The Mystery Of Flight 990

Commenting on the cause of the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990, the subject of our Nov. 29 cover story, readers offered a variety of theories. One suggested that relief pilot Gamil al-Batouti may have been affected by a stroke; another wondered if his intention was to murder the Americans on board. Many Muslims were angry at what they saw as the Western press's "rush to judgment." "As Arabs and Muslims, we must hold our heads high and not be intimidated or paranoid," declared one. Other letter writers expressed deep sadness over the tragedy. Said one: "My heart goes out to the families of the victims, for they have suffered immensely."

The Unfriendly Skies After reading your Nov. 29 cover story, "'I Put My Trust in God' " (National Affairs), I felt the kind of fear that could come only with a complete understanding of the doomed flight of EgyptAir 990. Your piece allowed me to draw my own conclusions about what may have happened, but it also thoroughly explored all possible explanations for why this plane went down.
Roxy Dunn
Lockport, Ill.

The coverage of EgyptAir flight 990 has been quite disappointing. Had the pilot been Christian and said "Lord, help me," "Lord, have mercy" or "Oh, God!" even 100 times, neither his faith nor his utterances would have been analyzed as EgyptAir relief pilot Gamil al-Batouti's have been.
Naeem Siddiqi
Toronto, Canada

Having lived many years in the Middle East--and in Egypt--I mourn the dead and deeply regret the controversy over EgyptAir Flight 990. But at moments like this I keep repeating, "Thank God we have the American press!"
Robert G. Bertagne
Houston, Texas

I have flown commercially--as a passenger--for almost 50 years, starting with DC-3s, and I acknowledge that the nature of the experience has certainly changed. In "Stress in the Skies" (National Affairs, Nov. 29), you talk of delays, overcrowding, bad food, stale air and surly staff as if all that is the norm. But it depends on one's expectations. If your expectations run to being treated in coach as though you are a first-class passenger, then perhaps you should pay for that level of service. Since air travel has become the common man's means of travel, with fares in absolute dollar terms no higher than they were 20 years ago, then one should expect the space, food and attention one might get on a bus, which used to be the cheap way of getting from point A to point B. I think that by and large airlines do a nice job of ferrying us all around, especially considering the cost factor. In my opinion, getting there is still half the fun.
Erik Moeser
Port Washington, Wis.

Thanks for the Memory Susan Church's Nov. 29 my turn reminiscing about summers spent traveling with her family in their trailer ("Holding On to a Piece of My Family's Past") brought back memories of my own. In the summer of '69, my parents piled all six kids, 8 to 20, into the station wagon, hitched up a "pop-up" trailer, and for 10 glorious (mostly) weeks we traversed the country. Even the squabbles and mistakes--such as the time we got two miles from our lunch stop and realized one sister had been left behind--are now valued parts of our collective memory bank.
John W. Atteridg
San Francisco, Calif.

A Deadly Bonfire While my heart goes out to the families, friends and victims of the Texas A&M bonfire tragedy, there is one issue I have not seen adequately addressed in the media ("A Crushing Wave of Wood," National Affairs, Nov. 29). I'm no environmental wacko, but it is a bit shocking that there seems to be little questioning of the 90-year "tradition" of cutting down trees to provide 7,000 logs each year for the dubious purpose of a bonfire and football pep rally.
Michael Hamman
Long Beach, Calif.

I am writing to offer information in response to any questions that may arise about the loss of trees used for the Texas A&M bonfire--Aggies cut down these trees from land that is going to be cleared, and then each spring plant 10,000 seedlings.
Amy Migura, Texas A&M '92
San Antonio, Texas

Clicking at Work The debate on Internet access at work ("CyberSlacking," Business, Nov. 29) reminds me of companies' monitoring employees' personal phone calls and bathroom breaks. America's employees spend more and more time today at work. What you refer to as "cyberslacking" can also be called catching up on the personal business a long workday denies. Progressive companies that allow employees the occasional Web-surfing opportunity will be rewarded with lower absenteeism, higher morale and greater productivity.
Tom Messick
Yorba Linda, Calif.

Why blame the Internet for slacking? It was going on long before there was ever a computer on anyone's desk!
Susan Caplan
Boynton Beach, Fla.

Think Ink for a Body Beautiful Thank you for your article on body art ("Living Canvas," Society, Nov. 29). As an 18-year-old high-school senior who just got my first tattoo (a tribal band around my arm) a few weeks ago, I thought it was nice to see a major magazine take a deeper look past the ink. And I appreciate your taking a viewpoint that doesn't show those who choose to adorn their bodies in a negative light. My theory is that I should enjoy my skin while it's still young, and that my tattoo will serve as a remembrance of my wild and crazy youth when I'm old and gray.
Jon Noerenberg
Winsted, Minn.

As I look at young tattooed bodies, I remember my artistic tastes in my 20s. Today, in my 50s, I would not want to be living in a house I'd decorated in 1965. And I certainly would not want to live in a body I had decorated during my 20s either.
Christine Thresh
Bethel Island, Calif.

I was surprised to see that the potential infectious complications of tattooing and body piercing were omitted from your article on the glamorization of body modification. It is becoming increasingly well recognized in the medical community that, in addition to encouraging blood-borne pathogens such as HIV and the hepatitis viruses, tattooing and body piercing have caused severe disfiguring and local infections as well as septicemia, which can lead to death. Before people embark on a semipermanent modification of their body, they should be aware of possible complications.
Leland S. Rickman, M.D.
San Diego, Calif.

Kids and Mental Health Anna Quindlen's Nov. 29 column ("The C Word in the Hallways," The Last Word) makes critically important statements regarding mental-health care for our teenagers and others in need. Despite significant medical progress in developing new and highly effective treatments for mental illnesses, ignorance, apathy and stigma continue to stand in the way of bringing those much-needed advances to teenagers through school and community health services. Until we are as willing to provide and pay for mental-health care as we are for other medical care, the posttragedy lament, "if only," will continue to be heard.
Allan Tasman, M.D., President
American Psychiatric Association
Washington, D.C.

I agree with Anna Quindlen that we must do a better job diagnosing and treating mental illness in our children with a goal of preventing suicides and homicides committed by teenagers. But she doesn't go far enough. Our society does an even worse job diagnosing and treating mental illness in adults, who commit many more murders and suicides. If you have a mental illness, chances are the treatment is "not a covered expense," or the insurance benefits are paltry. Children are a subset of society. Our society as a whole has a two-tier health system--one for physical health and an additional, substandard one for mental health.
Jason Birnbaum
Allentown, Pa.

Corrections In our Nov. 29 story "Not Mother Nature's Way" (Your Family: Focus), we misstated the surname of the executive director of the Maternity Center Association. She is Maureen Corry.

In our Dec. 13 story "The Internet Brain Drain" (Business), we said 11 writers on the San Jose Mercury News quit in the past year to join dot-coms. It was, in fact, six writers, four editors and one photographer.