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
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.
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.
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.
Tasneem Akhtar Khan
The Mo Morgan Fan Club Will Now Come to Order
After reading the recent article about the demise of MoJazz Cafe ("MoJazz No Mo'," September 4) and the subsequent response by Mo Morgen to the hatchet job Georgina Cardenas did on him, I will be hard-pressed to believe the veracity of any future articles I read in your journal.
Instead of throwing salt in the wounds of a courageous man losing his business, you should have awarded him a medal for creating the only real jazz club in Dade County. Cardenas is expert in throwing barbs but is totally ignorant of the difficulties of running a business, especially a jazz club, and has no interest in learning -- or in giving Mr. Morgen an opportunity to answer his critics. I personally know Mr. Morgen. I know the difficulties of creating a business. I know jazz. And I know musicians. This was the only true jazz club, and now it's gone.
My definition of a true jazz club?
1. A place dedicated to straight-up, driving jazz with food, drinks, and socializing thrown in. Not dedicated to socializing, drinks, and food with some jazz thrown in.
2. A place with pure jazz every night.
3. A place where, on any given night, you'll find an assortment of top students as well as visiting pros waiting to sit in for a late-night jam session. (Unfortunately, on many nights there were more musicians than patrons.)
4. A place where the owner (Mo) encourages these up-and-coming musicians, as well as poets and singers, to grow and expand.
5. A place where dozens of fabulous musicians could blow and make a few bucks, where previously there was nothing, nowhere, and no money.
Someone complained that Mo didn't pay the musicians enough? He was lucky he could pay the rent so the musicians had a place to play -- and they knew it! And almost everyone appreciated it. Unfortunately, few pure art forms or artists can survive in this world without "selling out" to commercialism.
MoJazz succeeded for four years. Thank you, Mo Morgen.
Lectures by Luis
Monique Reyna's response to my letter criticizing Kirk Semple's article "Witness for the Prosecution" (August 21) misses the point. It's not that prosecutors are bad and that criminal defense lawyers are good. Neither is it true, as Ms. Reyna suggests, that prosecutors are good and defense lawyers are bad. The point of my letter was that prosecutors prosecute to win, and to suggest, as Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Udolf did in Mr. Semple's article, that there are other reasons for prosecuting people is silly.
I would also note that defense lawyers defend to win. As most of us learned in our seventh-grade civics class, our legal system is an adversarial one. It is hostile. Both sides want to win. Ms. Reyna's view that prosecutors "convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent" suggests that prosecutors (or defense lawyers) can be trusted to decide who is guilty and who is not guilty. Not only is her view of our criminal justice system unrealistic, it is unwise.
Fortunately for us all (yes, even Ms. Reyna), more than 200 years ago some very wise people realized that prosecutors and defense lawyers alike are human, that they are fallible, that they make mistakes. Those same wise people realized that, in their zeal to prosecute or defend, these humans may become biased and jaded and perhaps could not be trusted to decide guilt or innocence. In drafting our Constitution, they created a jury system that places the decision of guilt or innocence in the hands of presumably disinterested people.
Thus my original letter was not meant as an attack on prosecutors. Rather it was designed only to reflect reality. Prosecutors prosecute to win. Defense lawyers defend to win. Judges make sure both sides (yes, Ms. Reyna, even the prosecution) play by the rules. Juries, not prosecutors, decide guilt or lack of evidence thereof. And, one hopes, justice is done.
Luis I. Guerra
Our Dinner with Pasquale and Alain
Our favorite section of New Times is Jen Karetnick's "Cafe." Being French, it's normal for us to be interested in cuisine, no? Her articles have led us to decide to voice something that has bothered us for a long time about American English -- that is, the misuse of the word entree.
To explain to those who don't speak French, entree, in the culinary sense, means the first course of a meal (not the main course, which somehow made its way into American English). Americans spell and pronounce the word correctly, even write it with the accent, but constantly use the word in the wrong way.
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We and other foreigners we know have been confused by the word entree on menus in the United States. One friend we know even ordered pasta (thinking he was ordering a first course) and was bewildered when the serving was enormous, and even more bewildered when no plat principal was offered. Plat principal means main course in French.
New Times is a fresh, critical, and honest publication. Why not educate your fellow citizens by explaining to them what entree really means? The world is far too small to misuse a language in such a way. If you think we are too picky, just think of the poor Americans who travel to France and order an entree thinking they are ordering a main course -- only to be shocked when a tiny first-course portion appears. It works both ways.
Yes, we know that Franglais (French combined with English) is full of mistakes (as in our use of the word footing instead of jogging). But you have to admit that on a menu -- with a meaning so close, yet so far -- the misuse of entree is really an unacceptable error. Other English-speaking countries we have visited -- England, Australia -- use entree correctly. We hope you can lead a crusade for Americans to do so too.
Pasquale and Alain Genteur