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The Press has been able to confirm (b), (c) and (d).
As for (a): Liz Faulk, Ivins's loyal and literate assistant, supplied this quote from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: "The horror! The horror!" You read it here first.
Fool Us Once...
Press readers may remember a letter in our December 30 issue that decried a Jim Hightower column attacking organochlorines -- chemical compounds that some doctors and environmentalists suspect greatly increase the incidence of breast cancer. The letter complained about Hightower's "scare tactics" and "unsubstantiated and inflammatory 'factoids,'" and it cited several beneficial uses of chlorine products. It was signed by Karin Knapp and Diana Thomas but gave no phone number, address or other identification of the writers.
After running the letter -- which we wouldn't do now, because we've decided to require addresses and phone numbers from people who send us letters to be published -- we received an anonymous tip that Knapp and Thomas are PR flacks for the local Vista Chemical Company, which produces surfactant intermediates (chemicals used in laundry detergents and PVCs). Phone calls to the company, which has offices off the Katy Freeway just west of Dairy Ashford, confirmed that the two women are indeed employed there in, as Knapp put it, "employee communications."
"We do newsletters for employees, different bulletins for employees," Knapp said. "We do not write press releases for the corporate entity."
Thomas did not return our calls.
Knapp told us, "The information we gave in our letter is just as valid, if not more so, than the information in Jim Hightower's column. He did not disclose the source of his information. I think it's Greenpeace, and I think that's a valid piece of information that was left out of his column."
Hightower's research assistant confirmed that some of the information in the column did in fact come from Greenpeace. She also said Greenpeace doesn't contribute "one cent" to Hightower's salary.
Knapp said she and Thomas wrote as "private citizens." "No one at the [Vista] company approved what we wrote," she said. "We did use information we have vis-a-vis our jobs. We wrote as women and private citizens, not employees of the company.
"People are assailing just about everything we do, but they're not using good facts. That is what we are asking people to do: Look at the facts, and just don't take at face value every scary thing you hear about cancer or anything else."
Or, we suppose, everything you read on the letters page.
By the way: "Chlorine, Human Health and the Environment: The Breast Cancer Warning," the report from which Jim Hightower took some of his information, is available by writing to: Greenpeace, 1017 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago IL 60607, or by calling Greenpeace at (312) 666-3305. The report costs $5 for shipping.
-- Josh Daniel