Friday, September 22, 2017

Crowd sourcing APB: Three major news outlets reported that a top Hollywood agent saved the life of an unidentified woman in a dramatic in-flight choking rescue on a Delta flight from Telluride to LA. The agent, his agency & the three reporters won't answer my questions, so did the incident really happen? If you were on the flight, please contact me! [UPDATE: Thanking me for my efforts, the IBT agrees to do "more reporting" on the story]

UPDATE (10:15AM ET, 9/22/17): Yesterday I had a productive e-mail exchange with an unnamed representative in the media relations department at the International Business Times UK office.

Today at 9:20AM ET I posted the story below the hash marks, but I did not send it to the IBT rep. Ten minutes after posting my item I received the following e-mail, so undoubtedly my story had nothing to do with IBT's decision.
Peter,

Thank you once again for bringing this to our attention. We have raised your points with our colleagues in the U.S. and an IBT journalist will do more reporting on this story. Should there be any additional findings, IBT US will publish them. In the meantime, thank you for bringing this to our attention and for holding The International Business Times to a high standard.

Regards,

IBT UK Communications
communications@ibt.co.uk

#######

Ian Mohr at the NY Post's Page Six was the first journalist to report the dramatic "high-flying Heimlich" choking rescue in a September 5 article based on information from unnamed sources. When I informed him that my reporting raised questions about the veracity of his story, he didn't respond to multiple phone messages and e-mails. (source)

Via Top talent agent saves woman’s life on flight by Ian Mohr in the September 5, 2017 N.Y. Post's Page Six:
Top UTA agent Jeremy Barber saved a woman from choking to death during a flight headed back to LA from the Telluride Film Festival, sources told Page Six.
Barber -- a partner in the agency with clients including Anthony Hopkins, Don Cheadle, Sigourney Weaver, Noah Baumbach and Julian Fellowes -- was on the same Delta shuttle that’s been transporting stars such as Christian Bale and Natalie Portman to and from the remote Colorado town.

As Barber boarded the starry flight, he helped a woman stow her overhead bag, spies told Page Six.

But there was trouble later when “the same woman, who was sitting directly in front of him, started choking,” said a spy.

“She was about to die. It was not good. People were freaking out . . . he really saved her life.”

Barber jumped into action and employed the Heimlich maneuver, which he hadn’t attempted since learning the first-aid move in high school.

“After five or six tries, it came up,” said the impressed source. When the relieved woman was OK, she asked Barber, “Aren’t you the person who helped me with my bag?” He confirmed he was then joked, “That’s the last thing I’m doing for you on this flight!”

Writer David Seidler, producer Harvey Weinstein and agent Jeremy Barber attend a dinner hosted by Ann Barish for the Hamptons International Film Festival screening of "The King's Speech" at 75 Main Restaurant on October 8, 2010 in Southampton, New York. (source)

The dramatic lifesaving tale was promptly repeated by reporters Catie Keck at the International Business Times and Charlie Moore at the Daily Mail.



Putting aside the "chocking" spelling error, here's what's missing from all three stories.

If Jeremy Barber, the talent agent/reported rescuer, was interviewed by any of the three reporters, he inevitably would have been quoted. He's not.

There's nothing in any of the stories about the alleged choking victim. No name, no background, no photo -- and what she was choking on?

Inevitably Delta personnel would have been involved in a life-threatening medical emergency. But there's nothing in any of the stories about that and no Delta representative is quoted verifying the accuracy of the story. None of the three articles provide readers with even the date of the alleged incident and the flight number. (More about that below.)

And how did the unidentified "spy" who peddled the story to Ian Mohr at Page Six know that Barber hadn't "attempted (the Heimlich maneuver) since learning the first-aid move in high school." If that's accurate, it could only have come from Barber or someone he told.

A couple days after the story was published, in a friendly phone call with Mr. Mohr, he told me he didn't have any more information and urged me to contact United Talent Agency's (UTA) LA office.

He also asked me to get back to him with the results of my reporting because he might do a follow up. (I got the impression that he thought having the son of the doctor known for the Heimlich maneuver in the mix might add some news value.)

Over the past two weeks via multiple phone calls and e-mails, I've made best efforts to verify the story with Jeremy Barber, two of his assistants (Dominque and Becca), Jenna Price and Seth Oster in UTA's communications department, and a few Delta representatives.

No one would would confirm the veracity of the story.

Per Jake Gittes, the dogged private detective played by Jack Nicholson in Chinatown, that runs contrary to my experience.

In the course of fact-checking various choking rescue stories over the years as well as personal experiences, without exception, participants in choking emergencies involving my dad's namesake treatment have been thrilled to learn that I'm Dr. Henry Heimlich's son and they love to tell me their stories.

Invariably they ask me to thank my father for inventing the treatment and some people are so moved by their own experiences in choking rescues that they've thanked me for the Heimlich maneuver! (I always explain that I'm delighted "the Heimlich" was effective in their cases, but I had nothing to do with developing it.)

Per countless daily news reports about choking rescues, being part of an emergency lifesaving situation as victim or rescuer is an emotional, intimate, life-changing experience -- and it's human nature to want to share the details, especially when there's a good outcome like the reported story about Jeremy Barber.

In contrast, the behavior of everyone I contacted at UTA seemed evasive and almost hostile, cutting off conversations to get off the phone with me. And several employees promised to get back to me with answers to my questions, but never did.

Further, if the rescue really happened, UTA might even issue a press release to praise Mr. Barber for his heroism. In an industry driven by ballyhoo, that could generate a million bucks of "good news" publicity.

And where are the eyewitnesses to the dramatic, in-flight rescue? Where are the inevitable camera phone videos and post-rescue selfies of Mr. Barber, the unidentified woman, family, friends, etc?

Per Jake Gittes...

source and source

I don't have the swat to compel Jeremy Barber to fill in the blanks, so I turned to the three reporters who ran with this ball: Ian Mohr at the NY Post, Catie Keck at the IBT, and Charlie Moore at the Daily Mail.

In my opinion I'd accumulated enough reasonable doubt to merit them taking a second look, especially Mr. Mohr who had asked me to get back to him with the results of my reporting in anticipation of a potential follow-up.

Wednesday (two days ago) and yesterday I left Mr. Mohr detailed voice messages and I e-mailed him and the other two journalists the results of my reporting with a request that they answer this simple yes/no question:
Would you please discuss this with your editors and let me know if you intend to attempt to fact-check your stories?
Despite multiple attempts, except for confirmations of receipt, I haven't received responses from any of them.

Here's a good question. If, as it appears, Mr. Mohr, Ms. Ceck, and Mr. Moore don't care about providing accurate information to their readers, why should anyone believe anything under their bylines?

Further, the jury may still be out re: the veracity of the choking rescue story they reported, but if their publications won't fact-check it, some might consider that an insult to the professionals who contend with real life-threatening choking incidents -- EMTs and other medical professionals, police, firefighters, etc. -- and to ordinary people who step in to try to help others in distress.



Since everyone seems to be playing ostrich, I'm trying to locate passengers on the Delta flight.

According to the Telluride Film Festival website, this year the event was held from September 1-4 and Mr. Mohr's article ran on September 5.

Therefore the flight was within that time window. So I asked Ashton Morrow, a Delta media relations representative, for a list of all flights from Telluride to LA during that period.

He wrote me that there was but one: Delta flight DL 8877 on September 4th.

Therefore, unless I'm missing something or the three reporters-in-hiding got it wrong, that's the only flight Mr. Barber could have taken and, of course, the only flight on which the reported choking rescue could have occurred.

If you were on that flight or you can provide any related information, I'd welcome hearing from you. Please click here for my contact information.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Dept. of Irony: The Heimlich Institute resuscitates itself after I informed them Ohio had terminated their corporate status

About a week ago I reported Ohio Secretary of State (again) cancels existence of Cincinnati's Heimlich Institute; is the organization finally down for the count?

Ironically, as a result of me posing that question to Deaconess Associations (the Cincinnati corporation that wholly owns the Institute), they re-upped with the state.

source

Here's the August 3 response I got from Jackie Wiesman, assistant to Deaconess chairman Anthony Woods, a Queen City tycoon who who arranged the acquisition of the Institute in 1998:
Peter: Our office address changed and the recertification request that was sent this past month was not forwarded to the new address. It is being reinstated as we speak. Jackie
Per my previous item, the recertification notice from the state was dated March 22, not this past month -- so Ms. Wiesman got that wrong.

On the other hand, the Institute -- a 501(c)(3) nonprofit -- hasn't had any employees since 2005 when it became nothing but a website.

And as of 2015 the organization had zero assets, so presumably no one's minding the store.

Via the Heimlich Institute's most recent annual IRS filing (2015)

In flusher years, the Institute was the focus of investigations by the CDC, FDA, and the Justice Department for overseeing and funding notorious offshore experiments in which US and foreign patients suffering from Lyme Disease and AIDS were infected with malaria.

The "research" was paid for by hundreds of thousands of dollars from funders including director Ron Howard, actors Jack Nicholson and Bette Midler -- and even Muhammad Ali..

During those years, Woods and my brother Phil Heimlich (a former elected official who was tossed from office in 2006 after a bi-partisan landslide) served on the board of the Institute.

As of 2015, they still did.


Despite considerable related reporting (much of it based on research by my wife Karen and me), to my knowledge, neither Woods nor Phil have ever been asked by reporters about their knowledge and roles in the abusive experiments which bioethics experts have called medical "atrocities."

Moving right along, I sent Ms. Wiesman at Deaconess these follow up questions:
1) Are you able to provide me with the current assets of the Heimlich Institute (HI)? Per my blog item, the most recent IRS 990 (2015) shows bupkis.

2) Who are the current members of the HI board?

3) My understanding is that the HI has no employees. Is that accurate? If so, in what year did the organization last have employees?

4) My understanding is that the HI is currently an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Is that accurate? 
Her reply:
Peter: Not at liberty to disclose this information.
Here's another question.

Now that it's a shell of an organization, should the Heimlich Institute still be entitled to 501(c)(3) nonprofit status?

I'll ask the IRS and will report the results.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ohio Secretary of State (again) cancels existence of Cincinnati's Heimlich Institute; is the organization finally down for the count? [UPDATED]

UPDATE: August 13, 2017, Dept. of Irony: The Heimlich Institute resuscitates itself after I informed them Ohio had terminated their corporate status.

######


Via A Letter from Henry J. Heimlich, M.D., The Heimlich Institute's Caring World newsletter, Vol. One, Issue One, Winter 1998:
The mission of The Heimlich Institute is "Benefiting Humanity Through Health and Peace." When Deaconess Associations Inc. invited the Institute to become affiliated and to move into the Deaconess Hospital complex, it brought together two organizations with the same goal – saving lives. Most meaningful for me is that the creativity of The Heimlich Institute research will now continue in perpetuity. Some say it will be for Cincinnati what the Pasteur Institute is for Paris.
If this letter dated yesterday (with a misspelling of my last name in the address) is any indication, "perpetuity" lasted about 19 years:




Per this 2006 ABC Chicago expose by investigative reporter Chuck Goudie, for over a decade the Institute has been a shell organization without any employees:




Per this screenshot from the Secretary of State's website, this isn't the first time the organization's corporate status has been cancelled and revived, so perhaps it's premature to cast the final shovelful of grave dirt:



On the other hand, from the Institute's most recent -- and perhaps final -- IRS filing (2015), the organization's paltry assets have been zeroed out:



From the same filing, here are the most recent officers of the corporation. As widely reported, my dad died in December, but I'll follow up with my brother Phil and perhaps the others and will report the results.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Prominent nutrition researcher who helped develop and researched failed NuVal nutrition scoring system: "I would have done things very differently"

Leonard H. Epstein PhD, SUNY Buffalo (source)
Via a November 19, 2014 press release, Eatingwell Magazine Partners With Nuval®:
The NuVal Nutritional Scoring System is a unique food labeling system which ranks all foods between 1 and 100; the higher the score, the better the nutrition. NuVal scores can be found in nearly 2,000 supermarkets, as well as in schools, hospitals and other health facilities. The NuVal System is endorsed by the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM), and a recent Harvard School of Public Health study showed that those who ate food with more favorable NuVal Scores had a lower risk of chronic disease and had a better chance of living a longer, healthier life. NuVal LLC is a joint venture formed in 2008 by Topco Associates, LLC, and Griffin Hospital. To learn more about NuVal, visit www.nuval.com | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NuVal | Twitter: @NuVal.
Per a story I broke last week, the director of NuVal LLC in Quincy, MA, wrote me that the company has terminated its supermarket scoring system, so presumably the "nearly 2,000 supermarkets" that once used it are making other plans.

Click the links in the above press release and you'll get the picture.

Per Tops to scrap NuVal nutrition ratings criticized as 'fatally flawed,'
Tops Markets is getting rid of a controversial nutrition ratings system it has used to help customers make food purchasing decisions...Two other grocery chains have dropped NuVal recently, including California-based Raley's and Massachusetts-based Big Y, which told the Yale Daily News the system was "out of date."
...Leonard H. Epstein, a distinguished professor and chief of behavioral medicine at the University at Buffalo medical school, served on NuVal's scientific advisory board. He said he didn't always agree with the creators'  decisions, the system's creators didn't always take the board's advice and that, if he had been one of the system's makers, he "would have done things very differently...If you don’t believe in the criteria that NuVal uses, then the algorithm would not work to guide you to healthier eating," he said.
Presumably Dr. Epstein speaks from authority because from 2012-2014 NuVal-related research provided him with NIH grants totaling $1,670,444:

 

Via a public records request, here's Ms. Christmann's complete Q&A with Dr. Epstein; page down for a copy of the original correspondence. 

Hi Samantha:

I am not one of the creators of NuVal, but rather was a member of their scientific advisory board. As with any of the scientific advisory boards, sometimes the leadership takes your advice and sometimes the leadership does not take your advice. David Katz from Yale created the system, not me or any other members of the advisory board. I'm sure each of us agrees with some aspects of NuVal and not with others.

1) How do you respond to people who say the NuVal system is outdated and "fatally flawed"?

NuVal is one among many nutrient profiling systems. The idea of a nutrient profiling system became popular because most consumers have a very difficult time making sense of information on the nutrition label when purchasing food, so different groups attempted to simplify decision making by using numbers (either continuous or categorical) or color-based systems. There is still quite a lot of activity in this area.

Each nutrient profiling system uses different criteria for rating foods. NuVal does not publish the full algorithm but does indicate what characteristics of foods increase the rating, and what characteristics of foods decrease the ratings. The secret, that no one outside of NuVal knows, is the specific weights given to characteristics of foods. If you don't believe in the criteria that NuVal uses, then the algorithm would not work to guide you to healthier eating. The criteria they use is based on the general USDA recommendations, but if you were eating a paleo diet NuVal would not be useful, for example. Guidelines for healthy eating and what types of foods to avoid evolve as new research is published. I have not been involved on the scientific board of NuVal for many years, but it is my impression that the algorithm has been changing to keep track of the science, but that's something you would have to check with NuVal.

2) How is it that brownies and ice cream can be scored higher than canned fruits and vegetables?

There are two ways to use any nutrient profiling system, whether it is NuVal or another system. First, these systems can help you choose among foods within a class of foods. For example, if you were going to buy cereal, NuVal might be helpful in identifying a low-fat, low-sugar cereal that is nutrient dense. Similarly, if you were going to buy yogurt, or ice cream, NuVal could help you identify the healthiest option based on the criteria they use to rate foods within that class of foods. In terms of your question, can NuVal help identify the healthiest ice cream, or the healthiest fruit or vegetables. Once again, if you believe the criteria they are using is correct, then the NuVal rating would be helpful.

In addition, NuVal could help consumers make decisions about whether they wanted to increase purchasing of a class of foods versus another class. For example, if you wanted animal protein as the centerpiece of a meal, NuVal could help decide whether fish, fowl or red meat were better choices. Even within one category, like fish, NuVal could help you decide what type of fish is the healthiest.

Since NuVal scores many foods, there may be some brownies or ice cream that score higher than some canned fruits or vegetables, but that does not mean that as a category brownies or ice cream are healthier than canned fruits or vegetables. The backlash in 2012 against NuVal was for brownie mix, but not brownies. There are also variations of low-fat, low-sugar ice milks that are better choices than standard ice cream, and could have higher scores than canned vegetables in syrup that has a lot of sugar, or canned vegetables that have a lot of salt. There are also many canned fruits not in syrup or canned vegetables with low amounts of sodium that would have higher scores.

When comparing brownie mix with NuVal score of 22 and mandarin oranges in syrup with score of 7, neither of these are very healthy choices for dessert or a snack, and trying to make distinctions between them will not lead to a healthier diet. A much better choice than mandarin oranges in syrup would be an actual mandarin orange, or an orange. You would see large differences in NuVal or any nutrient profile score for that, more relevant, comparison.

3) Do you still stand behind the system you helped create?

Once again, I was on the scientific advisory board, and provided advice to Katz and his group, some of which they took and some of which they did not take. I did not agree with all of their decisions. If it had been my creation, I would have done things (very) differently.

A more relevant question is whether I think nutrient profiling systems are useful. I do, but only when I agree with the assumptions of the algorithm. Nutrition science is continually evolving, and nutrient profiling systems need to evolve with the science. A good example is the shift in emphasis from fat in the diet to added sugar in the diet.

I don't think any nutrient profiling system is perfect, and you will find anomalies of the type you noted above in any system (how can this food rate higher than that food - not in my book). They were designed to help consumer make healthier choices, and that should be the final arbiter of whether they are useful. Do consumers who use a specific nutrient profiling system purchase healthier foods that consumers who just use the nutrition label? These systems can help, but they can also be improved.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Widely-promoted NuVal nutrition scoring system discontinues its supermarket shelf tag system [UPDATED]

7/21/17 UPDATE: Prominent nutrition researcher who helped develop and researched failed NuVal nutrition scoring system: "I would have done things very differently"

#####

Yesterday I blogged an item attempting to crowdsource information about which supermarkets continued to use NuVal, a widely-promoted nutrition scoring system that was developed by some of the most prominent names in nutrition science:


What sparked my interest was that the website of NuVal LLC, the Quincy, MA, company that markets the system, had gone bare bones, and the company's Facebook and Twitter accounts were MIA.

This afternoon I got this e-mail from NuVal LLC director, Anne Bernier -- emphasis added.
Peter,

As you well know, the health and wellness space has evolved significantly since the Nuval Shelf Tag program was introduced, and the choices for consumers to obtain health and nutrition information online has grown exponentially.

In light of these insights and feedback from our customers, we have discontinued the Nuval Shelf Tag Program. NuVal will continue to support the popular NuVal Attributes system and will continue to work to find new and innovative ways to help consumers make informed choices about the foods they purchase and consume.

The image from the cached page you submitted is out of date and is consequently no longer posted on our website. In response to your inquiry regarding current participants, please know that we no longer publish this information.
Regards, Anne Bernier
Here's the cached page:





Thursday, July 13, 2017

Crowdsourcing re: NuVal nutrition rating system -- if you shop at these supermarkets, I can use your help [UPDATED]

UPDATE, July 14, 2017: Widely-promoted NuVal nutrition scoring system discontinues its supermarket shelf tag system
#####

Not including the three lilac-shaded logos, do you shop at any of these supermarkets?


If so, would you help me report a story? I'm trying to find out if they still use a nutrition rating system called NuVal.

Based on my experience, when it comes to getting information from supermarket corporations, they're like Fort Knox. Perhaps not surprisingly, I'm having trouble getting answers from the media relations reps of these companies.

It occurred to me they might be more likely to respond to customers, hence this outreach. If you're game, just write and ask if they're still using NuVal and forward the results to me at peter.heimlich@gmail.com

For more background, read on, but if you want to cut to the chase, here are the e-mail addresses and website contact forms.

Alexander's Highland Market: http://alexandersmkt.com/contact
Cash Wise: https://www.cashwise.com/contact-us
Coborn's: https://www.coborns.com/contact-us
Festival Foods: mealtimementors@festfoods.com
Food City:https://www.foodcity.com/contactus/
Hy-Vee: ProductInquiry@hy-vee.com
Lund &Byerlys: Contact@LundsandByerlys.com
Nojaim Bros: http://nojaimbrosmarcellus.com/contact  
Price Cutter: https://www.pricecutteronline.com/contact-us/question-or-comment
Reasor's: https://reasorscontactus.survey.marketforce.com/
Scolari's and Sak'n Save: http://www.scolaristores.com/contactus

Why is this of interest?

Via a July 29, 2016 Huffington Post column by celebrity doctor David L. Katz:
Perhaps the single, proudest achievement to date of my 25-or-so-year career in public health was leading the development of the Overall Nutritional Quality Index algorithm, or the ONQI®. That effort, which was completed in 2006, involved an illustrious team of colleagues from throughout North America, who worked closely with my staff and me for two years.
He wasn't kidding about an illustrious team:



Back to Dr. Katz's column:
When we were done, we had a sophisticated formula that incorporated more than 30 nutrient properties of a food (including glycemic load), weighted each one for its health effects, and generated a number on a continuous scale, the higher that number, the higher the overall nutritional quality of the food. My original intent had been to give the system to the FDA. When that didn’t work out, because the system went beyond what the agency was willing to do at the time (and perhaps even now), a private company called NuVal, LLC was formed to license the program into supermarkets. The NuVal® system uses the ONQI to rate all foods on a scale from 1 (least nutritious) to 100 (most nutritious). The ONQI has been providing nutrition guidance to shoppers in nearly 2,000 supermarkets throughout the U.S...
Here's the deal.

Click on the links in his column and you'll discover that they lead to dead pages on the website of NuVal LLC (based in Quincy, MA).

Further, at this writing NuVal LLC's Facebook and Twitter accounts are MIA and the company's last blog post was on December 21, 2016.

There have been other problems at the company. According to a Buffalo News article last year about three supermarket chains that dropped NuVal -- Topps, Big Y, and Raley's -- the system has been criticized as "fatally flawed."

source

This week I sent e-mails to NuVal LLC director (and self-described lemonade maker) Anne Bernier and left her a voice message. (When I phoned the company, my call was routed to her voice mail by a recording. If there's a human being now working at the company, I haven't spoken to them.) I haven't gotten any response.

The graphic of the logos at the top of this item above is a screenshot from a recent (now missing) page listing NuVal LLC's client supermarkets. I've sent inquiries to the media relations department of a number of them and only one has affirmed (the lilac-highlighted Price Chopper group) that they're still using the NuVal system.

In an attempt to get the other companies to respond, I thought I'd try this crowdsource approach. (It could also be a fun journalism experience.)

Any/all help is appreciated. Questions? Just ask.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Anti-choking device inventor claimed the president of Turkey relies on his invention -- but the product's Turkish distributor says that's "completely lies and fictions...we condemn this ugly news"



Via my June 12 item:
Is an anti-choking plunger device called the Dechoker part of the medical protocol for the President of the United States, "both on land and aboard Air Force One"?

That's what a distributor of the product claims.
Via my June 21 item, I received this e-mail from Alan Carver, inventor of the Dechoker and CEO of Dechoker LLC in Concord, NC -- that's him in the above video:
From: Alan Carver <acarver@dechoker.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2017 20:37:40 -0400
Subject: Re: blogger inquiry
To: Peter M. Heimlich <peter.heimlich@gmail.com>

Peter,

We just spoke to the Director of Operations in Europe - our units are in the President's house and airplane for the President of Turkey, not the United States. We have asked Dechoker Spain to rectify the statements on their website.

Thank you for the notification.

Best,

Sent from my iPhone
source

Here's an e-mail I received last night from an executive at Ottoped, the Turkish distributor of the Dechoker, and related follow-ups, all unedited. (Sean Pittman is Dechoker LLC's Director of Strategic Development.):



It's unclear why Carver went on the warpath against me because I attempted to fact check his claim.

It's also unclear what he meant by "I am sure you will edit this comment like you did 2 weeks ago," but click here for our complete prior correspondence that culminated in him inviting me to participate in a medical seminar.

I politely declined.