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Let Me Recognize the Problem So it Can Be Solved

Dear Friend and Reader:

Working with my collaborators at Planet Waves, I set out on a mission of finding signs of progress amidst the many strange and tragic news events of 2013. Americans, as a lot, are people averse to following current events, and when we do, we rarely look back in an honest way.

It's true, there's hardly time these days. Yet part of not looking back means not remembering what we've learned in the past, not taking advantage of our mistakes. It sounds good to praise the power of now, but that serves little purpose if you forget a discovery about yourself that you made a day or a week ago and never put it to use.

Planet Waves
Butters prays to the all-knowing NSA, asking for protection for his friends, his family and even Cartman. Image: South Park Studios.
By many accounts, we are alive in a momentous era in history, and events of 2014 are going to ramp this up by a few orders of magnitude. Astrology describes this scenario in a longterm aspect called the Uranus-Pluto square, part of a cycle that you can trace back through history and observe the upheavals, revolutions and transformations of society. This one pattern is enough to shake up any skeptic who claims astrology isn't real.

The last time we experienced a major phase of this cycle was in the mid-1960s, when Uranus and Pluto formed a conjunction. It's only in hindsight that we can see the positive developments of that era. Yes, it was an exciting time to be alive if you were not wracked with anxiety or paranoia. There was great music, better drugs than we have today and the social environment was far less uptight. Many people felt the calling to get involved politically. Yet sadly, many look back and describe their experiences of that era as empty.

There were also the assassinations of many progressive leaders, and while that was happening, tens of thousands of 18-year-old boys were being shipped to Vietnam and coming home in flag-draped coffins a year later, or soaked with dioxin and terror three years later. Many people lost close friends, boyfriends, fathers, husbands and brothers to a war that just about everyone now admits was a pointless disaster. Yet who stands up to the equally corrupt, profit-driven war machine today? Do you?

Mars retrograde in Libra is going to send a jolt of energy through the Uranus-Pluto square, and precipitate many events long in development.

In searching for the positive, just about everything fell into one category -- the revelation or acknowledgment of a problem that had been previously concealed or denied. The main developments seemed to be evidence of people waking up to injustice in one form or another.

There is a lesson in the workbook for A Course in Miracles that is titled, "Let me recognize the problem so it can be solved." It begins, "A problem cannot be solved if you do not know what it is. Even if it is really solved already you will still have the problem, because you will not recognize that it has been solved. This is the situation of the world. The problem of separation, which is really the only problem, has already been solved. Yet the solution is not recognized because the problem is not recognized." [Full text of lesson.]

Problem 1: NSA Spying Is Unconstitutional

In June, a man named Edward Snowden revealed to the world that the Obama administration had expanded the program of spying on the American people, created by the Bush administration. This caused an actual fuss.

Snowden, fearing for his life and his freedom and preferring not to be tortured, went first to Hong Kong, then to Moscow, where Vladimir Putin gave him a visa to stay for a year.

Various courts have litigated the program and in logic befitting Alice in Wonderland, managed to find it constitutional. Then in late December, a federal judge named Richard Leon came out and said the obvious: the program is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Planet Waves
Judge Richard Leon. Photo from Suffolk University Law School.
That is the one that supposedly guarantees that the American people shall be secure in their papers and their possessions, which will be subject to search only with warrant specifically naming the thing to be seized.

Leon was appointed by Pres. George W. Bush, which may seem a little strange -- but a true conservative believes in following the Constitution, and federal judges are appointed for life to make it possible for them to think with their own minds.

"I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary' invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval," Judge Leon wrote in a 68-page ruling. "Surely, such a program infringes on 'that degree of privacy' that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment."

We contacted Judge Leon's chambers to get his date of birth, so we could look at his chart. The court clerk said that we could have the data as long as we promised to keep it private. So I will not be publishing the chart, but I can tell you about his chart. Judge Leon has a conjunction of the Sun and Chiron in Sagittarius, the sign of the higher courts. Sagittarius is a sign known for its guts and its love for freedom. Sun conjunct Chiron is the very image of a maverick willing to hold Big Daddy government accountable.

Sun-Chiron in Sagittarius emphasizes teacher of ethics quality of Chiron. Mars conjunct Saturn in Virgo is someone who actually cares about the details, and who doesn't want to be pushed around.

With a little tuning up, it's easy to get a potential birth time, which emphasizes his willingness to take responsibility (Nessus rising, 'the buck stops here', in Taurus based on truly-held values) and that characterizes his nature as a public figure who wants to keep some vestige of privacy in his own life by not publishing his private data. It's also interesting that he trusted us enough not to -- that tells you something about him.

"He loves Beethoven and he loves rock-and-roll," Richard Hauser, a vice president and assistant general counsel at Boeing, as well as a former law partner of Leon's, told The Washington Post. Now that explains everything.

Judge Leon's ruling will work its way up through the D.C. circuit appellate court and most likely to the Supreme Court. Whether it's upheld or not, the ruling was a shock to all the apologists who made excuses for how it was ok to mass harvest data, including for example MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell, who really seems to think that we're being spied on for our own good.

The same week, a panel commissioned by Pres. Obama recommended that the president remove NSA authority over phone data, leave it in the hands of private companies, and put the NSA under civilian control.

We are very close to recognizing this is a problem. Why most people don't get angry about it is interesting, and can be explained by the idea that someone cares enough to listen to them. I proposed this in one of my columns, and then South Park noticed the same thing and used the concept in an episode from September (Let Go, Let Gov), featuring Butters praying to the NSA for the protection of his friends. NSA spying plays into a God complex that both the government and its citizens have. At its essence this is a spiritual problem.

Problem 2: Government-Subsidized Minimum Wage

In 2013, protests about below-poverty wages erupted outside fast food restaurants and big box stores like Walmart. It actually made the news when Walmart suggested that employees donate food to one another so they could have a good Thanksgiving.

Planet Waves
Fast food workers stage a protest against McDonald's outside one of its restaurants in NYC. Photo by Eduardo Munoz.
One of my favorite facts of the year is that megacorporations that pay minimum wage (and often, minimum taxes) have massive numbers of employees on public assistance. An astounding 52% of McDonald's employees receive food stamps or other forms of public assistance, costing the government $1.2 billion a year, while the company makes $5.46 billion in profits.

McDonald's CEO Donald Thompson is paid $6,875 an hour. Were he paid the federal minimum wage, he would have to work 1.89 million hours a year.

Conglomerate Yum! Brands comes in second place for pumping the government, with Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC eating $648 million in public assistance; Subway is next, costing $436 million, Burger King $356 million, Wendy's $278 million and so on. Fast food corporations chiseling their employees costs the government $3.8 billion each year.

It is good news that we know this. It makes it a lot easier to see that those who advocate for "free market" capitalism are full of shit. This kind of information may take a little time to sink in, and it has to sink in deeper than the public's addiction to fat, salt, sugar, cheap meat and carbs, but it still counts for raising consciousness.

Problem 3: Monsanto (and it's now a household word)

I have covered the crimes of Monsanto since 1991, so it's always been a household word wherever I live -- and a secret just about every place else. This year, Monsanto came under the spotlight after a worldwide protest was called against the agricultural nightmares it creates.

Planet Waves
March Against Monsanto -- the first-ever global protest against a company -- in Venice Beach, CA. Photo by Lizanne Webb.
On May 25, the March Against Monsanto was staged, with protests in cities around the world. While this was not exactly the Occupy movement, it was a miracle that people came out to protest a corporation that until recently was known mostly to farmers and people who visited Disney World as a kid.

The battle over labeling genetically modified foods did not go well, but it's now on the surface of awareness. On the eve of the March Against Monsanto, 71 senators voted against an amendment that would have guaranteed states the right to enact mandatory GMO labeling laws. Meanwhile, the FDA tried to run interference on state labeling, saying that it could not conflict with federal labeling regulations. It all comes down to money, and everyone involved in the issue knows that.

One problem is the bribery known as campaign contributions. One of GMO's biggest apologists, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, received $739,926 in campaign contributions from agriculture firms in 2012, which would give her a reason to chirp endless lies about how wonderful GMO crops are, how they resist disease and feed the poor and resist droughts. All of this is now out in the open.

One problem getting the country on board is junk food. Those who chow down on Doritos don't really care what kind of corn it is.

Problem 4: Relationship Bigotry

We actually made some progress on this one. The Supreme Court threw out the Defense of Marriage Act, one of the most ridiculous laws ever written, passed thanks to two serial adulterers, Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton.

California's referendum allowing same-sex marriages was also upheld by the Supreme Court. There are now 17 states that allow same-sex marriage and 33 that ban same-sex marriage. That may seem lopsided, but the cat is out of the closet. The important thing is that the Supreme Court has set a precedent, and any law that is challenged could easily fall on its face.

Planet Waves
Pope Francis just likes to have fun, he loves women and he doesn't think that the church should judge gay people.
Many places with a ban have populations that are not nearly as bigoted as their neanderthal, religious-nut politicians. Speaking of neanderthals, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and Alec Baldwin got spanked -- to the tune of millions -- for making homophobic comments. Baldwin lost his program after making an anti-gay slur to a photographer.

Phil Duck took a public flogging from A&E for stating in an interview with GQ magazine (among other things) that the United States has a problem with sin.

"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."

For additional emphasis and color, he added: "It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."

His apologists are saying he has a right to express his views under freedom of speech, which is true -- and A&E has a right to dump him for the same reason. Let's see if they do. It's too bad Anything That Moves is not in print anymore -- I would buy him a gift subscription.

Meanwhile in Rome, the new Roman Catholic pope even got into the act, telling reporters, "If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, well who am I to judge them? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a very beautiful way, but says, wait a moment, how do you says, [that] these persons must not be marginalized for this, they must be integrated into society."

Then came the best surprise of all. In December, a federal judge ruled that laws prohibiting what the Utah law called 'cohabitation' -- that is, a word in the statute substituting for polygamy -- violate the First Amendment right to freedom of religion and assembly. The law said that, Clark Waddoups quoted Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, saying that the Constitution provides people with "an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression and certain intimate conduct." Judge Waddoups was also appointed by George W. Bush. Go figure.

It's worth adding a bit about Frank Schaefer, the United Methodist minister who officiated at the wedding of his gay son. He was suspended from the ministry after a church 'trial' in November, but he has refused to step down.

And Then There's Us

It seems in hindsight that the collective awareness has indeed cracked open within a relatively short amount of time. Much of what I've just reported is indicative of raising consciousness. What seemed totally impossible just years ago is now a palpable reality. Each of these developments offers some evidence of actual change.

Planet Waves
A high school student at an anti-government protest in Paris sees her reflection in a riot officer's shield. Photo by Eric Francis.
Yet those of us who have been aware of these problems for a while know there is still a long way to go. Fortunately, we are in the midst of an acceleration process indicated by the Uranus-Pluto square.

Awareness is a crucial first step. That's where we are, on the verge of fully recognizing what we know. Many people are observing that an old order is dissolving. Yet for real change to happen, many individuals need to take up the work in a deeply personal way. With awareness comes the need for incredible responsibility; for a kind of impeccability.

New consciousness can start to rise, and then be blocked by old hangups, habits, the fear of change and other facets of the past weighing on people who say they want to move ahead. Progress requires more than hope and good intentions. There is the reality of the road ahead.

Those who have already treaded the path of real change for a while know how deep and dark the journey is; how uncomfortable; the extent to which any seemingly outer issue must be embraced as an inner reality in order for actual change to come. We know how much therapy, spiritual work and experience it can take to unravel deeply ingrained patterns.

It is challenging to take that kind of responsibility and do something about what we feel and see; it's much easier to stand in dumbfounded paralysis, completely shocked and desensitized, or to entertain ourselves to death, watching events unfold like a circus. How we respond is ultimately a personal choice. The moment of decision is arriving.


-- Additional writing: Chad Woodward. Additional research: Hillary Conary, Elizabeth Michaud and Len Wallick.

Note to Readers: Subscriber editions will be off next week for the Christmas holiday. We will resume subscriber editions on Friday, Jan. 3. The blogging team will be working as usual, and I plan to keep doing Planet Waves FM as I work through the 12 signs of your annual readings.

Section Writing and Editing Credits: News items below are written and edited by a team consisting of Hillary Conary, Anne Craig, Eric Francis, Elizabeth Michaud, Amanda Painter, Susan Scheck, Chad Woodward and Carol van Strum. Page assembled and coded by Anatoly Ryzhenko. Special thanks to the Fact Checkers List, which goes over each edition on Thursday night -- and to our main astrology fact-checker Alex Miller, and Amanda, who goes over all their suggestions. Our editions are also proofread and fact-checked by Jessica Keet.

Planet Waves
Venus Retrograde: Something Old, Something New

We are hours away from the southern solstice, when the Sun aligns with the Tropic of Capricorn. That's also known as the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice, or summer solstice for our readers in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Planet Waves
Sculpture by Jim Dowd made from redwood driftwood, on the Grandmother Land in High Falls, New York. Photo by Eric Francis.
For those of us on the northern side of the globe, we are pointed as far away from the Sun's rays as we will get -- therefore, we're having the shortest days of the year. The Sun appears to rise and set at the same position on the horizon (sol + stice, the Sun seems to stand still), and if you have not noticed yet, winter begins.
The short days and seeming remoteness of the Sun create what I call a compression effect, which is sensory (fewer hours of sunlight, cloudier days, standard time imposed on us), nutritional (vitamin D starvation, unless you like super chilly nude sunbathing or supplement heavily), plus emotional and psychic, as the Earth reaches an extreme of its annual cycle. The days fly by this time of year even more swiftly than usual. It's not just because of the holidays.
Despite the cold weather, the Earth is actually closer to the Sun this time of year. This reminds me of Ali G's interview with Buzz Aldrin, the astronaut who accompanied Neil Armstrong to the Moon the first time people went there in 1969.

Ali G: Do you think man will ever walk on the Sun?
Buzz: No. The Sun is too hot. It's not a good place to go to.
Ali G: What happens if they went in winter, when the Sun is cold?
Buzz: The Sun is not cold in the winter.
Entering Capricorn, the Sun jumps onto the cardinal cross, where it will make aspects to many other planets positioned there, including nascent Mars in Libra, the Uranus-Pluto square and Jupiter in Cancer.
Planet Waves
Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen) asks his 'main man' Buzz Aldrin whether man will ever walk on the Sun, perhaps in winter.
This year the solstice comes with a special twist -- Venus stations retrograde a few hours later. Just as the Sun enters Capricorn, Venus stations retrograde in Capricorn. Venus retrograde lasts about six weeks, ending on Jan. 31.

Venus is retrograde least of all the planets, just over 7% of the time. By contrast, Mercury is retrograde 19% of the time, and it sure seems that way.
Note that this is the first Venus retrograde since the Venus transit of the Sun in June 2012 -- that day when Venus could be seen walking across the surface of the Sun (even if we can't do it, she can). Venus retrograde (or Mercury for that matter) happens when Venus passes between the Sun and the Earth.
Venus retrograde is one of those conditions that tends to evoke the past. Old lovers and friends can reappear, or you might find yourself visiting old places or remembering things that you have not thought about since you experienced them. In Capricorn this can feel nostalgic, or like family karma can be being stirred up (and it may be, especially with Pluto in the neighborhood), so make sure you wear your psychologist hat to family gatherings rather than your 'they push my buttons' hat.
Images of Venus retrograde in Capricorn include romantic relationships with older people (which implies older people having relationships with younger ones), spending time with older people in any context, seeing the value in prior ways of doing things, curiosity and passion for history and poring through old photos and nostalgia. (Remember this for your late holiday gift purchasing -- here are some hints).

Planet Waves
Venus transit of the Sun from 2004. The corresponding event was in June 2012. The next will happen in 2117, many Venus retrogrades from now. Photo series by Anthony Ayiomamitis in Athens.
I have a theory, somewhat supported by experience, that the more unusual the astrological event, the more unusual is whatever it represents. At the end of its retrograde, Venus stations direct in Capricorn on Jan. 31; this seems to be something that happens every eight years in our era. However, for all of those Venus stations direct in Capricorn going back many decades, the retrogrades started in Aquarius and ended in Capricorn.
I had to go back to the Venus retrograde of 1802-1803 to find one that happened exclusively in Capricorn, to the days when Pres. Jefferson was in office. So we're about to experience something that has not happened in about 210 years.
Around this time in 1802, a war between Sweden and Libya (then Tripoli) ended. In January 1803, Almanach des gourmands was published, naturally, in France -- forerunner of Zagat, the first guide to restaurant cooking (the Italian restaurant had not been invented yet). The inventor of the "first practical steamboat" demonstrated his invention, in Scotland. And speaking of France, future president James Monroe headed to Paris to discuss purchasing New Orleans -- and completed the Louisiana Purchase.
Venus retrograde in Capricorn will remind us that the past is not as far away as we like to think, try as we may to escape, pretend or forget what we have learned. As William Faulkner famously said, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."
For the coming weeks you might discover that it's very much alive.

Planet Waves
Activists To Be Included in Russian Amnesty

An amnesty bill put forward by Russian president Vladimir Putin and passed by the Russian parliament has sparked cautious optimism among supporters of the two jailed members of the band Pussy Riot and the Greenpeace members facing trial as part of the Arctic 30.

The conviction of the punk pranksters of Pussy Riot for "hooliganism" following an anti-Putin protest staged in a Moscow cathedral, drew condemnation from free speech advocates, artists and human rights groups worldwide. The band, whose members cite the riot grrrl movement in the U.S. as an inspiration, is vocal in support of feminism, eco-awareness and LGBQT rights.
Planet Waves
Protesters calling for the release of Greenpeace activists imprisoned in Russia, on Oct. 31, 2013, in Paris. Photo by Pierre Andrieu.
Two band members were sentenced to serve two years; a third was acquitted (see Planet Waves coverage here). Both the imprisoned women -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina -- are mothers of young children, one of the groups targeted in the amnesty bill along with minors, pregnant women, women over 55 and men over 60, the disabled, Chernobyl cleanup workers and military veterans.

The Arctic 30 members, all but one of whom have been out on bail pending trial, were facing charges stemming from an attempt to board an oil rig in September of this year. The activists, who come from 13 different nations, originally faced charges of piracy that were reduced to "aggravated hooliganism" in late October, and were facing up to seven years. (See Planet Waves coverage here.)

The amnesty is a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution, and will affect 25,000 people in all, freeing 1,300 prisoners convicted of minor offenses and relieving others of pending charges and non-custodial criminal sanctions. Supporters of the activists are holding their breath until actual freedom's achieved.

Family members of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina say the amnesty is "too late" so close to the end of their sentences; given Tolokonnikova's description of the conditions, however, any time shaved off imprisonment may well be precious.

In other pardon-related news, President Obama has extended an olive branch to eight federal inmates convicted on crack cocaine charges and sentenced under laws that have since been changed. Six of the eight faced life in prison. All eight are now expected to be freed within 120 days.  

Planet Waves
GMO Seeds at Heart of Alleged Conspiracy to Steal Secrets

A glamorous James Bond spy story this isn't. Yet two cases of alleged international espionage by Chinese nationals have rocked the halls of Monsanto and other biotechs, with the intellectual property contained in their GMO corn and rice at stake.

Planet Waves
Weiqiang Zhang and Yan Wengui, accused of trying to steal samples of seeds from a research facility in Kansas. Photo: Reuters.
The FBI filed two separate cases last week. In one, Mo Hailong, also known as Robert Mo, a Chinese citizen lawfully residing in Miami, was the alleged head of a plot to steal GMO corn seeds and send them back home to his employer, Kings Nower Seed, a subsidiary of the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Company.

For several years, Mo drove around Iowa and other Midwest states in rented cars, with a changing cast of Chinese companions -- followed by FBI agents down dusty back roads -- stopping at secret test fields owned by Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer to gather seeds. He also bought seeds from farmers, but refused to sign the standard paperwork required by the companies for their use.

Mo has been jailed in Florida, awaiting transfer to Iowa where the charges were filed. He has not yet been indicted, according to his attorney, who says the FBI cannot prove the seeds were proprietary property of Monsanto or DuPont.

Mo may have had help from "several potential 'insiders' at U.S.-based seed companies," said the FBI. These individuals may have provided Mo and his alleged co-conspirators with information on where the companies were growing seeds from an "inbred line." Inbred lines are the parents of the hybrid corn that seed companies sell to farmers, and are patented.

"Pioneer executives estimated that the loss of an inbred line of seed would result in losing approximately 5-8 years of research and a minimum of $30-40 million," the FBI filing stated.

In Kansas, charges were also filed last week against Weiqiang Zhang, a Chinese lawful permanent resident of the U.S., accused of stealing genetically modified rice  from Colorado-based Ventria Bioscience and providing the seeds to scientists in China.

From a letter filed with the court documents, Zhang -- a Ventria agricultural seed breeder who got the rice from a company farm in Kansas where he worked -- apparently was angling for a job in a research facility in China, and thought access to Ventria's technology might make him an attractive candidate.

Planet Waves
Monsanto Co. DeKalb brand seed corn sits on a pallet at a farm in Princeton, Illinois. Photo by Daniel Acker.
It's unclear whether anyone in China asked him for the seeds, although he was also accused of handing them to agricultural officials from China. A second man, Wengui Yan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, has been named as a co-defendant in the case.

The Chinese are in a hot debate over allowing GMOs into their food supply. The general public strongly opposes it, while government officials see it as an answer to their country's expanding food needs. China has been importing GM soybeans since 1997, and also allows the import of some varieties of genetically modified corn, though both are subject to strict controls. GM corn and soy are only approved for processing into soy oil, soymeal and animal feed, not direct human consumption.

In November 2009, the agricultural ministry issued bio-safety certificates to two strains of pest-resistant GMO rice and one variety of corn, approving them for use on experimental plots. Commercial planting of GMO crops is strictly prohibited, thought to be due to the government's concern with fierce public opposition.

"China doesn't need to develop GMO. If we cultivate land well and waste less feed (don't throw dead pigs into rivers), China's agriculture can feed the Chinese people," Gu Xiulin, a Yunnan University of Finance and Economics processor, wrote on Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging website similar to Twitter. "GMO is a magic knife that can annihilate mankind and destroy the environment... don't be fooled."

Planet Waves
Targeting Target -- and Possibly You

As many as 40 million people who used credit and debit cards at Target stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 may have had their private banking information stolen, the corporation revealed in a notice to consumers released on Dec. 19.

Planet Waves
If only the dog had stolen the card numbers, shoppers would still be okay; most dogs can't read or type that well.
The theft, first reported by and confirmed by Target's CEO one day later, took place at brick-and-mortar Target stores across the United States and involved the data encoded in the magnetic strip that's swiped through card-reading machines. Thieves of the data would be able to use it to create counterfeit cards. Online transactions at were apparently not affected.

Data that may have been stolen during the breach includes names, card numbers, expiration dates and three-digit security codes.

Target advises all customers who used major credit or debit cards or Target store cards during the period when security was breached to watch their statements for any suspicious transactions, and says it is working with a "leading third-party forensics firm" as well as major financial institutions and the Secret Service to investigate the matter fully.

The news comes at an inauspicious time for Target, whose executives recently reported great success in enticing consumers to sign up for its own store credit cards.

Planet Waves
Year in Review: Abortion Rights and Women's Reproductive Health
The Guttmacher Institute has not yet released its comprehensive 'year in review' report detailing the setbacks and advancements in women's heath care policies and abortion rights in the United States. But Guttmacher's midyear report painted a clear picture for the first half of the year, one easily extrapolated with some highlights (and lowlights) from the full year.
Planet Waves
Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis voting against a motion during her filibuster. 'V' is also for 'victory'; as temporary as hers was, it empowered pro-choice activists. Photo by Eric Gay.
During the first half of 2013, state legislators enacted 43 provisions aimed at restricting access to abortion.
"Although this is significantly lower than the record-breaking 80 restrictions that had been enacted by this point in 2011," notes the Guttmacher Institute, "it is nonetheless a higher number of restrictions than in any year other than 2011 and as many as enacted in all of 2012." (Emphasis added.)
The report also notes that, "Although initial momentum behind banning abortion early in pregnancy appears to have waned, states nonetheless adopted myriad restrictions on access to abortion. However, this year is notable also for positive action on other reproductive health issues in a few states, including important new provisions enacted to expand access to comprehensive sex education, expedited partner treatment for STIs and emergency contraception for women who have been sexually assaulted."
2013 began with the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January, the landmark Supreme Court decision upon which abortion rights in the U.S. are founded. According to Democracy Now! a poll at that time indicated that for the first time on record, a majority of Americans (70%) opposed overturning Roe v. Wade.
Much of the lawmaking this year indicated otherwise, although in March a federal judge struck down a 2011 Idaho law banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. At the time, it was believed to be the first such instance of a federal court ruling such a law to be unconstitutional; abortion rights supporters hoped it would set a legal precedent for challenges to similar laws in other states.
In fact, a kind of legal back-and-forth actually looks like a hallmark of 2013, with a noticeable trend of federal judges blocking (even if temporarily) extreme and potentially unconstitutional abortion restrictions in a number of states including North Dakota, Alabama, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Mississippi.
The harshest anti-abortion bill in a decade to come before the U.S. Congress was approved by the House in June. Pres. Obama vowed to veto the bill and it got no traction in the Senate, but its appearance at all raises a red flag. The previous week, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), pissed off many when he remarked that the number of pregnancies resulting from rape is "very low" -- as though only rape survivors deserve choice over their pregnancies and bodies (but only after being violated first).
Planet Waves
Opponents to an abortion bill in the Senate chamber as Sen. Wendy Davis filibusters against the abortion bill. Photo by Eric Gay.
Perhaps the most memorable highlight for pro-choice activists also came in June: Texas state senator Wendy Davis helmed an 11-hour filibuster of a bill that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization and imposed harsh regulations that would have closed nearly all abortion clinics in Texas.

Sadly, the bill was passed in a special legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry -- but not before hundreds of people on both sides gave public testimony, highlighted by Katie Heim's "If my vagina was a gun" poem.
Hopes were raised in October, when one federal judge ruled parts of the Texas law unconstitutional -- only to be dashed the next month, when a federal appeals court reinstated the law.
On a slightly different tack, just last month Michigan became the ninth state to require insurance companies to charge additional fees to women for abortion coverage, often referred to as "rape insurance." (Planet Waves coverage here).
In November and December, we've had some mixed birth-control news. On the one hand, the Guttmacher Institute has released a report showing that the Affordable Care Act is getting something right, enabling a significant wave of women to receive birth control without paying a copay. However, the Supreme Court also recently announced it will hear claims by two for-profit companies that think they should be able to deny employees birth control under their insurance plans. (Planet Waves coverage here.)
In short, we're still trying to prove that women are people and corporations are not. It will take more than luck to make 2014 the year that we do, and full-on vigilance to ensure Roe v. Wade stays intact -- along with its predecessor, Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized birth control.
For an outline of major abortion law developments, use this link; or access all 2013 Democracy Now! headlines and stories on the topic here.

Planet Waves
Planet Waves
Your Capricorn Solstice Tunes

If you're in the northern hemisphere, the first official day of winter is Saturday as the Sun enters Capricorn. What could be a better soundtrack to your solstice rituals than the four musicians of Ethnobeat, from Irkutsk, drumming on the thick, melodic ice of Lake Baikal in Siberia in this video?
Lake Baikal contains roughly 20% of the world's unfrozen surface freshwater (presumably during the summer), making it the largest by volume (and it's the deepest, at 5,387 feet/1,642 meters). Even better, it is thought to be the oldest lake in the world at 25 million years -- and you know how much Capricorns love the past!

Planet Waves

Gemini Full Moon: Federal Judge Rules Against NSA

Link to program.

In this week's edition of Planet Waves FM, I cover Tuesday morning's Gemini Full Moon and the revelation that came with it: there is a federal judge who was willing to go on the record and say that the NSA spying program is unconstitutional. I also cover the chart for the solstice and Venus stationing retrograde. My musical guest is MISSION TO MILO.

In the program, I reference the natal chart of Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on the NSA harvesting of phone records. You can see his chart and my article about it on the blog of The Mountain Astrologer on Snowden's chart.

Planet Waves

Have you pre-ordered your 2014 readings by Eric Francis yet? The Mars Effect (our 16th annual edition!) will be out in January, and will include in-depth audio and written readings for your Sun, Moon and rising signs. We always receive a flood of positive feedback for these readings, and it shows just how meaningful they are. One customer wrote, "I'm so grateful to you for the illumination and the reassurance this reading has bestowed." We're offering you a special package price of $79 for all twelve signs, available only to current Planet Waves members. Or you may purchase individual signs for $19.95.

Planet Waves

Your Monthly Horoscopes -- and our Publishing Schedule Notes

We published the extended monthly horoscope for December Friday, Nov. 29. Inner Space for November was published Friday, Nov. 1. Moonshine for the Sagittarius New Moon was published Tuesday, Nov. 26. We published Moonshine for the Gemini Full Moon Tuesday, Dec. 10. Please note, we normally publish the extended monthly horoscope on the first Friday after the Sun has entered a new sign; Inner Space usually publishes the following Tuesday.

Weekly Horoscope for Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, #980 | By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Aries (March 20-April 19) -- To accept the idea that 'this is the way things always were' is an excuse, especially if you know the theme of your life is change. The question seems to be, will you take initiative, or are you expecting someone else to do it for you? I suggest you make your own decisions and initiate your own moves rather than expecting something in your environment will start the process. What you come up with will be a lot more interesting than what anyone else does, even if others talk louder. Just think your plan through a couple of times, especially if it's work-related. Things are changing around you, and I suggest you see where they shake out over the next five or six days before doing anything too radical. The best idea will be a simple, easy-to-understand and, most of all, useful one.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

Taurus (April 19- May 20)
Taurus (April 19-May 20) -- Imagine that you visit an older relative you have not seen in years, and while you're there you wander up to the attic. You see a trunk that seems to be for you, illuminated by the light from a small window, and you open it up. It's full of artifacts from a century ago, stuff belonging to people to whom you're related but who came through the planet decades before you. Old diaries, letters, newspaper cuttings, photographs, physical objects from life in the past, are all neatly, lovingly preserved in this trunk, and as you go gently through them, you figure out that they were indeed intentionally left for you. But who left it there? And how did they know you would find it? This is all a metaphor, and from a psychological point of view, you're the one who has left a gift, an inheritance or a trousseau for yourself. There's a lot in there, as will slowly become obvious over the next month or so.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

Gemini (May 20- June 21)
Gemini (May 20-June 21) -- Be careful not to take on the issues of others. You may be especially reactive over the next few days, especially if people around you are in an intense mood. I suggest you choose your influences and your company carefully, especially through the 24th. Don't let anyone push you into any agreement, longterm or otherwise, that you don't really want to make, no matter how infectious their enthusiasm or persuasion may be. Events of the next week or so will help you figure out where you really stand with yourself, and therefore, put the opinions and feelings of others into context. It is this context -- remember the concept -- that is essential to your making healthy decisions for yourself. You're someone who is inclined to consider the wellbeing of others in the choices you make, so you don't have to worry about that factor; at the moment, you cannot count on others to do so.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

Cancer (June 21- July 22)
Cancer (June 21-July 22) -- Keep your heart and mind open and you'll be better able to receive what others are offering you in your intimate relationships. You may sense that there's a lot to their feelings, and you may be hesitant about allowing yourself to experience that. Phobia about intimacy, and hesitation in matters of the heart, do little to foster your happiness. Every relationship experience requires taking a risk, though in truth most of that involves allowing yourself to be vulnerable. A little self-therapy on that topic would be a great place to start. Ask yourself what you fear, when it comes to getting close to someone you care about. Is it about hurting someone else? If so, how long can you keep that up for? Or is it about the way a relationship might change your life? You already know how you feel. You know what you want. That's actually worth something.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) -- You may have health matters on your mind, though I don't suggest you stress about them; stress seems to be the problem. There's also some missing information that will clarify matters considerably, and you won't need to wait for long. I suggest that you strictly maintain a few guidelines, however. Make all your own decisions, based on what you know and understand. That's another way of saying pay attention, take an active role and use what you know. Don't succumb to anyone's authority merely for its own sake or on the assumption that someone else must know more than you do. Your vitality is what helps you heal, grow and create your environment, and all three of those elements are interrelated. Your existence is holistic -- part of an integrated whole, with each aspect influencing the others. You don't need to treat symptoms, but rather, seek deeper understanding, shift your orientation and keep reminding yourself that everything is connected.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) -- You seem to be experiencing boldness and hesitancy at the same time. The combination, if left unaddressed, could create delays and waste energy; there's no point spinning your wheels to get nowhere. And you have plenty of places to go, and experiences you want to have. If you have any form of mixed feelings, take the elements in the mix one at a time and see what they are trying to tell you. See if you can notice your source. The self-assertiveness you're feeling does indeed seem to be about you; the insecurity and hesitancy seems to be coming from somewhere else, perhaps even someone's influence from the deep past. It would not vaguely surprise me if that turned out to involve another person's religious baggage that was leaking into your environment. In plain terms, you don't have to worry about what others will think. You don't have to be pure or give the image of being 'not a slut' to project some kind of faux conservatism. What you feel is more meaningful than what anyone else thinks.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

Libra (Sep. 22 - Oct. 23)
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) -- Venus, the planet traditionally associated with your sign, stations retrograde over the weekend. That's a fairly rare event; no planet is retrograde less than Venus, though this event happens entirely in Capricorn, where Venus has not been exclusively retrograde since 1802. The next two months are a truly beautiful time to resolve old family issues, particularly on your father's side of the family. The material may surface on its own; you may be aware of topics or themes that you've been brewing for a few years, which you're now ready to address as a conscious choice. Please use this time well. Nothing like it will happen again for years to come. For you, making peace with the past also means understanding what happened, why it happened, and how it influenced you. Nobody is going to hand you easy answers, but you are eminently capable of putting the pieces together. Take your time; be both careful and intuitive.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) -- You've got to let some of this pressure off. It seems as if you think you're supposed to feel a certain way in certain situations, as if the 'correct' emotional tone were prescribed in advance. This extends to your opinions about things and the specific way you're supposed to think. None of this is valid; much of the pressure is your attempt to respond to the illusion that it might be. I suggest you question that assumption, and consider the possibility that it has a source. Once you make the decision to express yourself rather than suppress yourself, you will feel less depressed, more alive, and more in control of your life. You may feel that to do those things, you have to change your whole way of thinking, though it's easier and subtler than you were told, especially with the kind of cosmic support you have right now.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 22)
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) -- Consider carefully the influence you have on someone close to you -- you're a much more potent force than you may imagine. That includes on individual people and also on your total environment. You may be going through so much interesting, intense, strange or curious inner movement that you may not be noticing how it's radiating out into the world around you. Take the time to get some feedback from others about what they perceive about you. Open up the space for a dialog and put more energy into listening than into speaking. Trust that people already get what's on your mind. You will learn a lot from what they have to say and from slowing down enough to get a sense of what they are feeling. While this theme is focused right now, it's going to be a recurring theme for the next two or three seasons. So, take a deep breath.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) -- The sky is now focused on your sign. The Sun makes its annual return to Capricorn on Saturday (the southern solstice), and just a few hours later, Venus stations retrograde in your sign. This is a combination of factors that are likely to ignite your passion, help you focus your energy and feel how strong, loving and creative you can be. The reason you can be these things is because you are them already, so this is really a matter of emphasis, and of bringing out what is already inside you. I suggest, in that spirit, that you remove as many encumbrances on your time and energy as you can for the next few weeks. Make room for yourself. Take time to reflect and to appreciate who you have become and what you've created for yourself. This will be a meaningful time of reflection that will have the power to shape the course of your life.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) -- You seem to be asking yourself some deep questions about a relationship, and about the meaning of all intimate partnerships. This is not a fleeting inquiry but rather a crux point where you are finally getting to the heart of the matter. These questions involve whether you're able to fully express your emotional needs, what kinds of commitment you're comfortable with, and the role of marriage in your life. There is the ever-present question of negotiating your independence. This is a moment to consider all of your reasoning around the concept of permanence, and the way that it influences your emotional climate. There is also the not-so-small matter of how and why resources are exchanged. What falls under the category of an obligation, what do you feel is taken from you, what is a fair exchange and what is freely given? Once you have unpacked these subjects, you'll find it a lot easier to relate to others in a way that is fair, and that you understand.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) -- Take advantage of excellent opportunities to expand your income the next few weeks, beginning immediately. You already know of some prospects; there are others you have not thought of, and still others that you came up with and set aside or forgot about. You may find it easier now than ever to cast off any doubts or misgivings you have over the so-called profit motive, which you can replace with the elemental fact that your work and your ideas have value and worth to the people who get the benefits. However, you don't even need to go there; it still has the feeling of an excuse. Look at your life, size up your resources, consider what you're capable of doing and decide what you want to do. Develop a strategy that you adapt as necessary, but use as a guideline. In worldly terms, this should involve income for work and services provided, how to efficiently handle debt and tax-related matters, and an overall business plan. Get competent help when you need it.
Looking for an in-depth reading for the coming year? Pre-order THE MARS EFFECT, your 2014 annual readings, for a special rate of $79 for all twelve signs. It's a great package of audio and written readings (plus bonus articles) that gives you access to your Sun, rising and Moon signs (and those of your loved ones). You may also pre-order individual signs for $19.95 here.

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