A Bitter Pill

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

"It's nowhere near as big as the pharmaceu-tical industry, of course," Hammell adds. "Internationally, that's believed to be second only to the arms industry in terms of size." And when the numbers are that big, competition can get intense--very intense. In fact, Hammell's been keeping a low profile since the fire; he says he fears that the people who targeted the Law Loft--if anyone targeted the Law Loft--might target him, too.

According to Frost & Sullivan, an international marketing and research firm that tracks health issues, about 50 million Americans take a daily vitamin. And internationally, Hammell estimates that dozens of groups and thousands of individuals have been pelting the U.S. and foreign governments with letters, faxes and phone calls protesting proposed changes. "That was evident with the FDA Reform Bill," he says. "A guy at the FDA told me they ran out of ink and paper on their fax machine, so many people were pummeling them with protests. And believe me, I know--it's not easy getting a bill changed."

The primary reason he's bothered by the regulation of herbs and vitamins, Hammell explains, is because they're natural, "gifts to all of us from our Creator." He's been researching health law for the past ten years, ever since a life-threatening illness was cured by alternative methods after mainstream medicine failed. "It's not easy doing this kind of work," he says. "But we keep adding groups to our numbers, and I get calls all the time from people wanting to know how they can get involved."

From their tiny office in Johnstown, Harris and Ludwell became leaders in the movement. "Don't run out of steam because you're constantly putting out brushfires," Harris advises other grassroots groups. "You have to pick your battles and only fight the ones that count. And it really doesn't take that much money. You just need a unity of command and an economy of force."

The next battle the Law Loft founders face is finding another station that will air their show--and another home where they can start reconstructing their lives and library. One of the last independent radio stations in Missouri, Kansas City's KCXL-AM, collected donations from listeners to bring the couple in last week to do some test broadcasts, but Harris says she's not sure whether that gig will pan out.

One thing is sure: KHNC doesn't want them back. But then, Harris and Ludwell don't ever want anything to do with Resnick and Weideman again, either. "I don't want to get into a pissing match with these guys," says Harris. "But they did us wrong so many ways, right from the beginning, that I just don't know what they could have to say for themselves."

The pistol-packing Resnick always has a lot to say, although three-quarters of it is prefaced with, "Now, this is off the record." What he will say on the record about the fire is that he thinks Harris and Ludwell started it accidentally, when they forgot to turn off the hot plate.

"Where Suzanne and Peter lived was a disaster waiting to happen," Resnick says. "It was a fire hazard, no doubt about it, with papers piled knee-high and junk everywhere. It was like a pigsty.

"Everyone immediately assumed it was arson," he adds. "You know, the public was saying, 'Those wackos, those nutcases--they got what they deserve.'" Resnick says he doesn't believe KHNC was torched by anyone from its enemy list; however, he claims the station had been receiving threats. (None of them were reported to the Johnstown police.)

KHNC is slated to be up and running within a week, Resnick says. That's thanks largely to Weideman, who built the transmitter for the station on his 600-acre farm and thus spared it from the blaze. Jack McLamb, a former Phoenix cop who's had a show in the 7 to 8 p.m. weeknight slot, will take over the Law Loft's time as well. McLamb has come under fire himself recently from the Anti-Defamation League for espousing the joys of militia membership and for running an Internet Web site with a link to an anti-Semitic group, the Liberty Lobby.

"But at least he isn't mooching off us like the Law Loft was," Resnick says. Resnick also wants it on the record that KHNC allowed Harris and Ludwell to live at the station for free for two years--in those two rooms with no kitchen or shower facilities--and let them use the phone and the copier. "They were running up our phone bill," he adds. "And do you know what it's like to be around people who don't shower?"

Resnick wants to make sure everyone knows he doesn't think Harris and Ludwell started the fire on purpose. "I know they didn't," he explains, "because their animals died, and they loved those animals more than anything."

But Harris and Ludwell insist they're not the culprits. "It could have been anyone," says Harris. "The Canadians, someone from the pharmaceuticals, someone who has a vested interest in making vitamins categorized as drugs." They're sticking to their story that they unplugged the hot plate. And no matter who turned it on, Harris adds, the hot plate could not have fallen off the table on its own, because it had a heavy Dutch oven on top of it--their improvised humidifier.

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