Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Fox TV's streaming service, Fox Nation, is offering a non-existent "free trial" subscription - I've filed complaints with the FTC & my state's Consumer Protection Division (UPDATE: NYs ATG is pursuing my complaint)

6/14/22 UPDATE:
 

5/20/22 UPDATE:


#####

Today I unexpectedly stumbled onto this in the course of reporting a story about Fox News.

From the home page of Fox Nation:


See that "Start Your Free Trial" balloon? Stick in pin in it.

Here's a screenshot of the top results of a Google keyword search for "Fox Nation" "free trial." (Click the link and you'll see plenty of other results.)


Click on any of the "free trial" offer links and most take you back to the Fox Nation home page which contains "Start Your Free Trial" balloons and boxes up and down the page.  


But click any of the "Start Your Free Trial" balloons and boxes and you'll land on this page which offers no free trial option, only these paid subscriptions.



Here's what you get when you click the "monthly" button:











See the offer for the free trial? neither do I.

Obviously, this is fraudulent advertising so this afternoon I filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Division.


Note: This item has been appended with new reporting.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

After I requested a published correction for a factual error, the Delaware News Journal disappeared the error - I've asked parent company Gannett for a ruling

For online news outlets that want to cover up reportorial errors, the digital age is a wish granted. 

A reporter gets something wrong? Just disappear it.

How bad can it get? Per a 2019 story in the journalism watchdog Press Gazette, my efforts uncovered that the vast majority of UK news outlets can disappear entire stories without recourse.

Moving right along, what you're reading is tied to my January 26, 2022 blog item, My dad's name has been scrubbed from a Delaware solar farm after I informed energy companies of his dark history.

At the time, I pitched the story to a bunch of Delaware news outlets including the News Journal, the leading daily in Wilmington, but I didn't get any takers.

A few days ago my Google News alert sent me a March 4, 2022 Journal News story by reporter Ben Mace because it included these words:








Straightforward factual error, right? Per my blog, my dad's name had been dropped from the solar farm. 

So on March 6, I emailed a polite request for a published correction to this department and copied Mr. Mace:











The News Journal is owned by Gannett, so in my request I pointed out that any correction should adhere to Gannett's editorial guidelines which in this case should include an explanation that the name  of the solar project was changed and on what date - also perhaps why it was changed.

I never received a reply, but this morning I revisited the paywalled article and found this:


And this scrub job:



You may not be surprised to learn that the article, updated the day after I sent my request, includes no note informing readers that the article's been corrected and why.

In my opinion, that's sleazy journalism and may violate Gannett newsroom guidelines (see below), so this morning I asked a Gannett editorial representative for a ruling. 

I'll update this item with the results.

Correcting errors

When errors occur, the newspaper has an ethical obligation to correct the record and minimize harm.

  • Errors should be corrected promptly. But first, a determination must be made that the fact indeed was in error and that the correction itself is fully accurate.
  • Errors should be corrected with sufficient prominence that readers who saw the original error are likely to see the correction. This is a matter of the editor’s judgment.
  • Although it is wise to avoid repeating the error in the correction, the correction should have sufficient context that readers will understand exactly what is being corrected.
  • Errors of nuance, context or tone may require clarifications, editor’s notes, editor’s columns or letters to the editor.
  • When the newspaper disagrees with a news subject about whether a story contained an error, editors should consider offering the aggrieved party an opportunity to express his or her view in a letter to the editor.
  • Corrections should be reviewed before publication by a senior editor who was not directly involved in the error. The editor should determine if special handling or outside counsel are required.
  • Errors should be corrected whether or not they are called to the attention of the newspaper by someone outside the newsroom.
  • Factual errors should be corrected in most cases even if the subject of the error does not want it to be corrected. The rationale for this is rooted in the Truth Principle. It is the newspaper’s duty to provide accurate information to readers. An exception may be made – at the behest of the subject – when the correction of a relatively minor mistake would result in public ridicule or greater harm than the original error.
  • Newsroom staffers should be receptive to complaints about inaccuracies and follow up on them.
  • Newsroom staffers have a responsibility to alert the appropriate editor if they become aware of a possible error in the newspaper. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

My dad's name has been scrubbed from a Delaware solar farm after I informed energy companies of his dark history [UPDATED]

A day after I sent a letter to three companies developing a solar energy farm in Delaware named after my father, the late Henry J. Heimlich MD (best known for his namesake anti-choking maneuver), his name has been stripped from the project.

I learned of the project via this January 20, Cape Gazette item, Delaware Electric Cooperative solar projects to provide clean power:
Seven new utility-scale solar projects will begin providing clean energy to Delaware Electric Cooperative members over the next three years. The nonprofit utility has announced it will purchase power produced at solar facilities to be built across Kent and Sussex counties.

...Construction will also begin this year on the 4.5-megawatt Heimlich Solar Facility that will power about 900 Sussex County homes, farms and businesses. The project is a partnership between Delaware Electric Cooperative and Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, which is owned by DEC and 10 other nonprofit electric cooperatives.

The 35-acre facility is being built along Mile Stretch Road just west of Greenwood. Once completed, the facility will feature nearly 16,000 individual solar panels. The project is being managed by EDF Renewables Distributed Solutions, a developer of solar and battery storage projects in North America. The site, which is expected to begin producing power in late 2022, is named after Delaware native Henry Heimlich, who invented the Heimlich Maneuver.
Here's my January 24 inquiry to executives at the companies (click here to download a copy) and the email reply I received last night.



blogger inquiry

Christine Karlovic <Christine.Karlovic@edf-re.com>
To: "peter.heimlich@gmail.com" <peter.heimlich@gmail.com>
Cc: Sandi Briner <Sandi.Briner@edf-re.com>
Tue, Jan 25, 2022 at 7:41 PM

Dear Mr. Heimlich: 

 

Thank you for bringing to our attention the history relating to your late father and the naming of the solar project.  We have discussed the matter and will be changing the name of the project in the next couple of weeks to something more suitable.  

 

We thank you again for bringing your concern to our attention. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

Christine Karlovic 

EDFLogo

Christine Karlovic

Director, Communications

T: 1.917.371.5778


1/29/22 UPDATE

Via the Wayback Machine, a screenshot from San Diego-based EDF Renewables website about the project (with "Deleware" typo):



Same page today (with same typo):

Friday, December 3, 2021

Inside Edition ran an error-ridden choking rescue story - today I asked for a published correction and an apology to a Minnesota bartender [1/2/22 UPDATE]

UPDATES: 

Inside Edition Owes An Apology to Sun Prairie Bartender by Peter M. Heimlich, Sun Prairie Star, January 2, 2022 (Link leads to Twitter thread with related added information)

Choking incident that spawned viral video takes bizarre turn by Chris Mertes, Sun Prairie Star, December 28, 2021

#####


December 3, 2021

Lee Malley
Assistant Managing Editor
Inside Edition
555 W. 57th St.
New York, NY 10019

Dear Ms. Malley,

This is me: http://tinyurl.com/ych7o7dr

Based on the following information, this is to respectfully request published correction re: the November 24, 2021 Inside Edition report, Wisconsin Bartender Saves Choking Coworker With Imperfect Heimlich Maneuver by correspondent Ann Mercogliano. In my opinion, Inside Edition also owes an apology to Joseph Reinhart, the bartender featured in the story.

From Ms. Mercogliano's story:

A young man was eating a chicken sandwich in the kitchen of a Wisconsin restaurant, when it went down the wrong way and he started choking. But the man who saved his life is getting backlash for the way he came to the rescue.

When 20-year-old Ashton Hoffhein put his hands around his throat, making the universal sign for choking, bartender Joseph Reinhart sprung into action.

“I noticed that he kind of had his hands by his throat for international sign for choking and just kind of without thought, I started performing what I knew as the Heimlich maneuver,” Reinhart said.

But his heroism is also making him the target of criticism, because he didn't use the perfect technique to execute the maneuver.

Reinhart wrapped his arms around Hoffein’s [sic] chest, much higher than they were supposed to be and lifted him off the ground while squeezing. Bad technique or not, it still worked, and the piece of chicken flew out.

...“His technique wasn’t perfect, but it did contribute to saving his life,” expert Shane Woodall of Frontline Health told Inside Edition.

Woodall showed us the correct way to do the Heimlich maneuver. 

First, my father's namesake anti-choking maneuver is an abdominal thrust in which a rescuer's hands are placed below the rib cage and above the naval. A chest thrust (or chest compression) is, naturally, performed on the chest. 

Per this joint statement by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Red Cross (ARC), since at least 2007 both organizations have recommended chest thrusts as an effective treatment response in a choking emergency.

More from resuscitation expert Richard N. Bradley MD in a January 22, 2013 post on the ARC's blog entitled Choking 101:

A review of the scientific literature suggested that back blows, abdominal thrusts and chest compressions are equally effective (at relieving an airway obstruction). Additionally, the use of more than one method can be more effective to dislodge an object. These findings are consistent with those of international resuscitation societies.

The Red Cross certainly isn’t discounting the use of abdominal thrusts. But we include back blows, abdominal thrusts and chest compressions in our training...

From ILCOR's 2020 International Consensus on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care Science With Treatment Recommendations published on October 21, 2020 in Circulationthe AHA's journal:    

The International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) was formed in 1992 as an international council of councils and currently includes representatives from the American Heart Association (AHA), the European Resuscitation Council, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Australian and New Zealand Committee on Resuscitation, the Resuscitation Council of Southern Africa, the InterAmerican Heart Foundation, and the Resuscitation Council of Asia.1 The ILCOR mission is to promote, disseminate, and advocate international implementation of evidence-informed resuscitation and first aid by using transparent evaluation and consensus summary of scientific data.

...The topic of foreign body airway obstruction (FBAO) was last reviewed by ILCOR in 2010, and at that time, the principal treatment recommendation was that “chest thrusts, back blows, or abdominal thrusts are effective for relieving FBAO in conscious adults and children older than 1 year.

Although chest thrusts, back slaps, and abdominal thrusts are feasible and effective for relieving severe FBAO in conscious (responsive) adults and children ≥1 year of age, for simplicity in training it is recommended that abdominal thrusts be applied in rapid sequence until the obstruction is relieved (Class IIb, LOE B). If abdominal thrusts are not effective, the rescuer may consider chest thrusts (Class IIb, LOE B). It is important to note that abdominal thrusts are not recommended for infants <1 year of age because thrusts may cause injuries.

Long story short, the entire framing of Ms. Mercagliano's is misguided because the choking rescue at Daly's Bar and Grill in Sun Prairie, MN, had nothing to do with the Heimlich maneuver. 

Further, as I've shown, Mr. Reinhart's response to Mr. Hoffhein's distress was in compliance with approved guidelines and recommendations.* 

Here's another twist from The Heimlich manoeuvre by Aviva Ziegler, an Australian Broadcasting Corporation audio documentary dated January 18, 2010:

Trainer: A question that often comes up in our courses is to why we don't do the Heimlich manoeuvre in Australia. So are you all aware of that where they get that sort of a bear hug squeeze from behind? OK, the reason it's not taught is the simple fact that research conducted here in Australia and also overseas has proven that it can be dangerous because there's a risk of damaging internal organs such as the spleen, the liver, pancreas etc. We follow the policy statements as laid down by the Australian Resuscitation Council, they are saying that if there was any clinical evidence to prove that it was effective they'd put a policy on it and we would have it in our book. Any other questions?


A Foreign Body Airway Obstruction (FBAO) is a life-threatening emergency. Chest thrusts or back blows are effective for relieving FBAO in conscious adults and children with low risk of harm (only 4 observational studies report harm from back blows and 5 observational studies report harm from chest thrusts). Life-threatening complications associated with use of abdominal thrusts (including the Heimlich Manoeuvre) have been reported in 52 observational studies. [Click here for a compilation of study citations.] Therefore, the use of abdominal thrusts in the management of FBAO is not recommended and, instead back blows and chest thrusts should be used. [Good practice statement] These techniques should be applied in rapid sequence until the obstruction is relieved. More than one technique may be needed: there is insufficient evidence to determine which should be used first.

Here's more from a 2018-19 two-part article, A Call to Reconsider the Heimlich Experiment, by Dr. Anthony Pearson of St. Louis, MO (aka The Skeptical Cardiologist):

(It) is clear the Heimlich maneuver was recommended by Henry Heimlich for general usage without any human clinical studies to support its safety and efficacy. With (Dr.) Heimlich’s aggressive promoting of the technique it became the recommended way to treat choking conscious individuals despite experimental evidence showing it inferior to chest thrusts and no controlled human trials to support its safety and effectiveness.

Australia and New Zealand, countries free of Heimlich’s influence, do not recommend the Heimlich maneuver for choking victims.

It is entirely possible that chest thrusts are a safer and more effective maneuver for removing foreign bodies from choking victims. Since Dr. Heimlich died in December, 2016 perhaps the organizations that teach CPR can reevaluate their recommendations in this area without fear of public shaming or retribution.

Given the uncertainty in the treatment of choking victims and the number of deaths, a national trial comparing chest thrusts versus abdominal thrusts as the initial procedure should be initiated as soon as possible.

In other words, by using chest thrusts to respond to Mr. Hoffhein's predicament, Mr. Reinhard may have pointed to the future of first aid in our country and elsewhere. That's worthy of commendation, not the ill-informed criticism he received in Ms. Mercogliano's story.

Moving right along, presumably everyone can agree that the public is entitled to the best available medical care. And the topic is clearly newsworthy - a search of the word choking on Inside Edition's website turned up countless storiesNevertheless, based on my experience, most people - including medical professionals - are unaware of the chest thrust vs. abdominal thrust debateWith that in mind, I'd encourage Inside Edition or another CBS news program to further explore the topic. 

Finally, on https://www.insideedition.com was unable to locate instructions on how to submit a corrections request to your program. Prior to being provided your contact information by CBS's publicity department, I sent multiple emails and left voice messages for a number of your program's executives in which I simply asked their guidance on how to submit a corrections request to your program. None responded. 

Per this Washington Post column by Erik Wemple, I'm dogged when it comes to obtaining published corrections, but in the interests of providing accurate information to your audience, why not make it easier? Would you please raise this concern with the appropriate editors and let me know their response?   

Thanks much for your time/consideration and I look forward to your reply. Questions for me? Just ask.

Sincerely, 

Peter M. Heimlich
Peachtree Corners, GA 30096 USA
ph: (678)322-7984‬
e-mail: peter.heimlich@gmail.com
website: http://medfraud.info
blog: http://the-sidebar.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/medfraud_pmh
bio: http://tinyurl.com/ych7o7dr

cc: Joseph Reinhart/Daly's Bar and Grill
      Chris MertesManaging Editor/Sun Prairie Star
      Anthony Pearson, MD/The Skeptical Cardiologist
      Chris Ender, Leslie Ryan/CBS Communications
      Erik Wemple/Washington Post
      Esther Pessin, Co-Executive Producer/Inside Edition      

encl: 2007 April 25 Joint AHA-ARC media statement re chest thrusts.pdf; Compilation of journal citations re complications associated with Heimlich maneuver.pdf


Frontline Health LLC is a Proud Provider of American Red Cross First Aid CPR AED certification training classes and an American Heart Association BLS Provider certification training site.

Presumably Mr. Woodall is aware of the above information. Did he share it with Ms. Mercogliano? Last week via tweets to both of them and an email and voice message to Mr. Woodall, I attempted to contact them in order to discuss my concerns. I didn't receive a reply.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

A tale of two corrections requests: Part II, Kiwi columnist conceals cock-up! (12/10/21 UPDATE: The New Zealand Herald fixes the glitch - twice - and moves forward the story)

12/10/21 UPDATE: In a prompt, helpful reply to my November 27 request to the New Zealand Media Council (see below the hash marks), Executive Director Mary Major informed me that, before her organization could get involved, I needed to give the Herald a chance to resolve the problem.

Her guidance resulted in a productive and friendly exchange with David Rowe, the paper's senior newsroom editor. 

In the course of our correspondence I explained that I'd like to use opportunity to move forward the story about my dad's claims that in 2001 and 2016 he'd reportedly rescued choking victims using his namesake maneuver.

That resulted in the following paragraph being tagged onto Ana Samways's October 28 and November 9 Sideswipe columns. 

It's the first time I've expressed my opinion about the two cases in a mainstream news outlet. 

Sounds too good to be true?

Sideswipe recently reported that Henry Heimlich demonstrated his signature manoeuvre and only got to use it in an actual emergency when he was 96 when he saved a woman in his nursing home from choking on a burger. The story went viral in mid-2016, but his son Peter M. Heimlich believes it's false: "The 2016 story was packaged as a tie-in to the upcoming June 1 'National Heimlich Manoeuvre Day' by a public relations company representing the corporate parent of the Cincinnati, Ohio, nursing home where my father was living. The PR company handed the package (which mostly consisted of video interviews they had conducted) to the Cincinnati Enquirer. For obvious reasons, the story took off and turned up in scores of media outlets. Among other problems, per a video interview at the time, my dad was extremely frail and could barely get his arms around the woman he purportedly rescued." Peter adds that after the story went viral, he informed reporters that from 2001-2006 his father had told at least four reporters that he had saved the life of a choking victim at a Cincinnati, Ohio, restaurant in 2001. "My outreach resulted in numerous published corrections to the 2016 story. My opinion? Both 'rescues' were bogus."
######

What do a blogging rabbi in Boca Raton, FL, and New Zealand Herald columnist Ana Samways have in common?

In articles published in the same week, they made the identical factual error. 

When I sent them polite requests for published corrections, rather than simply correcting the record and informing readers that they'd goofed, they gave me material for this pair of blog items. 

The one you're reading is a complaint I filed yesterday against the Herald with the New Zealand Media Council, "(an industry self-regulatory body that provides) the public with an independent forum for resolving complaints involving the newspapers, magazines and the websites of such publications and other digital media."

I'll update with the Council's response.


### 

Subject: complaint against NZ Herald, 26 November 2021
Date: Fri, Nov 26, 2021 at 4:12 PM
Cc: Charlotte Tobitt

Mary Major
Executive Director
NZ Media Council
79 Boulcott Street
Wellington, 6011 New Zealand

Dear Ms. Major:

This is me: http://tinyurl.com/ych7o7dr

Today I attempted to submit the following complaint via your website, but when I made multiple attempts using your online form, I kept receiving this message and was unable to proceed:



The publication date of the problematic Herald article was 28 October 2021 and, per the Media Council's website, the complaint submission window is but one calendar month - two days from today - so I would greatly appreciate you accepting my complaint via this email.

Would you please review the attached pdf which consists of emails I recently exchanged with Herald columnist Ana Samways? It's in reverse chronology, so please start at the bottom and read up.

Briefly, per my first email to Ms. Samways - dated 29 October and clearly marked PRIVATE EMAIL; NOT FOR PUBLICATION - I explained that she'd made a factual error in this first item from her previous day's Sideswipe column:

1. Henry Heimlich demonstrated his signature manoeuvre thousands of times throughout his life but he never got the chance to use it in an actual emergency until he was 96 when he saved a woman in his nursing home from choking on a burger.

As I explained to Ms. Samways and provided thorough supporting documentation, from 2001-2006 my father had told at least four reporters that he'd saved the life of a choking victim at a Cincinnati, Ohio, restaurant in 2001.

In other words, this part of her item was wrong - (Dr. Heimlich) never got the chance to use (his namesake anti-choking manoeuvre) in an actual emergency until he was 96 (in 2016) - so I requested a published correction.

Instead of correcting her error, without my consent she published this in her 9 November 2021 column:


In two 14 November 2021 emails to Ms. Samways, I pointed out that the sentences she lifted from my first email did not correct her original error. I also pointed out that I hadn't given her permission to publish my email and asked if doing so was in compliance with her paper's editorial policy?

She then wrote me a rude email in which failed to address her factual error or to answer my question. In my final email, I asked Ms. Samways for her editor's name and email address. I never received a reply, hence this complaint.

But there's more.

When I subsequently revisited the URL of her 28 October column, I discovered her item about my father (with the factual error) had been replaced with this unrelated item without a note to readers explaining the substitution:



To summarize:

1) Instead of correcting a factual error, the Herald entirely replaced part of an article, presumably to "disappear" the error.

2) The Herald published sentences from an email clearly marked PRIVATE EMAIL; NOT FOR PUBLICATION.

Would you please determine if either or both actions are in compliance with your organization's policies and provide me with the results?

Incidentally, per this 30 May 2019 Press Gazette report by Charlotte Tobitt, my efforts revealed that member publications of the UK's Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) could "disappear" articles without recourse. I hope that doesn't go for your organization's member publications.

Thank you for your time/consideration, best of the holiday season, and would you please confirm receipt?

Sincerely,

Peter M. Heimlich
Peachtree Corners, GA 30096 USA
ph: (678)322-7984‬
e-mail: peter.heimlich@gmail.com
website: http://medfraud.info
blog: http://the-sidebar.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/medfraud_pmh
bio: http://tinyurl.com/ych7o7dr

cc: Charlotte Tobitt, Press Gazette

A tale of two correction requests, Part I: If you can't trust a rabbi, who can you trust?

What do a blogging rabbi in Boca Raton, FL, and New Zealand Herald columnist Ana Samways have in common?

In articles published in the same week, they made the identical factual error. 

And when I sent them polite requests for published corrections, rather than correct the record and inform their readers that they'd goofed, they gave me material for this pair of blog items.


According to his website, Ephrem Goldberg is "the Senior Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS), a rapidly-growing congregation of over 800 families and over 1,000 children in Boca Raton, Florida. BRS is the largest Orthodox Synagogue in the Southeast United States."

From Rabbi Goldberg's November 9 blog item, Are You An Earth Angel?:
Prior to 1974, the standard practice for dealing with someone who was choking was to whack the afflicted person on the back. Dr. Henry Heimlich argued hitting them that way can force the obstruction further into the gullet, rather than dislodge it. He worked on various theories attempting a better way before ultimately coming up with the technique of putting one’s arms around the person choking and exerting upward abdominal thrusts, just above the navel and below the ribs, with the linked hands in a fist, until the obstruction is dislodged.

...Despite introducing the technique, Heimlich had never actually used it the 42 years of its existence. In 2016, Dr. Heimlich was in the dining room of his retirement home in Cincinnati. A fellow resident at the next table began to choke. Without hesitation, Heimlich spun her around in her chair so he could get behind her and administered several upward thrusts with a fist below the chest until the piece of meat she was choking on popped out of her throat and she could breathe again.
Click on the link in his first paragraph and you'll be taken to a May 27, 2016 Guardian article by reporter Joanna Walters, Dr Henry Heimlich uses Heimlich manoeuvre to save a life at 96, which includes this at the end:
Readers’ editor’s note, added 28 June 2016: This article has been amended to reflect the uncertainty about whether Ms Ris is the first choking diner Dr Heimlich personally saved by using his manoeuvre.
That's because immediately after the first version of the article appeared, I contacted the Guardian (and other news outlets that got punk'd) and shared this information that appeared in the June 28 revision:
After initial reports emerged of Heimlich and his son Philip declaring this was the first time the retired surgeon had used his technique to treat someone who was choking, an account emerged of an earlier incident.

A 2003 BBC Online report quoted Heimlich talking about using the manoeuvre on a choking diner in a restaurant in 2000. Reports also appeared in the New Yorker and the Chicago Sun-Times. Interviewed again on Friday afternoon by the Guardian, the 96-year-old Heimlich said he did not recall such an incident. His son Philip also stated that he had no knowledge of his father using the technique in any prior emergency..

Since we're on the subject, take a look at this clip from Remembering Dr. Heimlich, Decades TV Network, December 20, 2016 featuring an interview with dad and alleged choking victim Patty Ris:


In the bottom right corner in the last scene, you'll see the walker dad relied on to get around. He was so frail, in the clip he can barely get his arms around Ms. Ris.

Did he really have the strength to compress her diaphragm by administering, as Rabbi Goldberg claimed, "several upward thrusts with a fist below the chest"?

As suggested by this wry June 1, 2016 column by James M. Berklan in McKnights Long-Term Care News, This lifesaving coincidence definitely makes you swallow deeply, was it all a media stunt cooked up by Deupree House's PR team as a tie-in to National Heimlich Maneuver Week?

Of course, unless someone coughs up more information we won't know for certain. 

But we do know that Rabbi Goldberg got it wrong about Mr. Ris being dad's first claimed rescue. 

Also apparently the rabbi failed to read the Guardian article he linked to in his item.

In a polite November 11 text, I introduced myself and wrote: 
My Google alert sent me your article today about my dad. You made a somewhat serious factual error. If you'd like to learn more so you decide whether or not you wish to publish a correction, please email me at Peter.Heimlich@gmail.com

A short while later I received this encouraging reply:


I then sent him a friendly email with information that I thought might interest a religious scholar. 

In addition to explaining the error in his "Earth Angel" item, I wrote:
One unexpected privilege and pleasure of the research/whistleblowing efforts by my wife Karen Shulman and me (which helped expose my dad as a dangerous charlatan) is the opportunities I've had to connect with interesting, thoughtful people with whom we otherwise would never have had the opportunity to interact. As it happens, you are my second rabbi! Some years ago I had a lively correspondence with a Southern California rabbi who appreciated the ethical and moral ambiguities in what Karen and I call (for lack of a better term) the Heimlich Saga.

Along those lines, I would much welcome your thoughts as a scholar and presumably a mensch. (smile) Seriously, I have minimal religious training, but I'm confident the Talmud must speak to some of the issues raised by this thorny and perhaps singular story. Heck, maybe one or both of us can even get a blog item out of it.

His reply?

Thank you for being in touch, sounds like a very painful issue. Wishing you only strength and comfort.

During the course of the next week I sent Rabbi Goldberg two more polite emails and a text in which I explained New Zealand columnist Ana Samways had made the same error (see Part II) and that her unusual response to my corrections request had given me enough to blog an item I intended to call "A tale of two corrections requests."

I bent over backwards to give him every opportunity and explained that if he didn't reply, all I had to run with was the above email.

He didn't reply.


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

I caught the CDC's FOIA Director violating the Freedom of Information Act - here's what happened when I took it to his boss

CDC FOIA Director Roger Andoh (source)

My first rule when filing a public records request? Always state a dollar cap limit. 

If you don't, the agency can legally bill you whatever it determines is the processing fee. 

That's why in a May 11, 2017 Freedom of Information request to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), I included: 

If the fee for completing my request exceeds US$5, please obtain my written approval prior to completing this request.

The CDC is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. From the HHS website:
 

So imagine my surprise when, in response to the next FOIA request I sent to the CDC - three years later on April 25, 2020 - I received a reply from one of the agency's FOIA officer that my request was denied. 

Why? 

The agency claimed I owed an outstanding processing fee of $138 for my 2017 FOIA request. 

This was the first I'd heard of it. I'd never received any letter or invoice, but after some back and forth with the FOIA officer, I learned that the fee had been assessed in a July 31, 2017 letter to me from CDC FOIA Officer Roger Andoh. 

Here's the paragraph:

By the time I received the 2020 denial letter, Mr. Andoh had been promoted to the CDC's FOIA Director. 

Shortly after receiving the denial, I placed a call to Mr. Andoh during which I politely explained that he'd probably made a clerical error and overlooked the $5 cap instruction in my 2017 request. 

He agreed to review the situation and, after we hung up, I sent him a copy of my FOIA request with this highlighted paragraph:

Since it was an open and shut case, I assumed Mr. Andoh would say "oops," cancel the wrongly-assessed fee, and process the request that was rejected because of the wrongly-assessed fee. 

Instead, here's his May 11, 2020 reply, slightly edited for clarity:

(I've reviewed your casefile) and all relevant material and regret to inform you that I am unwilling to waive the fee charged to you. The letter you received (attached) informed you of the assessed charge. You claim you didn't receive the invoice, and I take you at your word, but the letter did inform you of the fee. Additionally, you failed to dispute the fees at that time, which you clearly could have done within 90 days of the date of the letter. In accordance, with HHS FOIA regulation, if a requester has failed to pay past fees, we are required to request payment before we begin processing a new request. Therefore, I have no choice but to deny your request to waive the past fee owed.

First, note the Alice Through the Looking Glass logic. 

Mr. Andoh claims, "I take you at your word." In other words, he accepts that I didn't receive his July 31, 2017 letter with the fee notification.

But then he holds me to the terms of that letter to which he had agreed that I hadn't receive. 

More to the point, he didn't address the root of the matter: the $5 cap in my records request.

Last month I circled back to the situation and filed two investigation requests. 

One was with the FOIA Ombudsman at the Office of Government Information Services asking for a determination if the processing of my request was in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. (Coincidentally, Mr. Andoh currently serves on that group's advisory committee.) 

That office is reviewing my request. I'll publish the results as available.


My other request went to Mr. Andoh's boss, CDC Chief Operating Officer Robin Bailey Jr., in the form of an employee review. That is, I wanted to know if Mr. Andoh's handling of the matter was in compliance with CDC employee guidelines and the Freedom of Information Act.

Also from my request: 

Since Mr. Andoh mishandled a case as simple and straightforward as mine, I'm concerned that I may not be the only example. With that in mind, I'd urge you to review his caseload in recent years to determine if other FOIA requests are being improperly processed.

I courtesy copied Vesna Kurspahic who works as a liason to the CDC in the office of my congressional representative, Carolyn Bourdeaux. If I got the bum's rush, I could request a helping hand there.

Yesterday afternoon I received this email:

Subject: request for employee review
Sent: Mon, Nov 8, 2021 at 5:37 PM
From: Bailey, Robin (CDC/OCOO/OD) <spu8@cdc.gov>
To: Peter Heimlich <peter.heimlich@gmail.com>
Cc: "vesna.kurspahic@mail.house.gov" <vesna.kurspahic@mail.house.gov>

Mr. Heimlich,

After careful review, I am waiving the assessment of your 2017 FOIA request. I have made Mr. Andoh aware of my decision. Thank you for your patience.

Robin

Robin D. Bailey, Jr.
Chief Operating Officer
Office of the Chief Operating Officer|Office of the Director (OCOO/OD)
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Here's my reply:

Subject: request for employee review
From: Peter Heimlich <peter.heimlich@gmail.com>
Sent: Mon, Nov 8, 2021 at 6:09 PM
To: "Bailey, Robin (CDC/OCOO/OD)" <spu8@cdc.gov>

Robin Bailey, MA
Chief Operating Officer
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30329

Dear Mr. Bailey,

Thank you for this.

While I appreciate you waiving the wrongly-imposed fee, I requested an employee review of whether or not Mr. Andoh's handling of the matter was conducted according to FOIA and CDC employee guidelines. 

In my opinion, among other issues it needs to be determined if Mr. Andoh's mishandling of my FOIA request was an isolated case or if he has mishandled other FOIA requests.

Do you intend to conduct such a review? If not, to which departments may I file my request?

Further, since you've waived the wrongly-imposed fee, would you please instruct the CDC's FOIA department to process my April 25, 2020 records request which was refused due to the wrongly-imposed fee?

Thank you for your continued time/attention and I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Peter M. Heimlich
REDACTED
Peachtree Corners, GA 30096 USA
ph: (678)322-7984
e-mail: peter.heimlich@gmail.com
website: http://medfraud.info
blog: http://the-sidebar.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/medfraud_pmh
bio: http://tinyurl.com/ych7o7dr

I'll update this post with any developments. 

Click here for a pdf of all relevant correspondence and supporting documents.