Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My father's affectionate correspondence with Phyllis Diller re: "malariotherapy" and his other crackpot medical claims (1994-2003)

Phyllis Diller (July 17, 1917–August 20, 2012)

Yesterday's passing of actress/comic Phyllis Diller resulted in scores of tributes to the show business legend.

As it happens, according to a batch of letters dating from 1994-2003, Diller was an enthusiastic supporter of my father's crackpot medical claims, including the Heimlich Institute's medical atrocity experiments on AIDS patients in China and Africa. 

Based on the dates, the relationship may have started with the events reported in this must-read October 30, 1994 front-page Los Angeles Times article by Pamela Warrick, Heimlich's Audacious Maneuver: He proposes curing AIDS by giving patients malaria. Tests draw celebrity money--and researchers' protests.

Well-meaning celebrities with more dollars than sense can be easy prey for scammers promising medical miracles and, based on Warrick's well-researched, lively article, my father had this bunch wrapped around his finger.

In fairness to the stars he skinned, before her article, my father had a public image as a renowned medical genius and humanitarian. How could they know that he was just acting the role?

One thing's for sure. He must have put on a good performance to fool a bunch of actors.

Okay, on to the correspondence between my father and Phyllis Diller. I found seven pages at HistoryForSale.com where, at this writing, you can purchase the originals starting at $999.

Page down to view them all, but here are some choice screenshots.

From March 14, 1994:

Probably attached to the letter, a flyer hyping his bizarre drowning rescue claims - "To Phyllis - with love"(!) dated March 14, 1994:

From a July 13, 1999 letter, five years after the LA Times article - "All my love"?

Three years later, per the articles linked on my web page, the China experiments made national headlines after UCLA's Office of Human Subjects Protection launched an investigation as a result of a complaint I submitted under a pseudonym.

My father's affectionate correspondence with the late Phyllis Diller (1994-2003)

Friday, August 17, 2012

CDC, National Guard, Illinois agencies awarded millions of tax dollars to Chicago nonprofit that taught unapproved, thoroughly-discredited, potentially-lethal medical treatment

Video clip from 1/19/05 presentation to US Conference of Mayors in which Save-A-Life Foundation founder/president Carol Spizzirri introduces, then lip-kisses and embraces my 85-year-old father (with whom she had a personal relationship). SALF is now reportedly under investigation by the IL Attorney General. According to a January letter from IL State Senator Tim Bivins, Spizzirri celebrated Xmas 2011 at Mullins's home in Palatine. 

From Save-A-Life Foundation in limbo, an October 11, 2009 Chicago Tribune article by staff reporter Lisa Black:
(Carol) Spizzirri launched a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching children emergency response techniques, raising at least $8.6 million in federal and state grants for her Save-A-Life Foundation...(Spizzirri) estimates 2 million children took the classes, many of them from the Chicago Public Schools.
If that's accurate - according to a number of records, including an official statement I received from Carol Spizzirri - a generation of Chicago students were taught to perform the Heimlich maneuver on drowning victims, an unapproved treatment that preeminent medical and water safety organizations had already determined was ineffective and potentially lethal since it wastes time and may cause vomiting leading to aspiration.

The millions of public dollars that funded SALF came from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Guard, and numerous Illinois state agencies.

The following is from last year's Washington Post. In parentheses, I've added dates with links to the supporting documents.
(The Heimlich maneuver has) been utterly discredited as a way of rescuing a person who is drowning, and can actually do serious harm to someone who has just been pulled from the water, numerous experts say.
...The list of experts who reject the Heimlich maneuver (to revive drowning victims) is lengthy: The American Red Cross (2000); the United States Lifesaving Association (1996); the American Heart Association (2000); the Institute of Medicine (1995); the International Life Saving Federation (1998).
...Dr. James Orlowski said he has documented nearly 40 cases where rescuers performing the Heimlich maneuver have caused complications for the victim. Orlowski is chief of pediatrics and pediatric intensive care at University Community Hospital in Tampa.

Via a Cleveland Scene cover story by reporter Thomas Francis that references the IOM's 1995 benchmark report rejecting the use of the Heimlich maneuver to revive drowning victims:
"The Institute of Medicine is the crown jewel of medical intelligentsia in the United States," says (drowning expert and retired Coast Guard Admiral Alan) Steinman. "They looked at this issue and said, 'Bad idea.'"

Former SALF medical director Stanley Zydlo MD at a 2009 book signing (source)

Five years later, SALF's medical director ignored the IOM report and the other organizations.

From Water Rescue Sequence: The Controversial Role of the Heimlich Maneuver (in drowning rescue) the year 2000 article by Pamela Mills-Senn which was the Rosetta Stone for much of my later research:

Since there are no published studies supporting the use of the Heimlich maneuver for drowning rescue, it's unclear what "documented literature" Dr. Zydlo researched.

His time might have been better spent researching SALF's founder/president. 

From Where Did the Save-A-Life Money Go? by Don Bauder in the November 17, 2010 San Diego Reader:
(Carol) Spizzirri was a darling of politicians and bureaucrats, although it was a matter of record that she had been convicted twice for shoplifting. Save-A-Life began raking in money from government grants.

...(Spizzirri) had told (ABC I-Team reporter Chuck Goudie) that she was a registered nurse. But the station reported that the institution from which she had claimed to receive her nursing degree had never given her one. A hospital in which she had claimed to be a transplant nurse said she had been a patient care assistant, which is akin to a candy striper....
...On May 18, 1992 - four months before the fatal accident - Christina filed for an order of protection against her mother...The complaint stated that Spizzirri had struck Christina “on several occasions and threatened her on many occasions.
Per the May 30, 2000 Los Angeles Times, Ellis & Associates, the lifeguard training company discussed in Mills-Senn's article, dumped the Heimlich-for-drowning protocol shortly after her article appeared.

But SALF continued to teach and promote the treatment.

Here's a May 3, 2001 workshop held at the Illinois PTA's annual convention:

A year later, my father told reporter Angela D. Sykora of the Grayslake Review (IL):

SALF executives Rita Mullins (in the red turtleneck) and Carol Spizzirri (seated) with Mike "Heckuva job, Brownie" Brown at January 23, 2003 signing ceremony when SALF became a FEMA member organization, US Conference of Mayors annual meeting, Washington, DC. Six years later, as first reported by The Sidebar, FEMA kicked SALF out.

Astoundingly, in January 2003 SALF became a member organization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

My father marked the occasion with a joint letter to FEMA chief Mike Brown and Carol Spizzirri (page down) that included:

In other words, FEMA was fully aware that SALF's training program was putting the public at risk as the agency provided SALF access "to train and educate children and families in basic first aid through the Citizen Corps network of state and local councils."  

Two years later, from SALF's annual "Bridge the Gap" convention in 2005:

Here comes the clincher.

When I started researching my father's career in 2002, I already knew he hadn't held a hospital job since he was fired for misconduct in 1976 by Cincinnati's Jewish Hospital.

But I quickly learned that for decades he's been persona non grata in the medical profession.

Besides his crackpot claims that the Heimlich maneuver can revive drowning victims, stop asthma attacks, and cure cystic fibrosis, the Heimlich Institute conducted a series of notorious offshore experiments in which US and foreign nationals suffering with cancer, Lyme Disease, and AIDS were infected with malaria. (For more details, watch Brian Ross's ABC 20/20 report, Is Dr. Heimlich really a savior?)

My father and SALF's second-in-command, former Palatine, IL mayor Rita Mullins

Sure he has a famous name, but what legitimate organization would want him as a medical adviser?

And what reputable first aid training group would teach the public to perform the Heimlich maneuver on drowning victims, as reported by Pamela Mills-Senn?

I wanted to find out for myself so in early 2004, using a pseudonym, I e-mailed SALF and asked for a position statement.

In a chirpy, solicitous February 8, 2004 e-mail, Carol Spizzirri sent me the following. (Page down to view the entire letter which, incidentally, is littered with grammatical errors.)

Were the CDC, the National Guard, and the Illinois government agencies aware that they were providing millions of dollars to an organization that was teaching and promoting an unapproved, long-discredited medical treatment that might seriously injure or kill people?

Did any of these agencies ever review SALF's training protocols? Did any of them ask the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, or independent medical experts to evaluate SALF's program?

What about the prominent public officials from Illinois like Arne Duncan, Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman John Shimkus, Paul Vallas, Gery Chico, and others who promoted and/or helped fund SALF? Were they even aware what SALF was teaching to students in their state?

In days to come, I'll try to get answers to those questions and will report the results here.


8/20/12 UPDATE: I just sent letters of concern re: SALF's faulty, dangerous training to the Illinois Attorney General's Charitable Trust Bureau (which reportedly has been investigating SALF since mid-2010), and to Chicago Public Schools Inspector General James M. Sullivan with whom I filed an investigation request on January 5, 2011. Click the links to view my letters on Scribd.com.

This item has been slightly revised.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

SCOOP: After stinging defeat, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez is appealing judge's dismissal of eavesdropping charges against Chicago woman jailed 20 months for recording a few phone calls


Last week, two news outlets outside of Illinois reported that Cook County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Goebel had dismissed eavesdropping charges filed against Annabel Melongo on the grounds that the controversial Illinois Eavesdropping Act is unconstitutional.

Melongo spent about 20 months in Cook County Jail while awaiting trial on charges that she recorded a few routine phone conversations with a court reporter named Pamela Taylor and uploaded them to a website.

Click here to listen to the recordings.

According to a letter I received yesterday, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez is appealing Judge Goebel's decision.

Cook County State's Attorneys Paul Castiglione, Anita Alvarez, and Alan Spellberg (source)

The information came in response to a FOIA request I submitted for records associated with the case.

Via a letter from Paul Castiglione, an Assistant Cook County State's Attorney:


Amanda Simmons
What else has been going on with the Melongo case?

From Ill. judge declares state's eavesdropping law unconstitutional by Amanda Simmons, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, July 30, 2012 (my emphasis):
An Illinois judge ruled last week that the state’s eavesdropping law – one of the broadest restrictions on audio recording in the nation – is unconstitutional.

The decision granted a request for dismissal made by Annabel K. Melongo, a 39-year old woman who faced criminal charges under the Illinois Eavesdropping Act. The controversial law criminalizes the audio recording of any communication without the consent of all parties involved, regardless of whether the conversation was intended to be private. Melongo, who is representing herself in court, recorded three phone calls with a clerk at the Cook County Court Reporter’s office in Illinois without consent and posted them on her watchdog website in 2010, incurring six charges of eavesdropping.
...Unable to post bail for a bond initially set at $500,000 and later reduced to $300,000, Melongo spent about 20 months in a Cook County jail and another four months under house arrest. She said the punishment made her "the defendant with the harshest punishment for the eavesdropping law in Cook County, if not in Illinois."
Originally from Cameroon, Melongo speaks English as her third language....
In other words, Ms. Melongo -- an immigrant without a law degree who speaks imperfect English (I've talked with her) -- just handed Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez a stinging defeat.

Heads up, Lori Yokoyama and Christopher Cooper, who reportedly are going after Alvarez's job this November

How about the media? Are they paying attention?

Patrick Fazio (source)
At least one reporter is. Patrick Fazio at the NBC affiliate in Terre Haute, Indiana, reported the story on August 2 (and linked to a Sidebar item). Click here for the video:
Another judge has ruled the Illinois Eavesdropping Law unconstitutional.

The decision came down last week in favor of Annabel Melongo of Chicago who recorded her phone calls with a government official.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press says Melongo had spent over a year and half in jail on the eavesdropping charges because she couldn't afford bail.
If any Illinois media -- print, broadcast, blogs -- have reported the story, I can't find the links.

In fact, the only other mainstream media report that has ever been reported about the Melongo case is an interview I gave to a Rockford, IL print weekly in March.

It's not that Illinois reporters are unaware of all this. You should see my e-mail "sent" folder.

Someday maybe you will.

So how much money has this absurd, abusive prosecution -- which the State's Attorney took up in 2006 and which will now be dragging on via an appeal -- cost cash-strapped Illinois taxpayers?

Months ago I asked Anita Alvarez's media rep that question.

He promised to get back to me with an answer.

I'm still waiting.

This item has been slightly revised.