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!