Letters

CRUDE AWAKENING

Re the article "A World Without Water" [August 21-27] by Ginger Otis: Howdy! Out here in the Texas panhandle we are also on the verge of being water victims. Under the Texas "law of capture," what I find under my land (like oil and gas) is mine and I can damn well do with it as I please. In Roberts County (population: fewer than 1000), natural-gas magnate T. Boone Pickens has obtained permits that allow him to pump water, and he wants to put it in a pipeline and sell it to the thirsty folks in San Antonio. Although it is hard to see our American middle-class selves as water victims, in a way, I guess we are. It is interesting to listen to local talk radio and hear self-identifying capitalists rage about "their" water being stolen out from under them. Texans are undergoing a big change in perspective: The price of oil and gas has never been lower (in constant dollars), and now, to add insult to injury, (bottled) water is more expensive than crude!

Richard Hicks
Amarillo, Texas


DEATH BY WATER

As author of Hydropolitics in the 3rd World(U.S. Institute of Peace Press), I would like to say that while Ginger Otis's call for urgent action by the World Summit on Sustainable Development is extremely timely, it is quite possible that hundreds of millions of people would die before competing parties reached agreements on water rights. Most of the world's rivers, which currently supply 80 percent of all water needs, are shared by two or more sovereign nations that regard the river waters originating on or flowing through their territories as their exclusive property. Except in North America and Western Europe, no comprehensive agreements for water-sharing are currently in place in any of the river basins. In addition, research from around the world shows that, even in the best of circumstances (as in the negotiations between the U.S. and Canada on the Columbia River), it takes 20 to 30 years to negotiate and implement such agreements.

The problems related to water-sharing become even more difficult to resolve in river basins that are shared by more than two countries, like the Nile basin, which is shared by 10. Water wars, between or within nations, may or may not take place, but water scarcity is already upon us, claiming more lives every day than all the current wars and non-waterborne diseases combined. Still, water has also been the basis of cooperation between many states, so there may be more reasons for hope than grounds for despair.

Arun Elhance
Manhattan


FISTFUL OF PRIDE

James Ridgeway's otherwise fine analysis "November Surprise?" [Mondo Washington, August 21-27] seems to leave out one key psychological component of the Bush administration's drive to war with Iraq: Bush's promise to the American people to bring back Osama bin Laden "dead or alive."

Neither option in that spaghetti-western scenario has come to pass or is likely to come to pass. Therefore, the only way for Bush and, hence, Americans, to save face is to transfer this lust for vengeance to the nearest available Arab bogeyman—Saddam Hussein.

James Morekis
Savannah, Georgia


OPEN WAR

After reading Allen St. John's article "The Open City" [August 28-September 3] I wondered what row he was sitting in when he evaluated the abilities of Lleyton Hewitt. St. John characterizes the Open's top seed and 2002 Wimbledon champion as an "Aussie punk," "too small to trade winners with today's big hitters. Think of him as a latter-day Mats Wilander or a Jim Courier Lite." While I empathize with St. John's desire to root for the home team, even a notorious cheerleader like John McEnroe calls Hewitt's return of serve the best of all time (above Agassi and Connors) and ranks his foot speed as better than Michael Chang in his prime. St. John's analysis—not Hewitt's game—is "lite."

Whether it is, indeed, better to be at Flushing Meadows—as St. John insists—than to watch the Open on TV, I think the decision rests on a tiebreaker. Watching tennis on TV means there is no line at the rest room, beer prices are reasonable, and there is videotape replay. Now if I could just eliminate Tracy Austin, Michael Barkann, and USA Network's programming clips from their telecasts.

Lawrence Jeziak, TV writer
Tennis Week
Southfield, Michigan

Allen St. John replies: I think I was in Row F, pretty far from the rest room line, but right near the overpriced Heinekens. Is Hewitt faster than Chang? Maybe. But Chang only won one slam. And who am I to argue with Mac if he thinks that Hewitt's the best returner ever. But Agassi won seven majors and Connors eight. And the big-serving Pete Sampras? An all-time record 13. Rest my case.


LITMUS FOR A LEADER

Re Nat Hentoff's August 21-27 column ["War Among Civil Libertarians"]: I disagree with Hentoff's opening statement referring to Michael Meyers as a "nationally recognized civil rights leader." By whom? Certainly not in the black community. The black community will determine our own civil rights leaders. The fact that Hentoff has known Meyers for 20 years is not the litmus test for a black leader. That Hentoff has the audacity to compare Michael Meyers to Dr. Kenneth Clark is laughable.

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