BCP&J E-Newsletter –- Jan. 28, 2008

 

Berkshire Citizens for Peace & Justice

175 Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield, MA 01201

 

 

Contents (Click on the link)

 

                                            Upcoming BCP&J Events (Updated)

 

                                            Descriptions of Upcoming Thursday Night Videos (Updated)

                                                    - January 31

                                                    - February 7

                                                    - February 21

  

                                            Notes from the January 24 meeting
 

                                            Plans for a March 22 event marking the Fifth Anniversary of start of

                                                    the present war in Iraq
  

                                            Berkshire Community College Events
                                                    - Important February 4 GIRO meeting (All are welcome. Melville 104, 12 p.m.)

                                                    - Berkshire Community College Diversity Events scheduled for the spring semester (New)
  

                                            Some Other Events (Non-BCP&J and Non-BCC)
                                                     - March 5, at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY - a report of
                                                      
three people who recently visited Iran with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (New)

                                                     - March 27, at Green Mountain College's Ackley Auditorium - Camilo Mejia will speak  at 7 pm (New)
 

                                            About Peaceplans
  

                                            Cost of Iraq War as of Jan. 24, 2008 (Updated)
  

                                            Quotes (from Smedley Butler)
  

                                            Special Picture (and riddle)
   

                                            About Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice (BCP&J)
  

                                            Contact Information
   

                                            Fair Use Notice

 

 

 

Upcoming BCP&J Events

Text Box: Weekly Peace Vigil each Thursday at Park Square in Pittsfield, 5 to 6 P.M.  The Vigils are held in cooperation with Berkshire Community College’s Global Issues Resource Organization (GIRO).

 

 

 

 

Thursday, January 31 -- Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice will honor Black History Month with a series of videos highlighting the black experience in this country.  On this night we will show Spike Lee's powerful documentary film, "4 Little Girls."  Click here for more information about this film.  Discussion will follow the video. The video showing will begin at 7:30 P.M. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Pittsfield.  The UU Church is located at 175 Wendell Avenue, one block up Broad St. from Rt. 7 & 20 and on the corner of Wendell Avenue and Broad St.  All are welcome and there is no charge.

 

Thursday, February 7 -- On this night we will continue the videos selected in recognition of Black History Month.  Tonight there will be three compelling videos, all to be followed with discussion.  Click here for more information on the three videos to be shown.  The videos will begin at 7:30 P.M. at the UU Church in Pittsfield.  All are welcome and there is no charge.

 

Thursday, February 14 -- We will have a regular business meeting, starting at 7:30 P.M., at the UU Church in Pittsfield.  We would like good attendance at this meeting so that we can accomplish a lot toward preparing for our March 22 event to mark the 5th anniversary of the start of the present war against Iraq and to honor those who died in the war during the past year.

 

Thursday, February 21 -- Tonight we will conclude our series of videos selected to honor Black History Month.  This video, "American Blackout," raises the question of why the news media fails to accurately inform the public with regard to tactics used to control our democratic process and silence voices of political dissent.  Particular attention is paid in the video to the political fortunes of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.  As McKinney is becoming active in the Green Party of late, this film is especially relevant.  Click here for more information on tonight's video.  The video will begin at 7:30 P.M. at the UU Church in Pittsfield.  All are welcome and there is no charge.

 

Thursday, February 28 -- We will have a regular business meeting at the UU Church in Pittsfield.  The meeting will start  at 7:30 P.M.  One main agenda item will be a review of plans and preparations for our March 22 event.


Saturday, Mar. 22 – Keep this day open for a march and service in Pittsfield to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the current war in Iraq.  A major piece will be remembering those who died in the Iraq War during the last year.  Current plans are for a 2.6 mile route that passes by many Pittsfield churches.  The route begins and ends at about the same place so that we will be near our cars at the event's conclusion.  Planning for this event is proceeding nicely, but details need to be worked out and work assignments agreed upon at our next few business meetings.  This event will be advertised widely as was the march and service we sponsored in Pittsfield two years ago. 

 

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Descriptions of Upcoming Thursday Videos

 

Videos are shown on first and third Thursdays of each month (and on most
5th Thursdays in months having them).  Discussion follows the showing of
each video.  Videos are shown at 7:30 P.M. at the Unitarian Universalist Church
at 175 Wendell Ave. in Pittsfield.  All are welcome.  There is no charge.

  

Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice will honor Black History Month with a series of videos highlighting
the black experience in this country.

On Thursday, January 31, we will show Spike Lee's powerful documentary film, "4 Little Girls."  On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his mighty "I Have a Dream" speech.  However, less than a month later, on September 15, 1963,  bitter racial hatred was made manifest through the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, taking the lives of four young black Sunday school students.  Lee's documentary film brings back the horror of that event and its implications for all to absorb and try to integrate into understanding of human frailties, if such is possible.

Thursday, February 7, will feature three video offerings that will attempt to explore a few aspects of black identity in contemporary America.  The first presentation is a compelling 17 minute video-essay entitled "James Baldwin's Childhood."  It presents a challenge, difficult to digest by any compassionate viewer.  The second video offers a debate among four black American intellectuals as to the most appropriate designation for black people today.  One of the older members of the discussion notes his having lived through being designated as Negro, Colored, Black, African American, and Afro-American.  Many interesting perspectives are raised during the discussion.  The final video consists of a recent interview of Shelby Steele by Bill Moyers.  Steele is a conservative and thoughtful black intellectual who raises many questions about black identity, particularly in relation to Barack Obama.  All three videos are outstanding candidates for lively discussion following their presentation.

Last in this series, on Thursday, February 21, BCP&J will present a film of particular contemporary interest.  The video, "American Blackout" raises the question of why the news media fails to accurately inform the public with regard to tactics used to control our democratic process and silence voices of political dissent.  (Note the treatment of Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel and Ron Paul today.)  In particular, the film examines the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, focusing on Florida and Ohio, respectively, and on the political fortunes of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.  As McKinney is becoming active in the Green Party of late, this film is especially relevant.

 

Back to Upcoming BCP&J Events

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Notes from the January 24 meeting

 

Major items of discussion were:

 

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Berkshire Community College Events

 

 

All are welcome to attend meetings of GIRO (Global Issues Resource Organization).  Meetings have recently been held Mondays at 12:15 P.M. in Room 217 of Melville Hall.  However, both the time and place are changing, at least for the next meeting.

 

This coming Monday, February 4, the day before Super Tuesday, GIRO will meet in Melville 104 at 12:00 p.m.

There will be an open discussion on which candidates (Republican, Democrat, Green, etc.) best deserve to be nominated.

GIRO hopes many of you and many BCC students will attend and bring opinions and questions to share.  This could be a particularly important forum for those who may be still undecided.

For beginners, GIRO will share the opinions of all the major candidates on the seven questions listed below.  We find their answers highly thought-provoking, but the list of questions is much too short.  Please bring other vital questions, such as those surrounding global warming, immigration, balance of power in government, FISA, Real ID, the PATRIOT ACT, a Department of Peace, etc.  If you know the candidates' thoughtful opinions on these and other issues, please bring them along.

Here are seven questions which were asked of the candidates by Peace Action.  You may be surprised at the answers given by some of the respondents.

 

Do you or will you:

  1. Bring about a safe, orderly and speedy withdrawal of all US troops, contractors, and bases from Iraq?
     

  2. Keep the option of a military attack on Iran "on the table?"
     

  3. Engage Iran in broad-based diplomatic negotiations?
     

  4. Support the development of new US nuclear weapons?
     

  5. Work to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide?
     

  6. Cut military spending in order to fund human and environmental needs?
     

  7. Prohibit torture and obey laws and treaties on humane treatment of prisoners?

For a few more questions to think about, here are some excerpted from an article posted by William Fisher, on January 9, 2008 in the Huffington Post.

  1. What steps will you take to restore constitutional checks and balances between the three co-equal branches of our government?
     

  2. Do you think these three branches are actually co-equal? Or do you believe in the "unitary executive" theory that gives the president far more sweeping powers? For example, do you believe the president should be allowed to use "signing statements" to nullify parts of laws passed by Congress? Do you think the Office of the Vice President is part of the Executive Branch of government?
     

  3. Do you agree with President Bush that Guantanamo Bay should be closed? What would you do with the people imprisoned there? Do you think Combat Status Review Tribunals and Military Commissions offer detainees the chance of a fair hearing? What about habeas corpus?
     

  4. The Bush Administration has run one of the most secretive governments in American history. What steps will you take to restore more transparency to the Executive Branch?
     

  5. How would you remove partisan politics from the Department of Justice? And make other federal agencies more efficient?
     

  6. Do you think waterboarding is torture? And are there circumstances under which it should be allowed?
     

  7. The United States has diplomatic relations with -- and provides huge amounts of aid to -- some of the world's most repressive governments. Do you think it's time to rethink our Cuba policy?
     

  8. Do you think some presidential action is needed to reach out more effectively to the American Muslim community, to keep its members from becoming radicalized into home-grown terrorists?
     

  9. Do you think the US should press India, Israel and Pakistan to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? What further steps would you take to ensure the security of nuclear stockpiles?
     

  10. What would you do to accelerate an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians for the establishment of two separate states? Would you press Israel to reexamine its policies regarding West Bank settlements?
     

  11. China and India represent a third of the world's population -- and an ever-increasing amount of the world's greenhouse gas emissions? What incentives can you offer these countries to cap these emissions according to a mandatory timetable, absent a pledge from the US to do likewise?
     

  12. Do you think US national security is enhanced or injured by our current no-talk policies toward Iran and Syria?
     

  13. What steps would you take to restore respect for the US in the world community?

Fisher goes on to say: "There are no easy answers to any of these questions."  He then bemoans the way in which journalists focus on catch-phrases such as "change" and "experience," and avoid pressing significant questions on the candidates such as those above.

 

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BERKSHIRE COMMUNITY COLLEGE DIVERSITY EVENTS FOR THE SPRING SEMESTER

 

    FEBRUARY IS BLACK HISTORY MONTH

    MARCH IS WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH

    APRIL IS SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH

 

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Some Other Events (Non-BCP&J and Non-BCC)

 

 

Wednesday, March 5th, at the Sanctuary for Independent Media, 3361 Sixth Avenue, Troy, NY.  Three persons who visited Iran last December with the Fellowship of Reconciliation will report on their trip.  Many of you receiving this newsletter will remember a similar event at Berkshire Community College last year.  But this report will be different because the December 2007 trip focused more than earlier trips did on interactions with ordinary everyday Iranians of all ages.  This event is being presented by the Iran Working Group of Upper Hudson Peace Action, and is co-sponsored by Troy Neighbors for Peace.  The event will begin with a buffet and music at 6 P.M.  The report portion of the event will start at 7 P.M.  Donation is $10.

 

Soccer players happy to pose for a photo for

Fellowship for Reconciliation visitors to Iran

 

 

 

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Thursday, March 27, in Green Mountain College's Ackley Auditorium, Poultney, Vermont. Camilo Mejia will speak at 7 pm. Here is what Wikipedia currently has about him:

 

Camilo Ernesto Mejía (b. Managua, Nicaragua, August 28, 1975) is a Nicaraguan American who is a former Staff Sergeant of the Florida National Guard, anti-war activist, and author. He is a former student of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where he intended to major in psychology and Spanish.   Mejía spent six months in Iraq, then returned for a 2-week furlough to the US after which he did not return for duty. He was charged with desertion and sentenced to one year in prison for refusing to return to fight in Iraq. In March 2004 he turned himself in to the US military and filed an application for conscientious objector status. Mejía was placed under court-martial, and claimed that he left his post in order to avoid duties that could be considered war crimes: more specifically, the abuse and torture of prisoners. One of his attorneys, former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark, claimed that he was thus protected from desertion charges by international law.

 

On May 21, 2004 Mejía was convicted of desertion by a military jury and sentenced to a year in jail and a bad conduct discharge. Under Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, conviction on the charge of desertion during time of war can result in a sentence of death. Mejía served his time at the Fort Sill military prison in Lawton, Oklahoma. During his time in custody he was recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience and was awarded by Refuse and Resist with its Courageous Resister Award.

 

Camilo was also recognized by the Detroit City Council with a commendation for his stand. Detroit was the first city where Mejía spoke at an anti-war rally.

While confined, local and national activists organized a series of vigils outside the gates of Ft. Sill, including one attended by Kathy Kelly and other members of Voices in the Wilderness.

 

Camilo Mejía was released from prison on February 15, 2005. Since his release, he has spoken at many peace protests and to the press about his experiences and his opposition to the war in Iraq.

 

Mejía has recently written a book entitled Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia which recounts his journey of conscience in Iraq.

   

        Quote from Camilo:

"I say without any pride that I did my job as a soldier. I commanded an infantry squad in combat and we never failed to accomplish our mission. But those who called me a coward, without knowing it, are also right. I was a coward, not for leaving the war, but for having been a part of it in the first place. Refusing and resisting this war was my moral duty, a moral duty that called me to take a principled action. I failed to fulfill my moral duty as a human being and instead I chose to fulfill my duty as a soldier. All because I was afraid. I was terrified. I did not want to stand up to the government and the army; I was afraid of punishment and humiliation. I went to war because at the moment I was a coward, and for that I apologize to my soldiers for not being the type of leader I should have been."

 

In August 2007 Mejía was named the chair of the board of directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

 

Camilo Mejia in an undated photo, holding a
"GIVE PEACE A CHANCE" sign

 

 

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About Peaceplans

 

Peaceplans is a web site for posting information about peace-related events and issues in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Joining Peaceplans is a good way to stay in touch with events in the area. To join Peaceplans, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Peaceplans/

Once you have joined, make it a habit to regularly check the latest messages at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Peaceplans/messages

 

You will also be able to post messages yourself.

 

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Cost of Iraq War as of January 12, 2008

 

(From www.costofiraqwar.org and http://www.nationalpriorities.org/costofwar_home

 

Cost to U.S. - More than 4,000 military deaths; more than 900 civilian contractor deaths; more than 200 NGO American deaths; more than 27,000 service people wounded; $489 billion.
  

 

                                 Financial Cost of the War in Iraq as of January 24, 2008

 

    Entire Nation   Massachusetts   Pittsfield
             
  Cost of war in Iraq $488,500,000,000   $13,800,000,000   $70,289,000
           
  Number of children for whom we could have paid the cost of Head Start 58,016,532   1,638,952   8,348
           
  Number of children who could have been provided health care for one year 177,774,125   5,022,074   25,579
           
  Number of elementary teachers who could have been paid for one year (includes benefits) 7,230,179   204,251   1,040
           
  Number of students who could have been provided full one-year scholarships at public universities 52,601,491   1,485,979   7,569
           
  Number of affordable family housing units that could have been built 3,256,667   92,000   469
           
  Number of homes which could have been provided renewable electricity 760,916,796   21,495,705   109,486
           
  Number of elementary schools which could have been built 36,581   1,033   5.3
 
Affordable housing figures are based on an average cost of
$150,000 per unit.  Other figures are based entirely on data
from http://www.nationalpriorities.org/costofwar/

 

  

 

 

 Trade-offs: How the $70.3 million Pittsfield has paid for the war might have been better spent:

   For the Methodology of the National Priorities Project, see below or go to http://www.nationalpriorities.org/cms/content/notes-and-sources-tradeoffs

    Notes and Sources regarding figures for cost of war and Trade-offs

Military Programs and Cost of the Iraq War:

For the following programs, we calculated each state's share of taxes paid into federal funds revenues (based on IRS data). This includes individual income taxes, corporate income taxes, excise, gift and estate taxes. Each state's share of taxes was then multiplied by the total amount of the given item. The Congressional District share is based on its population and median household income relative to the total state figure.

Amounts for military programs are for the proposed spending in the President's budget for fiscal year 2007 presented in February 2006.

Ballistic Missile Defense: According to the Center for Arms Control and Nuclear Proliferation, the total proposed spending for ballistic missile defense in the fiscal year 2007 budget would be $11 billion. This amount includes Space Based Infra-Red System - High.

Nuclear Weapons: According to the Budget of the United States Government, FY2007, spending on Department of Energy's Atomic Energy Defense Activities would be $17 billion.

Cost of Iraq War: The total amount allocated for war and occupation in Iraq is approximately $456 billion through fiscal year 2007. This amount will be updated with information on fiscal year 2008 when appropriate. For a discussion of the amount requested for FY2008, click here.

This number is based on an analysis of the legislation in which Congress has allocated money for war so far. Funding for the war has been initiated by the Bush Administration in supplementals:

Please note that the Department of Defense was also permitted by legislation to transfer funds from other operations (peacetime, Afghanistan, etc.) to the Iraq War, and so estimating war costs based on Congressional legislation is not enough. An article offered by the Strauss Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information offers greater insight into the problems of truly knowing how much has been spent on the Iraq War or other military operations. A Congressional Research Service report also discusses the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tax Cuts:

Each state's share is based on how much they received in federal aid to states for fiscal year 2004, the most recent year the data is available. The Congressional District breakdowns take the proportion of the state's population as its share of the state's federal aid to states.

$56.5 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%: According to the Tax Policy Center (Table T06-0034), the wealthiest 1% would receive one-fourth of the tax cuts this year (which would total around $220 billion).

Trade-Offs:

Elementary School Teachers, Music and Arts Teachers, Public Safety Officers, Police Officers, Firefighters, Nurses, and any other occupation: Each state's number is based on the average amount of annual pay an elementary school teacher receives, plus 25% for other expenses associated with employment such as benefits. These numbers are for 2005 from the Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.

Head Start Places for Children: We calculated cost per child numbers for each state based on state numbers from the Administration of Children and Families' Head Start Bureau. These numbers are from 2005.

People or Children Receiving Health Care: The state numbers are based on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Data Compendium. They represent the average Medicaid outlays per person or per child in each state for 1999 and 2000, and then are forecasted for 2005.

Elementary Schools: The cost of a new elementary school is based on the median amount spent on a 65,000 square foot elementary school in 2005, as reported by the School Planning and Management's 11th Annual Construction Report. A 65,000 square foot elementary school can accommodate roughly 500 students. Regional differences in cost are reflected in each states totals.

Scholarships for University Students: The number for each state is based on the cost of tuition and fees at that state's flagship university for the 2005-2006 academic year. Data on tuition and fees are available at the National Center for Education Statistics' College Opportunities On-Line (COOL).

Affordable Housing Units: The number for each state is based on Census 1990 and 2000 housing values. We have taken the average of the median and lower quartile values, and forecasted for 2005. This may be a fairly rough estimate of what is would cost to build affordable housing, but does constitute a good estimate of an inexpensive housing unit in each state.

Housing Vouchers: On average, each housing voucher is worth $6,665. While there is some variation between cities, we used the national average for each state because it represented the best guide for the value of a housing voucher. This amount is from the Congressional Budget Office.

Students receiving Pell Grants of $4050: The maximum Pell Grant award is currently set at $4050. We used that number for each of the states and for the United States as a whole. Information on the Federal Pell Grant Program can be found at the Office of Postsecondary Education at the US Department of Education.

Homes with Renewable Electricity : The average kWh per home was calculated with data from the Energy Information Administration on total residential electricity useage (by state) and number occupied households. The cost of wind energy is approximately 8 cents per kWh according to research done by Ryan Wiser and Edward Kahn at Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory. For our estimations, we've used 8 cents.

 

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Some Important News Items for the Week

 

None currently listed.

 

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Some Useful Links


None currently listed

 

 

 

 

Text Box: The above links are provided as a convenience. However, as the updating of web pages can affect links, it may occasionally happen that a link provided in this newsletter will not work.
 

 

 

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Quotes

 

In this E-Newsletter we will take a look at some quotes from one of the bravest

military men to have served in the U.S. armed services, Smedley Butler.

 

Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler

Major General Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 - June 21, 1940) was at the time of his death the most decorated U.S. Marine in history.  He was twice the recipient of the Medal of Honor, one of only nineteen to be so honored.  In 1933, he came forward and revealed to Congress a coup d'etat plot against President Roosevelt which was sponsored by big-money interests.  There were large-scale efforts to discredit Maj. Gen. Butler when, after retiring from military service, he entered politics and spoke mightily against excessive U.S. militarism in the interests of large corporations ("big business").  However, a person with his record of bravery is not easy to discredit, and he has remained a hero of immense proportions to military service personnel everywhere.  Major General Butler wrote a book, War Is a Racket, which is still available and widely read.

 

Military Career

Some quotes of Major General Butler

 

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Picture of the week (and riddle)

   

What is this?

  

 

(Scroll down a little bit for the answer)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answer: a HillBilly

 

 

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About Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice

 

BCP&J is open to all people interested in promoting peace and justice who live, work, vacation in, or visit Berkshire County.

 

REGULAR MEETINGS are held every Thursday, 7:30 to 9:30 pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Pittsfield, 175 Wendell Avenue (one block up Broad St. from Rt. 7 & 20, and on the corner of Wendell Avenue and Broad St.).  Meetings on 1st and 3rd Thursdays (and some 5th Thursdays) are devoted to showing educational films/videos followed by discussion.

 

A representative sample of our other activities has included:

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Contact Information

                                                                                                                                       

For comments or questions regarding this newsletter, contact George Desnoyers at 443-4298 or gdesnoye@berkshire.rr.com

 

For questions about BCP&J, contact one or more of the following members, all regular attendees at meetings:

 

 

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FAIR USE NOTICE. This newsletter may contain copyrighted material, and some uses of copyrighted material may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. All copyrighted material in this newsletter is provided without charge and for educational purposes -- to advance the understanding of topics and issues important to the advancement of peace and justice in our time. All copyrighted material is provided in the belief that its use in this newsletter constitutes a “fair use” as provided for in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. Determination of whether copyrighted material shall be used in this newsletter involves the consideration of the following factors: (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors. No copyrighted material in this newsletter should be reproduced or distributed if the reproduction or distribution would diminish the potential market or value of the copyrighted work. If you wish to use any copyrighted material provided in this newsletter for purposes of your own that go beyond “fair use” as provided for in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. 

 

 

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