Cultivated Kuwaitis?

Roxanne Roberts's paean to Kuwait's envoys ["Diplomatic Duo," Style, Feb. 26] breathlessly acclaims Rima Sabah's tall, blond, stilettoed looks and her husband's dapper cosmopolitanism as the new face of the Middle East. Meanwhile, the ambassador's family, which rules Kuwait, has failed to give women the right to vote, as your front page reminds us ["Democracy in Kuwait Is Promise Unfulfilled," Feb. 27].

Apparently, the best Arabs are those who fit into Washington's cocktail circuit. A prelude to the White House's plans for Baghdad?

-- Ashwini Tambe

A Mess of Snow

A Feb. 23 graphic on Page A23 sets out to educate the rest of us on "Why Flat Roofs Overload," providing instead a snow job of its own.

The text of the graphic states that snow weighs 60 pounds per cubic foot, which is approximately correct, adding that snow weighs "much more" if it's "soaking up" rain. As Winston Churchill would have put it, that adjunct constitutes a "terminological inexactitude," as well as a "gross misrepresentation of the facts."

Anyone who dabbled in high school physics knows that water weighs 62.4 pounds per cubic foot. That is roughly what snow weighs when it has melted to occupy a cubic foot of space, and thus is the limit of what a mix of snow and water occupying one cubic foot must weigh. A given volume of snow mixed with water cannot weigh more than the same volume of water, especially as water expands when it freezes.

The U.S. physicist Wolfgang Pauli must be turning in his grave. Pauli's Exclusion Principle established, early in the 20th century, that no two things can occupy the same space at the same time. Especially, one must emphasize, when the two things are the same compound in different forms.

-- Alfred G. Alby

Progress on Land Mines

I take exception to Claudia Deane and Richard Morin's assertion [Federal Page, Feb. 18] that the United States' current $100 million annual expenditure on humanitarian mine action has produced "decidedly mixed results." U.S. assistance for land-mine clearance, aid to survivors and mine-risk education have mitigated the explosive hazards in 43 countries. This has nearly halved the estimated annual casualty rate. Tens of thousands of acres of mine-affected land have been cleared, enabling displaced persons and refugees to return home and economic recovery to succeed.

The United States also researches and tests mine-detection technologies of the kind mentioned in the cited Rand Corp. report. Yet until these technologies become fully reliable, the painstaking manual clearance method will provide the only assurance for innocent civilians that they can again walk their lands in safety.

-- Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr.

The writer is special representative of the

president and secretary of state for mine action.

Memorial Misstep

"No flies on these guys," writes Phil McCombs [Style, Feb. 24]. The reference to surviving Nixon insiders who attended Ron Ziegler's memorial service was inappropriate and insensitive. Considering the generally lighthearted tone of the piece, "inexcusable" also comes to mind.

-- G. Jack King Jr.

Sideswiping History

Stephen Hunter's glib reference to Lawrence, Kan., and Andersonville in his review of the film "Gods and Generals" was insulting [Style, Feb. 21]. Slavery is indefensible, to be sure. But atrocities were committed on both sides in the American Civil War. One could just as easily say that we should ask the citizens of Fredericksburg -- a town sacked by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside's Army of the Potomac in December 1862 -- or Confederate inmates imprisoned in Elmira, N.Y. -- the federal version of Andersonville -- about the nobility of Union abolitionism.

Critics taking a movie to task for breezy historical generalities have a duty to be less breezy.

-- Mark D. Vaughan