A Bitter Pill

Vitamin crusaders burned out of a right-wing radio station find the official version of events tough to swallow.

But the most serious consequence of the Law Loft work, the couple says, involves the Codex Alimentarius, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, an international nutrition code that Germany is trying to put in place that would set worldwide standards for foods, drugs, pesticides and their trade. "We, with the help of many people in other health-freedom organizations, got the Codex law pushed back to a step three from a step five," Harris says. As a result, the Codex committee will have to do further research before a vote can be taken, and health-freedom advocates have bought themselves more time to alert the public to potential dangers.

If the Codex is passed and becomes law in Germany--which accounts for more than half of Europe's supplement sales--the United States would be legally bound to honor it through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) treaty. And that, Harris says, would be a disaster for residents of this country who care about their ability to manage their own health care. As currently written, the Codex would restrict, regulate and possibly criminalize the use of vitamins, herbs, minerals and supplements as FDA-controlled drugs. Which would mean no more megadoses of vitamin C for that runny nose, and you can kiss echinacea goodbye.

Harris filed a protest paper with the Codex committee in Germany just before a crucial vote in October. "The Germans were really pissed off about what I said, the information I had," she says. "They had written all over it in exclamatory German, not realizing that they were going to have to make it public record. There were white-out and eraser marks all over the place."

Harris and Ludwell don't confine themselves to legislative activism; they also research and archive information on vitamins and supplements, then disseminate their findings in health-related magazines and through Internet hookups with other health-minded folks. But the Law Loft Report was their main outlet, and now it's gone.

"I think that, if anything, it was the combination of the Law Loft and what KHNC stands for that pushed someone into starting the fire," says Harris. "But Peter and I obviously had annoyed some people."

Of course, the rest of KHNC's hosts weren't exactly filling their air time with warm tales of Lake Wobegon. The station, which went on the air in 1993 and claims an unofficial audience of 1 to 2 million people in 84 countries, was called the "USA Patriot Network" until the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, but the content was the same before and after the bombing: right-wing, ultra-conservative, arm-yourself-before-the-government-gets-you talk radio, with a few reputedly anti-Semitic hosts--despite the fact that prominent KHNC yakker Dr. Norm Resnick is Jewish and station owner Don Weideman, a Christian rabbi, thinks he's Jewish.

While Resnick and Weideman vehemently deny any link between KHNC and the patriot movement, their station gained national attention in 1995 when it was revealed that call-in guest Mark Koernke, "Mark from Michigan," had a suspected connection to Timothy McVeigh, who'd just been charged with the bombing in Oklahoma City. And the station was thrust into the spotlight again in the summer of 1996, when the Freemen, who held off the FBI for 81 days in eastern Montana, called KHNC to air their grievances.

It was those two connections that prompted dozens of newspapers nationwide to run, at least in brief, news of the November fire. Most of those stories reported that officials initially called the fire "very suspicious" and referred to KHNC's programming as "right-wing and anti-government." Some went so far as to call it a "major source for guns, survival gear, short-wave radios and other items linked with the patriot movement."

But Harris and Ludwell wouldn't have cared if KHNC peddled diapers. The station gave them a forum and an audience--and, until the fire, a place to live and establish a library of books, documents and speeches.

Like most crusaders, Harris and Ludwell are reluctant to reveal much about their personal lives, believing it will detract from The Cause: putting a lid on "lies" from health groups that purport to have citizens' best interests at heart but actually want a piece of the lucrative market for vitamins and supplements. They're also reluctant to reveal details of their current whereabouts; they've been on the road since the fire.

Bits and pieces of their pasts filter through the rhetoric, though. Harris, an articulate speaker who delivers clear, concise sentences even when she's not talking about The Cause, says she's a former lawyer and law professor; Ludwell, she adds, is a former CBS field reporter for legal news. They moved to Colorado from Los Angeles, where they'd worked at their respective jobs for many years, although Harris says they were doing "other political things at the time, too, like rescuing people from Vietnam."

Harris admits they're "middle-aged baby-boomers" but won't say how long they've been married or where they met and when. "I just don't think our personal life should be part of the story," she says. "It'll just dilute the information we want to get out." She does casually mention that "Peter is a Vietnam vet, and I was at Berkeley in the Sixties." Even so, she adds, "we have never considered ourselves radical."

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