Truth Is An Absolute Defense To Libel

I keep thinking that I am done writing about the WPI and will get back to writing about my real life, but the noise from Reno continues to be deafening. Like everyone else, I was waiting to see what happens with the FBI investigation, when I got an email from Annette Whittemore. Publishing personal email is distasteful, but after serious consideration, I’ve decided that said email was written by a CEO of a non-profit, still begging my readers for donations. Their final communication, included below, is from Carli West Kinne, Annette Whittemore’s niece, who works for the WPI as an attorney. This blog is my answer.

My response to Mrs. Whittemore and Ms. West Kinne is that everything I’ve said in my blogs is my opinion, based on my own first hand experience, and true, to the best of my knowledge. Much of it is documented in the public domain. I would be happy to share it all, except that full disclosure would require violations of confidences from sick patients. I have asked only questions that a legitimate nonprofit should be ready and able to answer.

In addition, there is no malice in my blogging, malice being a legal term. I believe in my heart that it is in the best interest of my readers to hear what I have to say. I am aware that the NIH is answering patient inquiries that the WPI is innocent until they send in evidence of their own guilt:). In the meantime, Dr. Mikovits is guilty until proven innocent, has no lab or financial cushion. In fact, she doesn’t even have health insurance and can’t qualify for unemployment because she was fired, even though it was arguably without cause. The “Wings of Hope” flew away with my hope when they took away Dr. Mikovits’ access to her lab.

I would like to make it perfectly clear, that I will continue to publish my opinions here, irrespective of any intimidation. If sued or subpoenaed I will write about that too. It is best to stand up to bullies. It is also best to speak out about a wrong that you see, even if your toes are right up to the edge of the quicksand. Especially if your reason for not speaking out is because of possible retaliation.

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States protects my right to speak freely. I am entitled to discuss and invite discourse on topics of any concern to me and to my readers. I will not apologize and I will not be silenced. If contacted again, my next call will be to the ACLU.

What I didn’t say in my response to Mrs. Whittemore, included below, was how much I would have loved to be able to write nice things. Even after I was fired, I held out hope that would be the case. I held that hope longer than I should have. The enormity of the lost chance is hard to take in. Instead of anything hopeful or uplifting, here is my latest “conversation” with the WPI, now complete with a lawyer letter.

The first email from Annette Whittemore, dated February 20.

Subject: Civil discourse

Jamie and Heidi,

I have seen what you have written about me. It is very painful and ugly.   Obviously you think it is ok to libel me and try to hurt my reputation and that of this institute.  You should know that there are innocent people who come to work every day to try to help this institute and help patients like you.  They are hurt by your words.  Our researchers work six and seven days a week for you.  They are hurting because of you.  You should know what your actions are doing to innocent people, like my family members, all because you have decided you know something about me or think that I have done something wrong.  I would like to know what you think I’ve done or said so that we can clear the air once and for all.

I don’t believe in writing mean and ugly things about other people.  I would like to settle this in a civil manner.  We can start wherever you’d like.  If I can’t answer your concern, I can find someone in our organization who can.  If you’d prefer we can email individually.  Please let me know.

Thanks,
Annette

Here is my response of February  22.

Annette,

If you want to work things out with me, there are a few things that need to happen first. Otherwise I will continue to believe that the WPI is a black hole that you use for your own purposes, to benefit your family and friends, without regard for the patients to whom the institute professes to be dedicated.

1. Drop both the criminal and civil suits against Judy. Give her a reasonable severance package so she can get back on her feet. Apologize for your hideous public display of legal bullying.

2. Step down as CEO in favor of someone competent, someone with a prayer of retaining real talent.

3. Appoint a real Board of Directors, who are not your friends, but rather people with something to contribute other than pleasing you.

4. Account for the money and return what wasn’t used for research. I assume that the actual sum is likely larger than what I know about, which is at least $8 million: grant money already received, fundraisers, donations, contest money, UNR money? ear-marked for SPECT scanner and other medical equipment (I heard the figure $5 million on more than one occasion, a million for the scanner), $150K/month for almost a year from a private investor (yes, I do remember that you told me who it was, as well as the terms and, no, I didn’t name them publicly, though I don’t know why I am being kind to you). For all that money, I see one paper about cytokines that still stands, and Judy wrote it.

5. Return the small donations, from people who could ill afford them, that were earmarked for research or specific things for which they were not used.

Your newsletter was disgusting. It is time for you to justify your existence with more than propaganda. Why should anyone trust you? It is not possible to accomplish anything in the field without a reputation for integrity. If you cannot reclaim yours, it is better for the patient community if the WPI closes its doors. Why throw good money after bad?

Sincerely,
Jamie

P.S. Thank you for firing me.

I received this the day before yesterday, with an attachment, the letter from Carli Kinne.

Subject: harmful and damaging misinformation

Dear Jamie,

You are completely misinformed and your continued online communications full of false and misleading information are damaging to my reputation and to that of this non-profit institute.  Please stop now and apologize for the personal harm that you have caused me and this institute.

Annette

February, 24, 2011

Dear Deck-off Jones,

It has come to my attention that you are sharing incorrect information on your blog and encouraging others to write the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regarding Whittemore Peterson Institute’s NIH grant.  While your most recent blog is full of erroneous and harmful information, I am only interested in correcting the record related to WPI’s grants.  WPI is in full compliance with the NIH Grants Policy Statement, including but not limited to, all cost principles and reporting requirements.  As I am sure you are aware, claims against Annette Whittemore and/or WPI in a civil complaint are mere allegations that must be proven in court.  There is no “evidence in the public domain that the CEO of the WPI is a liar and fraud,” as stated in your blog.  There is also no evidence that WPI has misused grant funds, which you continue to allege in your blogs.  Furthermore, the NIH grant will continue under the guidance of a qualified principal investigator (PI).  There was no “pull involved” in order to change the PI, and to guess at such action taking place in your blog is damaging to all parties involved.  In addition, Dr. Lombardi does not have a financial conflict of interest as you continue to allege in connection with his relationship with VIP Dx, a company that is no longer in business.  As for the Department of Defense (DOD) grant, the DOD was pleased to approve Dr. Lombardi as the PI.  Please stop sharing false information and discontinue encouraging others to use this false information in correspondence to the NIH or any other granting agency such as the DOD.  These actions interfere with WPI’s business and harm WPI’s reputation.

Carli West-Kinne
Vice President and Legal Counsel
Whittemore Peterson Institute

 

To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. ~Frederick Douglass

 

IMEA petition at Change.org: INVESTIGATE POSSIBLE WPI/UNR MISUSE OF TAXPAYER FUNDS

 

Yes, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus

I got a valentine and a newsletter from the WPI, proving yet again that their PR people are brain dead. Here is one patient’s response to her valentine, now making the rounds anonymously, since who wants to poke fun at organized crime and take credit for it:

Clearly demonstrating the need for comic relief in the midst of unrelenting insanity, this is from my email: “The theme of the next fundraiser should be I Hope You Dance In Shackles. Dress code is orange jumpsuits.” That’s what the community thinks of the institute that the NIH has decided to keep funding.

And where is the money coming from to pay those PR people, now that patient donations have no doubt dried up? It would appear the WPI has successfully pulled off a bait and switch and will keep the grants without a PI. The scientist who wrote the grants, the institute’s only real asset, has been tarred and feathered by the “Whittemore machine”, as one paper put it, and a judicial system that they appear to be manipulating. There is accumulating evidence in the public domain that the CEO of the WPI is a liar and a fraud. Witness her performance on Nevada Newsmakers, after she knew the results of the BWG, where she still advertised XMRV testing, saying it only needed to be refined. The new PI has essentially no scientific credits to his name. Search Lombardi VC on PubMed and what comes up? He has never been a senior author on a paper. Besides his work at the WPI under Mikovits, now largely retracted, he was a junior author on two unrelated papers when he was a graduate student. The institute has no publications to its name that weren’t written by Mikovits. The grantors must be as brain dead as the grantees. Or there is pull involved.

It made me sick to read the newsletter. Over the top propaganda, but there will be people taken in by it, even though it is so blatant as to appear written intentionally to fool the simpleminded. WPI’s top 10 contributions…

#1 is a joke. The “Center for Translational Medicine”  is fairy dust. There is no science happening there to translate. There is an endocrinologist and a nice doctor I declined to hire, who uses HMD after his name (Homeopathic Medicine Doctor), and who says he can “resolve” autoimmune disease and “cure” allergies on his website. So far, true to form, the most common thing I’ve heard from patients about the “clinic” is that they don’t answer their phone. Sounds like the same old same old to me.

#2 through 5 are the fruits of the labors of their now denounced ex-PI. #6 is somebody else’s work. #7 and 8 are true, they walked a mile and gave Dr. Lipkin a lecture hall for a couple of hours last summer. #9 is an outrage since at least two of the three have openly withdrawn their support for the WPI. It is an insult to the scientists they are attempting to use. Name dropping. And #10, wow, you’d think they’d be ashamed to list contest money without telling those who toiled away what happened to it. Prove to us that it didn’t go to lawyers so that you could scapegoat your best friend for your own failings. @@.

But the WPI is getting the money anyway. Even as politicians from Harry Reid on down give away anything they got directly or indirectly from a Whittemore as quickly as possible. Yet the government still intends to send them a big chunk of the entire federal budget for our disease for the next three years, and if you believe their newsletter, Gulf War Illness too. The only information I could find on the internet, still lists Dr. Mikovits as the principal investigator (at the WPI).

How blatant does it have to be? There is nothing of substance there. A strikingly untalented PhD, one experienced lab tech and a Russian trained doctor who can only work in this country as a tech, because the US doesn’t recognize her training, known as “the magic eye”. Since it seems they can’t rely on science, apparently magic is needed..

Where did all that money go? The grant money, the patient donations, large sums of money from a private investor mentioned to me. It is true that there are a large number of salaries still to be paid; nineteen was the number Annette gave Dr. Lipkin in June at dinner, now minus Judy, Max, who has moved on, and me. So sixteen people unless there are more now. That’s a lot of payroll to keep three people working in a lab, Vinnie, a tech and the magic eye. For that, PR people, personal assistant, lots and lots of poorly designed space. By the way, the final straw in my being fired for saying what I thought, was my use of the word “nepotism” in a text to Harvey. In addition to the fact that my actually being determined to open a real department fit for an academic institution was becoming something of a nuisance. I’ve wondered if they didn’t hire me thinking I was too sick to make trouble.

Vinnie and the magic eye worked at VIP Dx. My understanding was that Vinnie was an owner of VIP Dx. Money was very short, so what did they do? My guess is they decided to jettison the research lab in favor of the commercial lab. Less people to pay. Bait and switch. Protect the investment.

What has the WPI accomplished, other than destroying the career of the only real scientist there, while burning through money like it was jet fuel? It was Dr. Mikovits that brought recognition to our disease. The Whittemore’s have brought only notoriety. And they are continuing to hurt the patient community by diverting funds that could be used productively to help us. The people who collude with such diversion are suspect in my mind. The Whittemore’s have been allowed to manipulate the justice system in order to muzzle the person who knows the most about what actually happened. She is prevented from telling her side of the story by the threat of jail. For “stealing” her own notebooks. How convenient for them.

While the scientist who did the work is blamed for everything under the sun, the patient community holds its collective breath awaiting the results of the Lipkin study, now a reparative effort, since Dr. Mikovits has been deprived of her lab. How can the people who did that even suggest that they are our friends. With friends like that…

Millions and millions down the drain. Why is there no accountability? Why is the FBI investigating political contributions, but not worried about misappropriation of government funds? Why is the FDA ignoring the lab?

It makes me really sad that what’s left to do is work against a negative, after all the hope we had, but it was false hope and what’s left is a sham, diverting funds that could be spent to help us. The patient community needs to object, and loudly.

 

Today’s song: Money by Pink Floyd

Blowing In The Wind

Unfortunately, as some of you can attest, I hit a technical wall with the forum when everybody’s mail was going to the wrong places and the program was allowing the wrong things to happen, with what looked like the correct permission settings. Just as I was about to pull the plug, Katieann Weatherford offered her considerable IT skills to the project. The forum is currently offline for a complete overhaul, but will be back soon with a real administrator this time. I learned my lesson. Every forum needs a technical wizard and lucky for us, it appears we have one. Thank you, Katieann!

I am committed to making the forum a safe place. When we are up and running, this time with explicit instructions of what to do to be activated to full user, you will be asked to fill out a profile. Your username will be your first name, but you are required to enter a full name in the profile. I strongly encourage everyone to use their real names, but if you must use an alias, tell me who you are, and please pick a name, not a handle, so people think of a person with an identity, rather than a word or acronym. I’ll keep track of who is using an alias, and keep those identities confidential, but a profile is still required with your real information, a few words about why you want to participate, and something about your background, including advanced degrees, if any.

The point is for participants to establish a real, or at least quasi-real stable persona, so that comments have a more complete context than the usual internet discussion. My experience with the blog has taught me that the anonymous nature of the internet allows people to say things that they would never say to anyone’s face. Much of that would never happen if people had to reveal who they really are. That said, I understand the various reasons why someone might feel the need to use an alias. I’m guessing that if I know who everybody is, it will be a friendlier and safer place. There will be a number of physicians participating, and I’m hoping some scientists will join us also, even if an alias is needed for comfort.

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A number of people have written to me asking if I know anything about Harvey Whittemore’s former business partners and if they are slimy or not; I don’t know anything about them. My reaction is it seems unlikely that they didn’t notice while they were robbed of 40 million dollars. But whoever stole what from whom, the numbers are so over the top as to be impossibly ugly. They burned through huge quantities of money, literally, in jet fuel, while begging from people living on social security disability. Promising to be working on a “cure”, they were spending gobs of money on private jets and country club extravaganzas. Kent Heckenlively writes about it in the  Age of Autism: The Case Against the Whittemores and the Importance to the Neuro-Immune Disease Community.

How could they have spent all that money, knowing what they know? How could they have left the research underfunded while wasting millions of dollars? How did they reconcile that in their own minds, knowing the extent of the suffering? And for the record, no, I didn’t see the extreme excess described in the lawsuit when I was there. I saw very wealthy people in the process of downsizing. I saw too much management and not enough actual work happening. I saw a lot of incompetence and a complete lack of accountability. The whole thing is so tabloid that it is embarrassing to write about. It is embarrassing to have been associated with them even briefly.

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And meanwhile the scientific community continues to slowly notice that their cell lines are indeed spitting out infectious retroviruses: Detection of Murine Leukemia Virus in the Epstein-Barr virus-positive human B-cell line JY using a computational RNA-seq based exogenous agent detection pipeline, PARSES. Lin/Flemington.

…it is readily apparent that MuLV, a mouse leukemia virus, can infect human B-cells. Knowledge of the presence of MuLV or other organisms harbored within cell model systems is important for establishing appropriate biohazard safety precautions.

And the good news for us:

Although the host status of many cell model systems are known, these associations have oftentimes been guided by prior knowledge which confines the discovery to the organism being investigated. The RNA-seq approach outlined here is much less confined by prior knowledge and is primarily limited only by the need for genetic information for the respective ectopic organism.

Why does questioning the safety of vaccines make one sound like a nut, in the face of a huge amount of anecdotal evidence suggesting we have a very big problem? The vaccine program is thought of as the one unequivocal win we’ve had with modern medical technology. Drugs are much iffier. Greater than 100,000 iatrogenic deaths a year from drugs in the US alone (an old figure, probably higher now). Killing microbes isn’t the solution; the bugs just get smarter. The increase in the number of people living to very old age, has less to do with modern medicine than it does with plumbing. If you look at who lives to extreme old age, they have not been utilizers of medical services or pharmaceuticals. Surgical interventions save some who otherwise wouldn’t make it. But with respect to the treatment of chronic disease, we have failed miserably. Very little progress since I decided not to be an internist for just that reason.

Only a  few things have been studied thus far, to rule out vaccines as a cause of autism or ME/CFS; nothing has panned out as the one and only explanation, since nothing explains all cases, no one particular shot or preservative. So that makes it safe to continue as we have been? Live attenuated vaccines are grown in cell lines known to express viral particles that can infect human cells in tissue culture, then injected into human beings, including very young, immunologically immature human beings. And not just one virus, but lots of viruses and pieces of viruses, subject to recombination events. I realize that nobody healthy or invested in the technology wants to look at such a pre-apocalyptic possibility. Better to assume that restriction factors are always present that make it safe. Of course simple retroviruses activate mutations that create favorable conditions for them. And latent retroviruses are activated by just the kind of environmental disasters that we have so promiscuously created.

I am not a religious person, but it keeps occurring to me that we are suffering retribution for the enormous cruelty that we have inflicted on animals, breeding sick animals on purpose, and then torturing them for our own needs. Our ability to manipulate nature has outstripped our wisdom. We are the collateral damage of scientific hubris.

The last photo in the gallery was an attempt in 1995 to fabricate a transplantable ear on the back of a mouse. In this case, an absorbable mesh was seeded with bovine cartilage and transplanted under the skin of an immunocompromised mouse. Bovine cartilage was used in this experiment, which was never intended to be used on a human subject,  but it was in anticipation of the real thing. Are we ever going to wise up?

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On another note, my husband and I just returned from a trip to Arizona in our RV. After years of looking at the same things day after day, I have developed a tremendous wanderlust; I’ve never seen the west. The RV lifestyle was something we always fantasized about doing with our kids. I think it was the ‘with our kids’ part that got in the way. Now it’s perfect for us, a chance to do something together that we both enjoy. Even though there are things I can’t do anymore, there are still many things I can do. Sitting things, like canoeing and fishing. Some days, even walking. The illness tends to cause separation. My physical limitations prevent the kind of travel we used to do, but if I take my space with me, it works amazingly well. Just seeing the scenery change from the truck window is too wonderful for words. My husband is an avid mountain biker and loves to find new vistas. We are sharing adventures again in a way that we haven’t been able to in a long time.

This trip was inspired by a request for a consultation from an essentially bedridden patient, too sick to consider travel to see me. The patient’s physician was enthusiastic about an infusion of new ideas and we made a house call together. Enthusiasm for going the extra distance is a hard thing to find in doctors these days, but there are still a few rare individuals out there who remember why they became doctors in the first place. I learned things from visiting this patient that I could not have, seeing patients who are mild to moderately ill in my office in Hawaii. Most of my patients travel from the mainland, so the sickest and poorest patients are excluded, but to really know a disease you have to see the sickest patients. One of the many oddities about ME/CFS is that the most ill are the most neglected. If getting up to go the bathroom makes you helplessly sick, a trip to the doctor becomes impossible.

The patient I visited had a physical finding I’ve never seen before, consistent with extreme orthostatic intolerance. Lying supine with a small pillow, raising both arms to 30° for a couple of minutes brings on an attack of intense, visible Raynaud’s up to the elbows, with sharp lines of demarcation over the lateral aspects of the 5th metacarpals and bright red discoloration of the hypothenar eminences. Very dramatic. Reproducible. Couldn’t possibly be psychogenic. Malpractice to even suggest it.

The medical community owes the patients an apology, though how do you apologize for decades of blind stupidity that cost people everything, including their dignity?

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Blowin’ In The Wind  by Peter, Paul and Mary

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