BY AMY Z. QUINN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right — these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. Hey, we know how it is — so many words to read, so little time to surf for free porn. That’s why every week, PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you, freeing up valuable nanoseconds that can now be better spent ‘roughing up the suspect’ over at Suicide Girls or what have you. Every week we pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey caramel center of each edition. Why? Because we like you.
ON THE COVER
CITY PAPER: Oooh, get yourself a cup of tea and have a sit-down with Tom Namako’s cover story on the apparent brain-tumor cluster that has killed many former employees of Rohm and Haas.
Inside the auditorium, Margaret met wives whose husbands had died years ago. She heard similar stories about loved ones seemingly losing their minds. She listened as people spoke of more than a dozen people dead of brain cancer. . . .
Generally, there are about three cases of glioblastoma per 100,000 people in America. While it’s the most common type of cancer that begins in the brain, only about 9,000 people develop a new case each year, and the cause remains a mystery.
In all — and depending on whom you’re talking to — either 12 or 15 known former Rohm and Haas employees in the agricultural pesticide, biocide or leather divisions have been diagnosed with malignant brain cancer. Every one of them, according to family members or former employees, either worked at Spring House, visited the site regularly, or handled the same type of chemicals used there.
Heavy stuff, well told. Cue the kneejerk response from the chemical company:
There were more than 20,653 chemicals in use during that time, broken down into 36 categories, like pesticides.
A case-control study was performed. According to [Rohm and Haas scientist] Carpenter, three outside experts approved the study’s methods of statistical analysis.
The conclusion, Carpenter said, is that the cancers are one big coincidence.
“Even though there seems to be an excess of brain cancer cases among employees at Spring House, no workplace-related risk factor was found to be associated with these brain cancers,” he said.
Suffice to say, it all ends up in court, with questions about the integrity of the company-commissioned study, possible conflicts of interest among those who reviewed the study, and a new study everyone’s waiting on. And people continue to die. Still, some things in this maze of doctor’s reports and unpronounceable chemical names are clear enough:
“Tom Szerlik sat in that hallway, doing computer modeling of molecules — the same thing architects do with digital building designs, making sure everything fit. He died of glioblastoma,” Haag said, placing his palms flat in the air as if he were touching the office’s walls.
“Seventy-five feet down, on the other side of the aisle, was Irv Adler, who died of brain cancer, glioblastoma, 17 years ago.
“Irv had a lab technician, Jay Ruth. He died of brain cancer, astrocytoma. He was a bachelor and didn’t leave many footprints behind.
“Right across the aisle was Barry Lange. He died of glioblastoma.
“And right around the corner was Charles Hsu, who worked on the same project as Lange” — trying to limit the effect of nitrosoamines, a type of molecule, on people’s health — “and he died of glioblastoma.”
Haag dropped his hands to his lap.
“Such a rare cancer. A cancer that is so rare, and yet they were all in the same hallway.”
PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY: Thorough piece on Howard Porter, the former Villanova basketball star beaten to death last spring. Decent story, and I know it’s going to sound bitchy when I say this but hey, G.W. Miller III, ever heard of a transition? All those little sections don’t do the story justice — I don’t believe in forcing transitions where they’re not needed, but there is a thread among all these vignettes, and it was Howard Porter. Only it’s hard to see when it’s all choppy like that, bouncing around like a dribbling basketball. Wait! I take it all back — there’s been an arrest !
INSIDE THE BOOK
CP: So close, and yet so far. The Swiercz had me with his tale of taking the kids to Wildwood — as I myself am known to do — until he turned the whole thing into a polemic against fat kids and their loser parents. Settle down there, Mr. Snackwell. Nobody likes a smug parent. How buildings are, or are not, just like fuzzy widdle bunnies. Awww! I don’t get to the movies very often, but 3:10 To Yuma is on my list. Elmore Leonard plus Russell Crowe plus Christian Bale? Holla! Perhaps followed by (finally!) dinner at Silk City?
PW: Double-plus headline of the week prize to whoever put “Straight Cupcakes” and “Keeping It Gayngsta” atop Kate Kilpatrick’s feature on Philly “fag rap” duo Sgt. Sass. Speaking of gays, DMac (I kid, I kid!) rates how the area’s queer community is doing in this week’s Cultural Report Card. A preview of this year’s spin on Thirtysomething, the HBO irono-drama “Tell Me You Love Me,” has the best line in the whole paper this week. Read to the end.
WINNER: CP, with a cupcake