High-Flying Hogwash
I was quite disturbed by reading Jim DeFede's "The Baba Chronicles" (September 25). I am very upset with Mr. DeFede, especially after he conducted a telephone interview with me and still published several erroneous details about the Air Dabia Boeing 747 aircraft.

It is now apparent that Mr. DeFede was just fishing for negative information about the aircraft and the people associated with Air Dabia. One simple example: The panel blew off the left wing, not the right wing. (Maybe he does not know port from starboard.) During my telephone interview with Mr. DeFede, I refuted several of Sally Ragsdale's allegations and offered to provide other witnesses, but evidently that was not going to provide exciting reading.

I was on the aircraft, only twenty feet from the wing area that lost the panel. At no time was anyone in danger, nor was the aircraft ever in danger of having to make a forced landing. The aircraft had onboard its full complement of Federal Aviation Administration-required emergency equipment and also had life rafts and jackets. The aircraft had just come out of a maintenance check prior to being issued an FAA export certificate of airworthiness, which requires an aircraft to be fully airworthy and properly equipped before being exported from the United States.

Another error with the Ragsdale story was her being an eyewitness to the loading of boxes into the passenger cabin. Yes, there were boxes of all kinds -- personal effects, clothing, linen, et cetera. But they were already loaded when Ms. Ragsdale arrived to board the aircraft, and it was all securely netted down in the passenger cabin.

If you owned a Boeing 747 and your wife had been shopping in Miami for four or five months and the airplane was going to fly back to your home with 30 people onboard (an aircraft with a capacity of 393 passengers), wouldn't you, as a prudent individual, make use of the unused space instead of chartering a cargo aircraft? It sure makes sense to me. Then again, the truth may not get people to open a New Times dispenser and take home a paper.

Glenn R. Heikkila
Miami Springs

Editor's note: Sally Ragsdale stands by her description of the plane having been "stripped," and insists it was not equipped with life vests, life rafts, or portable oxygen. The damaged wing was indeed on the port side, but the error was not attributable to Ms. Ragsdale or Jim DeFede. It was inadvertently introduced during the editing process.

How to Write a Letter Without Really Thinking
What was Paula Park trying to accomplish by trashing Dade County Public Schools Supt. Roger Cuevas? There was no purpose to the article ("How to Succeed in Education Without Really Studying," September 25). Mr. Cuevas has made his way up the ranks of the school system through hard work and considerable effort. He has dedicated his life to the school system. A good leader surrounds himself with quality people who are experts in different areas, and then utilizes their expertise. I see no point except to trash the largest single employer in Dade County, and possibly the whole state of Florida.

Why don't you write about the accomplishments of the current and past two administrations? Why don't you use your considerable influence to attract quality teachers to enter the school system? Why don't you use your time to influence those college students who have not yet decided to pursue a career in education? It is a lot easier to sit back and trash institutions than to spend time assisting in their growth.

Henri Cepero

Addicted to Slander
In response to Paula Park's story "Addicted to Addiction" (September 11), the Federal Drug Administration has given approval for clinical research studies of ibogaine, but the University of Miami has refused to complete those studies.

Deborah Mash has taken decades of work and research by Howard Lotsof and, following a campaign of slander, is now attempting to further injure him by treating patients with his procedure at her clinic in St. Kitts, without benefit to him.

M. Angel
Miami Beach

Editor's note: The issue of ibogaine clinical studies at the University of Miami is the subject of litigation brought by Mr. Lotsof against the school.

Kissell: A Value-Added Kind of Guy
On behalf of the Muslims of South Florida, I would like to commend Ted B. Kissell for the way he reported "Two Faces of Islam" (September 4). In his hard work and diligent efforts on this assignment, we sensed Mr. Kissell's professionalism, accuracy, honesty, and a strong inclination for truth, for a more harmonizing society.

Individuals like Mr. Kissell are an asset to the global community and add value to New Times.

Melvin Fareed Sabree

One God, One Messenger, No Questions
It was good to see Ted B. Kissell's article about Islam, but one question was left unanswered: What is the Islam of Louis Farrakhan? Mainstream Muslims, the followers in true spirit, believe in the God who is Allah and whose messenger and last prophet was Mohammed. Simple as that. No ifs, ands, or buts. Anyone who claims to be the messenger of Allah is not a Muslim and does so only for worldly gain.

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