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.

I have heard His Holiness explain why he discourages Shugden practice. When the Dalai Lama says that Shugden practitioners should not take "empowerment" (for lack of a better word, initiation into specific religious practices) from him, all he is saying is that they can select another teacher that they agree with. His Holiness is not "excommunicating" anyone-he is simply teaching what he believes in, which, as a spiritual master to most Tibetan Buddhists, is his duty.

Just as the Pope interprets Ro man Catholic dogma, the Dalai Lama is interpreting Tibetan Buddhist tenets. Those who want to continue Shugden practice can do so, but by not listening to his advice, they prove that they do not trust the Dalai La ma's interpretation, and therefore should not ask him to be their spiritual guide. So please don't sensationalize what is an intra-faith theological issue.

Maybe it is the nature of journal ism to look for "dirt" on a public figure, and I'm sure it's tempting to sully the reputation of a truly compassionate individual like the Dalai Lama, a Nobel laureate and the head of a religion that seems to be capturing the popular imagination.

Tseten Phanucharas
Los Angeles, California

Jason Vest replies: No expert or advocate on matters of Tibetan Buddhist theology I. However, the use of the word "excommunication" (which my Webster's defines as "an ecclesiastical censor depriving a person of the rights of church membership") seemed accurate to me in light of language used in previously cited correspondence between Tibetan Buddhists and the Dalai Lama (as well as official Tibetan government-in-exile documents), in which words like "purge" and "ban" are routine. As for the charges of sensationalism and dissing the Dalai Lama: Like HH, Mother Theresa was a compassionate individual, a Nobel laureate, and a popular religious leader. She was also the consort of oppressive dictators and swindlers who funded her activities, which had at least as much to do with propagating a hard-line Catholic dogma in the political as well as spiritual realm as they did alleviating human suffering. While HH may not have hung out with Baby Doc, and while some believe him to be a holy reincarnated entity, he's also an unelected political leader and deserves no immunity from the scrutiny other public figures merit.

Drug Bussed

I Would like to thank Frank Owen ["Higher and Higher," July 27] for talking honestly about the party scene taking place right now in New York. I am what is referred to as a "bus driver." What that means is that when people get together to party, they trust me to regulate their drug use. I will "drive" up to 50 people at a time. The reason that we do this is to en sure that no one ODs.

I am not a doctor or a chemist, but I have been partying for many years and have learned that it is possible to lower the risks of drug use to acceptable levels. The attendees are not naive, and I have never told any one that there are no risks in drug use. I always explain the dangers I have witnessed and studied over the years. When people let me "drive," I am able to watch how they are acting, so that when they ask for something else I can make an educated guess as to whether or not to allow it. The rules are no questioning me if I say no, and no one holds any drugs other than marijuana when I am "driving."

The drugs that I allow at these parties are Ecstasy, GHB, Special K, LSD, and marijuana. That is all. Absolutely no alcohol.

The drugs are also acquired from a reliable source, and if one is not available then there is no party. Period. I have extensive literature on all of these substances that I require anyone new to read and understand before we begin.  

Peter D.

The writer's last name has been withheld.

'Fluff' Stuff

Congrats to Dennis Lim for his renegade review of Trick [July 27]. But from my "lowest-common-denominator" viewpoint, I agree with all the "post-Sundance raves" and "drooling praise." Mr. Lim should be very proud of his own "revolutionary" individuality, "frothing" cynicism, and "fatuous" vocabulary. But we do not live "in a sane world," and some of us enjoy a "neutered dicktease." It helps to keep the theater clean. I'll take a "fluff" Trick over Mr. Lim's bitter treat any day.

Gene Kim

In the Dark

In Jane Dark's piece "French. Revolution." [July 20], she writes: "But when she [Ophélie Winter] rerecorded the song in English...Sony didn't even release it in the States." Dark goes on to cite five possible reasons why Sony didn't release this song in the States. She left out an important one-Ophélie Winter is not a Sony artist! She is signed to East West France.

Melani Rogers

Senior Vice President,
International Media
Sony Music Entertainment

Pagans Unite

I'm so glad you printed the letter from Lucifera Sixx [July 20] in response to James Ridgeway's item in his June 22 Mondo Washington column about right-wing leader Paul Weyrich's hypocrisy regarding non-Christians in the military.

Such attitudes illustrate why minority religions deserve to be given legitimate status. And I would add that atheists deserve no less acceptance. It's equally shocking to see their rights being trampled in the name of "religious liberty."

Diversity is one of our nation's greatest attributes. Let's keep it that way.

Joe Zamecki

Union County Athiests
Elizabeth, New Jersey

Buzz Off

Peter Noel's article "Malcolm X's Killer Axed" [July 27] was just another sick, devilish, and mischief-making diatribe of unnamed sources and pitiful snipes with a clear anti-Muslim agenda.

Noel is clearly a Zionist tool whose extremely ignorant so-called reporting appears rife with envy, jealousy, and just plain stupidity. In short, it reeks of an agenda and it appears to be designed with the intent of instigating feuds (like other anti-Black entities did through their newspapers in the 1960s).

Mr. Noel is a pitiful liar and one who is clearly obsessed with disturbing the Muslims-like a gnat in a tent.

William Muhammad
El Paso, Texas


In Guy Trebay's article "Eyes Wide Shut," in last week's issue, it was stated that the murders of Maria Alves and Susan Fuchs in Central Park were "separated by six years." The murders occurred four years apart.

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