Eric Francis

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For other people named Eric Francis, see Eric Francis (disambiguation).
Eric Francis Coppolino
EFC.jpg
Born 1964 (age 49–50)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Residence Kingston, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Education SUNY Buffalo
Occupation Publisher,
Editor,
Author,
Photographer,
Journalist
Employer Planet Waves, Inc.
Known for Planet Waves, Book of Blue
Religion Quaker
Website
Planet Waves

Eric Francis (born Eric Francis Coppolino, March, 1964 in Brooklyn, NY) is an American investigative reporter, essayist, author, editor and photojournalist. As an investigative reporter, he has specialized in corporate fraud and toxic torts litigation involving some of the world's most powerful corporations -- General Electric, Monsanto Company and Westinghouse.

He is the founder, editor and publisher of Planet Waves, Inc., an internet publishing company that created the Planet Waves internet sites. Planet Waves Daily Astrology & Adventure publishes four times daily with a focus on astrology, politics, sexuality, relationships and photography. The relationship focus of Planet Waves is on polyamory.

Since 1994, he has worked as a research astrologer specializing in minor planets and other newly discovered objects, particularly the centaur minor planet group, as well as a horoscope writer and astrology teacher widely published in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia. He has taught at the Northwest Astrology Conference, the NCGR conference and is on the faculty for the 2012 United Astrology Conference (UAC) as a media panel expert and writing teacher.

He continues to be active as a journalist in non-astrological fields, particularly on sex education and organochlorine issues and civil rights, most recently writing for The Ecologist in the UK.

Planet Waves publishes the Dioxin Dorms website, which gives a comprehensive history of the dioxin incident at SUNY New Paltz and internationally dating back to 1929, for which he is best known as a journalist.

In 2005, while based in Paris, he created Book of Blue, a fine art photo studio and series of online books. In a 2008 article, the (Kingston, NY) Daily Freeman said, "Though his camera lens, Coppolino has captured provocative and captivating images from around the world. He has gained international recognition for delivering a fresh and positive twist of world thought and culture with his photographs."[1]

He describes the project differently: "Spiritually and sexually intimate, these are images and narratives about gradually discovering myself through the exploration of relationships and art."[2]

In August 2009, as the author and photographer of Book of Blue, he presented his photography and its corresponding psychological theory at the American Psychological Association's Toronto world congress. The theme was, "Inner Goddess and Inner Gaze: Reconstructing Female Self Image."

Journalist[edit]

Eric Francis' first journalism job was as a staff reporter for the Echoes-Sentinel in Warren Township, New Jersey. This was a straightforward municipal reporting assignment (covering the Township Committee, the Planning Board and related functions), but it was his editor at this newspaper, Florence Higgins, who was the person who introduced him to astrology. Higgins moonlighted as a professional astrologer and owner of a New Age bookstore called Aquarius Rising Books. She taught him the rudiments of newspaper reporting, and astrology. He purchased his first deck of tarot cards from her store as well.

He took a position as senior editor at Whitaker Newsletters, Inc., assigned to Health Professions Report. He covered the American Medical Association, the American Nurses' Association and other medical industry issues, at the height of the nursing shortage in the late 1980s, grooming himself for a position at The Wall Street Journal, where his boss, Joel Whitaker, was a former editor.

However, he moved into investigative journalism. In 1989, he founded the Student Leader News Service (SLNS) in New Paltz, New York (originally called New York State Student Leader). SLNS covered higher education for the State and City University systems in New York. SLNS functioned as a statewide news service in New York that covered the state capital in Albany, and the State University of New York central administration, providing content for student newspapers and student governments across the state and to some extent nationally.

The news organization chronicled the chronic budget cuts and tuition increases of the time, and provided the first dependable student news entity covering the State University Board of Trustees and the New York State Legislature. The New York Times described Francis as one of the few people not the state payroll who understood the state budget. [8]

SLNS had major scoops picked up by New York City daily newspapers and state wire services, including one on the lavish spending habits of student government leaders during the budget crisis of the early 1990s. That article resulted in a New York Times editorial called Mopping up the CUNY Slush.[3]

Coverage of PCBs and Dioxins[edit]

As editor of SLNS, he covered the now-infamous SUNY New Paltz PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) disaster of Dec. 29, 1991, one of the only reporters to do so after the first month of what became a decade-plus cleanup that had cost state taxpayers $50 million as of 1997.[4]

His coverage of this event led to his expanding coverage of dioxins and PCBs into an international story that has appeared in Sierra, The Las Vegas Sun, The Ecologist and many other newspapers and magazines.

Considered among the worst indoor PCB releases in the long history of the chemical, the New Paltz incident involved a series of nearly simultaneous transformer fires and explosions on the state college campus, which occurred while most students were on winter holiday. Testing conducted by the state's contractors revealed that contamination had spread widely in Bliss, Capen, Gage and Scudder residence halls, as well as the Coykendall Sciences Building and Parker Theater.[5] In the Sierra piece he covered the PCB angle on Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories, which till that time had gone unreported in the press.

Subsequent negligence led to pipes freezing in Coykendall and Parker, spilling millions of gallons of contaminated water onto the campus and into the local estuary system during the winter of 1992. His reporting, which appeared in more than 175 articles published locally and internationally, established that the dormitory buildings were re-occupied prior to being adequately tested or cleaned, yet with students, parents and staff being given reassurances of safety by campus and local government health officials.

His investigative articles on the issue, which went from a local to international, have been published in Sierra [9], the magazine of the Sierra Club, the Village Voice, Woodstock Times, the Las Vegas Sun,The St. Louis Journalism Review, Lies of Our Times, and other national and international publications.

His persistent coverage of the transformer accident that led to PCB and dioxin contamination in several dormitories at SUNY New Paltz resulted in his being banned from campus as an alleged public nuisance on May 5, 1993. Challenging the ban, he brought a federal lawsuit against the State of New York (in the persons of college president Dr. Alice Chandler, and assoc. vice president for student affairs Dr. L. David Eaton), on freedom of speech and equal protection grounds (1st and 14th amendments) represented by civil rights attorney Alan Sussman. In the summer of 1994, the case was settled out of court, he was paid $20,000.00 damages, and the ban was rescinded with an acknowledgement from the state that his civil rights "may have been violated." .[6]

More recently, his independent testing confirmed that the dormitories - particularly, Capen and Gage residence halls - remained contaminated with PCBs in 2004, 13 years after the transformer incidents there. In 2007, he worked with students and members of his creative team to build the DioxinDorms internet site, which gives the history of the New Paltz issue as well as considerable historical background about the global PCB and dioxin situation.

His wider reporting on PCBs and dioxins, based largely on the record of a federal lawsuit titled Nevada Power vs. General Electric et al., established that the manufacturers of both PCB chemicals and equipment knew for 50 years that their products were dangerous and even deadly, and that they were contaminating their employees and the environment, but concealed this information from the government, the media and the public. Titled "Pandora's Poison," the article also uncovered a series of memos between Monsanto Co. and its safety testing lab which indicated both companies conspired to hide the clear cancer-causing effects of PCBs in rat studies. The lab, Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories, was later the at the center of a scandal that consumed the reputation of nearly every major safety testing lab in the country, as the FDA found most to be operating fraudulently.[7]

Francis is the founder of Generation (published Sept. 1984–present), an award-winning weekly student magazine at the University at Buffalo.[8]

Astrologer[edit]

After years covering industry and government, Francis had what he jokingly describes as a "conversion experience" and began investigating astrology after reading the daily horoscope of Patric Walker (1931–1995). The synchronicities between 'real life' and what appeared in Walker's daily column in The New York Post were particularly stunning given the type of journalism work he was doing at the time, requiring copious research and documentation: seemingly the opposite of a horoscope column.

There were more personal reasons, as well. "I felt that as an investigative reporter, I was not reaching people," he said in 2006. "They were not getting the message. I needed to write in a more personal way."

His astrological teachers included David Arner, who among other things taught him classical astrology; Laurie A. Burnett, who introduced him to Barbara Hand Clow's work on Chiron as well as the work of Alice Bailey; minor planet pioneer Melanie Reinhart; German minor planet specialist Robert von Heeren, who gave him the ephemerides for Pholus and 1992 QB1; and David R. Roell, who taught him the basics of interpreting an astrological chart.

With one exception—Barbara Clow—all of his astrological mentors, and his most important non-astrological mentor, have been musical composers.

Through reading his work it's apparent that he was influenced greatly by Joseph Trusso, a mentor and his Gestalt-based Holistic Therapist, with whom he worked as a client for many years in Woodstock, NY (also a musical composer). He was also influenced by the Hakomi Therapy movement, a body-centered method of therapy practiced mostly in the United States and Canada. Brad Blanton's work on Radical Honesty has been another significant influence.

Through his astrological career, he has been a prolific writer, as well as working individually with clients until early 2006. Much of his work has focused on the developments of the minor planets, such as Chiron, Pholus and Quaoar. He was quoted recently in The Wall Street Journal on the subject of minor planets and the change of classification of Pluto and Ceres.

His essays and horoscopes have been published continuously in Chronogram magazine in the New Paltz, NY area since 1996.

Francis is the founder, editor and publisher of Planet Waves, a general interest web magazine formed in 1998, which features writings and photographs by Francis and many other writers on a diverse array of subjects including astrology, cultural astronomy, politics, sexuality, and spirituality. The publication offers a wide diversity of both free and subscriber content dating back to around 1998, but has the unusual practice of giving complimentary subscriptions to premium services to anyone who asks. Planet Waves originally appeared as an article series reported from Germany on the website of Rob Brezsny, though Francis had been on the Net for about two years prior.

Francis described the origins of his professional psychic work in 1995 as a phone psychic for the Jackie Stallone Psychic Circle, charging $4 per minute for tarot readings.

Between 1996 and 1998, Francis hosted Radio Navigator on Radio Woodstock, a Sunday night talk radio program covering astrology, personal growth, politics, ecological issues and sexuality, frequently but not always viewed through the frame of astrology. The complement of subjects covered on this program is reflected in the content of Planet Waves today.

For a year, he was the astrologer for Woman magazine, one of the most respected magazine titles in the UK.

Between 2002 and 2006, Francis stood-in for Cainer's daily horoscope about 75 times, which columns appeared in the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, the Melbourne Herald Sun and the Sydney Daily Telegraph and on and other daily web pages. He recently stood in for prominent Australian astrologer Yasmin Boland on Australian Yahoo, was on maternity leave.

He has presented at astrology conferences in the United States, Canada and the UK, and has conducted workshops on a diversity of other human potential and humanistic subjects. In addition, he has been a speaker on governmental issues including higher education, land use rights, and corporate responsibility on the topic of chlorinated compounds.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kingston Daily Freeman, "Fresh Faces in Business" section, August 2008 edition.
  2. ^ Cover blurb, Book of Blue, http://bookofblue.com/book-of-blue.html
  3. ^ [1], [2]
  4. ^ Uphill Fight: Raking Muck On Campus by Mike Winerip reports the price tag at $45 million just two years after the incident. Between 1993 when the article as published and 1998, the Coykendall Sciences Building was entirely renovated at an unknown cost, though estimated to be about $8 million.[3]
  5. ^ Conspiracy of Silence by Eric F. Coppolino, Sierra magazine, Aug/Sep 1994.[4]
  6. ^ The New York Times [5] covered this lawsuit.
  7. ^ Sierra, "Conspiracy of Silence," Aug/Sept. 1994 by Eric F. Coppolinno and edited by Paul Rauber.[6]
  8. ^ Generation was founded with Eric F. Coppolino as editor in chief in Sept. 1984 and is published by Sub Board 1 Inc, the student services corporation of SUNY Buffalo.[7]