I read Robert Davey's "The FBI and Flight 800" [July 20] with a great deal of interest. Three difficult years have passed since the crash. During this time, my family has grieved over the death of our beautiful 16-year-old daughter.

Since the first week after the crash, I have been convinced that the explosion was caused by a missile, probably friendly fire. All that I have observed since that time has strengthened this conviction.

Why would Clinton, in an executive order, remove whistleblower protection from the Navy Seal units involved in the recovery?

Why would the Navy insist that it had no assets in the area carrying arms that could have downed a plane, and then subsequently admit that it had three submarines on maneuvers nearby?

Why would the NTSB change its explanation of the 12-second line from the recovered black box? The data in that line may indicate that an external explosion occurred. The NTSB gave multiple versions of why it should not be included.

Why was a written statement from the most experienced eyewitness never taken by the FBI? Why were he and I both tailed when I met with him at a restaurant on Long Island? He was a pilot with combat experience who was in the air in a helicopter about 10 miles away at the time, who saw the explosion, and was the first to arrive at the crash site. He told me that he saw a vapor trail with a red streak in the middle, which is characteristic of a missile.

All I have are questions. All I want is the truth.

Donald Nibert
Montoursville, Pennsylvania

I was an eyewitness to the shoot down of Flight 800. I spoke with the FBI twice, and they showed little interest in what I had to say. I was fishing when I saw what I thought was a whitish flare going up from east to west. I didn't see an explosion, as other witnesses have testified to seeing-just two distinct yellow-orange flames coming down.

Ed Wagner
Shirley, New York

Conscience Call

Magie Dominic ["No Relief," July 27] has the ability to get you thinking about the homeless in an empathetic way. That is quite a feat, since like most New Yorkers, I've come to ignore the homeless, treat them with abhorrence and disdain, if not utter disgust, as a scourge upon the city to be gotten rid of. And now I'm thinking that perhaps I've been severe. This doesn't mean that I'm going to begin handing out my dollars to every corner hobo, but it does mean that Ms. Dominic has gotten me to begin thinking about ways in which I might assist the government in finding a solution. For that, I thank her.

Richard Smiraldi
Vernon, New Jersey

Sworn Again

I am an English woman living in New York. I was astounded by Leslie Savan's "The Shag Gag" [July 27], about The Spy Who Shagged Me.

According to the sources cited by Ms. Savan, the word shag is as offensive as fuck or cunt-and can even describe what one unnamed "Brit in New York" referred to as "sub-rape." This is ludicrous. Shag is definitely slang for sex, and it is not a word for polite company, but it is less obnoxious then screw and pales in comparison to fuck.

It's a widely used word in conversation and I can't think of anyone I know who would be offended by it. Shagged is also a common substitute for knackered, and describes people or objects being worn out. It is funny that Americans may use the word entirely innocently-but the word is just not that offensive.

The English have all sorts of swear words that are used often and are not considered to be offensive, even though their literal meaning could be considered as such-and shag is one of them. I guess Savan just happened upon some very uptight Brits.

E.L. James

Uphill Battles

Richard Goldstein ["Hillary's Big Problem," July 20] is correct about New York State being sexist when it comes to backing female candidates for statewide office.

Massachusetts is another state with a progressive reputation, which has old-boy networks that effectively block women from high office. In fact, the Bay State just elected its very first female, Shannon O'Brien, to the post of state treasurer.

At least New York has six women in the House of Representatives. Massachusetts hasn't had a female in the House for over 15 years. (Actually, when it comes to electing women, Pennsylvania is worse than either New York or Massachusetts.)

If Hillary Rodham Clinton can break this bias against females by winning her Senate race, it might open the door for other qualified women in the Empire State.

George A. Dean
Southport, Connecticut

Buddha Pest

Jason Vest was inaccurate when he stated, in the article "Bickering Buddhists" [July 27], that His Holiness the Dalai Lama "warned the world's Tibetan Buddhists who pay homage to [Dorje] Shugden that they were effectively excommunicated if their worship of the specter continued." Vest's coverage of this very esoteric religious issue cannot possibly do justice to it.

A fundamental misconception perpetuated by shallow media cover age stems from the fact that in Buddhism a key element is the spiritual teacher-student relationship. Buddhist religious texts are very complex, and a person reading them without prior explanation cannot possibly comprehend their meaning, which makes a spiritual guide an absolute necessity. Buddha taught that a student should very carefully investigate before selecting his teacher(s). Having once selected one's teacher, the student must listen to what the teacher teaches.

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