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March 24, 2006 | Page 6

Locked out by AK Steel
Dubai Ports corruption
Greetings from Argentina

California's flood risk

WATER, WHERE life began, threatens to end the lives of many in California's Central Valley. As a result, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed in a recent letter to President George W. Bush "a state of emergency for the California levee system due to the imminent threat of catastrophic levee failure.

"Increasingly severe weather systems each season have accelerated the deterioration of the state's levee system to the point where they are now in danger of failing during the next major rainfall or earthquake. This worsening situation creates conditions of extreme peril to the public and property protected by the levees, to the environment, and to the very foundation of California's economy."

Schwarzenegger requested $3 billion in federal funding to reduce this flood risk. It was denied. Surprised? I'm not.

Consider that $3 billion represents approximately 19 days of federal spending for the Iraq war, or roughly $6.7 million per hour. Crucially, that $3 billion profits U.S. corporations involved in Iraq. For the federal government, these war firms are primary. That primacy builds value for the companies' shareholders.

This deal, sealed by history, time and money, eclipses federal funding to protect people and property in the Central Valley threatened by catastrophic floods due to leaky levees, weak creeks and shaky storm drains. The fateful situation there is secondary, federally speaking. What is the bottom line? The Central Valley has lost in competition with military contractors for federal dollars.

One outcome is that Gov. Schwarzenegger will add the denied federal funds to his multibillion-dollar bond issuance for the state's residents to vote on. This is sweet music to the ears of bond firms, whenever the exact date of that ballot measure this year.

In the meantime, the Central Valley remains at risk from flooding and flood damage in winter and spring. To wit, some of its levees are a century old! Electronic and print media in the Sacramento region (population of 1,379,103) have been on the flood-threat story in the governor's backyard.

I digest such news and views perhaps as some folks did in New Orleans before the racialized calamity of Katrina and FEMA. Press coverage on the flood risk to the Big Easy prior to last summer's disaster casts an eerie shadow of similarity to current Sacramento reporting on the Central Valley's threat of being flooded. Gov. Schwarzenegger failing to get $3 billion in federal funds to lessen that risk extends the shadow.
Seth Sandronsky, Co-editor, Because People Matter, Sacramento, Calif.

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Locked out by AK Steel

I JUST finished reading your article about the lockout of the workforce at AK Steel ("AK Steel locks out union," March 10). I liked the article with one exception. In one of the latter paragraphs you called Dan Neal a striker. This is not true. He is a retired employee of AK Steel.

The Armco Employees Independent Federation (AEIF), in fact, did take an authorization vote for a strike. That, as you said in the article, passed with 98 percent of those voting giving the power to the executive board of the AEIF to call for a strike. A side note to that vote is that approximately 90 percent of the membership voted.

The executive board of the AEIF has not called for a strike. We, the workforce at AK Steel, have been locked out by the company.
Robert E. Mattocks, Member, AEIF, From the Internet

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Dubai Ports corruption

THE RACIST reaction to the White House plan to grant Dubai management of six U.S. ports is contemptible. We should condemn it categorically. That does not, however, mean we should champion this cozy $6.5 billion sweetheart deal between billionaire Washington insiders and an oppressive monarchy that owns the global corporation known as Dubai Ports World (DPW).

A little background: Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose office had to approve the port takeover, is the former CEO of a company acquired by DPW shortly after he joined Bush's cabinet. It looks like a quid pro quo among business cronies, yet Snow claims he knew nothing of the deal until he read the papers.

Democratic Party leaders are no better. Madeleine Albright, Clinton's Secretary of State, has been chief lobbyist for DPW throughout the White House review process, and is in line for a healthy commission if it flies.

What about DPW? The emir-controlled corporation manages a vast network of ports across the globe (revenues from U.S. operations would comprise less than 10 percent of their annual income). They are, for example, partnering in a $50 billion port-and-resort-city construction project near Jeddah in Saudi Arabia right now.

And Dubai itself? It's the second-richest principality in the United Arab Emirates, a bastion of laissez-faire capitalism, and just as exploitative of its workers as our own plutocracy.

Rightly seen, this is the Gulf States equivalent of another no-bid Halliburton or Bechtel deal. It should be investigated primarily for the stench of backroom corruption and kickbacks, not for the race or nationality of the players.
Bott Ikeler, Providence, R.I.

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Greetings from Argentina

I'M A socialist in Argentina and I've been reading Socialist Worker for two years. It's great to know that there are many people in the U.S. who are working against imperialism and the war and for a world that is freer, more just, more egalitarian and more democratic for everyone.

I congratulate you and encourage you to keep up this important work. At the same time, I would like to offer to provide you with any news about my country or Latin America.
Luciana Valencia, La Pampa, Patagonia, Argentina

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