have said. These are the same roads that will have cameras every 50 feet. Car thieves have banded together expressed their vehement opposition to the measure.

India and Pakistan have expelled diplomats from each other's countries after Pakistan accused an Indian visa official of "undesirable activities". Relations have soured since train bombings in Mumbai (Bombay) last month. More than 180 people died in the bombings, which India said were carried out by militants with support in Pakistan.

Mixed messages, as the Indian government succumbs to Israeli pressure and orders a nationwide ban on the broadcast of Arab television channels. But remains vocal in its condemnation of Israeli barbarity.

Forty people have died after a bridge collapsed in heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan's north-western city of Mardan.
Tony Blair has hailed the agreement of a draft United Nations resolution as "an absolutely vital first step" towards ending the conflict in Lebanon. The prime minister's comments came as a march involving thousands of people took place in central London calling for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon.

The Web celebrates its 15th anniversary of going world wide. The 6 August 1991 was the day on which links to the fledgling computer code for the www were put on the alt.hypertext discussion group so others could download it and play with it.

Three women and a man have been arrested at Prestwick Airport in the UK after breaking through security fencing and getting onto the main runway. The four say they were investigating reports that Prestwick was still being used as a refuelling stop for US flights carrying bombs to Israel.

Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has called on supporters to march on the electoral tribunal to demand a full vote recount. Official results from the 2 July vote gave victory to the conservative Felipe Calderon by half of a percentage point. For the past week Obrador's supporters have been camped out in central Mexico City as part of a campaign of 'civil disobedience'

Aug 7th | Moon is in Capricorn. Sun is conjunct Saturn.
Israeli jets have launched fresh attacks on Lebanon as troops battled Hezbollah fighters in the south. The action comes a day after at least 15 people were killed in Israel.

Israel will broaden its ground offensive in Lebanon within days if diplomatic efforts to end the fighting fail to make progress.

Israeli troops have detained another Palestinian member of parliament during an overnight raid in the West Bank.

Lebanon has insisted on an explicit demand for a full Israeli pullout from south Lebanon in the draft UN resolution on the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

Google has started warning users if they are about to visit a webpage that could harm their computer. The initiative comes out of a larger project cataloguing programs that plague people with unwanted ads, spy on web habits or steal personal data.

At least 549 people died and another 295 are still missing as a result of floods which struck North Korea last month. Related stories here.

Hundreds of residents of the Bakassi peninsula in Africa say they have declared independence, days before Nigeria is to start transferring control to Cameroon. The Bakassi Movement for Self Determination would reject Cameroonian sovereignty, the residents said.

Rescuers have been digging through mud and debris, looking for some 300 people still missing after floods in Ethiopia on the 5th August.

The Philippine authorities have ordered the evacuation of about 35,000 people living near Mayon, the most active volcano in the Philippines saying an eruption could take place soon.

The government of Iraq is secretly holding a Baathist cabal of military officers it claims attempted a coup against Prime Minister al-Maliki last month. Al-Maliki said the mutinous attempt to replace the elected government of Iraq was organized by military officers loyal to Saddam Hussein.

US forces have taken up positions in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in the first visible sign of a new security plan being implemented. At least 4,000 US troops are being deployed in an attempt to reduce sectarian killings and kidnappings.

The war in Iraq could claim its biggest political victim this week as a senior Democratic senator faces probable election defeat to a little-known challenger running on an anti-Iraq war platform. Incumbent Joseph Lieberman, a three-term senator with 18 years experience in Congress's upper chamber is poised to go down in defeat to businessman Ned Lamont.

European astronomers are planning to build an optical telescope four times bigger than any in existence. The powerful observatory will allow astronomers to see some of the first galaxies to form in the Universe and also to look for signatures of life on distant planets.

Aug 8th | Moon enters Aquarius. Venus is quincunx Pluto. Mars sextile Jupiter.

Israel has warned residents of southern Lebanon that it will escalate operations there as it continues its campaign against Hezbollah. Leaflets dropped by Israeli planes, say its forces will destroy moving vehicles in an area south of the Litani river, 30km (18 miles) from the border. Diplomats at the UN are still discussing a draft resolution to end fighting but UN officials have warned of a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Lebanon, as aid agencies face problems with access to parts of the region.

The news agency Reuters has withdrawn from sale 920 pictures taken by a photographer after finding he had doctored two images taken in Lebanon. Internet Bloggers first spotted that smoke on Adnan Hajj's image of the aftermath of an Israeli air strike in Beirut appeared to have been made darker. Reuters commented that it welcomed the growth of weblogs, which had made the media "much more accountable and more transparent"

At least 19 people have been killed and at least 60 injured in a series of blasts in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad The attacks come despite a new security drive in the city.

Thousands of supporters of defeated Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have rallied at the country's top electoral court. They have also blockaded key streets in Mexico City for the last week demanding a recount of all votes in the disputed 2 July poll.

Lights dimmed across Hong Kong today as residents protested against air pollution in the city. Environmentalists organized the The "Lights Out" campaign involving a three-minute blackout. Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang had refused to back the blackout, saying it would damage Hong Kong's image as an international tourism and business centre. Some people just say the dumbest things.

Leading Democrat Joe Lieberman, who stood for vice-president in 2000, has lost a mid-term primary in Connecticut against anti-war newcomer Ned Lamont. His loss - just six years after his party made him its vice presidential candidate - made him only the fourth incumbent senator to lose a primary since 1980.

Congress appears ready to slash funding for the research and treatment of brain injuries caused by bomb blasts. Proponents of increased funding say they are shocked to see cuts in the treatment of bomb blast injuries in the midst of a war.

US researchers have managed to engineer the genetic blueprint or DNA of a mouse and rebuild a gene that was present in primitive animals 500 million years ago. The ancient gene later mutated and split, giving rise to a pair of genes that play a key role in brain development in modern mammals. The scientists say the experiments shed light on how evolution works and could lead to new gene therapy techniques. This is too complicated for fundamentalist Christian activists to understand; they will comment in three years.

People could pay for the amount of rubbish they produce under plans being considered by the British government. Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said the amount of waste produced needed to be cut alongside more recycling. There has been a general increase in recycling which is welcomed by the Friends of the Earth but the pressure group warned much more needed to be done to catch up with other European countries.

An anesthetic called Ketamine can treat depression within hours, US research suggests; it is also used as a recreational drug. Most existing treatments for depression take weeks or even months to relieve people's symptoms. The research team says ketamine, in its current form, would not be appropriate for medication because of side effects at higher doses, which include hallucinations, euphoria and out of body experiences.

Aug 9th | Moon is in Aquarius, with Moon conjunct Neptune and Sun still closely conjunct Saturn. Venus is semisquare Mars. Mars approaching opposition to Uranus and Jupiter a trine to Uranus.

French and American diplomats at the UN are starting work on re-drafting their plan to end the Middle East crisis. An Arab League delegation argued that a resolution should call for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon. Diplomats say prospects for an early vote on the resolution are fading.

The Israeli cabinet has approved an army plan to push deeper into Lebanon, to try to take control of areas used by Hezbollah to launch rockets on Israel. Up to 30,000 troops could take part, aiming to reach the Litani River, up to 30km (18 miles) inside Lebanon.

Up to 100 MPs, most of them Labour, are to demand an immediate recall of parliament to debate the crisis in Lebanon because of growing fears about the government's strategy. Prominant MP John Trickett said said: 'In this crisis, parliament needs to speak for the nation. We are living in a 24/7 society, yet our parliament seems so ossified that it goes into recess for 11 weeks'

Iraq's Prime Minister has sharply criticised American tactics on the first day of an operation to deploy thousands of US reinforcements in Baghdad. The city of seven million people  has been carved into discreet sectarian strongholds where it is lethal for members of rivals communities to set foot.  

Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite Muslim preacher who has steadfastly fought against American forces in Iraq, has emerged as one of the most powerful leaders in the country. American officials say Sheikh Sadr now holds the key to forestalling the civil war threatening the country.

The Bush administration is seeking to exempt politicians, CIA agents and ex-soldiers from prosecution for mistreating prisoners. The amendments would narrow the reach of the War Crimes Act, which now states U.S. citizens can be prosecuted in federal criminal courts for violations of the Geneva Conventions, The plan has provoked concern at the International Committee of the Red Cross, the entity responsible for safeguarding the Geneva Conventions.

Christian publishers Westminster John Knox are to release a book by a conspiracist who blames the 9/11 attack on the White House, not bin Laden

Scientists in the Philippines have warned that Wednesday's full moon could spark a major eruption of the Mount Mayon volcano. Mount Mayon, the most active volcano in the Philippines, could erupt at any time, but the full moon's gravitational pull could trigger the eruption, they say. A full moon coincided with at least three of Mayon's 47 eruptions, including the two most recent ones in 2000 and 2001.

Lebanon's coastline could take up to 10 years to recover from a massive oil spill, the nation's environment minister has said. The oil slick caused by Israeli bombing of a power station now covers 120km (75 miles) of the region's coasts. The experts warned that the first people at risk from the potentially cancer causing "toxic spray" were the two million inhabitants of Beirut.

India's annual monsoon rains -- vital for the country's agriculture-driven economy -- have triggered floods across at least five Indian states since the weekend, killing at least 311 people and forcing 4.5 million from their homes as rescuers struggled to bring them food and drinking water.

The East coast of the UK is preparing itself for possible evacuations ahead of floods which may hit next month. The alignment of the Earth, the Moon and the Sun during September and October mean that UK tides will be the highest in 20 years

The shutdown of a large Alaskan oil field because of a small leak in one of the pipes is raising questions about whether there are more widespread problems in other pipelines used to transport oil throughout the United States.

Aug 10th | Moon enters Pisces. Venus quincunx Galactic Centre. Mercury sesquiquadrat Uranus and Great Attractor.

A plot to blow up planes in flight from the UK to the US has been disrupted, Scotland Yard has said. Twenty-four people are being held in London after night-time raids. It is thought the plan was to detonate explosive devices smuggled in hand luggage on to as many as 10 aircraft.

Pakistan has made a number of arrests in connection with an alleged UK plot to blow up planes flying to the US.

The US is deploying extra air marshals on flights between the UK and the US after Britain's earlier announcement. The White House said the plot had been a "direct threat" to the US and the top US security official said aspects of it were "suggestive of... al-Qaeda.

Israeli troops seize the south Lebanon town of Marjayoun whilst The UN's top humanitarian official criticizes both Israel and Hezbollah for hindering access to southern Lebanon.

More than 1.5 million people have been evacuated from their homes in south-east China as the strongest typhoon in 50 years makes landfall. Saomai is the eighth powerful storm to hit China this year. July to October is the tropical storm season in the region but this year they have been unusually frequent.

China plans to extend its new Tibetan rail link to reach the region's second-biggest city, Xigaze. The existing track connects Tibet's capital Lhasa to Beijing. It has already caused controversy as critics fear increased control, they also say the railway line threatens both the delicate Himalayan environment and Tibetan culture.

The Pakistani authorities have placed Hafiz Mohammed Saeed the former head of an outlawed Islamic militant group under house arrest. He now heads an Islamic charity, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which has been listed by the US as a terrorist group.

An unpopular pigment used by artists in the 18th Century could lead to more energy efficient, faster computers. Cobalt green sometimes known as Rinmann's green, is a mixture of zinc oxide and may be useful for building working devices as it can be used at room temperature, unlike many other materials. 

Happiness is a good hug. A recent study has indicated that physical contact, such as hugs, can help people to live longer as it boosts the “feel-good” hormone oxytocin at times of stress.

A leading bioethicist has stated that women who donate their eggs for stem-cell and cloning experiments should be paid directly for their contributions to medical research.

The rapid spread of Western business practices in Japan has caused widespread mental illness and is responsible for a deepening demographic crisis, government officials say.

Aug 11th | Moon is in Pisces, and conjunct Uranus. Sun is opposite Neptune. Mercury enters Leo.

Anti-terror Police are still quizzing 22 people over an alleged plot to blow up US bound jets flying from the UK. Airport security has been stepped up in both countries, with stringent luggage searches and restrictions. Home Secretary John Reid said no-one should imagine that the recent arrests ended the current terror threat.
Senior diplomats are meeting at the UN in New York amid signs that agreeing upon a resolution to end the violence in Lebanon and Israel is close. Foreign ministers are seeking to overcome differences on a draft text. The UN's Human Rights Council, meanwhile, has voted for an inquiry into Israeli attacks on civilians in Lebanon. Eleven countries voted against criticising the proposal for not condemning Hezbollah as well.
George Bush reacted to the plot to bomb US-bound flights from the UK calling them a "stark reminder" that the US is still at war with Islamic extremists. He also commented that "Islamic fascists...will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom". In contrast Democratic critics said the plot showed his policies had increased the threats faced by the US.
In the US the Bush administration has been attempting to divert $6 million that was supposed to be spent developing new homeland explosives detection technology. Congressional leaders rejected the idea, the latest in a series of steps by the Homeland Security Department leading the department's own experts to question the governments commitment to creating better anti-terror technologies.

Indonesian officials have delayed the execution of three Christians sentenced to death for inciting attacks against Muslims during religious rioting in Sulawesi. The last minute reprieve was given after an appeal by Pope Benedict XV. Sulawesi province has a long history of violence between Muslim and Christians

A report by the American Civil Liberties Union has told how thousands of prisoners in New Orleans' main jail were abandoned to floodwaters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Prisoners were trapped in flooded cells without food or water. The sheriff in charge of the jail told the Associated Press news agency the claims were "lies".

In an unusual move, the first official naming of suspects in the UK flight bomb plot has come from the Bank of England, after it announced the freezing of accounts of 19 out of the 24 being held for questioning. Home Secretary John Reid said the police were confident that the "main players" had been accounted for. But US government sources claimed that British officials were aware of five suspects who remained at large.

Mexico's opposition leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said a partial recount of votes from the presidential election he narrowly lost has shown so many errors that the top electoral court will have to declare him president-elect. Conservative candidate Felipe Calderon won by 244,000 votes, or 0.58 of a percentage point. Protests continue to escalate in Mexico City.

A suicide bomb attack at a market in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf has killed at least 35 people and injured more than 90 others. The attack occurred near the Imam Ali shrine, one of the most sacred Shia Muslim sites. A Sunni insurgent group claimed it had carried out the bombing.

The US embassy in India has warned of possible terror attacks in Delhi and Mumbai (Bombay) taking place ahead of India's Independence Day celebrations on the 15th August. The announcement comes just one month after more than 180 people in Mumbai were killed by a series of bomb attacks on commuter trains. The embassy said it had information that foreign terrorists were planning to carry out bomb attacks around the two cities.

A federal judge in the US declined to throw out the criminal case against two pro-Israel lobbyists accused of violating the Espionage Act, denying their argument that the novel prosecution infringed on their constitutional right to free speech. The decision alarmed First Amendment advocates who were already concerned about the unprecedented nature of the case. The lobbyists are the first nongovernment civilians charged under the 1917 espionage statute with verbally receiving and transmitting national defense information.

In cities across Italy police have raided Internet cafes, money-transfer offices and long-distance phone call centers catering to Muslims and arrested 40 people in a crackdown linked to Britain's alleged terror plot.

The meltdown of Greenland's ice sheet is speeding up, satellite measurements show. Data from a US space agency (Nasa) satellite show that the melting rate has accelerated since 2004. New figures are about three times higher than an earlier estimate for the mass loss from Greenland. "Acceleration of mass loss over Greenland, if confirmed, would be consistent with proposed increased global warming in recent years," the authors wrote in Science. If the ice cap were to completely disappear, global sea levels would rise by 6.5m (21 feet).

The low-frequency, seismic rumblings of volcanoes are being transformed into delicate musical scores in an effort to predict when they will erupt. Data sonification as it is known, transforms complex data into audible sounds. It has previously been used to analyse astronomical data from the Shoemaker Levy comet collision with Jupiter.

v Computer firm IBM made technological history on 12 August 1981 with the announcement of a personal computer. This 25 year anniversary highlights just how much computers have changed our lives. The IBM 5150 had just 16K of memory - scarcely more than a couple of modest e-mails worth, the machine was not the first attempt to popularize computing but it soon came to define the global standard.

Mornings are the best time to have an operation, according to research which shows more complications occur when surgery is performed in the afternoon. Natural changes in the pain levels during the day, a dip in the body's circadian rhythm which regulates sleep and brain wave activity and staff fatigue could be involved.

Aug 12th | Moon enters Aries. Venus enters Leo, and is sesquiquadrate Great Attractor.

This weekend, 24,000 people from around the world will converge on Toronto for the sixteenth International Aids Conference. Ten years ago there was a breakthrough with the discovery of protease inhibitors. These in combinations with other drugs, meant that the numbers of people who became ill from opportunistic infections, or died from Aids, dropped by about 70%.They are hoping for similar progress from this year's conference. There are now more than 40 million people living with HIV worldwide, and the epidemic shows little sign of slowing down.

Israel's military is pressing on with an expanded ground offensive in south Lebanon, despite the UN Security Council vote for a ceasefire plan. Israel has tripled its number of troops there, and they are moving towards the strategically significant Litani River. Israel's Cabinet is to discuss the issue on today and will only halt military action after it takes a vote. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is asking the Cabinet to endorse the resolution, describing it as positive and acceptable.

A Whitehall government source has claimed MI5 agents observed and secretly infiltrated a bomb factory and found liquid explosives and detonators weeks before they foiled the plot to blow up America-bound passenger jets flying from British airports. Hours of tape recordings, photographs and video are now likely to be used as evidence against the men if they are charged for their part in the alleged plot.

British Muslim groups have written to the prime minister calling for "urgent" changes to UK foreign policy. In an open letter they say British policy is putting civilians at increased risk in the UK and abroad.

Bush's recent language has angered US Muslims . His use of terms like "Islamic fascists", which he used this week both for Hezbollah and the suspected bomb plotters held in the UK has caused upset. His original message after the September 11 bomb attacks saying Muslims per se were not America's enemy seems to have changed considerably and  he is taking less care to emphasize that positive message, US Muslim leaders are saying.

Sri Lanka says its troops have killed more than 100 Tamil Tiger rebels as new clashes flared on three fronts. Sri Lanka has been wracked by fighting between rebels and government forces in recent months, with hundreds killed and an estimated 50,000 forced to flee.

Nigeria has begun to withdraw troops from the disputed oil-rich Bakassi peninsula. The area is due to be handed over to Cameroon on Monday, in line with a World Court ruling which Nigeria has resisted implementing for years.

US investigators are using intelligence from the UK to find out if people in the US had links to a suspected plot to blow up transatlantic planes. Chief among US concerns is the prospect of a "Plan B" attack by US-based or other foreign operatives moved to action by the break-up of the UK cell, officials said.

Police have said that a fire which destroyed the roof of a mosque in Basingstoke UK may have been in revenge for the alleged terrorist plot to blow up planes leaving UK airports.

US Senator Rick Santorum said yesterday that officials who leaked information about an electronic surveillance program aimed at terrorists had committed treason and should be aggressively pursued by law enforcement.

Amid continued political tension, activists in the southern Mexican city of Oaxaca have handed over to police four people they took hostage after accusing them of involvement in a man's death. The crisis began when a man was shot dead on Thursday during a march by striking teachers who are demanding the resignation of Oaxaca's state governor. Protesters accuse Mr Ruiz of rigging the 2004 election to gain office and of using force to suppress dissent.

Tension continues in Iraq where US forces have killed 26 insurgents in clashes in Ramadi, a Sunni stronghold close to Baghdad. In Baghdad itself 60 Iraqis suspected of links with a local al-Qaeda cell were detained in a raid on a funeral on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Increased security on planes after the UK bomb plot was unveiled is starting to affect many peoples travel plans. Russian musicians returning from London after the Bolshoi Theatre's season face an overland journey where the same restrictions do not apply. They are under contract to keep their instrumen Earth is to make its annual rendezvous with the Perseid meteorsts with them.

Thethis weekend. The meteor shower will peak on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, producing a celestial show of as many as 100 shooting stars an hour. The Perseids are tiny particles, ranging in size from a match-head to a dried pea, shed by the comet Swift-Tuttle.

Aug 13th | Luna is in Aries. Sun is square Sedna. Mars is opposite Uranus. Mercury leaves shadow phase.

A ceasefire between Israel and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah will come into force at 0500 GMT on Monday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said. He announced the move after talks with Lebanon's and Israeli prime ministers. But Israel's army says it will not leave southern Lebanon until regular Lebanese troops are deployed there, supported by an expanded UN force. The UN says it could take 10 days to insert a bolstered peacekeeping force.

Home Secretary John Reid has revealed that "at least four major plots" have been thwarted since the 7 July attacks in London last year. Mr Reid also said the government believes the first al-Qaeda plot in the UK was in 2000 in Birmingham, preceding the war in Iraq and the 9/11 attacks.

Tony Blair is planning to push through 90-day detention without charge for terror suspects following the alleged plot to murder thousands of airline passengers by blowing their jets out of the sky. Senior ministers believe public concern about terrorism is now at such a level that they will be able to reintroduce the controversial detention powers, which have been previously rejected.

Pakistan intelligence services have announced that five of the suspects behind the UK plane bomb plot learnt bomb-making skills in al-Qaeda training camps. American intelligence has also confirmed that at least two of the suspects held in last Thursday's raids had received explosives training with household chemicals in Karachi .

Airport and plane operators are complaining that stringent security searches which have led to delays and cancellations at Heathrow are not sustainable. Heathrow airport cancelled a third of flights on Saturday evening in a bid to speed its return to a normal schedule. Heathrow itself earlier came under fire from British Airways for being unable to cope with the extra security measures. Meanwhile, Ryanair said the government should provide additional staff to carry out body searches at airports.

Spain battles raging forest fires, which have continued to burn in north-western part of the country and have claimed a fourth life. The government has said that many of the fires were started deliberately.

Home Secretary John Reid has described as "a dreadful misjudgement" an open letter in which Muslim groups criticise British foreign policy. The letter pointed to the "debacle" of Iraq and the UK's stance over the Middle East crisis as examples of policies which fuelled extremism. Mr Reid said no competent government would remain in power if policies were "dictated by terrorists".

A state-controlled newspaper in Cuba has published an 80th birthday message to President Fidel Castro, saying he was recovering but warning Cubans to be ready for "adverse news". He has not been seen since he handed power temporarily to his brother.

Internet firms have been criticised by UK MPs for "collaborating" with state censorship of the web in China. Businesses such as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo blocking some information was "morally unacceptable", the Commons foreign affairs committee said.

Three Texas men were arrested today on terrorism-related charges after police found about 1,000 cell phones in their minivan. Officials have not said what they believe the men intended to do with the phones, most of which were prepaid TracFones. But the police chief of Caro, about 80 miles north of Detroit, said cell phones can be used as detonators

A traditional Chinese medicine may be beneficial for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Berberine, found in the roots and barks of some plants, has been documented in Chinese literature as being able to lower glucose levels in diabetics. Now scientists have found that studies on rodents support this claim.

Planet Waves Community Board

Researched and compiled by Melanie J. Andrews, Eric Francis and Lise LePage with Judith Gayle, Mandy Hall, Eileen Metz and Kirsti Melto, with additional writing by Eric. Edited by Paloma Todd. Internet production by Anatoly Ryzhenko. Astrology by Eric from ephemeris calculations by Tracy Delaney. Photos by Paloma Todd.