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IWW Local 1 Letters to OSHA on behalf of the IWA Rank and File Millworkers

First Letter to Judge Sidney Goldstein - January 27, 1990

Re: OSRC Docket No. 89-2713.

Dear Judge Goldstein: We the undersigned, affected employees in the PCB spill at the Georgia Pacific mill in Fort Bragg, CA, (OSHRC Docket No. 89-2719) strongly urge you not to approve the settlement made by G-P and OSHA regarding this case. We believe this agreement was made without considering pertinent information, and we believe it will jeopardize the safety of workers at the G-P mill.

The settlement that was reached involved dropping the “willful” citation to “serious” and re-ducing the fine from $14,000 to $3,000. We were told by OSHA attorney Leslie Campbell that this was necessary because the toxicity of PCBs has not been established. Yet the record shows that mill-wrights Ron Atkinison and Leroy Pearl were ordered to weld in the spill area without protective clothing during two 10-hour shifts. They stood in PCB oil and welded machinery that was wet with PCBs. The welding vaporized the PCBs at high temperatures, creating dioxin, one of the most toxic substances known to man, and the fumes were inhaled by the millwrights as they worked.

We also feel that the case for toxicity of PCBs has recently been enhanced by a November 24, 1989 decision of the Ninth U.S, Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. This case involved workers at a Crown-Zellerbach lumber mill in Oregon, whose exposure to PCBs was significantly less than ours. Yet the court ruled that “A jury could conclude that coming into contact with PCBs at a strength sufficient to produce a body level of PCBs six to ten times higher than normal, and to trigger serious health concerns constituted an injury.” G-P lead millwright Frank Murray swallowed PCBs when they were dumped on his head, and four months later had a bodily PCB level well over 100 times the EPA standard, We are concerned that the leniency of the settlement reached by G-P and OSHA in this case will not restrain G-P from continuing to subject the workers to unsafe conditions in the mill. As recently as last month, G-P ordered Ron Atkinson and other millwrights and electricians to do maintenance work on moving, high-speed machinery. The computerized green-chain had malfunctioned and could not be locked out without causing a long downtime while the computer was reset. Only by calling CAL-OSHA were the employees able to force the company to provide instructions for lock-out procedures to maintenance employees working on the green-chain. Even after OSHA’s intervention and inspection, another employee had three fingers severed in an accident on the same machine.

Minutes of the founding meeting of IWW Local #1

Recorded by Judi Bari, x332349, November 19, 1989

The Mendocino-Humboldt General Membership Branch of the IWW held our first meeting on Sunday November 19, 1989. Fourteen (out of 24) members came.

Structure

We set up our basic structure as follows: Judi Bari was elected Corresponding Secretary and Anna Marie Stenberg was elected Financial Secretary. They were instructed to open a bank account and keep track of dues and other paperwork. Other than these utilitarian positions, we will have no officers. Decisions will be made by the members at the meetings. If events occur between meetings that require action, temporary decisions (subject to ratification at the next meeting) will be made by the Entertainment Committee. Membership on the Entertainment Committee is voluntary, and the people who volunteered were Mike Koepf, Treva VandenBosch, Judi Bari, Anna Marie Stenberg, Pete Kayes, and Bob Cooper.

Work So Far

The work of Our Branch was described: We are a General Membership Branch (GMB) and will take on whatever issues the members want, especially issues related to our workplaces. But so far our activities have been centered around providing support for timber workers who are fighting their employers’ destruction of forests, jobs, and working conditions. We hope to be a bridge between environmentalists and timber workers and help bring about community understanding of the workers’ problems.

Pete Kayes, employee of Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO), in Scotia , talked about the failed attempt by workers to form an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and buy the company back from corporate raider Charles Hurwitz. Pete also gave out copies of the rank-and-file newsletter Timberlyin’ that he and others produce and distribute at the Scotia mill.

Treva VandenBosch, recently retired employee of Georgia Pacific (G-P) Corporation in Fort Bragg, told about being doused with PCBs in the G-P mill and receiving no help from the company or union (IWA Local #3-469, AFL-CIO). She walked off the job and single-handedly picketed the plant, eventually hooking up with Anna Marie and Mike (now also IWW members), who helped get the story out. The plant was finally closed for three days for clean-up, and OSHA fined G-P $14,000 for willful exposure of workers to PCB’s. G-P is appealing that decision, and the hearing will be on February 1, 1990 in San Fran-cisco. You must sign up in advance to be allowed to attend the hearing. We are asking all Wobs to sign up, even if you don’t expect to come, to demonstrate public interest. See enclosed forms.

Anna Marie told about Fort Bragg millworker Julie Wiles being arrested and led away in handcuffs for distributing a leaflet calling for fellow IWA Local #3-469 members to vote “no” on a proposed union dues increase. IWA shop stewards distributing pro-dues increase leaflets were not interfered with by the company. The IWA has not provided Julie with any support on her arrest and charges. We are asking all Wobs to come to Julie’s trial, and we have been helping her with her defense. Ten people showed up to support Julie at her arraignment.

Waferboard, the Final Solution

Speech Given by Judi Bari at an Earth First! demonstration in front of L-P's chip mill near Ukiah, California, June 16, 1989 - reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press.

We are at the site of the new Calpella chipping mill for Louisiana-Pacific. Starting this logging season, L-P has instituted a new logging practice that they call "logging to infinity." The log deck over there is stacked up with all kinds of little treetops and hardwoods. All kinds of stuff that's got no business on a log deck. it ought to be in the forest.

I want to point out that we are not here to protest against either the loggers or the mill workers or anyone who is an employee of Louisiana-Pacific. They don't have any more control over these logging practices than we do. At the beginning of this logging season, Louisiana-Pacific called a meeting in Willits of the people that are going to be logging for them to explain their new logging practices. And I want you to know that their own employees, their own contract loggers, many of them are just as disgusted with this as we are. That's how we found out about a lot of this stuff. one comment from an old-timer was, "When they start telling us to take the tops of trees, we know it's the end."

So the person we're here to protest is not the logger, not the mill workers. It's the president of Louisiana-Pacific, a man named Harry Merlo. Harry Merlo is the ultimate tree Nazi. he wants to cut every last tree and implement The Final Solution of waferboard in [Mendocino] county. Now you've all heard this quote, but I'm going to read it again 'cause you can't say anything about Harry Merlo as bad as what Harry says about himself. We can thank Mike Geniella of the Press Democrat for coming up with this quote. In an interview with Harry about his logging practices, Harry had this to say: "You know it always annoys me to leave anything on the ground when we log our own land. There shouldn't be anything left on the ground. We need everything that's out there. We don't log to a 10-inch top or an 8-inch top or even a 6-inch top. We log to infinity. Because it's out there and we need it all, now."

This maniac is actually in charge of most of the forest land in Mendocino County. Here are some astounding photos of what logging to infinity means.

These were taken on L-P cuts in the Mendocino National Forest, but it looks the same all over. Clearcuts, mudslides, devastation where the forest used to grow. So what we are dealing with here is a man who not only does not believe in obeying the laws of humans--as far as forestry practices--this man does not even believe in the laws of nature. Any farmer knows that you can't keep taking out of the soil without putting back into the soil, but Harry has not yet discovered this basic principle of nature. Fifty percent of the organic matter on the ground in a natural forest is decaying wood. Yet Harry wants to remove all this wood. His plan, he says, is to strip everything off the ground, leaving it completely bare and replant tree farms with 20-year rotations. According to Chris Maser, the forestry expert, there has never been a tree farm that survived beyond three generations. without putting something into the soil, the soil gets poorer and poorer and the trees just don't grow back. So what Harry is talking about if he implements his plan is desertification in 60 years. That's why we're here. That's why this is so serious.

On the Garlon Trail - A Visit to L-P Spray Site Reveals Total Forest Devastation, Ineffective Chemicals, Minimal Watershed Protection

By I.M. Green (Don Lipmanson) - Anderson Valley Advertiser, June 5, 1985

Feeling a sort of morbid fascination, I've been drawn to the L-P spray sites for weeks. What does this Garlon chemical actually do to the forest? What is the appearance and smell of a spray site? How much herbicide gets into the water?

My first attempt to find answers involved an overflight of Juan Creek and the north fork of Big River. Flying northward from Little River airport, I had the chance to compare the thinned out appearance of selectively logged forests with the bald clearcuts so prevalent northeast of Fort Bragg.

The spray sites were unmistakable on account of their striking reddish brown color, dotted with green. In addition to one large, browned out blotch, there are erratic splotches at the periphery of the spray zone, raising unanswered questions about drift. It was also clear from the logging roads that the sites were accessible, although steep. The spray zones have recently been logged for conifers, so company claims that they are too inaccessible for manual hardwood release are nonsense.

From the air it seemed that conifers, madrones and oak were unaffected by the spraying. The required buffering of watersheds was questionable also. To get firmer answers to spray concerns, I decided to take a closer look.

It didn't take much asking around Comptche to find a guide who is familiar with L-P territory. We hadn't gone more than a couple hundred yards past the company gate before we came upon the most ravaged hillsides I have ever seen. On about one hundred acres there is no sign of life, other than some three inch saplings veiled behind black nylon screens. Little red and blue flags stand out here and there, indicating where recent conifer replanting has occurred. Otherwise, the whole hillside is barren, littered with burned out logs and stumps, uprooted oaks, and naked soil. Yarders and flame-throwing helicopters have been through here recently, and the desolation is eerie.

After this taste of normal L-P forest operations, our arrival in Poverty Gulch, ten weeks after herbicide spraying, was almost anticlimactic. Walking down the road, we suddenly saw an entire hillside dominated by the now familiar rust color of herbicide die-off. No particular odor remained. It was clear than the main victim was Ceanothus, or blue blossom. The top half or two-thirds of the sprayed Ceanothus have died out, with the leaves fried but still attached to the withered branches. Seen from up close, many of the dead leaves are spotted with a white fungus. Some madrone in the spray area appear to have died, also with leaves still attached. Other madrones and all the tan oak were green and thriving.

Although we saw several deer and many birds during out two mile hike toward the spray area, the poisoned hillside itself seemed abandoned by fauna. The overall impression is sterile, a place one wouldn't want to linger. Without protective gear, I didn't feel inclined to penetrate far into the spray zone to examine the effect on lichens, insects and worms.

In its ads, L-P claims that herbicides are a "key part" of their effort to increase the volume of timber which can be harvested from its lands. "Sites for new plantings are cleared with herbicides. Weed choked and strangled young trees are freed with herbicides," according to the company. Garlon is supposedly a systematic poison, killing "unwanted woody plants" (including oaks) from within.

Our Lives Are at Stake: Workers Fight for Health and Safety (the Shell Strike of 1973)

By Berry Weisberg - OCAW 1-591, July 1973
Background Information by Douglas W. Erlandson - USW Local 12-591

On January 21st, OCAWIU President Bob Grospiron called over 4000 Shell OCAW members from 5 oil refineries and 3 chemical plants, out on strike. Then made a nationwide appeal to the public to boycott Shell Oil while the union continued its fight over the right to bargain health and safety issues.

The union was seeking:

  • 1) The establishment of a Joint Union-Management Health & Safety Committee
  • 2) Wanted the Union committee workers paid while performing official committee duties
  • 3) The right to call in independant Health & Safety inspectors
  • 4) Access to all Company information on both death and disease rates
  • 5) Annual Company medical examinations provided at Company expense

As a tactic for the 1973 strike, OCAW employed the first major "corporate campaign" in U.S. history. OCAW forged alliances with the scientific, academic, environmental and labor communities to fight Shell’s position that it would not bargain over health and safety. The union spent nearly half a million dollars to advertise a nationwide boycott of Shell and to educate the public about the need to protect the health of workers and the communities.

Even though 12 other major oil companies had already signed contracts that provided for the new joint union- management health and safety committees, they assisted Shell by buying their gasoline and blacklisting Shell's strikers. The oil industry's thinking was the new joint H&S committees would get in the way of production and profits.

Shell's corporate spokesman, J.H. Walter called the unions joint H&S committee 'another attempt at featherbedding since the workers could then decide how long they could safely work in the refineries and chemical plants.

Moreover, Shell stated that health & safety was none of the oil workers' business: "We are legally responsible for the health and safety of Shell employees in the workplace and this responsibility cannot be shared". The truth was the oil companies didn't want to give up control in this area.

From 1963-1969, Shell used caged canaries as 'safety devices' at their Houston chemical plant.(true story, no joke!) The canary's job was to detect the presence of carbon monoxide. If the canary died, it was time for the workers to leave. Shell went through a lot of canaries, OCAW was claiming by the time the canary died, the workers would already have been exposed.

The union was also seeking the right to inspect company records and financial reports of the pension funds Shell administered and to be able to grieve the company's arbitrary actions with regard to disability pensions. (The union suspected Shell's pension fund was under funded.) One Anacortes member who worked for Shell for 17 years, was certified by two doctors as being disabled, yet Shell wouldn't allow him disabled benefits even though he met the 15 year employment requirement. For the union, this was an item that needed to be addressed.

The International Representative assigned locally was Virgil Coragliotti, with Representative Tom Burkholder assisting on occasion. Don Yates was the Shell unit chairman and the committee members were Gil Nuessen, Wes Shull, F. D. Ferguson, Bob Melton Sr. Jerry Vrooman was the Local President and Jim Burgess was the financial secretary.

Picket pay was $25 a week. The 1-591 union brothers at General Chemical and Texaco assessed their monthly dues to help support the Shell members. Financial support was also received regularly from the Ferndale OCAW 1-590 local. Because Shell Oil’s daily production was unaffected and they didn’t lose any profits during the strike, the strikers received unemployment benefits under what was then known as the ‘dark plant rule’. Not surprising, Shell Oil later lobbied to get that section of the unemployment law changed.

About a week before the strike Snelsons’ had contracted with Shell to do maintenance work on a recently shutdown furnace. Their plan was to use the Boilermakers union, Local 104 out of Seattle. OCAW had gotten wind of it and a group of about 60 Shell brothers were on site waiting for the 14 building trades members when they attempted to cross the picket line, being led through by Bill Snelson. Several Shell picketers became so upset that they turned over both of Snelsons’ trucks and trailers. At the same time, someone smashed out Snelson's rear window. Out of fear, Snelson romped on the gas throwing John Garner, who was standing in front of him, onto the hood of his car. Garner was able to roll off as Snelson bolted on through. The Sheriff was immediately called.

Fred Nelson, Bob Melton and Charlie Pyburn were identified as the lead individuals involved and were fired. Later, after two days in court, Judge Deierlein had Melton and Pyburn jailed, then sharply criticized Shell management for not maintaining better communications with the union and local law enforcement officials in trying to prevent emotional blow-ups. Later Snelson took OCAW 1-591 to court and won $6700 for the damage done to his vehicles. Shell also fired Virgil Avey for breaking windsphrlds with his picket sign. While the other three were unable to get their jobs back, Fred Nelson was eventually rehired. Old time Union members refer to this incidence as the "Day of the Windstorm."

OCAW also had trouble with the Teamster's Union from Seattle. The same teamster leadership that was scabbing on the United Farm Workers, had ordered their drivers to disregard the picket line established by OCAW. And since there was an injunction limiting the number of pickets to two per gate, the union was unable to do much about the Teamsters pushing through with their trucks.

To keep in the health and safety issue in front of the public, OCAW had teams that traveled the northwest speaking to the news media and public about the need for work place safety. Shell later admitted the mobile speakers bureaus were very effective.

Finally, Shell, in the face of public pressure, bargained a compromised health and safety clause as well as meeting the union's demand allowing the pension fund to be reviewed and grieved if necessary. On June 1st the strike was officially ended.

Download (PDF).

The Social Ideology of the Motorcar

By André Gorz - Uneven Earth, 1973

The worst thing about cars is that they are like castles or villas by the sea: luxury goods invented for the exclusive pleasure of a very rich minority, and which in conception and nature were never intended for the people. Unlike the vacuum cleaner, the radio, or the bicycle, which retain their use value when everyone has one, the car, like a villa by the sea, is only desirable and useful insofar as the masses don’t have one. That is how in both conception and original purpose the car is a luxury good. And the essence of luxury is that it cannot be democratized. If everyone can have luxury, no one gets any advantages from it. On the contrary, everyone diddles, cheats, and frustrates everyone else, and is diddled, cheated, and frustrated in return.

This is pretty much common knowledge in the case of the seaside villas. No politico has yet dared to claim that to democratize the right to vacation would mean a villa with private beach for every family. Everyone understands that if each of 13 or 14 million families were to use only 10 meters of the coast, it would take 140,000km of beach in order for all of them to have their share! To give everyone his or her share would be to cut up the beaches in such little strips—or to squeeze the villas so tightly together—that their use value would be nil and their advantage over a hotel complex would disappear. In short, democratization of access to the beaches point to only one solution—the collectivist one. And this solution is necessarily at war with the luxury of the private beach, which is a privilege that a small minority takes as their right at the expense of all.

Now, why is it that what is perfectly obvious in the case of the beaches is not generally acknowledged to be the case for transportation? Like the beach house, doesn’t a car occupy scarce space? Doesn’t it deprive the others who use the roads (pedestrians, cyclists, streetcar and bus drivers)? Doesn’t it lose its use value when everyone uses his or her own? And yet there are plenty of politicians who insist that every family has the right to at least one car and that it’s up to the “government” to make it possible for everyone to park conveniently, drive easily in the city, and go on holiday at the same time as everyone else, going 70 mph on the roads to vacation spots. The monstrousness of this demagogic nonsense is immediately apparent, and yet even the left doesn’t disdain resorting to it. Why is the car treated like a sacred cow? Why, unlike other “privative” goods, isn’t it recognized as an antisocial luxury? The answer should be sought in the following two aspects of driving:

  • Mass motoring effects an absolute triumph of bourgeois ideology on the level of daily life. It gives and supports in everyone the illusion that each individual can seek his or her own benefit at the expense of everyone else. Take the cruel and aggressive selfishness of the driver who at any moment is figuratively killing the “others,” who appear merely as physical obstacles to his or her own speed. This aggressive and competitive selfishness marks the arrival of universally bourgeois behavior, and has come into being since driving has become commonplace. (“You’ll never have socialism with that kind of people,” an East German friend told me, upset by the spectacle of Paris traffic).
  • The automobile is the paradoxical example of a luxury object that has been devalued by its own spread. But this practical devaluation has not yet been followed by an ideological devaluation. The myth of the pleasure and benefit of the car persists, though if mass transportation were widespread its superiority would be striking. The persistence of this myth is easily explained. The spread of the private car has displaced mass transportation and altered city planning and housing in such a way that it transfers to the car functions which its own spread has made necessary. An ideological (“cultural”) revolution would be needed to break this circle. Obviously this is not to be expected from the ruling class (either right or left).

Helen Keller: Why I Became an IWW

An Interview, written by Barbara Bindley, New York Tribune, January 15, 1916

I asked that Miss Keller relate the steps by which she turned into the uncompromising radical she now faces the world as Helen Keller, not the sweet sentimentalist of women's magazine days.

"I was religious to start with" she began in enthusiastic acquienscence to my request. "I had thought blindness a misfortune."

"Then I was appointed on a commission to investigate the conditions of the blind. For the first time I, who had thought blindness a misfortune beyond human control, found that too much of it was traceable to wrong industrial conditions, often caused by the selfishness and greed of employers. And the social evil contributed its share. I found that poverty drove women to a life of shame that ended in blindness.

"Then I read HG Wells' Old Worlds for New, summaries of Karl Marx's philosophy and his manifestoes. It seemed as if I had been asleep and waked to a new world - a world different from the world I had lived in.

"For a time I was depressed" - her voice saddened in reminiscence- "but little by little my confidence came back and I realized that the wonder is not that conditions are so bad, but that society has advanced so far in spite of them. And now I am in the fight to change things. I may be a dreamer, but dreamers are necessary to make facts!" Her voice almost shrilled in its triumph, and her hand found and clutched my knee in vibrant emphasis.

"And you feel happier than in the beautiful make-believe world you had dreamed?" I questioned.

"Yes," she answered with firm finality in the voice which stumbles a little. "Reality, even when it is sad is better than illusions." (This from a woman for whom it would seem all earthly things are but that.) "Illusions are at the mercy of any winds that blow. Real happiness must come from within, from a fixed purpose and faith in one's fellow men - and of that I have more t+han I ever had."

"And all this had to come after you left college? Did you get none of this knowledge of life at college?"

"NO!" - an emphatic triumphant, almost terrifying denial - "college isn't the place to go for any ideas."

"I thought I was going to college to be educated," she resumed as she composed herself, and laughing more lightly, " I am an example of the education dealt out to present generations, It's a deadlock. Schools seem to love the dead past and live in it."

"But you know, don't you," I pleaded through Mrs. Macy and for her, "that the intentions of your teachers were for the best."

"But they amounted to nothing," she countered. "They did not teach me about things as they are today, or about the vital problems of the people. They taught me Greek drama and Roman history, the celebrated the achievements of war, rather than those of the heroes of peace. For instance, there were a dozen chapters on war where there were a few paragraphs about the inventors, and it is this overemphasis on the cruelties of life that breeds the wrong ideal. Education taught me that it was a finer thing to be a Napoleon than to create a new potato."

"It is my nature to fight as soon as I see wrongs to be made right. So after I read Wells and Marx and learned what I did, I joined a Socialist branch. I made up my mind to do something. And the best thing seemed to be to join a fighting party and help their propaganda. That was four years ago. I have become an industrialist since."

An industrialist?" I asked, surprised out of composure. "You don't mean an IWW - a syndicalist?"

"I became an IWW because I found out the Socialist party was too slow. It is sinking into the political bog. It is almost, if not quite, impossible for the party to keep its revolutionary character so long as it occupies a place under the government and seeks office under it. The government does not stand for the interests the Socialist party is supposed to represent."

A Modest Proposal (For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being Aburden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public)

By Jonathan Swift - 1729

Ecology.IWW.ORG web editor's note - The following piece is a satire, written in response to the British aristocracy's claims that the Irish Potato Famine was the fault of the Irish Working Class's simply having too many children (a nonsensical Malthusian dismissal of class warfare) as opposed to the fault of the British ruling class's deliberate policies of imperialism and colonialism. It is reposted here as a reminder of the utter inanity of Malthusian dogma:

It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants: who as they grow up either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom a very great additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of the commonwealth, would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars; it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of other projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in the computation. It is true, a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a solar year, with little other nourishment; at most not above the value of 2s., which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner as instead of being a charge upon their parents or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall on the contrary contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands.

There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas! too frequent among us! sacrificing the poor innocent babes I doubt more to avoid the expense than the shame, which would move tears and pity in the most savage and inhuman breast.

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