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Extraordinary people onboard Flight 800

Of all the articles, words, and comments expressing reaction to the impact of the loss of TWA Flight 800, none hits the heart and soul like Mary Jo Melone's July 21 column. The sense of loss and unrealized dreams has been sensitively expressed by others, but Mary Jo hit this subject right where it matters _ directly in the heart. To say she writes movingly is a great understatement. Mary Jo is a writer of conviction, and the Times is better because she is on staff.

Eleanor G. Abell, Crystal River

I am not a fan of Mary Jo Melone _ her columns are too often too caustic and callous. But she won me over with her essay of July 21. It was so moving and poignant _ it touched me more than I can say and made me sadder than ever for those poor kids from Montoursville.

We are having so many tragedies so frequently, we begin to think we are inured to them _ but we aren't and each one is worse than the one before.

My prayers are for all those who died and their friends and family.

Evelyn C. Osterweil, Brooksville

Re: Extraordinary people lost in crash, July 21.

Every one of the passengers aboard TWA Flight 800 was indeed a "'special" person. Even though all were not of celebrity status, each individual was precious and will be deeply missed by friends and family.

My heartfelt condolences to all of those who lost loved ones on that ill-fated flight. May God grant you the strength to endure.

JoAnn Frank, Clearwater

Take separate flights

When two parents are thinking about flying and leaving their children at home, they should book separate flights.

If anything should happen, at least one parent would have survived to take care of their children.

Esther Minnick, Dunedin

Too much tragedy

Our flag seems to be flying more at half-staff than full staff; what a sad and horrible situation for so many.

Marge Moen, Largo

Stringent airport safety

On May 12, my husband and I flew from Athens to New York on TWA Flight 881, the flight which, on its return to Europe as number 800 to Paris, exploded July 17 off the coast of Long Island.

That disaster prompted renewed questions about security at Hellenikon Airport. It could not be described as lax when we were there: We went through an airport security check to get into the gate area, followed by a second electronic screening by TWA to get into the airline's departure lounge. TWA, in fact, kept about 300 people standing in a hot corridor for at least an hour before its security employees arrived to process us through the X-ray machines. (TWA also claims that every piece of hold luggage on overseas flights is X-rayed.)

It should be noted, though, that even those measures could not have prevented a bombing. Any camera, recorder, hair dryer or laptop computer could contain enough explosives to cause the terrible event. Only a full baggage check, with the latest detection technology, could guard against some terrorist attacks _ and even then we probably could not prevent them all.

Ruby W. Vaughn, Palm Harbor

Sacrificial Lamm

Re: Lamm's lethal take on health care.

Debra J. Saunders in her column suggests that Lamm's idea to limit the number of new doctors as a way to control health care cost was a new and radically destructive idea. When President Clinton suggested doing exactly the same thing in his 1993 health care proposal, there was not a whimper of outrage or concern. Perhaps how we feel about an issue depends more on who's doing the talking than we care to admit.

Victor Tesone, St. Petersburg

Foreign business

"The Canada Report" of July 21 reported the Canadian government's intention of continuing its fight to overturn the right of the United States to act against any foreign business under the Helms-Burton Act.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien pledged to continue these efforts.

I applaud him and others, such as commentator Dalton Camp, and hope their efforts are successful. Camp's observations that U.S. politicians would estrange 22-million Canadians rather than face up to the Miami Cuban community are right on target.

It is time in the history of the world that the United States stopped forcing other smaller countries, through its policy of economic imperialism, to adhere to any particular form of government.

Cuba had a "free enterprise" economy, fostered by the United States, from 1902 through 1958. This period was highlighted by the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which ended on Jan. 1, 1959. The end product of this economy was the revolution led by Fidel Castro.

Is it to this condition we wish them to return?

Arthur J. Doyle, Holiday

Drug war rhetoric

Re: Philip Gailey's column, July 21.

I find Mr. Gailey's position with regard to our nation's "war on drugs" uninspired. He rightly states the obvious: "the so-called war on drugshas been a colossal failure," yet maintains that "society has to muster the will to send a clear message that illegal drugs will not be tolerated," and advocates harsh punishments for "celebrity drug users," (presumably as an example to children).

Given that our current drug laws have failed to stop the sale of banned substances, the war on drugs could be labeled a colossal failure. However, an argument can be made that the war on drugs was never intended as anything more than the tough-sounding rhetoric it turned out to be and that, from this perspective, it remains tremendously successful. The great majority of public officials, even those who have used illegal drugs in the past, cling to the drug war rhetoric like the warm, soft security blanket it has become. They, like Philip Gailey, maintain that illegal drugs are "the scourgethat destroys lives, families and neighborhoods."

Tough talk has won elections and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, tough talk and mandatory sentences are powerless to stem the illegal use of drugs or to diminish their market. Sending people (celebrity or otherwise) to jail and firing them from their jobs over drug use destroys lives and families as effectively as any type of damaging, addictive behavior does, whether the substance involved is legal or not.

Cigarettes are smelly, invasive and tremendously unhealthy. I applaud a no-smoking White House, regardless of the substance. Prior conservative administrations have proven that the use of illegal drugs is not a prerequisite for the abuse of power and office. An individual's ethical constitution might be temporarily skewed while under the influence of a substance (legal or otherwise), but unethical people don't need drugs to abuse power.

Hopefully, recent events have proven that celebrities/athletes are not role models. Parents, teachers and neighbors have a greater role in the lives of our children than some pro athlete or anonymous White House staff member.

Let's treat a medical problem with medicine, not with mandatory firing or jail time. Intolerance of human failure sets a poor example for our children too.

Dale W. Bridges, St. Petersburg

Direct depositing

Re: Social Security in the bank.

I think direct deposit is a good idea except for one situation that can cause many headaches: If you change banks, it would seem very simple to also change where your direct deposit will go. Not so.

There are also problems with having a business withdraw from your account monthly charges. It seems you have signed up for life when you try to cancel one of these things. After finally getting a stop on these deductions, they can start again automatically some months later. Why? I have no idea.

I have had maybe five different banks in 10 years here in Florida. The reasons being: bank mergers, change in policy or location. I'd love to stay at one bank, but the game is always changing. Social Security direct deposit, in my opinion, will cause many problems unless you stay with your present banking institution.

George H. Doenges,

New Port Richey

Dumb and dumber

The article Stadium deal gives Bucs control over prime property, which was published in the Times on July 14, was most interesting. I just can't believe that the government officials and the people of Tampa and Hillsborough County would be so dumb that they would give Malcolm Glazer this deal. He could, and probably would, develop this prime surrounding land, make enough profit to pay for his overpriced Bucs and the public would pay for his new stadium with their additional tax money. It's no wonder that Glazer is a millionaire.

It's also interesting to note that the media hasn't followed up on this "giveaway."

Eugene Fontana, Spring Hill

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