Friday, December 20, 2013

IL Supreme Court scheduled to hear State's appeal of judge's dismissal of Melongo eavesdropping case in a few weeks -- and the ACLU has filed an amicus brief on her behalf

source
"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."

That was the headline of an August 9, 2012 Sidebar article.

The sting was that a powerful prosecutor with vast resources was legally bested by Annabel Melongo, a near-destitute woman with no formal legal training, who represented herself in the case.

Today I learned that in a few weeks the State's appeal of the lower court judge's dismissal of the charges -- on the grounds that the IL Eavesdropping Act is unconstitutional -- is scheduled to be heard by the Illinois Supreme Court.

But this time around, Melongo's not on her own.

Gabriel Plotkin (source)
This afternoon Gabriel Plotkin of the Chicago law firm Miller Shakman and Beem told me he and his colleagues will be representing Melongo and arguing on her behalf in front of the Supreme Court.

Click here to download the 60-page Defendant-Appellee brief filed December 6 on her behalf.

Click here to download the Plaintiff-Appellant brief filed by IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Alvarez.

And earlier this month, the Chicago office of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Melongo. Page down to view; click here to download a copy.

According to documents posted on IllinoisCorruption.net, the website tracking Melongo's case, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear her team's oral argument on January 14th at 9.30am at the Michael A. Bilandic Building, 18th floor, at 160 N. LaSalle Street in Chicago.

(According to the court schedule, the Supreme Court Building in downstate Springfield is being renovated during January, so perhaps some Chicago reporters will show up.)

Finally, as I reported last week, a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed in July against Alvarez, IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, and other county justice system employees by Melongo, who per the complaint filed in the case, "endured extraordinary hardships and underwent incalculable loss, pain and humiliation for which she's now seeking redress."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Federal lawsuit filed against IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan, State's Attormey Anita Alvarez, Sheriff Tom Dart, and others by Annabel Melongo, who spent 20 months in Cook County Jail on dubious "eavesdropping" charges



Annabel Melongo of Chicago, who since 2006 has been fighting a string of dubious criminal charges, is kicking back in federal court with a wide-ranging civil rights lawsuit.

As Sidebar readers know, Melongo's troubles began in October 2006 when she was arrested for allegedly destroying the computer files of the nonprofit Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), whose employment she'd left months before.

Two weeks after her arrest, SALF was the subject of the first of dozens of broadcast and print exposes. And since 2010 SALF has reportedly been under investigation by the IL Attorney General for the "possible $9 million misappropriation" of federal and state funds.

Melongo filed her federal case in July, but I only got wind of it today via IllinoisCorruption.net, a website that chronicles her legal travails, including, per reporter Mark Guarino in the Christian Science Monitor, a 20-month jail stretch "for recording phone conversations with a county clerk."

Except for two sentences in a Sun-Times column by Carol Marin and an interview I did last year with a Rockford print weekly, Melongo's plight has been completely ignored by Illinois media.

Meanwhile, the NBC affiliate in Terre Haute, Indiana, thought her case was worth a two-night investigative report and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has also been on the story.

Annabel K. Melongo screenshot from NBC2 Terre Haute I-Team report

It's a complicated case that's been going on for over seven years, but the federal complaint includes a very readable blow-by-blow description. Click here to download a copy.

Here's the bare bones:


Per the case docket (accessed December 12), here's her attorney (a partner at Jones Day's Chicago office):






This item has been updated.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dept. of Corrections: Will the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fix errors in an 11-year-old article about a shady Chicago nonprofit? And was UPitt's Safar Center a "branch office" of the group?

On March 19, 2002, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published Lessons to take to heart; New program would make CPR and other emergency techniques a course of study in Pennsylvania schools by staff writer Anita Srikameswaran.

The article was about Carol Spizzirri, founder/president of the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), and efforts to expand the organization into Pennsylvania, aided by the eminent Peter Safar MD, namesake for the University of Pittsburgh's Safar Center for Resuscitation Research. (Dr. Safar died about a year later -- his New York Times obituary called him "the father of CPR." Incidentally, not long before his death, I exchanged some lively e-mails with him about my father.)

As Sidebar readers know, since November 2006, SALF has been the subject of dozens of media exposes and, per The Hill, has been under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General since 2010. Via the June 26, 2013 Dubuque Telegraph Herald, here's the pointed stick:
Since its establishment in 1993, the foundation pledged to teach school children first aid and emergency response practices. Despite receiving nearly $9 million to fund the program, however, very few records of students being taught have been found.
Along those lines, the 2002 Post-Gazette article included what appears to be pie-in-the-sky claims about how many students had received SALF training plus some factual errors.

Susan Smith (source)
It's never too late to fix the record, so this morning I wrote managing editor Susan Smith to ask if the paper has a "statute of limitations" on publishing corrections.

She promptly invited me to submit information for consideration and wrote that "if a correction is warranted, we will run one."

You can't ask for a better invitation than that, so this afternoon I sent her a letter co-written with my friend Gordon Pratt of Milwaukee.

Gordon is Carol Spizzirri's ex-husband who reportedly divorced her in 1981. In a published letter to the editor, he wrote that he has attempted "to bring to light misrepresentations made by the Save A Life Foundation" since his ex-wife founded the operation in 1993.

As I reported last week, Gordon and I sent a similar letter to the House Leaders of the Pennsylvania Legislature, Senators Mike Turzai and Frank Dermody, requesting their help to clean up similar errors in a House Resolution honoring Spizzirri and her organization.

I don't know how that Resolution came to be, but it happened a month after the publication of the Post-Gazette article.

Click here to download a copy of our corrections request letter in which we also suggested that the Post-Gazette contact the Safar Center to obtain more information about SALF's relationship with the Center which, according to page 6 of the nonprofit's 2003 Annual Report and other records, was a SALF “branch office.”


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Joint letter from me & Gordon Pratt -- whose daughter's tragic death was misrepresented in a State Resolution -- to Pennsylvania House leaders: Please clean up the record

Former PA Rep. Thomas Petrone, SALF founder/president Carol J, Spizzirri, and Tammy Janney (Guardian Angel Ambulance Service, West Homestead, PA) display proclamation honoring Spizzirri and her organization

On April 16, 2002, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed House Resolution 533 "Honoring Carol Spizzirri on her accomplishments with the Save A Life Foundation and supporting the expansion of the Save A Life Foundation in Pennsylvania."

Since then, the Save A Life Foundation has been the subject of dozens of media exposes and, according to a June 26, 2013 Dubuque Telegraph Herald article by reporter Erin Murphy, the organization is being investigated by the IL Attorney General for the "possible $9 million misappropriation" of federal and state funds:
Since its establishment in 1993, the foundation pledged to teach school children first aid and emergency response practices. Despite receiving nearly $9 million to fund the program, however, very few records of students being taught have been found.
Resolution 533, introduced by former Rep. Thomas Petrone of Pittsburgh, includes a variety of bogus claims.

It's never too late to clean up the record, so yesterday my friend Gordon Pratt of Milwaukee and I wrote to House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (who co-signed the Resolution) and Minority Leader Frank Dermody requesting that they take steps to do so.

Per Gordon's 2009 letter to the editor of the Daily Herald, "I was married to Carol Spizzirri from 1968-1981, when we divorced. Since 1993, I have repeatedly contacted elected officials in Illinois and elsewhere in an attempt to bring to light misrepresentations made by the Save A Life Foundation."

Here's one of those misrepresentations -- Spizzirri's distortions regarding the tragic death of their 18-year-old daughter, Christina Jean Pratt -- via a clip from The Maneuver Part I by Chuck Goudie, ABC7 Chicago, November 16, 2006:


Per our letter to the senators -- click here to download a copy -- that false version of events and other squiffy claims were in the House Resolution praising/supporting Spizzirri and her operation's expansion into the Keystone State.

The Resolution also noted that "the Save A Life Foundation medical advisory board includes Dr. Henry Heimlich, father of the Heimlich maneuver and head of the Heimlich Institute (and) Dr. Peter Safar, developer of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the head of the Safar Research Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania...."


Monday, November 25, 2013

Why did actor David Hasselhoff lie to me about his role with a shady Chicago nonprofit now under investigation for "possible $9m misappropriation"? [UPDATE: I tweeted The Hoff]


source
 This summer I reported a few items based on claims made to me by actor David Hasselhoff.

According to newly-available documents, it looks like The Hoff lied to me.

And he's not responding to my follow-ups.

The tale began last summer when I asked Hasselhoff's press agent, Judy Katz, about her client's relationship with the Save-A-Life Foundation, a once high-profile, politically-connected Chicago nonprofit that's been the subject of dozens of media exposes and which has reportedly been under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General's Charitable Trust Bureau since 2010. (Last week the AG's office confirmed to me that the investigation is ongoing.)

Via Illinois senator seeks answers on possible $9 million misappropriation, a June 26, 2013 Dubuque Telegraph Herald article by Erin Murphy:
(The Save a Life Foundation) received nearly $9 million in state and federal funding for a program whose services, it appears, were never rendered.
Since its establishment in 1993, (SALF) pledged to teach school children first aid and emergency response practices...(However), very few records of students being taught have been found.
From 1993 to at least 2000, in grant applications, fundraising materials, and media reports, SALF claimed that Hasselhoff was the group's "Honorary Chairman of the Board" and actively supported the group's mission.

As reported by ABC7 Chicago and other media outlets, SALF used a variety of bogus claims to gin up millions in public and private dollars, so I wanted to find out if they also lied about the Baywatch star's affiliation.

The only records I had that originated from Hasselhoff were a signed June 30, 1995 rah-rah letter on Baywatch stationary to SALF's founder/president Carol Spizzirri and this 1993 PSA:



I sent his press agent these and other documents that originated from SALF, along with news articles in which Hasselhoff is identified as SALF's "Honorary Chairman" and was an enthusiastic booster of the organization.

Via her July 15 reply:
I was able to reach Mr. Hasselhoff over the weekend. He's currently out of the country working in UK on his way to Austria but I had told him of your pending deadline today.

He was never SALF's Honorary Chairman. He never had any financial relationship with SALF. He never had any personal contact with SALF. They had requested, through the production office at Baywatch, for David to do a psa about saving lives back in the 1990's while he was starring on Baywatch. The letter you sent me was prepared and written by someone in the Baywatch production office around the same time.

I hope this information is helpful to you.

Sincerely,

Judy
Re: "He never had any personal contact with SALF," about a week after I blogged the story on July 23, this turned up on Spizzirri's Facebook:


Who knew that Spizzirri -- who now lives in a mobile home park in San Marcos, CA, according to the jaw-dropping article Where Did the Save-A-Life Money Go? --  reads my blog? In any event, I appreciated her uploading the photo.

But rubbing elbows with Hasselhoff on the Baywatch set doesn't amount to much and in a follow-up, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Based on his word, I even tried (unsuccessfully) to obtain a published correction from the Chicago Tribune, which over the years had run three articles that reported the SALF/Hoff relationship.

But a couple of documents I've since obtained via a FOIA request suggest his word ain't worth much.

This comes from a letter included in the program for a November 11, 1999 fundraising dinner at which SALF awards were presented to my father and to IL Secretary of State Jesse White:


In this video of a SALF awards ceremony at a Chicago school, the January 28, 1999 letter below is read aloud by White with Spizzirri and former Chicago School CEO Paul Vallas on hand:





I shared the new information with his press agent and asked for a response.

Three weeks ago I received:
From: Judy Katz
Subject: Re: media inquiry
Date: Tue, 5 Nov 2013 14:02:23 -0500
To: Peter Heimlich

Dear Peter:

David is currently in Abi [sic] Dhabi but should be back in the states by the weekend.  I am not able to reach him until then...probably Monday.  I can discuss it with him then.

Judy

Judy Katz
Katz PR
250 W.57th Street Suite 1218
New York, NY 10107
O: 212-489-5595
C: 201-788-3331
Judy@KatzPR.com
JKPR4@aol.com
I've sent several follow-ups, but no further replies. If I ever get one, I'll publish it.

Finally, a couple of personal notes.

To David Hasselhoff: I don't like my blog being used to circulate lies.

To Carol Spizzirri: If you have any more documents or photos re: The Hoff, Jesse White, Paul Vallas, or other VIPs who were involved with SALF, would you please post them or e-mail them to me?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Today I asked the NIH to review a $566K grant awarded to Saint Louis University because the money's funding a partnership with the Chinese doctor who reportedly conducted medical "atrocities" on AIDS patients that were - ouch - funded by the NIH

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Via a September 9th Riverfront Times article by Sam Levin:
With the support of a National Institutes of Health grant, Saint Louis University is partnering with a controversial Chinese doctor who once infected AIDS patients with malaria as part of a widely criticized practice.

The doctor in question is Xiaoping Chen of China's Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH), which is partnering with the Center for World Health and Medicine at Saint Louis University to develop treatments for malaria. This collaboration is now facing scrutiny after Peter Heimlich -- son of the man behind the "Heimlich maneuver" -- began raising questions about Chen's past.

...The "malariotherapy" experiments in China, conducted for over a decade by Dr. Chen in conjunction with Cincinnati's Heimlich Institute, have been called "atrocities" by the World Health Organization. Medical experts have condemned the work as "charlatanism of the highest order." Research subjects included prisoners who were controlled by hired guards. In one case, a woman with full-blown AIDS, suffering from pneumonia and hooked up to oxygen, was infected with malaria.
...SLU's school of medicine was awarded a $566,640 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant...A (SLU) spokeswoman confirms to Daily RFT that this grant is part of the GIBH project.
"Why are U.S. tax dollars funding research by a doctor responsible for conducting what a World Health Organization report called medical 'atrocities?'" (Peter) Heimlich says.... 
Page down for a letter I sent today to the NIH requesting a review of the grant. Click here to download a copy.

Here's an interesting twist.

The grant -- click here for details -- is administered by this NIH division:

source
As it happens, NIAID's director is Dr. Anthony Fauci, an outspoken critic of my father's "malariotherapy" experiments since at least 1994, when he told Los Angeles Times reporter Pamela Warrick:
"Heimlich's life-saving maneuver for people who aspirate food doesn't qualify one as an HIV expert," said leading AIDS researcher Dr. Anthony Fauci, who called malaria therapy "quite dangerous and scientifically unsound."
About 13 years later, here's a clip of Dr. Fauci being interviewed about "malariotherapy" by Brian Ross for the June 8, 2007 ABC 20/20 report about my father's dangerous medical claims, Is Dr. Heimlich Really a Savior?:


Undoubtedly Dr. Fauci had no knowledge that Chen would be on the receiving end of the NIH's grant to SLU, so I copied him on my letter of today.

This isn't the first time the NIH has funded Dr. Chen.

Per an August 6, 1997 "Dear Henry" letter to my father from UCLA's John Fahey MD (whose involvement in the China experiments resulted in a widely-reported investigation about ten years ago), two NIH grants helped fund his "malariotherapy" experiments on Chinese AIDS patients:



For my web page documenting the developing SLU/Chen story, click here.




This item has been updated.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

After years of delay (and a canceled contract), Prometheus Books is publishing my father's autobiography -- here's a preview

Via Heimlich's Latest Maneuvers by Cleveland writer Mary Mihaly in Health Monitor, December 2009/January 2010:
Dr. “Hank” Heimlich may be the most famous doctor in the world...Inevitably, talk turns to his “latest maneuver”- his upcoming autobiography, Heimlich’s Maneuvers, to be published shortly by Bartleby Press.
The book never appeared, so presumably Bartleby preferred not to publish.

Four years and another publisher later, the wait may be over.

source

According to Amazon, my father's 230-page autobiography is scheduled to be released by Prometheus Books, based in Amherst, New York, on February 11, a week after his 94th birthday.

Last week at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (source)

Here's the Table of Contents which I received from Lisa Michalski, Senior Publicist at Prometheus:

Foreword by Guy Carpico
Author’s Note
Acknowledgments
CHAPTER 1: Heeeeere’s Heimlich!
CHAPTER 2: My Beginnings
CHAPTER 3: The Depression, Anti-Semitism, and Visits to Sing Sing Prison
CHAPTER 4: Medical School Challenges and a Strange Internship
CHAPTER 5: En Route to China
CHAPTER 6: A Health Clinic in the Gobi Desert
CHAPTER 7: A Medical Newbie Searches for a Surgical Residency
CHAPTER 8: Saving a Life and Finding Love
CHAPTER 9: Restoring the Ability to Swallow: The Reversed Gastric Tube Operation
CHAPTER 10: Taking the Reversed Gastric Tube Operation behind the Iron Curtain
CHAPTER 11: A Promise to a Dead Soldier Kept: The Heimlich Chest Drain Valve
CHAPTER 12: A Boy Named Hayani
CHAPTER 13: Saving the Lives of Choking Victims: The Heimlich Maneuver
CHAPTER 14: The American Red Cross and Back Blows
CHAPTER 15: The Gift of Breath: The Heimlich MicroTrach
CHAPTER 16: Making the Most of Good Ideas
CHAPTER 17: Working toward a Caring World
Notes
Index

Hey, where's "malariotherapy," the notorious human experiments conducted for decades by Cincinnati's Heimlich Institute in which U.S. and foreign nationals suffering from cancer, Lyme Disease, and AIDS were infected with malaria, resulting in investigations by three federal agencies and UCLA?

And I don't see a chapter heading about my father's decades of relentless campaigning to promote the use of the Heimlich maneuver to revive near-drowning victims, a depraved crusade based on dubious case reports that resulted in who knows how many dead kids.

How about when he was dismissed as Director of Surgery at Cincinnati's Jewish Hospital in May 1977? Does he tell about the outrageous episode that precipitated his firing? That would probably increase sales.

What about his close relationships with doctors who lost their licenses for massive overprescribing of narcotics? One was Marilyn Monroe's Dr. Feelgood and two did jail stretches. Wouldn't that make a lively chapter?

And Chapter 8's "Finding Love," does that refer to his marriage or to his reckless sexual promiscuity, some of which my mother, the late Jane Heimlich, shared in her memoir?


And what about the late Edward A. Patrick MD PhD, my father's 30-year colleague and co-author?

During his singular career, Dr. Patrick obtained a string of state medical licenses using squiffy credentials provided by my father, was involved in every aspect of the Heimlich maneuver, and, per his full-page obituary in the March 13, 2010 British Medical Journal, claimed to be the uncredited co-developer of the treatment -- which he called "the Patrick-Heimlich maneuver."

source
I asked Ms. Michalski, who replied:
There is no mention of Edward A. Patrick.
Wha?

How about my father's widely-published claim that in 2001 he rescued a choking victim at a Cincinnati restaurant by performing "the Heimlich maneuver"? That's a headline-maker sure to sell plenty of copies.

Via Ms. Michalski:
We have not found any mention of a 2001 incident of Dr. Heimlich saving someone with the Heimlich maneuver in a Cincinnati restaurant.
Ruh-roh.

Then there's this March 16, 2003 front-page Cincinnati Enquirer article:
For more than 40 years, Cincinnati icon Dr. Henry Heimlich has been taking credit for a world-famous operation that was actually developed first by a Romanian surgeon behind the Iron Curtain.

In interviews, biographies and promotional materials, Heimlich has told anyone who would listen that he performed the world's first total organ replacement.
But even before Heimlich wrote his first article about the "Heimlich Operation" on dogs in 1955, the procedure had been performed dozens of times on humans by Romanian surgeon Dr. Dan Gavriliu, an Enquirer investigation has found.
Gavriliu now calls Heimlich a "liar and a thief." He says Heimlich not only took credit for the operation, but also lied when he said they co-authored a paper for an international surgery conference.
..."Let Heimlich be a pig if he wants to steal an operation and put his name on it," says retired New York surgeon Eugene Albu. "He changed the name from the Gavriliu Operation to the Gavriliu-Heimlich Operation. Then it became the Heimlich Operation later on."
Six years later, from the 2009 article about the (aborted) Bartleby book:
Among other highlights, the book recounts how, in 1953, Dr. Heimlich launched his career by creating a surgical procedure for replacing the esophagus....
And via a Cincinnati TV report this year:



So which version is Prometheus running with?

Ms. Michalski:
Dr. Heimlich does credit Dr. Dan Gavriliu, in fact, it’s the basis of chapter 10, “Taking the Reversed Gastric Tube Operation behind the Iron Curtain.” According to the manuscript, Dr. Gavriliu had been performing the operation since 1951 (Heimlich first performed it in 1955).
Finally, here's her reply when I asked for the name of the Prometheus editor responsible for the content and accuracy of the book:
Our authors are, first and foremost, responsible for the content of their books. During the production process, if the editors working on the book have questions about accuracy, clarity, sources, or the like, these are sent to the author for review and response.
Psst, a word to the wise for those editors....

Re: "questions about accuracy, clarity, sources, or the like," I have a pretty good idea what's in these chapters:

CHAPTER 6: A Health Clinic in the Gobi Desert
CHAPTER 11: A Promise to a Dead Soldier Kept: The Heimlich Chest Drain Valve 

I'd strongly recommend you ask my father to provide you with a release to obtain his service records from the United States Navy.

And I'll bet you a Heimlich valve that he won't.

source


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Did Cincinnati's FOX19 just suggest that my father may not have invented "the Heimlich"? (plus my FOX19 corrections request saga)

source
A couple days ago I sent a request to the National Science Foundation to investigate junk reporting by Radiolab, a syndicated NPR show that was awarded a $1.5 million NSF grant. From my letter:
(Articles) in the British Medical Journal, Boston Herald, Radar magazine and other publications have questioned whether my father deserves credit for inventing “the Heimlich maneuver.”
Via The Choke Artist by Jason Zengerle, The New Republic, April 23, 2007:
"I don't think my father invented anything," Peter (Heimlich) said, "but his own mythology."
Via Tri-State veterans take last Honor Flight of the year, posted by Cincinnati's FOX19 the same day I sent my letter to the NSF:


"Widely credited"?

source
If that's a note of doubt, it's an improvement on Another Side of Dr. Henry Heimlich, a treacly, pseudo-intimate portrait by FOX19 reporter Tricia Macke that aired May 5th.

Not including the hooey about my parents' "fairy tale" marriage, I caught three factual errors in her story. 

Here's a 5-second clip of the most obvious glitch:




Here's a screenshot of a front-page article in the March 16, 2003 Cincinnati Enquirer:

The day after Macke's report aired, I sent her a courteous corrections request and included the Enquirer article.

I didn't receive a reply to that or to my follow up, so I sent e-mails and left a voice message for the station's assistant news director.

She didn't respond, so I e-mailed Susana Schuler, Vice President of News at Raycom Media, FOX19's parent company.

Susana Schuler (source)
She punted it to FOX19 News Director Kevin Roach, who sent me this:
Subject: Re: corrections request
From: Kevin Roach
Date: 6/5/2013 7:27 AM
To: Peter Heimlich
CC: Susana Schuler, Steve Ackermann, Bill Lanesey, Tricia Macke

I've been out of the office. I will get back to you by end of the week.
Kevin Roach (source)
Contrary to Roach's assurance, he never got  back to me. Since then I've sent him a string of courteous follow-up e-mails, but nary a response.

As Yogi Berra might put it, maybe he's busy ignoring other problems.




Monday, October 21, 2013

Radiolab's junk reporting: my investigation requests to the National Science Foundation & WNYC -- and some surprising statistics about choking deaths [UPDATED]

Jad Abumrad & Robert Krulwich, Radiolab co-hosts and co-investigators on the $1.5m NSF grant (source)
In his May 1st CityBeat column, veteran reporter/journalism professor/media critic Ben Kaufman addressed some serious reportorial problems in an audio  documentary about my father produced by Radiolab, a widely-syndicated NPR show that's based at WNYC.

As documented in an investigation request letter I sent today to the National Science Foundation, those problems were just the tip of the iceberg.

NSF Award #1114623, Radiolab: What Curiosity Sounds Like; Discovering, Challenging, And Sharing Scientific Ideas

From my letter, addressed to Richard Duschl PhD, director of the NSF division that oversees the grant:
I'm troubled that this program is supported by tax dollars. Based on the following information, Radiolab's brand of journalism includes: failing to correct provably false information; reporting information known to be false; reporting fabricated information; cutting unethical deals to obtain interviews; obtaining interviews and information under false pretenses; and censorship.

Astoundingly, all that malfeasance occurred in the reporting of a single story, The Man Behind the Maneuver, a 25-minute documentary about my father, Henry J. Heimlich MD, known for "the Heimlich maneuver."

...(This) is to request that the NSF conduct a thorough review of Radiolab's editorial policies and NSF's oversight of the grant, and that further funding be frozen until the review is completed.
For details, click here to download a copy or page down to view my letter, an eight-page shopping list of the story's junk reporting.

[10/28/13 UPDATE: This morning I sent a near-identical investigation request to Dean Cappello, Chief Content Officer and Senior Vice President of Programming at WNYC Radio, the NPR flagship station that produces Radiolab. Click here to view, click here to download.]

Even if you don't want to go into those weeds, check out this go-round I had with Pat Walters, who reported and produced the story because it leads to information that may surprise you: 
(During a two-hour interview he conducted with me last December, Mr. Walters) asked me whether I thought that “the good my father had accomplished outweighed the bad.” I asked him to clarify – that is, what “good” and “bad” was he referring to? He replied that regardless of the harm for which my father may be responsible, “the Heimlich maneuver has saved the lives of many thousands of choking victims.”

I then asked him for the source of that number. He replied that it came from choking death statistics published by the National Safety Council. (I'm familiar with those statistics, so I realized he didn't know what he was talking about.) I replied that I'd answer his question after he reviewed those figures and got back to me.

About a week later, I received this in a December 27, 2012 e-mail from Mr. Walters:

I checked my NSC stats, and it looks like I was wrong. I’d had an intern run the numbers for me initially, with the intention of checking them later, which I always do. Here’s what I’ve found: I only have data up to 2009 (from the 2011 report), which I believe you said you have, too. I’m waiting on the 2012 report from the com people at NSC so I can avoid paying 90 bucks for it. But anyway, according to that data and my back of the envelope calculations using population estimates from the US Census, in 1973 (pre-Heimlich manuever [sic]), choking was listed as the cause for 1.42 deaths per 100,000 people in the US. In 2009? The rate was 1.49 per 100,000.
So, if anything, the rate has gone up a bit. But just a bit. Not even significant, if you ask me. My take on this is that, essentially, almost nothing has changed.
Interesting.
...But here's what Mr. Walters reported:
(Thousands) and thousands – maybe even millions – have been rescued by the Heimlich maneuver.
In an e-mail to Mr. Walters shortly after his story aired, I asked how he arrived at the “thousands and thousands – maybe even millions” figure? From his March 8 reply:
The maneuver has been around for 38 years. If 52 people have been saved by it in each year of its existence, it has saved “thousands” of lives over the course of its existence.
In other words, he ignored his own conclusion about the NSC data, and chose to make up and report his own.

My highlighting (source)

Squiffy reporting aside, take another look at what he wrote:
(Since the introduction of the Heimlich maneuver in 1974) the rate (of choking deaths) has gone up a bit. But just a bit. Not even significant, if you ask me. My take on this is that, essentially, almost nothing has changed.
Click here for the NSC's 2011 edition of Injury Facts. Choking deaths per capita, collected from 1943-2009, are on pages 55-56.

I have no expertise in statistics, but that's how the numbers look to me, too. 


But according to Cincinnati's Heimlich Institute:
Since its introduction, the Heimlich Maneuver has saved over 50,000 people in the United States alone.
Any statistics experts want to chime in?
 



This item has been slightly revised.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My inquiry to editor of medical journal that published controversial "Heimlich for asthma" experiment using Barbados kids



Via Mystery Study, an August 7 news report published by Barbados Today:
The Ministry of Health is officially probing the existence of a controversial asthma study purportedly done in Barbados and involving a famous American physician.

But amid continued external queries about whether the research “followed legal and ethical guidelines”, Acting Permanent Secretary Tennyson Springer said initial investigations had found no evidence of its existence.
The research in question reportedly focused on using the Heimlich Manoeuvre to help manage asthma in pediatric patients.
...Last month Springer responded on the Ministry of Health’s behalf and told (Peter) Heimlich that there was no knowledge of the study which was said to have involved 67 minors.
...An abstract of the study concluded that it “provided data to support the potential benefits of the modified Heimlich Manoeuvre as adjunctive therapy for asthma....

Prof. Everard N. Barton (source)

The abstract was published in the West Indian Medical Journal whose current editor is Professor Everard N. Barton of The University of the West Indies in Jamaica

Below is a letter I sent yesterday in which I asked him and the journal's editorial board to investigate the Barbados study and to make public their findings. Click here to download a copy.

Click here for my web page that includes links to other related media reports and more information.  


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Saint Louis University claims medical "atrocites" conducted on AIDS patients were regulated by Chinese government; I've asked the school's Board of Trustees to substantiate the claim


Via St. Louis University Under Fire for Work with Doctor Who Infected AIDS Patients with Malaria by staff reporter Sam Levin of The Riverfront Times, published a couple days ago:
With the support of a National Institutes of Health grant, Saint Louis University is partnering with a controversial Chinese doctor who once infected AIDS patients with malaria as part of a widely criticized practice.

The doctor in question is Xiaoping Chen of China's Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH), which is partnering with the Center for World Health and Medicine at Saint Louis University to develop treatments for malaria. This collaboration is now facing scrutiny after Peter Heimlich -- son of the man behind the "Heimlich maneuver" -- began raising questions about Chen's past.

...With specific citations, (Peter) Heimlich writes in an e-mail to Daily RFT:
The "malariotherapy" experiments in China, conducted for over a decade by Dr. Chen in conjunction with Cincinnati's Heimlich Institute, have been called "atrocities" by the World Health Organization. Medical experts have condemned the work as "charlatanism of the highest order." Research subjects included prisoners who were controlled by hired guards. In one case, a woman with full-blown AIDS, suffering from pneumonia and hooked up to oxygen, was infected with malaria.
...(A spokeswoman added), "Saint Louis University has no connection to the malaria and AIDS research conducted in the 1990s in question. Further we have looked into issues raised about Dr. Chen's previous research and have confirmed that this research was done in accordance with the regulatory authority of China at that time."
I bolded that last sentence because upon it hangs the university's credibility -- and maybe more.

I wanted to ask a SLU media representative to provide me with the name and job title of the Chinese government official who provided the university with that information.

Clayton Berry, Donald Linhorst (source)

But there's a little problem -- this e-mail I received the day after the SLU/Chen partnership story was broken by Associated Press reporter Alan Scher Zagier:



So yesterday I took it to the university's Board of Trustees.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

In another test of the Chicago Tribune's claimed "no statute of limitations" corrections policy, a grieving father tells about his encounter with reporter Julie Deardorff [UPDATED]

UPDATE (9/26): Gordon informed me that on September 11 he sent Tribune standards editor Margaret Holt a courtesy follow-up e-mail to his September 4 corrections request (below), but has not received any communications from her or any other representative of the newspaper.

Gordon T. Pratt (source)
A November 2003 journalism conference at Vanderbilt University produced Focus On Accuracy, an article about how the Chicago Tribune handles corrections.

Here's a snip quoting Trib editor Margaret Holt.


Nice words, but as I reported on August 26, Actor David Hasselhoff says claims published in three Chicago Tribune articles are lies, but the paper refuses to publish a correction.

From 1993-2009, three Tribune articles falsely claimed the Baywatch star endorsed and served on the board of the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), a Chicago nonprofit reportedly under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General for the "possible $9 million misappropriation" of federal and state tax dollars.

The Tribune editor who refused to correct the lies information her paper published about The Hoff?

Margaret "No Statute of Limitations on Errors" Holt.

[11/25/13 UPDATE ARTICLE BASED ON NEWLY-AVAILABLE DOCUMENTS: Why did actor David Hasselhoff lie to me about his role with a shady nonprofit now under investigation for "possible $9m misappropriation"? Based on this information, I've retracted my corrections request to The Tribune.]

So I e-mailed her an inquiry requesting an explanation for her decision, plus I reiterated a previous request that she provide me with a copy of the Tribune's corrections policy.

I discussed the situation with my friend Gordon Pratt of Milwaukee because he'd told me about a dreadful related encounter he'd had in 1995 with a Tribune reporter.

Here's the result -- click here to download a copy.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

PCRM's Dr. Neal Barnard howls about infecting Chinese beagles with rabies, but honors/praises my father, whose notorious experiments infected Chinese AIDS patients with malaria


Via Global Outcry Against Injecting Beagle Puppies with Rabies by Neal Barnard MD, published in today's Huffington Post:
It sounds like a scene from a horror movie: injecting rabies into beagle puppies and watching as they succumb to one of the most miserable of diseases. This isn't fiction. It's a cruel experiment that is real and imminent. The Taiwanese Council of Agriculture wants to test whether a new strain of rabies will spread from ferret-badgers to dogs. It aims to inject rabies into at least 14 puppies, and it is hoping that the world will turn a blind eye to this awful experiment.
Via Scientists linked to Heimlich investigated Experiment infects AIDS patients in China with malaria by Robert Anglen, Cincinnati Enquirer, February 16, 2003
Two prominent Los Angeles AIDS researchers are being investigated for taking part in a controversial medical experiment with Cincinnati physician Henry Heimlich to infect AIDS patients in China with malaria.Dr. Heimlich's) experiments - which seek to destroy HIV, the AIDS-causing virus, by inducing high malarial fevers- have been criticized by the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration and condemned by other health professionals and human rights advocates as a medical "atrocity.''
Via Heimlich maneuvers into AIDS therapy by Deena Beasley, CNN/Reuters, April 14, 2003:


Via Heimlich Maneuvered by Paul Teetor, LA Weekly, April 8, 2010:
In both its mission statement and its IRS filings, the Washington, D.C.–based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) says it is "strongly opposed to unethical human research."

But the group is throwing a private Hollywood Art of Compassion bash Sunday night to hand out a major award named after Dr. Henry Heimlich, who has been condemned by mainstream medical organizations around the world for his 20-year program of trying to cure cancer and AIDS by injecting people with malaria-infected blood.

...Neal Barnard founded PCRM in 1985, and still serves as president of the nonprofit organization, which has a $7.5 million annual budget and 35 paid staff. Barnard frequently appears on TV and radio as an advocate for animal rights in medical research.

Barnard declined repeated requests for comment.
My father and Dr. Barnard at PCRM's April 2010 "Art of Compassion" fundraiser in Hollywood (source)

Via a letter to the editor written by Dr. Barnard published in the September 22, 2004 Philadelphia Weekly:
I am not surprised to see that my good friend and colleague Henry J. Heimlich, M.D., is involved in medical controversy. Every scientific pioneer has to weather plenty of adversity in bringing innovations forward, and Dr. Heimlich is certainly one of the leading medical pioneers of our time.

...Dr. Heimlich demonstrates that innovative thinking remains the best tool we have in research and in healthcare generally, and I always encourage medical students and young physicians to follow his example.

PCRM's "Henry J. Heimlich Award for Innovative Medicine" (source)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Was Billboard #1 singer Luke Bryan lyin' about being saved in a dramatic choking rescue? He won't answer me, so any reporters or fans want to ask him? Here's his tour schedule and contact info


Via Luke Bryan expected to stay #1 on Billboard for second week, Nashville Gab.com, November 29, 2013:
Last week, Luke Bryan sold an incredible 527,783 units of his new album "Crash My Party," placing him firmly at #1 on the Billboard 200. This week comes word that he's once again expected to be at #1.
Via The Atlantic, March 11, 2013:
On his blog, (Peter Heimlich) urges journalists to investigate potentially fraudulent stories about the maneuver being successfully used -- was country star Luke Bryan telling People Country magazine the truth about an errant piece of flatbread pizza?

People Country magazine, October 2012
My previous Sidebar items:
September 23, 2012: Who's the "mystery friend" that rescued Nashville singing star Luke Bryan from choking? His people won't tell me and the editor of People Country -- the magazine that broke the story -- isn't interested

November 8, 2012: Was country music star Luke Bryan lyin' about being rescued from choking? Not even his mother will back up the story.

 January 29, 2013: Nashville singer Luke Bryan's managers refuse to back up his "Heimlich choking rescue" story -- and an invitation to reporters to slice this baloney
If the story is fiction, I wonder if first responders or others who have participated in life or death choking incidents would be amused?

If any reporters or fans want to ask Bryan or his manager for details -- date of the incident, his friend's name, the name/location of the restaurant -- click here for his tour dates.

He's managed by Red Light Management, a powerhouse agency based in Charlottesville, VA headed by industry mogul Coran Capshaw. He's at (434)245-4900.

Per this e-mail exchange, one of Capshaw's employees promised to answer my questions, then disappeared. My guess is he checked with his client and discovered that the entire story was cooked.

If anyone follows through, I'd be interesting in learning the results.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Actor David Hasselhoff says claims published in three Chicago Tribune articles are lies, but the paper refuses to publish a correction [UPDATED]


11/25/13 UPDATE ARTICLE BASED ON NEWLY-AVAILABLE DOCUMENTS: Why did actor David Hasselhoff lie to me about his role with a shady nonprofit now under investigation for "possible $9m misappropriation"? Based on this information, I've retracted my corrections request to The Tribune.

###

Margaret Holt (source)
Via How news organizations are preparing to handle corrections today by Andrew Beaujon, Poynter Institute, November 6, 2012:
In an email, (the Chicago) Tribune standards editor Margaret Holt says, “our commitment to accuracy transcends publishing platform. Practically speaking, we believe it is important to fix an error promptly, whether it’s in print or online...In our guidelines, we say: If the error is straightforward, we want to fix it fast....
But last week when I brought to her attention that three articles on the Tribune's website include claims about actor David Hasselhoff that he says are lies, she refused to publish a correction.

Per my item last month, for almost a decade, the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF) claimed that the Baywatch star endorsed their organization and served on their board as "Honorary Chairman."


As Sidebar readers know, SALF was a high-profile Chicago nonprofit now reportedly under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General. Via the June 26, 2013 Dubuque Telegraph Herald:
Since its establishment in 1993, the foundation pledged to teach school children first aid and emergency response practices. Despite receiving nearly $9 million to fund the program, however, very few records of students being taught have been found.
Since 2006, SALF and its founder/president, Carol J. Spizzirri -- reportedly a twice-convicted shoplifter who claimed nonexistent nursing credentials and awarded herself a college degree -- have been the subject of dozens of media exposes

Spizzirri's organization claimed the Hasselhoff affiliation in media reports, in fundraising materials, and in applications for a $200,000 state grant.

As I reported, the genesis of the claims appears to be when Spizzirri's teenage daughter Ciprina appeared as an extra on an episode of Baywatch in the early 1990s.


Mama Spizzirri's outfit apparently inflated that flimsy connection into fabrications about The Hoff that were used to gin up press coverage and soak taxpayers.

The Tribune, which for years published error-ridden, rah-rah articles about Spizzirri and her politically-connected nonprofit, served as a major spreader for SALF's misrepresentations about Hasselhoff.

For example:

Surf's Up For Cpr Crusade As `Baywatch' Star Signs On by Christi Parsons, Chicago Tribune, December 30, 1993


Mother On A Mission -- First Aid Might Have Saved Her Daughter, Now, Carol Spizzirri Is A Relentless Crusader by Julie Dearforff, Chicago Tribune, January 16, 1995


Save-A-Life Foundation in limbo -- Charity dogged by critics, economy is 'in hibernation' by Lisa Black, Chicago Tribune, October 11, 2009


When I recently submitted a corrections request re: the above, a Tribune staffer responded with this Orwellian gem:
It appears the information was correct at the time the article [sic] was written.
I don't know what that means, but as I informed the Tribune, here's what David Hasselhoff's press agent wrote me last month. (Click here for the complete e-mail, including her contact info.)
I was able to reach Mr. Hasselhoff  over the weekend...He was never SALF's Honorary Chairman.  He never had any financial relationship with SALF.  He never had any personal contact with SALF. 
When I moved my request upstream to managing editor Jane Hirt, here's what came back:
Subject: RE: Tribune articles
From: mcholt@tribune.com
Date: 8/15/2013 1:43 PM
To: peter.heimlich@gmail.com
CC: jhirt@tribune.com
Mr. Heimlich:

On behalf of Jane Hirt, I’m following up on your email on which she was copied. We have reviewed the email and do not plan a correction on the original article(s).

Sincerely,

Margaret Holt
Standards Editor
In other words, "Suck on it, Hasselhoff. Despite your denial, we say you helped promote an organization that may have ripped-off millions of tax dollars."

Per the correspondence below, I also repeatedly asked Ms. Holt for a copy of the Tribune's vaunted - - at least according to what she told Poynter -- corrections policy.

I haven't received a reply.