Sophia King Family Responds

Dear Mr. Lomax,

My family deserves an apology from you and the Chronicle after last week's cover story, "The Short Unhappy Life of Sophia King" [Aug. 2]. It is true that my daughter's life was tragically short; but the rest of Sophia's life was certainly not the unhappy saga you inaccurately depicted.

Had you had the decency to fully consult me before publishing your article, you would have learned about the real Sophia King. Sophia was a very outspoken and courageous person, a young woman with dreams and aspirations of bettering herself despite her circumstances. Sophia's goal wasn't to live and die in a housing project, but that was the outcome the Housing Authority and the APD chose for her, by coming to her house unannounced and wielding guns.

Had you taken the time to verify any of your dubious sources, you would have discovered that my daughter never had a frown on her face until she was forcibly transferred to the Rosewood Apartments. Both Sophia and I begged the Housing Authority to place her near our family so we could help Sophia through her bouts of mental anguish. Instead, she was forced to remain at Rosewood, where she would inexplicably be blamed for a maintenance man running over her daughter, and where Sophia would eventually be shot and killed in cold blood by the Austin Police Department.

Had you asked me for more than just how to spell Sophia's middle name, you would have learned that although Sophia was tenacious in holding Jim Humphrey Sr. to his financial obligations towards his son (a biological fact which Humphrey Sr. no longer denies) she was not ever romantically obsessed with him. For example, Sophia's tattoo was dedicated to her son (who shares the same name), not evidence of any fixation upon his largely absent father. In fact, at the time of her death, Sophia was engaged to another male companion. Sophia had dreams of a better life for herself and her children in the near future. People contemplating suicide don't make long-term plans like Sophia did during the last few weeks of her life.

Had you taken the time to ask me about Sophia's accomplishments despite adversity, maybe then you would not have made fun of her high school diploma. My daughter was proud of completing her education, because she had to work so hard to do so. Her senior year of high school, Sophia was pregnant with her second child, and living, at least part of the time, as a single mother in a very rough public housing project. Sophia was also working part-time for UT in a dorm cafeteria. Despite all these responsibilities, a pregnant Sophia walked the quarter-mile to the bus every day in order to finish high school. Had you spoken to people who really knew my daughter, you would not have mocked her most proud accomplishment in such a callous manner.

Nor should you have looked down upon my daughter for not having achieved more during her time here on Earth. Were she alive today, Sophia might have responded to your article by saying, "Be patient. God isn't finished with me yet." After all, when Sophia was killed she was only 23 years old. At the beginning of June Sophia thought her whole life was before her. She even planned to attend college part-time in the fall to learn about the civil rights movement. Sophia had already accomplished more in her short time than many others in similar circumstances. To judge her for what she was not given time to accomplish is grossly unfair.

My daughter Sophia King was not the "public menace" you described her to be. On the morning of her death, Sophia was inside her apartment, minding her own business. Had Dianna Powell, the project manager, not come to her apartment so early, and with several police in tow, this disaster would not have occurred. The only tragedy that plagued my daughter was the tragedy that came to her house in the early morning of June 11, 2002. Aside from the harassment and derision she received from the Housing Authority and the APD, Sophia led a pleasant life, not a life of misery.

Had Sophia really been a "walking train wreck of a woman" who was feared by her neighbors, we would not have been able to fill the Mims Chapel to capacity at her funeral. Instead, at Sophia's funeral, she was remembered by all as the loving, dedicated mother and daughter she truly was. In death Sophia deserves the peace and respect she wasn't afforded during her life. My daughter is dead. Hasn't my family suffered enough grief for you? Why spit on her grave through the horrible lies you printed in your paper?


Brenda Elendu

Mother of Sophia King

Lucius Lomax replies: I strongly sympathize with Ms. Elendu's loss, and that of her family. But that sympathy does not alter the story that I wrote. That Sophia King planned to continue her education is commendable. But she also had a history of assault, including assaulting a child. I did ask Ms. Elendu how to spell Sophia's middle name, but I also asked a series of other questions to which she refused to reply. I spoke with Ms. Elendu twice and with Sophia's aunt Alice Pickens three times, and gave them the opportunity to say anything that they wished to say about Sophia, or about what had happened to her. They chose not to use that opportunity.

No Attempt at Balance


Lucius Lomax's "The Short Unhappy Life of Sophia King" [Aug. 2] is a sad piece of journalism, if "journalism" is worthy of being applied. The article and its sidebar spend 7,500 words without saying one positive thing about Sophia. Certainly, she was mentally ill. That's beyond dispute. But not a word about the many parts of her life that were happy, and the many good times. Not a word about love and affection in the family.

The article makes no attempt at balance. It speaks sympathetically about Sophia's former husband without mentioning his own criminal record (including domestic violence) and the fact that the state has filed papers to terminate his parental rights. As to the issue of whether Sophia had a knife in her hand when the police killed her, Lomax ignores the dozen witnesses who say no, and focuses on one teenager, who by Lomax's own admission, has credibility problems.

And what was the point of deriding her pride in graduating from high school ("as if she had a Ph.D. from Oxford")? The fact she did graduate was a remarkable achievement, given all Sophia was going through ... something indeed to be proud of, and something that speaks of her potential.

Lomax does identify the proper issues around the death of Sophia, but does so by trashing Sophia and sensationalizing the pathos of her life. Was the idea to paint her so unsympathetically so as to somehow minimize her killing? Her sickness caused her problems, not her character.

The issue is why did the Austin Police Department, despite the objections of the disability community, end its partnership with the Travis County Sheriff's mental health unit, one of the most respected in the country? It could not have been for money since APD has spent more than it would have paid to have this premium service. Was it turf? Ego? And the fact that APD officers get six hours of training one time in the academy is hardly to brag about. What is needed is six hours of training twice a year. Academy is but a start. Regular updating and training are critical. I've learned through litigation that APD might have great disability policies on paper, but the officers know nothing about them.

As Lomax points out, had the Travis County Sheriff's mental health unit still been involved, Sophia King would still be alive. Quite telling is Chief Stan Knee's reaction to his officers leaving Sophia dead, nearly naked, on the ground for an hour and a half before his officers called the coroner's [office]. Knee was upset that this could have caused a disturbance. He wasn't upset about the lack of dignity and respect for the dead, or the trauma and long-term effects this singular act of callousness caused the children of the housing project. APD doesn't see its role as assisting the community, but controlling it.

And the fundamental question remains: Both the Housing Authority and APD had long known of Sophia's mental illness and her periods of decompensation when she stopped taking medication. Why did they have to force the issue that morning on June 11, when no mental health professionals were available? They had dealt with all this before. Why could they not have waited until that afternoon, or the next morning? Their inappropriate and unprofessional conduct set in motion the events that caused Sophia King's death.

James C. Harrington


Texas Civil Rights Project

News Editor Michael King responds: We hope that Jim Harrington is a better lawyer than he is a reader. After attacking reporter Lucius Lomax for supposed inaccuracies, he identifies none, and then spends most of his letter agreeing with the substance and thrust of the article, including the fact that there are disputed accounts of what happened the morning of Sophia King's death. Unlike Lomax or our readers, Harrington announced the next day he already knew what happened -- he did not need to talk to people who were actually there. And he was in such a hurry to sue that he filed a ready-made brief that includes as named parties Austin police officers who weren't even at the scene.

Harrington's zeal to defend wronged people is admirable. It does not excuse his eagerly preconceived conclusions, nor his reflexive self-righteousness, nor his willingness to accuse anyone who disagrees with him of evil motives or unprofessionalism. Physician, heal thyself.

Cashed-Out Council


There's been a lot of hand-wringing in Austin about the Stratus deal fiasco, and the taxpayer-subsidized Borders moving in at "6th Plus Lamar." The attitude seems to be, "Oh, woe is us, these deals stink but they're better than the alternative!" I have an easy answer to the problem: old-fashioned Yellow Dog voting.

Every time the City Council votes to hand out your tax dollars on corporate welfare scams like Tax Rebates and Fee Waivers, find out which council members voted in favor of these shameful misuses of your money and write, e-mail, or call them and let them know that come election time you will vote for a Yellow Dog before you'll vote for them again. "Oh no," you say. "But then we'll lose the Green Council! They're enviro-friendly!"


This council has shown time and again that the only Green they care about is cash. The recently approved sweetheart deal with Freeport-Bradley-MacMoStratus waives $15 million in fees; that's 15 million dollars that could have been used to repair Austin's streets, or add some decent bike lanes somewhere, or buy Tasers for every APD officer so they aren't forced to kill people who are only armed with knives or sticks. How many teachers would that money hire? How many new fire trucks would it buy? How many acres of land over the aquifer could they have bought outright for 15-damn-million? If you live, work, or spend money in Austin, you are personally making up that shortfall with your taxes.

At this point, a council full of yellow dogs could hardly do any more harm to Austin than a council full of "Green" weasels already have. They obviously aren't paying any attention to their constituents, so stop paying a salary to them. Vote the bastards out.

Jason Meador


Stratus Quo


Hello Stratus quo! And goodbye Barton Springs! (With special thanks to Daryl "Chamber of Concrete" Slusher.)

Ray Young

Stephen Needs Some Success


In responding to [Stephen] Moser's review of the Virtualize show ["After a Fashion," July 26], first off, let me say that some of what he said, I felt, was true. My dresses and jackets were supposed to have buttons, buckles, and other details that I make myself. I was also supposed to have a line of matching shoes, bags, and other accessories to make that total head-to-toe "look." It didn't happen. The week before the show, the shoes and bags needed more time, so I threw together about 12 new outfits in five days. We ended up in an outdoor dressing area, with no lights. With the dresses going on last, I noticed two outfits inside out, one backward, and some boot/dress combos that weren't. The problems I had were my own fault. I should have focused on a few main items, and made certain they worked. Even with all my failings, I thought the models and the crew at Wet did a great job and seemed to have a good time doing it. As for the rest of his opinions ... Jane, you ignorant slut. Can you be so stupid to think you can go to a show by someone you know makes thongs and bras and not see thongs and bras? Get over it. And yes, Pyretta looked real tough hurling fireballs over your head.

Who else but strippers would wear this stuff? Rock stars, ravers, gothers, ren-festers, theatre groups, movie and TV people, dominatrix. I even have a video of "serious" fashion designer Gail Chovan wearing one of my trashy little pieces. Now there's some blackmail.

And yes, you've seen them before. I've made more than 400 bras. Patricia Field in New York, Cyberdog in London, and most recently, some place in Tokyo keep picking the same 10 designs. Maybe you've never experienced success. You should try it; you'll need something people actually want, though.

Brooks (this is my day job) Coleman

Stephen Moser 101

Dear Stephen [Moser]:

You crack me up! I love your writing ["101: Video Reviews"]. I do something of the same sort, but on TV. I highlight classic (and not so classic) films for a news station in Seattle and I often check out your reviews for inspiration ... and just when I need a good laugh. Needless to say, I'm very impressed. And I'm glad to see that there is someone else out there that has the same devotion to movies (good and bad) as well as the same sly and slanted sense of humor.

Take care, and keep up the great work!


Guy Farris

Year of the Moser


Thank you for the kind words in your most recent article ["After a Fashion," Aug. 2]. We have had numerous calls from friends and several calls from "new" customers referring to your comments.

I am honored that you spoke so highly of me and the restaurant. We set about trying to do something a bit different and are determined to be the best at what we do.

As Emeril might say, we are going to take Chinese and "kick it up a notch." Your words are very inspiring and when people call and mention the article it makes us realize how much our friends and customers have helped us build this business.

We know we are not the best Chinese restaurant, but I assure you we will be doing all we can to make our restaurant the best.

In closing, I again want to thank you for your kind words. I'm certain your comments will continue to bring new business to our restaurant.


John Hudgins

'Postmarks' Rules!


One of the highlights of living in Austin is the "Postmarks" section of The Austin Chronicle. I especially enjoy the attacks on one another by the environmental faithful. I say "faithful" because the fervor, basic disregard for personal rights, and the "my way is the true road" attitude taken smacks of inquisition-age Spanish Catholicism, some modern sects of Islam, and the less-tolerant branches of Protestantism. Leaps of faith abound when "Postmarks" participants determine causality of environmental degradation, exhibiting total disregard for the scientific method, yet another link to their fundamentalist brethren. The solutions proposed, if they can be called that, are the most laughable ... set no rules for development so that no development can occur. "The People" and "Democracy" are invoked in their diatribes constantly, but never seem to be the actual tool of choice for getting things done for the faithful ... judicial lawmaking is much preferred because it is easier to get a jury to vote your way than the collective wisdom of the whole of society. Fear is the basis for most fundamentalist behavior, and faith in man is considered heretical. If you take an objective look at the track record of man and technology in solving environmental problems over the last 40 years, the inescapable conclusion is that we have a lot to be proud of, not in stopping ingenuity, but by channeling it to solve by-products of population, consumption, and life expectancy growth. Calling any of these three things wrong implies a value judgment that is fiercely debatable and unenforceable. Fear of change is just fear, although it is often confused with a holy faith in a higher force, be it god or nature.

Allen Gilmer

Just a Citizen

Sophia's Story a Familiar One


On your criticism on the Statesman's implied support in favor of a Stratus deal ["Page Two," Aug. 2] -- we all know who they please, and who they hire to please, but you're not different; you're just hanging from another teat of this ailing bitch that Austin is. On Sophia King ["The Short Unhappy Life of Sophia King," Aug. 2], you clearly exposed how stupidly APD handles work they are expected to do (they just do tickets), then missed a chance to expose how foreign the inner circle in APD is, barely mentioning that Sophia's killer is from New York. As far as NAACP, I don't think they have what it takes to confront the outsider-Caucasian machine in the department, to clarify her death. Sophia herself was a better mother than her own, but she grew frustrated at the glossy picture of the American world she saw on TV, and the chances she wanted but never had, even ignoring painful abuses on herself for the love of her children. Where are those successful blacks? Where are them preachers? And her father?

Paul Aviña

Bush's Dirty Laundry

Dear Chron:

Michael King's useful reminder of George W. Bush's personal responsibility for the University of Texas Investment Management Co. (UTIMCO) scandal ["Capitol Chronicle," Aug. 2] omitted a fundamental Bush link to the scandal (in which lucrative contracts to invest more than $450 million of UT's endowment went to cronies of Bush and ex-Regent Tom Hicks).

Big campaign donors whom then-Gov. Bush appointed as UT or A&M Regents have dominated UTIMCO's nine-member board. Bush-appointed regents who have

sat on UTIMCO's board include:

  • Lobbyist Tom Loeffler ($141,000 to Bush's gubernatorial campaigns);

  • Gubernatorial candidate/oil tycoon Tony Sanchez ($101,000);

  • Oil baroness Rita Clements ($41,106);

  • Building executive Woody L. Hunt ($39,000);

  • Investment executive Robert H. Allen ($13,000);

  • Banker A.W. Riter, Jr. ($7,000); and

  • Accountant R.H. Stevens, Jr. ($1,000).

    Following this $343,106 money trail, the UTIMCO scandal is inseparable from Bush's top donor-appointees. There's just no passing the buck on this one.

    Andrew Wheat

    Research Director

    Texans for Public Justice

    Considering Nokonah


    I want to respond to Mr. Scott Johnson ["Postmarks: Consult the Green Force, Aug. 2] who was concerned because I missed his phone call that the important issues he addressed were not considered in the building of the Nokonah. Since he commented publicly that his job is to encourage buildings that reduce waste, maintenance costs, and energy consumption and improve indoor air quality, I want to respond because we certainly did consult the very best experts on these matters. He mentions indoor air; our air system operates similarly to the type used in the "clean rooms" of the computer industry. No other residential building in the area has such a feature that I am aware of. It is a joy to breathe the air in the building. As to efficiency, the individual air conditioning heat pumps are water-based. This system allows us to actually transfer heat gained from parts of the building that do not want it to the parts that do need heat, in effect making a solar collector out of the mass of the building. Our trash chute system automatically sorts waste for recycling. I could go on, but rest assured Mr. Johnson that we worked with many experts about all these matters, knowing the people of Austin want very much to live with minimal environmental impact and with efficiency in their lives. But it is not just the Nokonah's indoor air quality that we are proud of but to the Nokonah's role in reducing air emissions because of our location. Sooner or later it will occur to us that it is madness to move 4,000 lbs. of steel every time we need to move 10 lbs. of groceries. The Chronicle has championed the idea of a compact city for good reason -- sprawl is ugly and wasteful. I hope it continues to do so. And the city staff has been nothing but cooperative. There is a growing realization that we must abandon the sprawl model of development. If you have any doubts about that, drive down Bee Caves Road around rush hour and look at the expressions on people's faces as they sit in traffic.

    Robert Barnstone

    Don't Vote Owen


    Texas voters did not listen to the Chronicle's first warning that Priscilla Owen would wreak havoc on the Texas Supreme Court. To redeem ourselves, we must help keep the conservative activist from getting the promotion Bush and Karl Rove have plotted. After all, Owen used her seven years in Texas to rule against clean-water standards, victims of discrimination, reproductive rights, and injured plaintiffs.

    Owen tried to allow a developer -- and campaign donor -- to bypass Austin's water-quality laws. Even a majority of the Texas Court thought this was crazy, referring to her dissent as "nothing more than inflammatory rhetoric."

    Owen tried to rewrite a key Texas civil rights law to make it much more difficult for employees to prove any kind of discrimination.

    Owen continually tried at every given opportunity to rewrite Texas abortion laws to restrict a woman's right to choose. Owen's former colleague, Alberto Gonzales, was right on when he labeled this "an unconscionable act of judicial activism."

    And, the best for last, Owen tried to take away money awarded to a paralyzed woman's family after the woman was ejected through a car's sun roof.

    Who has Owen ruled for? Political contributors mainly, and they are lining up with their right-wing friends to ensure her confirmation. They could win. Some Democrats recently voted to confirm another reactionary judge because his home state seemed supportive. Let's make sure that the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee know that Austinites don't want Owen on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Dustin Rynders

    Council Can't 'Get' It

    Dear Editor:

    We saw last night [Thursday, Aug. 1] that our City Council, save one, still doesn't "get" the Stratus Deal problem.

    Environment isn't the key point in this deal; it's who has a voice in local government. Evidently, those with money do. Our leaders voted in fear of those who have money. The reason why my neighborhood, though we abut the highest-density tract atop dangerous pipelines, never got in on the deal is because we simply don't have the dollar clout. We have been ignored, threatened, and mocked by both the council and Stratus for wanting nothing more than an equal place at the bargaining table.

    Slusher's diatribe last night exposed the true motive as he urged citizens to privately buy out Tract 110. That completes a perfect circle of green space around the perfect, rich neighborhood of Circle C. Meanwhile, we'll pack 'em in over the next disaster area.

    Kevin O'Dwyer

    P.S. I will, however, miss counselor Drenner's harem.

    Weed Not 'Weird'

    For Chuck Shepherd,

    Have you been so hurting for "News of the Weird" that you've begun to put News of the NORML items amongst the truly sick ones as a weird contrast? I refer you to your Aug. 2 column in which you placed an item about a family in which both parents and teen children share the enjoyment of cannabis "at home rather than on the street" under your category of weirdness entitled Family Values, along with a mom who offered to have her 19-year-old daughter "do you first," and parents who chained and duct-taped their children to the furniture, and parents who charged for sex shows with their adolescent kids. Has Shepherd fallen in with the majority of the media shilling for establishment propaganda to the point of holding up for ridicule smokers of a naturally occurring plant that has never been found to be the direct cause of death, while the establishment ends the natural life of millions with imprisonment and crippling debt due to laws up held by just such attitudes as he mirrors? If the item should be anywhere in the column, it should have been under the category entitled Latest (Least) Astonishing Research. I enjoy your column in the main and point this weirdness out for your own reality check.


    Todd Green

    Live Music Capital, Not Hippie Blues Mecca


    What is the deal with Austin City Limits anyway? I have lived in Austin for 22 years. In that time ACL has hosted some awesome concerts. I just have a question for Terry Lickona, et al: When was the last time you people visited and experienced the Austin music scene? In the 1970s and 80s the program showcased acts that, more or less, captured the essence of the Austin experience. In those days it featured Commander Cody, B.B. King, Roy Orbison, Little Feat, and other lesser-known acts that appeared regularly at the Armadillo WHQ and the like.

    What happened? Well, the program never grew out of the hippy-dippy mentality that defined Austin in those days. Wake up Terry, it's now 2002! Austin City Limits' choice of featured acts still portray Austin as some one-track cosmic cowboy-rootsy-bluesy-Dead-Phish-Stevie Ray-wannabe town, and that characterization does an injustice to the vibrant rock music scene here. I understand that Fastball was once featured -- I have never seen this show, so maybe it only ran once. But you get the idea that those old ACL farts haven't heard anything new since Chris Isaak's debut. The upcoming outdoor festival only perpetuates the myth of Austin the Hippie Blues Mecca that shivers in the shadows of SRV. Too bad. It's clear that the program is not about Austin, but I would suggest to the geriatric ACL staffers that they visit some other Austin venues besides the Cactus, Saxon Pub, or Antone's and see what's happening out here. Either that or change the name of their little show to "Anywhere, USA City Limits," because they've done little to boost the Austin that I, and many others, love.

    Pat Doyle

    Traffic Tunnel Solution

    Why isn't there a traffic tunnel under Lamar from Fifth to Ninth streets? Three-quarters of the traffic on Lamar isn't going to turn or access an area business, so sending one lane of traffic each way under the bottleneck (which is otherwise only going to get much worse) would double the carrying capacity of Lamar. An uninterrupted lane carries more than twice the traffic of one that has to stop half the time. If that lane doesn't have to stop at three lights (Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth) then efficiency might be tripled even with synchronized signals. Add that to the one lane which would remain above ground and we'd have about four surface lanes worth of carrying capacity each way instead of two.

    If we want to get really fancy, we could even have left-turn lanes underground: southbound drivers in the 900 block of Lamar could get to eastbound Fifth without ever stopping by passing above the deeper northbound lane. Likewise, there could be a nonstop left turn from the northbound 400 block of Lamar to westbound Sixth under the southbound lane. After we re-time the lights at Fifth and Sixth to rebalance the load, the enormous East-West backups at Lamar would greatly diminish, as would exhaust emissions for the entire area.

    Too expensive? The city wants to build a storm sewer tunnel of similar girth and four times as long under Waller Creek that would only be needed for a few hours each year. The Lamar traffic tunnel would be in continuous use, enhancing mobility while allowing denser downtown development.

    Wouldn't the tunnel be flooded if Shoal Creek rises to the north opening? Of course, but there wouldn't be any traffic getting through on Lamar then anyway, so that question is moot. Even better, the traffic tunnel could be designed to help drain floodwater off the boulevard, which might even keep above-ground Lamar partially open when it would otherwise be completely closed due to high water. And we could get double Federal matching funds to help pay for it as both a traffic project and a drainage project.

    Kent Maysel

    'National' Disasters

    Pessimistic truisms/prophecies paraphrased from the National Review:

    Most people will live and die in poverty. Quality health care for everyone is impossible. Pop culture will continue its downward spiral. The ecosystem is collapsing. Applied science is stagnating. No ethnic group can be superior at all things; therefore affirmative action is essential. Socialism is popular and conservatism is dead. Illegal aliens will continue to stream into the U.S. unimpeded. China will prosper without human rights and Taiwan will be reunited with the Motherland. Something unspeakable is about to happen in the Middle East. The U.S. Constitution will be disposed of in the war on terrorism. Justice is passe.

    Transcribed by Kenney C. Kennedy

    Racism & White People


    Marjorie Baumgarten writes "... this paper (the Chronicle) does not endorse racist attitudes or expressions." [Chronicle, Vol.21, No.47].

    Anna Hanks wrote the "A2K" party needed "Fewer ... err white people." [Chronicle, 2 Jan '00]

    Those who suffer from liberal psychosis seem to feel that racist statements against white people aren't really racist baneful hypocrisy is in direct proportion to your woeful lack of credibility, "sophomoric sensibilities" not withstanding.

    Kurt Standiford

    Immature, Insensitive Comment


    To think we consider the Chronicle our alternative voice in Central Texas!!

    What kind of inclusive voice is represented by your parenthetical reference to Arthur Dong's last name in your recent film review [Film Listings, Family Fundamentals, July 19]? Particular shame on you. Such a childish, immature journalistic gesture on your part says far more about your poor judgement than it possibly has meaning or relevance to what you were trying to tell the public about a film's content. It was certainly a waste of precious column space -- surely a poor reflection on your expertise. PFLAG members will be with Mr. Dong on July 24 -- we'll apologize to him the best we can.

    Sue Raye, President


    Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays

    I Pledge Allegiance to the Pledge

    Dear Austin Chronicle:

    Hello, I am a 37-year-old mother of two daughters and two stepdaughters. Their ages are 10, 11, and two 13-year-olds. My children have been extremely upset with the recent ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance. This is not just something that they learn to repeat, it is part of their core beliefs.

    To put into words the stream of emotions and fear that this ruling has evoked in my family would be hard. Please, please take time to pass on to the powers that be that Americans need to be proud to be Americans and our pledge is a key part in that pride. Please don't allow my children, myself, or future generations to lose the wonderful feeling of saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

    God Bless America,

    Becky Mendeke

    Keith Mendeke

    Roxy Farrell -- 11

    Austin Sanders -- 13

    Dani Mendeke -- 13

    Shelby Mendeke -- 10

    Baumgarten: 'Childish, Objectionable'

    Dear Editor,

    Marjorie Baumgarten's reference to Arthur Dong's surname in her review of Family Fundamentals [Film Listings, July 19] was, at the very least, childish in its sexual overtones. That others found it racist is understandable as well. It is clear from her response that she fails to see what some of us find clearly objectionable. If Ms. Baumgarten can't grasp the problem as previous letter-writers presented it, perhaps she might appreciate that such schoolyard humor only cheapens her review (as well as the paper in which it appears) and makes it very difficult to take seriously anything else she might have to say. Any writer would do well to weigh that effect against any perceived "usefulness" of such "information."


    Mark Adler

    'USS Liberty': Investigating Israel


    Israel's claim that the killing of the women and children in the rocket attack on the Palestinian home was an accident is a replay of another Israeli story more than 30 years ago, which a member of Congress is resurrecting.

    Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) has introduced a bill calling for a congressional probe of the Israeli attack on a U.S. surveillance ship, USS Liberty, in international waters on June 8, 1967. Israel claimed that it was an accident, but survivors describe it as a deliberate attempt to sink the ship and kill all aboard.

    McKinney said that "for over 75 minutes the Israeli forces attacked ... killing 34 Americans and wounding 172 ... With over 55 percent of the crew dead or wounded, they somehow managed to keep the ship afloat after being hit by over 1,000 rounds of rocket, cannon, machine gun, napalm and torpedo hits."

    For more than 35 years Israel, the U.S. government, and the media have covered up the story. But recently, the ship's survivors and peace activists have produced a documentary video, Loss of Liberty. It tells the story and is available on the Internet.

    Jewel R. Johnson

    Leander, TX

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