Monday, December 28, 2015

Disappearing Act: 18 co-signers of BMJ retraction request letter are now MIA

I co-authored and cross-blogged this item with Belfast, Northern Ireland writer Dean Sterling Jones who shares my interest in the subjects of free speech and censorship. For example, click here for an item he blogged recently about a Belfast pastor on trial for preaching a "grossly offensive" sermon.



On November 5, a letter signed by over 180 credentialed professionals, including a number of prominent faculty members at major universities, was sent to the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).

The letter -- organized by Bonnie Liebman MS at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington, DC-based advocacy nonprofit -- requested that the journal retract The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific?, a September 23 article by journalist/author Nina Teicholz that criticized the methodology and findings of the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).

Never heard of the DGAC? Until recently, neither had we.


We'll leave it to experts -- including the National Academy of Medicine -- to debate the scientific issues and the merits of Teicholz's article.

We're interested in these journalism-related questions.

1) Why the pile on? Is her article a danger? If so, to whom?

2) Instead of trying to disappear her article, why not write a letter to the editor or a rebuttal? 

3) Has CSPI ever organized retraction request letters for other articles?

4) Have any of the signatories ever requested retractions of other articles?

Re: that last question, part-time unpaid bloggers that we are, Dean and I don't have the time to ask everyone who signed. However, we will ask CSPI and the 14 members of the 2015 Guidelines Advisory Committee, all of whom signed the letter.

At the moment we can report that 18 co-signers of the original letter have been deleted from a subsequent version.

What happened is that after receiving the November 5 retraction request, the BMJ published a November 19 post Executive Editor Theodora Bloom that included:
In line with our usual practice, this will require all signatories to declare their competing interests, which are not provided in a version of the letter posted on the website of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest.
On December 17, the BMJ posted an updated version of the CSPI letter, absent the names of 18 scientists and grad students.*

We know why one of the co-signers is MIA. As I reported last month, University of Colorado professor and former American Heart Association president Robert Eckel MD e-mailed me that he'd removed his name because I'd filed a related public records request with the university.

1. Sharon R. Akabas, PhD
Director, MS in Nutrition
Associate Director for Educational Initiatives
Columbia University
Institute of Human Nutrition
New York, New York, USA

2. Carol J. Boushey, PhD, MPH, RD
Associate Research Professor
Epidemiology Program
University of Hawaii Cancer Center
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

3. Robert H. Eckel, MD
Professor of Medicine
Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes
Division of Cardiology
Professor of Physiology and Biophysics
Charles A. Boettcher II Chair in Atherosclerosis
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Director Lipid Clinic, University Hospital
University of Colorado, Denver
Denver, Colorado, USA

4. Wafaie Fawzi, DrPH
Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences
Professor of Nutrition, Epidemiology, and Global Health
Chair, Department of Global Health and Population
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

5. Enrique Jacoby, MD, MPH
Regional Advisor on Nutrition and Active Living
NMH Pan American Health Organization
World Health Organization
Washington, D.C., USA

6. José Lapetra, MD, PhD
Médico de Familia
Responsable del Grupo de Investigación "Dieta, Nutrición y Prevención de Enfermedades en Atención Primaria"
CIBEROBN, Instituto de Salud Carlos III
Unidad de Investigación del Distrito Sanitario Atención Primaria Sevilla
Sevilla, Spain

7. Graham MacGregor, MA, MB, BChir
Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine
Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary
University of London
London, United Kingdom

8. Meena Mahadevan, PhD
Associate Professor
Program Coordinator for Applied Nutrition
Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences
Montclair State University
Montclair, New Jersey, USA

9. Salvatore Panico, MD, MS
Professor of Internal Medicine
Federico II University
Naples, Italy

10. Emma Patterson, PhD
Project Manager for School Food Sweden
Community Nutrition and Physical Activity
Karolinska Institutet
Stockholm, Sweden

11. Mike Rayner, DPhil
Professor of Population Health
Director, British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention
Nuffield Department of Population Health
University of Oxford
Oxford, United Kingdom

12. Lesley Schmidt Sindberg, MPH
Senior Research Coordinator
Healthy Eating Research
University of Minnesota School of Public Health
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

13. Francisco J. Tinahones, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine
Director, Endocrinology and Nutrition Services, Hospital Universitario Virgen de la Victoria
Coordinator, Complications of Obesity, CIBEROBN
University of Málaga
Málaga, Spain

14. Dianne S. Ward, EdD
Professor, Department of Nutrition
Gillings School of Global Public Health
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

15. Julia Wärnberg, PhD
University of Malaga
Malaga, Spain

Graduate Students

16. Stacy Blondin, MSPH
USDA Doctoral Fellow
Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy
Tufts University
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

17. Larissa Calancie
Doctoral Candidate - Nutrition Interventions and Policy
University of North Carolina
Gillings School of Public Health
UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

18. Violet Kiesel
Graduate Student
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Here's the original letter with the 18 names highlighted:

* Not on the original November 5 letter, but she signed onto the December 17 version:

Rosemary Stanton, PhD, OAM
Visiting Fellow
School of Medical Sciences
University of New South Wales
Sydney, Australia

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Oops, he did it again: More sockpuppetry by prominent Yale prof/author/columnist David L. Katz MD [UPDATED: Goodreads scrubbed his self-review]

I co-authored this item with Belfast, Northern Ireland writer Dean Sterling Jones who's cross-posting it at his lively Shooting The Messenger blog

I first contacted Dean a couple months ago after I was flattered to learn he'd picked up my September 30 item about Dr. David Katz posting a shill five-star review on Amazon for his novel reVision. Since then, Dean's been keeping his readers informed about further developments in Dr. Katz's literary career.

Dean turned up the Goodreads review; I sent the inquiry. We'll update if/when the company responds. (For clarity, my inquiry is slightly edited.)

Subject: blogger inquiry
To: Goodreads <>, <>
From: Peter Heimlich <>
Cc: Dean Sterling Jones
Date: Mon, 14 Dec 2015 16:36:25 -0500

Hi Goodreads Team,

1) Here's a screenshot I just took from a Goodreads review page:

2) Per this screenshot I just took from his Facebook home page, you can see that the above David Katz is David L. Katz MD of Yale's Griffin Hospital and that he's hyping the book reVision:

3) Recent articles in the Yale Daily News, Retraction Watch, and IMediaEthics (please click the names to read those stories) reported that the Huffington Post deleted two columns by Dr. Katz in which he lavished praise upon reVision without informing readers that he wrote the novel and that deleted a five-star review for reVision which Dr. Katz posted on his Amazon user account without identifying himself as the author.

Here's my question.

Is Dr. Katz's Goodreads review of reVision in compliance with your review guidelines?

UPDATE, 12/16/15, 10:18pm ET: Just hours after Dean Jones Sterling and I blogged our items, scrubbed Dr. Katz's self-review.

Here's a screenshot I took of the web page a few minutes ago:

Monday, December 14, 2015

After "mansion invasion," the AP reported that former attorney Stan Chesley is "fine," but WCPO stories claim he suffered serious injuries -- which is it? [UPDATED]

The home of Stan Chesley and Judge Susan Dlott is the all-time best seller in the history of the Tristate Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This 21-room French chateau, bought for $11.9 million in 2004, is located at 9005 Camargo Road in Indian Hill. The 29,000-square-foot estate offers a theater/media room, game room, outdoor kitchen, exercise room, custom chandeliers and a wine cellar. Built by former Provident Financial Group executive Allen Davis in 1999, the estate comes complete with garage space for eight cars, separate carriage house and apartments, and 300 acres of surrounding land. (text source) (photo source)

Via 911 call released in federal judge’s home break-in near Cincinnati by Lisa Cornwell, Associated Press, December 9, 2015:
A federal judge who police say was robbed with her husband at gunpoint in their Cincinnati-area home told a 911 dispatcher that three men with guns and masks broke into their house.

Indian Hill police have said the suspects were arrested shortly after the Friday night break-in of the home of Judge Susan Dlott and prominent former trial attorney Stanley Chesley.

...At one point, Dlott said she was bleeding, and police have said Chesley fell down some stairs at one point. Police later said the couple was fine, but unnerved.
However, via this clip from Federal Judge Susan Dlott made chilling 911 call after 3 gunmen attacked her, husband Stan Chesley by Julie O'Neill, WCPO News, December 7, 2015:
Thrown down the stairs by one of the attackers, Chesley suffered a concussion, a broken pelvis and three broken bones in his thoracic spine, according to a neighbor, Michelle Young.

Besides the reporting gap between the AP and WCPO versions, Chesley's physical condition figures into charges that may be brought against the suspects in the break-in as well as the $647,815.64 warrant for Chesley's arrest for failing to appear before a Kentucky, apparently to avoid facing the music for his role in the $42 million fen-phen rip-off.

Via Stan Chesley speaks: Willing to settle fen-phen case by James Pilcher and Sharon Coolidge, Cincinnati Enquirer, November 7, 2015

According to the WCPO report:
"Judge Dlott had opened the garage doors asking them to take one of the cars...or any of the cars they were interested in...and something malfunctioned with the garage door and created a beeping noise," (Lt. Steve Makin of the Indian Hill Rangers) said.

One of the robbers was going back into the house, and Dlott and Chesley ran out of the garage into the woods, Makin said. Chesley was too injured to go far.
In other words, Julie O'Neill reported that a 79-year-old man with a broken pelvis, other broken bones, and a concussion, was still able to run. 

Julie O'Neill (source)

News reports about serious injuries suffered by public figures often identify where the victim was hospitalized, but I was unable to locate any news stories with that information.

Reportedly the break-in happened the evening of December 4 and I started reporting the story five days later. If Chesley had a broken pelvis, three broken bones, and a concussion, it seemed possible, perhaps likely, that he was still an in-patient.

So on the afternoon of December 9, I phoned all the likely hospitals in Cincinnati -- Christ, Jewish, UC, all of the Mercy facilities, Good Sam, and Bethesda North. All stated me that Chesley wasn't registered as a patient.

That afternoon I e-mailed that information to WCPO reporter Julie O'Neill who replied:
I have been told he is now recovering at home which I have reported.
Via O'Neill's update, Judge Dlott confirmed Michele Young's version of events:
Chesley suffered injuries when he was pushed down a small flight of stairs during the ordeal. He and his wife were able to escape and call for help.

Dlott later said Chesley is on bed rest to recover from injuries that include three fractures to his spine, a fracture in his pelvis and a concussion. Dlott said her feet are still bruised and swollen from the incident as well.
I then e-mailed O'Neill:
Do you know when he was discharged and from what hospital?
To which she responded:
No I do not.
She expressed no intention to fact check her own story, so I replied:
I'd strongly urge you to try to obtain those facts.
That's the last I heard from her.


So was Chesley "fine, but unnerved" or did he suffer serious injuries?

In an attempt to find out, I've sent e-mails and/or left messages for AP reporter Lisa Cornwell, Michele Young, Judge Dlott, and Captain Mike Dressell of the Indian Hill Rangers, and will post any updates.

UPDATE, 12/14/15, 2:06pm ET:

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hollywood Reporter article about my father scamming Ron Howard, Jack Nicholson, Bette Midler, Muhammad Ali, and other stars with AIDS "cure" wins LA Press Club award

Via the print version of Abramovitch's article

Via Hollywood Reporter Wins Best Publication, Website At National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards, The Hollywood Reporter, December 6, 2015:
The Hollywood Reporter was honored with 18 awards, including best website and best entertainment publication, at the (Los Angeles Press Club's) eighth annual National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards on Sunday held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A.

...Senior writer Seth Abramovitch nabbed the best print (newspapers or magazines) industry/arts feature (over 1,000 words) award for “Dr. Heimlich's Hollywood Maneuvers.”
Via 2015 Winners, 8th Annual National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards:
Judge’s comment: “Through outstanding investigative research and writing, Abramovitch meticulously constructs a cautionary tale about how the famous inventor of the Heimlich anti-choking maneuver made a stunning, and wrong, claim that HIV might be cured by injecting patients with malaria, and how sympathetic entertainers donated to Dr. Heimlich’s research that proved to be faulty and unscientific.”

LA Press Club president and NBC News LA anchor/reporter Robert Kovacik and Seth Abramovitch (source)

Via Abramovitch's August 14, 2014 report:
At the height of the (AIDS) crisis, the inventor of the famous anti-choking technique claimed HIV could be cured by injecting patients with malaria. New documents reveal how stars like Jack Nicholson and Ron Howard gave thousands to his cause.
Here are some of the other victims of of my father's scam:

Via the print version of Abramovitch's article

Perhaps ironically, my father deserves considerable credit for the the award-winning article:
A trove of documents recently made public and turned over to THR now reveal the extent to which Heimlich's medical project -- cited for 13 "deficiencies" by the FDA in 2000, including "failure to have procedures to determine that risks to subjects are minimized" -- seduced the likes of Jack Nicholson, Bob Hope and Ron Howard into contributing to a $600,000 experimental medical program. In this bizarre chapter of Hollywood philanthropy, Heimlich's campaign offers a startling cautionary tale on the potential dangers of giving.
...Peter Heimlich, a 60-year-old textile importer from the Atlanta area, who, along with wife Karen Shulman, has spent the past 12 years researching and publicizing the less-celebrated aspects of his father's medical legacy.
The "trove of documents" was part of the "120 linear feet" of records donated by my father to a University of Cincinnati library in 2011.

Karen and I copied the "malaria goes to Hollywood" paperwork at the library and on April 25, 2014, I cold-called The Hollywood Reporter (THR).


I got patched through to editor Jeanie Pyun and after I told her about the story and the paperwork, she said the words every source loves to hear: "Have you shared this with any other reporters?"

That led to a productive and engaging reporter/source relationship with Abramovitch. Combined with his stellar reporting, her story instinct and THR's willingness to publish long-form investigative reports made possible the award, a photo of which Seth e-mailed me from the event.

courtesy of Seth Abramovitch

Switching roles, I asked Seth for a comment for my blog to which he replied:
It's incredibly gratifying to be recognized by the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards for "Dr. Heimlich's Hollywood Maneuvers," a story I am particularly proud of. It's a powerful reminder to question figures of authority, particularly the most charismatic ones who, at our most vulnerable moments, peddle magic-bullet cures for dire and complex problems. Many thanks to Peter Heimlich and Karen Shulman for their hard work and cooperation with The Hollywood Reporter in bringing this troubling but important story to light.
From Karen and me to Seth, Jeanie, and everyone else who participated, congratulations and keep up the great work!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Prominent University of Colorado prof, former AHA president says he's removing his name from retraction request letter to British Medical Journal [UPDATE: He's been scrubbed from the letter]

UPDATE, 12/18/15, 4:22pm ET: The Center for Science in the Public Interest has deleted University of Colorado professor and former American Heart Association president Robert Eckel MD as a signatory on a letter to the British Medical Journal requesting that an article by journalist/author Nina Teicholz be retracted.

Via the original version of the letter dated November 5, 2015 (at this writing still accessible via Google cache):

Via v.2 of the letter dated yesterday:

Below the hash marks is my original item in which Dr. Eckel and the University of Colorado legal counsel stated that he chose to remove his name because I filed a public records request.

Since I reported that item, the university completed my records request. In the near future, I plan to report about what turned up.



Robert H. Eckel MD, a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado and former president of the American Heart Association, is removing his name from a letter to the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) that was signed by more "than 180 prominent cardiovascular and nutrition scientists from 19 countries."


The letter, which was organized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington, DC advocacy nonprofit, urged the BMJ to retract The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific?, a September 23, 2015 article by New York City journalist/author Nina Teicholz.

Before I get to why Dr. Eckel says he chose to remove his name from the letter, have you ever heard of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines or the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC)?

I hadn't until recently when they were brought to my attention by Yale professor/author/columnist Dr. David L. Katz.

I was reporting a story about an Amazon book review and two Huffington Post columns in which Dr. Katz praised a novel called reVision without disclosing he wrote it under a pseudonym.

When asked to comment, in mid-October Dr. Katz told the Yale Daily News:
(reVision) is not at all the relevant story here.

The real story is this: a group attempting to scuttle the Dietary Guidelines in the US, funded by billionaires with ties to the beef industry and Enron, is unhappy that I have defended the dietary guidelines (that IS my day job), and that I have been among the many prominent voices pointing out their ulterior motives, and erroneous statements. In return, they have gone looking for any basis to discredit me, and the best they could find was... this. My closet is unusually pristine.
As I wrote to Dr. Katz, that sounded like an interesting story I might wish to report.

Per this CSPI press release, on November 5 the story got even more interesting.


I'd never heard of an attempt by scores of credentialed professionals -- including Dr. Katz -- to urge a medical journal to retract an article by a journalist, so I wanted to learn more.

Click here for the letter and you'll see that a few dozen of the co-signers work at public institutions.

So a couple weeks ago, as I often do when reporting a story, I filed open records requests for related paperwork, including one for:

To my surprise, last week I received this:

I was curious to learn why Dr. Eckel decided to remove his name from the letter, so last night I asked him.

To my surprise, in a series of back and forth e-mails -- see below and click here to download -- he explained that it had to do with my records request and that the university informed him he may face "criminal actions."

According to Dr. Eckel:
I was out of town and that's what the University legal office voice mail message indicated if I didn't respond [to your records request] by a certain date. When I finally reached them my decision was to withdraw my name.
I'm not positive, but Dr. Eckel may be under the impression that removing his name from the CSPI letter terminates the university's obligation to complete my records request.

In any event, I've instructed the university to complete my request and I'll report the results.

This item has been slightly updated.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

What Katz hears: After being busted for sock puppetry, prominent Yale prof/author claims to be the victim of "cabal" that has "been bullying me relentlessly"


Via Scandalous Huffington Post Columns Retracted, So Eat More Cheese! by , LinkedIn, November 23, 2015:
Two of my columns for the Huffington Post have been retracted, and believe it or not, that has something to do with a well-orchestrated effort to scuttle national nutrition policy, and get you to eat more meat, butter, and cheese.
...(Backed) by billionaires with ties to such enterprises as Enron, and the beef industry...their intentions are clear enough: they would like to scuttle the translation of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report into actual Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and thus- sabotage national nutrition policy so [sic] suit their personal inclinations.
...And that’s where the dots finally all connect. I first voiced my grave concerns about these egregious misrepresentations of current nutrition science, to say nothing of the indelible ties between dietary patterns and the fate of the planet, back in May of 2014. I have done so repeatedly since, because it is my job. And, I have apparently done so with enough people listening - thanks to you, my on-line following is well over half a million - that I am of particular concern to the cabal in question.
So, as I have noted before, they have been bullying me relentlessly for months. Most of this has been indictment by innuendo in cyberspace, with every derisive suggestion - he has done industry-funded research, his opinions are for sale - retweeted ad infinitum by other members of the same club. One of the great liabilities of social media and the blogosphere is that any given small group - including a band of wingnuts living in their mothers’ basements - can create enough echoes to seem like a movement.
In the current case, it is now clear that the aspersions directed at me were of the “keep throwing dirt until something sticks” variety. My opinions are not for sale, and I was raised by good and loving parents to be an honest and honorable person, so not much stuck. Until the group stumbled on those posts about reVision, which apparently hadn’t bothered a soul.
Dr. Katz's article includes no evidence to back up any of his allegations, therefore it's unclear how he arrived at such conclusions.  

In any event, here are the facts with a timeline.

September 30, 2015: That morning, a source directed me to this tweet posted the previous day...


...and to this (now-deleted) gushing five-star book review Dr. Katz posted February 16, 2014 on for the novel reVision without identifying himself as the author:

That afternoon, I reported Katz out of the bag: Did prominent Yale doc/prof/columnist shill review a book he wrote under a pseudonym? I've asked Amazon to take a look.

October 2, 2015: For a follow-up item, I e-mailed some questions to Dr. Katz.

October 17, 2015: Yale Daily News staff reporter David Yaffe-Bellany sent me this on the record e-mail he received from Dr. Katz which I'm publishing with Yaffe-Bellany's permission; click here for more information about the US Dietary Guidelines and the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC):
reVision, however, is not at all the relevant story here.

The real story is this: a group attempting to scuttle the Dietary Guidelines in the US, funded by billionaires with ties to the beef industry and Enron, is unhappy that I have defended the dietary guidelines (that IS my day job), and that I have been among the many prominent voices pointing out their ulterior motives, and erroneous statements. In return, they have gone looking for any basis to discredit me, and the best they could find was... this. My closet is unusually pristine.
Write about reVision if you want (I recommend you read it first)- it will be the best exposure that book has had! But you are certainly being duped, and covering the wrong story- and you will be working at the behest of the likes of Enron, and the beef industry. My hope is you have more laudatory aspirations than that.

Let me know what you think.

Here's my on the record response to Yaffe-Bellany:
I can assure Dr. Katz that I'm not part of any cabal, conspiracy, or smear campaign against him. I'm an unpaid, independent blogger who has tagged dozens of shill book reviews on Amazon. That's what led me to his review of reVision and his two Huffington Post columns in which he lavishly praised the novel without informing readers that he wrote it. Instead of trying to change the subject, he should man up and explain what happened.
October 25, 2015: Via Dr. Katz's response to my October 2 e-mail: 
Peter- apologies if I overlooked your prior missive; my inbox is a busy place.

This matter recently came to my attention, and when I looked into it myself, I saw it originated in social media with those intention discrediting the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report. I have long been defending that report (that's my day job), and have incurred varying harassment for months for my pains, as have all others who have done likewise. I have addressed this myself in my most recent column:
November 4, 2015: Via Yaffe-Bellany's Yale Daily News article, Katz faces criticism for book review:
In February 2014, David Katz MPH ’93, the director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Prevention Research Center, wrote two glowing online reviews of a science-fiction novel called reVision.

In his biweekly column in The Huffington Post, Katz lauded the book’s “lyrically beautiful writing,” comparing it to the work of a veritable “who’s who” of great writers, including Plato, John Milton and Charles Dickens. “I finished with a sense of illumination from a great source,” he concluded. “The most opportune comparison may be to a fine wine.” Katz had used similar language two days earlier in a five-star product review he posted on the book’s page on Amazon.

But Katz omitted a crucial detail from both reviews: the subject of his praise was his own self-published passion project, released two months earlier under the pseudonym Samhu Iyyam.

...Fred Brown, a spokesman for the Society of Professional Journalists, told the News the Huffington Post column was blatantly unethical, and the blogger, Peter Heimlich, who wrote about the Amazon review in late September and ontacted the News shortly after, said he is not involved in the debate over the guidelines.
...“Instead of trying to change the subject, [Katz] should man up and explain what happened,” Heimlich said. Heimlich added that he has sent a formal complaint to Amazon asking that Katz’s product review be taken down.
Correction: I never complained to Amazon or asked that the review be taken down. For a follow-up item I was reporting, via Amazon's Public Relations department I inquired whether Dr. Katz's review was in compliance with Amazon guidelines. The complete correspondence is posted on my Scribd account.

November 14, 2015: I blogged And he scores! Amazon scrubs "sock puppet" five-star book review by prominent Yale professor, author, columnist.

November 18, 2015: I blogged Huffington Post deletes two columns by prominent Yale professor/author David L. Katz MD; "undisclosed conflict of interest."

My correspondence with Huffington Post editors (which includes the e-mails I exchanged with Dr. Katz) is posted on my Scribd account. 

November 20, 2015: Via Yale doc loses 2 HuffPo blog posts after secretly promoting his novel by staff writer Shannon Palus, Retraction Watch:
The Huffington Post has retracted two blog posts by prominent Yale nutritionist David Katz after learning he had posted incredibly favorable reviews of a new novel - and not revealed that he had written the novel himself, under a pseudonym.
There’s no doubt Katz is a prolific writer - in addition to a couple hundred scientific articles and textbook chapters, Katz regularly blogs for the Huffington Post. He’s also the author of a novel, reVision, under the pen name Samhu Iyyam. Last year, Katz wrote a pair of incredibly favorable reviews of reVision on The Huffington Post that implied he had discovered the novel as a reader. The Huffington Post has taken them down, as blogger Peter Heimlich — yes, related to the maneuver - reported earlier this week. According to Heimlich, a 5-star Amazon review of “Iyyam’s” book, written by Katz, has also been removed.
In the reviews, there’s no hint that Katz is the author.
Per our correspondence, I explained to Dr. Katz that after I finished reporting about reVision, I wanted to learn more about his allegations about being the target of "a cabal." I'll ask him for details and report the results. 

Finally, to my knowledge, Dr. Katz has yet to address why he wrote the Amazon review without disclosing that he was the author.

This item has been slightly updated.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Huffington Post deletes two columns by prominent Yale professor/author David L. Katz MD; "undisclosed conflict of interest" [UPDATED: Retraction Watch picked the story]

11/20/15 UPDATE: Retraction Watch: Yale doc loses 2 HuffPo blog posts after secretly promoting his novel by Shannon Palus 

My original item starts below the hash marks -- PMH


Gone, baby, gone: Today the Huffington Post retracted both columns; click here and here for archived versions via the Wayback Machine

On Saturday I reported And he scores! Amazon scrubs "sock puppet" five-star book review by prominent Yale professor, author, columnist about how I successfully tagged prominent Yale professor, author, and Huffington Post columnist David L. Katz MD for posting a shill review for a novel he wrote under a pseudonym.

Today, after I brought facts to the attention of editors, the Huffington Post has scrubbed two problematic 2014 columns by Dr. Katz

Via a recent Yale Daily News story by staff reporter David Yaffe-Bellany:
In February 2014, David Katz MPH ’93, the director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Prevention Research Center, wrote two glowing online reviews of a science-fiction novel called reVision.

In his biweekly column in The Huffington Post, Katz lauded the book’s “lyrically beautiful writing,” comparing it to the work of a veritable “who’s who” of great writers, including Plato, John Milton and Charles Dickens. “I finished with a sense of illumination from a great source,” he concluded. “The most opportune comparison may be to a fine wine.” Katz had used similar language two days earlier in a five-star product review he posted on the book’s page on Amazon.

But Katz omitted a crucial detail from both reviews: the subject of his praise was his own self-published passion project...
If you want to read Dr. Katz's January 17, 2014 and February 18, 2014 Huffington Post columns hyping the novel, as of today you'll have to do so via The Wayback Machine -- that's where the links will take you.


In response to my inquiry, this morning Huffington Post Standards Editor Victor Brand informed me both columns have been withdrawn from publication. (Click here for my correspondence with him and Huffington Post Communications VP Monica Lee, who reportedly failed to respond to the Yale Daily News; after she ignored my inquiries, I asked Brand to jump in.)

Now if you click the original link to Dr. Katz's first column you'll see this:

Click the original link to his second column and you'll see this:

This is the second time the Huffington Post has pulled a story after my inquiries to editors. Details via my July 16, 2013 Sidebar item, Huffington Post scrubs Boston-area "comedy" duo's YouTube containing anti-Jewish slur.

This item has been slightly updated.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

And he scores! Amazon scrubs "sock puppet" five-star book review by prominent Yale professor, author, columnist

11/18/15 UPDATE: Huffington Post deletes two columns by prominent Yale professor/author David L. Katz MD; "undisclosed conflict of interest" 


Yo, I just broke my record tagging Amazon shill book reviews.

On September 30, I reported Katz out of the bag: Did prominent Yale doc/prof/columnist shill review a book he wrote under a pseudonym? I've asked Amazon to take a look.

At the time I took this screenshot of the Amazon reviews page for David L. Katz MD, Yale department head, author, and columnist for the Huffington Post and New Haven Register, which included a gushing five-star review for a self-published novel he wrote using the pseudonym Samhu L. Iyyam:

(Peter Heimlich) has sent a formal complaint to Amazon asking that Katz’s product review be taken down.
As I explained to a helpful Amazon employee (known to me only by the mysterious moniker "Mahesh V") with whom I've corresponded over the past couple of months:
Mahesh: Not a big deal, but I'd characterize my correspondence with you as an "inquiry" rather than a "complaint."

...(When) your company's Reviews team takes care of this, I'll break my record of tagging five-star shill book reviews on Amazon. Per my (unsigned) June 10, 2010 item in the Cincinnati Beacon, shortly after I brought the information to former Amazon employee Mary Osako, 72 five-star shill book reviews were deleted. And per my May 6, 2014 item on my own blog, shorty after I brought the information to Ms. Osako, eight more five-star shill book reviews were scrubbed: making a total of 80.

I'm not sure why Amazon is taking so long to wrap this up, but I'm looking forward to bumping my score to the Big Eight-One!
Somebody cue the theme from Rocky.

Or better yet, The 81 by Candy and The Kisses, one of the greatest-ever girl group records.

As of this morning, here's what Dr. Katz's Amazon reviews page looks like:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Katz out of the bag: Did prominent Yale doc/prof/columnist shill review a book he wrote under a pseudonym? I've asked Amazon to take a look [UPDATED]

UPDATE: My 11/14/15 blog item, And he scores! Amazon scrubs "sock puppet" five-star book review by prominent Yale professor, author, columnist.

11/4/15 UPDATE: Katz faces criticism for book review, deep-reported article (based on my blog item below) by Yale Daily News staff reporter David Yaffe-Bellany who got strong quotes from a variety of sources. 

11/18/15 UPDATE: Huffington Post deletes two columns by prominent Yale professor/author David L. Katz MD; "undisclosed conflict of interest"

My original item is below the hash marks.



It's no secret that attracts shill book reviewers.

In Spring 2010, a couple of years before her death, my mother Jane Heimlich's memoir was published. I caught a Clearwater, Florida press agent posting dozens of glowing 5-star shill reviews on for my mom's book and for scores of other authors she represented.

That turned into Scamazon, a three-part story I reported (sans a byline) for the now-defunct Cincinnati Beacon (Part I, Part II, Part III) that was picked up by other media outlets in the US (click here, here, and here) and France (click here). The Clearwater publicist's Amazon account was deleted and the Public Relations Society of America issued a two-page ethics statement.

Then last year I reported The Shill is Gone about how I caught my father's New York publicist posting glowing Amazon reviews for his memoir and for books by other authors she represented. After I brought the information to Amazon, they scrubbed her reviews.

I think I've got another one, this prominent Yale MD/professor/author. He's also a longtime Huffington Post columnist and for years he's had a weekly column in the New Haven Register.

E-mailed this afternoon...

Subject: blogger inquiry re: book review
From: Peter Heimlich 

Date: 9/30/2015 3:47 PM
Public Relations

To whom it may concern:

I'm blogging an item about what may be a problematic book review posted on your site. I'd appreciate you reviewing the following information and answering two quick questions.

Here's a screen shot I just took of a February16, 2014 Amazon review by David L. Katz of a book of fiction entitled reVision: Lore of the Corners Trilogy, Book 1 by Samhu L. Iyyam:


Here are screenshots I just took from a February 18, 2014 Huffington Post column entitled To See By Common Light by David Katz MD -- red rectangles added by yours truly.

The red-lassoed text above is identical to the Amazon review published two days before. Therefore, Amazon user David L. Katz may be Huffington Post columnist David L. Katz MD, a prominent author, physician, and professor at Yale.

Here are my questions. Would you please determine if the reviewer is Dr. Katz? And if so, does his Amazon review of reVision comply with your company's guidelines?

Thanks for your time/consideration and I look forward to your reply, preferably by Tuesday, October 6. If you need more time, please advise and I'll do my best to accommodate.

Cheers, Peter

Peter M. Heimlich
ph: (208)474-7283

And via Dr. Katz's 60-page(!) CV:

Finally, in his February 18, 2014 Huffington Post column praising reVision, Dr. Katz didn't identify himself as the book's author. That fact was added on April 1, 2014, apparently by the HuffPo.

When and how did the HuffPo learn about the apparent deception and who appended his column? 

And considering the apparent deception, should the column have been retracted with an explanation?

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

10/26/15 UPDATE: This didn't occur to me until I spied this sentence in an October 3 re-reporting of my item by Dean Sterling Jones at his lively Shooting the Messenger blog:
Ethically, whether or not David Katz the Amazon user is revealed as David Katz the Huffington Post columnist, it’s hard to imagine how a doctor and university professor could sink any lower.
A click here led me to the reviews page for Amazon user David L. Katz.

In his review for another book, he settles the matter.


Big hat tips to Dr. Jason Fung for tagging the HuffPo column, to Low-Carb Barb for catching the Amazon review, and to Dean Sterling Jones for joggin' my noggin.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Peer-reviewed journal asked to retract controversial "Heimlich for drowning rescue" study


I was copied on a retraction request sent yesterday to Stephen J. Langendorfer PhD, editor of the peer-reviewed International Journal of Aquatics Research and Education (IJARE) which in May 2010 published a controversial research study by John Hunsucker PhD and Scott Davison of the Houston-area lifeguard training company, the National Aquatic Safety Company (NASCO).

The request was sent to Dr. Langendorfer, a professor and department head at Ohio's Bowling Green State University by Ed Castillo, President/Chief of Operations of Golden State Lifeguards in Woodland Hills, California.

Via the abstract of the NASCO study:
This paper discusses the development and effectiveness of a protocol for lifeguards in enclosed aquatic facilities with special emphasis on scanning, rapid rescue, and applying a resuscitation procedure in the water immediately after contacting a drowning victim. We call this set of procedures In-The-Water-Intervention (IWI). Testing showed abdominal thrusts (ATs) adapted for the protocol were the most effective IWI procedure that could reliably be performed in deep water by 16–18-year-old lifeguards. Data analysis was done on a waterpark attendance of 63,800,000 with 56,000 rescues and 32 respiratory failures including four deaths.
As Sidebar readers know, performing abdominal thrusts (the Heimlich maneuver) to resuscitate drowning victims has been universally discredited as ineffective and potentially harmful by leading medical and water safety organizations, and NASCO's promotion of the treatment has been the subject of numerous media reports around the county.

Per Castillo's letter, in response to the NASCO study, IJARE published a scathing analysis and rebuttal these prominent medical and water safety experts: Peter Wernicki MD, Peter Chambers DO, Roy Fielding, Terri Lees, David Markenson MD, Francesco Pia PhD, and Linda Quan MD.

Via the rebuttal:
The authors’ two-part goal was to describe a protocol they named “in-water intervention” (IWI) that uses abdominal thrusts (ATs) and to report on its effectiveness at assisting drowning victims in waterparks. We identify serious shortcomings in the paper’s methodology, interpretation and use of the literature, and ethical principles. We conclude that their primary assertions were unsubstantiated by the evidence they presented.

...The most disturbing aspect of this study is that Hunsucker and Davison ignored the ethical principles governing the conduct of human subject research. The study failed to adhere to all three recognized principles of human subject research - autonomy, beneficence, and justice as outlined in the Belmont Report (National Commission 1979) and codified in all current regulations regarding human subject research. It appears that experimentation was conducted on unknowing human subjects (failure to adhere to autonomy). It involved the use of a disproved and potentially dangerous procedure that ignored the international standard of care - CPR (failure to recognize beneficence). To make matters even worse, the majority of the victims treated in the study were children (failure to adhere to justice). Apparently, no institutional review board was involved, consent was not obtained, and procedures for the conduct of human research in the absence of prospective informed consent were not followed. The authors seemed to justify and conduct the experiment on their own without any oversight or outside review. There was no informed consent given by the victims/patrons, but it is also unclear if the lifeguards, instructors, facilities, or their insurers were aware that they were participants in an unsanctioned study. By failing to employ appropriate methodology, statistical analysis, and conduct of the study as previously described, the study cannot be of benefit and thus fails even the minimal required test of human subject research - that a study has social value and scientific validity.
Castillo also asked Dr. Langendorfer to obtain the names of "the waterparks which provided data to the authors (since they) may have participated in violative human subjects research" and to obtain details about the "32 respiratory failures including four deaths."

Page down to read or click here to download a copy of Castillo's letter which includes this link to a pdf file consisting of the NASCO study, the rebuttal, a response to the rebuttal, a related editorial by Dr. Langendorfer, and a strong letter to the editor from B. Chris Brewster of San Diego, President of the United States Lifesaving Association.

And if you're interested in the subject of retractions by professional journals, be sure to check out

Monday, September 21, 2015

Choking on Jane Brody's recent Heimlich article; my inquiry today to the NY Times public editor


Re: her September 14, 2015 New York Times article, What Comes After the Heimlich Maneuver, can "trusted authority on health" Jane Brody back up her own claims?

Ms. Brody didn't reply to my e-mails, so I've asked Margaret Sullivan, the paper's public editor, to jump in.

Click here to download a copy.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Should two Cincinnati nonprofits promoting unapproved, experimental medical treatments be granted tax-exempt status? Today I asked the IRS and the OH Attorney General

Via the website of the Heimlich Institute, hosted by Deaconess Associations

As Sidebar readers know, for decades Cincinnati's Heimlich Institute has funded and promoted violative offshore human experiments in which patients suffering from cancer, Lyme Disease, and AIDS have been infected with malaria, a crackpot cure my father called "malariotherapy."

For decades my father's organization also put the public at risk by hyping a string of baseless, experimental, thoroughly-discredited medical treatments such as claiming the Heimlich can revive drowning victims, stop asthma attacks, and cure cystic fibrosis.

His so-called institute -- which, according to IRS filings, hasn't had any employees for nearly a decade, currently has $1000 in assets and is apparently nothing but a website -- has been a subsidiary of Deaconess Associations Inc., a healthcare conglomerate in the Queen City, since June 1998.

A few years ago, Deaconess launched a new venture, a first aid training program called Heimlich Heroes, intended to teach the Heimlich maneuver to kids around the country.

As Sidebar readers also know, Heimlich Heroes is teaching kids -- here we go again -- to perform "the Heimlich" to revive unconscious choking victims, an untested experimental medical treatment that's not recommended by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.

Like his other bogus medical claims, apparently my father pulled this out of thin air.

So what happens if a Heimlich Heroes-trained kid hurts or kills someone using the treatment?

I'd rather not find out, so today I filed complaints against Deaconess and the Heimlich Institute -- both 501(c)(3) nonprofits registered with the state of Ohio -- with the IRS and the Ohio Attorney General's Charitable Law Bureau. (In June I filed similar complaints regarding the American Heritage Girls, a "Christ-centered alternative" to the Girl Scouts of America that's partnering with Heimlich Heroes.)

Page down or click here to download a pdf of both letters.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Filed yesterday, Carol Spizzirri's response to plaintiff's complaint in Melongo v. Spizzirri et al

Click here for plaintiff Annabel Melongo's November 15, 2014 Second Amended Complaint and other key case documents.

Click here for media reports about the Melongo case.

Click here for media reports about Carol Spizzirri and the Save-A-Life Foundation.

Monday, August 10, 2015

NBC Today Show reports NYC doc's wrong, possibly dangerous medical recommendations -- and no one will clean up the mess

Check out this clip from an NBC Today Show segment, How to save the life of someone who's choking by reporter Jeff Rossen and producer Jovanna Billington -- the web page says July 17, 2015, but it aired Tuesday July 14th:

Long story short, Dr. Holly Andersen's claim about back blows is contradicted by the recommendations of the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association.

For years, along with most of the world's first aid organizations, the ARC and AHA have recommended back blows as an effective treatment for responding to a choking emergency.

Further, as widely reported, for about a decade the ARC has recommend back blows as the first treatment response:

As for her claim that rescuers should perform a Heimlich maneuver using one arm, I've been researching my father's career for over a decade and I've never heard of that.

I don't know where she came up with those recommendations, but since she provided medical information on national TV that was wrong and could conceivably harm kids and adults, I assumed Dr. Andersen and NBC would want to correct the errors.

So I shared the above information with New York Presbyterian Hospital's media department, and asked them to ask Dr. Andersen if she thought NBC should correct the errors.

Here's their reply:
From: Jacqueline Shutack
Subject: Re: [PR-NYP] blogger inquiry
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2015 11:44:01 +0000

Hi Peter.

Dr. Anderson is unavailable to comment.


Jackie Shutack Wong
Media Associate
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
Stephen J. Corwin MD (source)

I then sent a couple of courteous e-mails to Dr. Anderson and to Stephen J. Corwin MD, the hospital's CEO, asking if they wanted to comment.

I received multiple confirmations of receipt from both, but no other communications, so presumably their version of the Hippocratic Oath is, "First, admit no mistakes."

As for NBC, I sent self-described National Investigative Correspondent Jeff Rossen multiple courteous, well-documented e-mails explaining that his report included false and questionable medical recommendations.

Although each time I received prompt confirmations of receipt -- here's the most recent -- I received no further communications from him.


Since Rossen was apparently hiding under his desk, I sent a courteous, well-documented e-mail to NBC News Division head Andrew Lack, asking him to jump in.

Page down to read that e-mail, but here are some pulls:
(If Dr. Andersen's) going to appear on national TV as an expert, it's her responsibility to know what she's talking about and it's apparent she failed to adequately prepare. So why give her a pass, meanwhile leaving your audience with incorrect information?
...Based on my experience, if good journalists make an error, they welcome publishing corrections for at least two reasons. One, they want to get it right because they have pride in the accuracy of their reporting. Two, they care about maintaining their audience's trust. Based on Mr. Rossen's silence, apparently none of that matters to him, hence this outreach.
I received this confirmation of receipt but no further communication.

But wait, there's more.

Rossen and Billington apparently weren't even paying attention to their own story.

If they had, shouldn't they have noticed this intro clip in the piece?

It shows an officer responding to a choking three-year-old and performing -- yep --a series of back blows, thereby, according to Rossen, "saving the boy's life."

Finally, this historical tie-in, a brief interview with retired Today Show weatherman Frank Field in which explains his crusade to promote the Heimlich maneuver shortly after my father introduced the treatment in 1974: