Martin vows to fight Chrétien challenge to probe

Canada

The Globe and Mail has the latest machinations of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and the Adscam Scandel:

Prime Minister Paul Martin returned to the airwaves Friday, expressing regret that he did not know about the sponsorship scandal sooner and vowing that the government would go to court to keep the Gomery inquiry going if necessary.

Only 12 hours after delivering a national, televised address, Mr. Martin appeared on CTV’s Canada AM, again saying that Canadians need to hear all of the Gomery commission’s findings .

He also said Ottawa would take legal recourse if a challenge by former prime minister Jean Chrétien to the proceedings proves successful.

Mr. Chrétien has mounted a legal challenge to the sponsorship inquiry, which he has called biased. The court has agreed to start hearings June 7.

Mr. Martin also said Friday that his office has not contacted Mr. Chrétien, asking that the former Prime Minister apologize for the situation.

“We are going to fight to keep the inquiry going and there’s no doubt in my mind that the courts – if, in fact, it came to that – will allow the inquiry to keep going,” Mr. Martin said.

“It’s very, very important that the inquiry be allowed to continue its work.”
On Thursday night, Mr. Martin – faced with a faltering Liberal minority government and the threat the Opposition members may force an election – said he would call a vote within 30 days of Justice John Gomery’s final report on the inquiry, due in December.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who called Mr. Martin’s TV address a “sad spectacle,” has suggested that his party may look to send Canadians to the polls this spring.

He reiterated his criticism on Friday. “It’s great to say we’re trying to fix this scandal, which has been going on for two years, and we need another eight months,” Mr. Harper said in a later appearance on the CTV program.

“That really doesn’t provide me a very good reason to morally, ethically or politically to prop up this government.”

Mr. Harper would not say specifically that he would press for a spring vote. He said instead that his party would “listen to the people in the next week, and our caucus will meet when we return, and we’ll probably have a pretty good idea of the timing.”

Earlier reports in The Globe and Mail have suggested the Conservatives have set May 19 as the day they will most likely attempt defeat the minority government, paving the way for a June 27 election, although the dynamics of the House of Commons suggest a no-confidence vote would be close.

Meanwhile, the acrimony over the situation again spilled over into the House of Commons, with Conservative MPs grilling the government over what they say are discrepancies between Mr. Martin’s testimony before the Gomery inquiry and that of other witnesses.

Claude Boulay, one of the ad executives embroiled in the sponsorship scandal, testified Thursday that he met with Mr. Martin at least twice a week when he worked on the politician’s election campaign in 1993.

Mr. Boulay’s wife Diane Deslauriers testified she saw Mr. Martin daily during that campaign.
“How can the Prime Minister, with these glaring on the record expect Canadians to believe him,” deputy Conservative leader Peter MacKay asked.

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, however, challenged the Tories’ interpretation of the situation, saying Mr. Martin stands by his testimony and again called for the Opposition to wait for the commission to do its work before drawing conclusions.

Earlier Friday, Mr. Martin said again that Canadians need a full picture of how the sponsorship scandal played out before drawing their conclusions.

“They want to know what happened,” Mr. Martin said. “I think they want to know who is responsible and I think they want to know that the government’s going to punish them.

“I’m going to do that and I think they want Judge Gomery to report before they have to pass judgment on the government.”

Although Mr. Martin acted as Finance Minister while the sponsorship program was in place, he said his job at the time was to set the nation’s fiscal framework.

“It is not the minister of finance who follows where the money goes,” he said. “And none of the senior officials, the deputy minister of finance didn’t know about this and therefore there’s no way the minister of finance in that capacity would have known.”

That being said, he added, he doesn’t believe that is the way governments should work and, once he became Prime Minister, he brought in “a whole new set of spending controls so that won’t happen again.”

As well, he said he doesn’t believe members of his department kept information from him in an effort to protect him at a time when his rivalry with Mr. Chrétien was coming to a head.

“If that were the case, I would be very, very mad.”

But, Mr. Martin also said he was sorry that the situation arose in the first place.

“I do regret very, very much that the government – and I was – not more vigilant in checking it out,” he said.

“But the deputy minister of finance didn’t know, therefore it’s very hard for the minister to know.

“But I now take my responsibilities as Prime Minister and I changed that fact and I do very much regret that we did not know.”

Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, meanwhile, was ready to pull the election plug, saying Mr. Martin has “no more moral authority or moral legitimacy.”

He said there would be no need for a vote if Mr. Martin resigned. NDP Leader Jack Layton, on the other hand, struck a conciliatory note when asked about an election.

“Ultimately, Canadians will let us know when they think it absolutely is time, but in the meantime let’s try to do something positive for the Canadian population,” he said during an interview on CBC.

He has said he would like corporate tax cuts removed from the budget bill: “I’d like to see a budget, an improved budget, passed by the House.”

Paul Martin should cut a deal and resign post haste.

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Santa Clara County District Attorney: It’s Safe to Eat at Wendy’s

Humour


Anna Ayala
The San Jose MercuryNews reports:

It’s safe to eat Wendy’s, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office said today, hours before a scheduled 1 p.m. news conference at which San Jose police are expected to disclose details behind the arrest of the Las Vegas woman who claimed to have found a partial human finger in a bowl of Wendy’s chili.

“America should go back to eating at Wendy’s,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney Karyn Sinunu. She declined to discuss the matter further, saying San Jose police will release affidavits at the 1 p.m. news conference at police headquarters. “We’re being very mindful of the defendant’s rights.”

A Wendy’s spokeswoman, Irma Seaholm, said company representatives would also be present at the news conference. The company has said business has been off sharply, especially in the Bay Area, since the finger incident.

Wendy’s officials say their internal investigation eliminated the possibility that Wendy’s, its suppliers or employees were involved with the finger.

Thursday night, police arrested Anna Ayala in connection with the case. Last month Ayala said she bit into the partial finger when she was eating at the Wendy’s on Monterey Road a month ago while visiting family in San Jose.

Ayala, 39, is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center in downtown Las Vegas as a California fugitive until her first court appearance, at which time it may become clear whether she will fight extradition, according to Sgt. Chris Jones of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Ayala’s case is slated for review Tuesday. A Nevada judge has the authority to allow her to bail out, Jones said.

Looking forward to the afternoon’s news conference. Wonder what her counsel will say?

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Online Freedom of Speech Act Update

Politics

Mike Krempasky over at RedState.org has this update on the Online Freedom of Speech Act:

First, in the House – HR 1606, introduced by Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling can not only boast a few co-sponsors – the better news is this – Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan has become the first bipartisan cosponsor of the legislation. As you can imagine, getting leaders from both sides of the aisle on a bill early is key.

But frankly, I have to say – the news in the Senate is the real gem. S 678, introduced by Minority Leader Harry Reid, has been waiting for a Republican to step up – and one has. And of all the Members that provide…um, political balance for Senator Reid – how about RedState favorite Dr. Tom Coburn? (his cosponsorship is not listed in Thomas yet, but Coburn’s office has already contacted Reid’s.)

Frankly, the legislative route will be hard and a court decision more expedient. However, any change to this unconstitutional law will be slow in coming.

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Wendy’s Finger Finder Pinched

Humour

Flap previously reported on this story here and here. But, now there is more…..

Fox News is reporting the story that the woman who reported finding a severed human finger in her chili at Wendy’s restaurant last month has been arrested by police:

SAN FRANCISCO — The woman who claimed she found a well-manicured finger in her bowl of Wendy’s (search) chili last month was arrested at her home Thursday night, police said.

Police in San Jose, Calif. — the site of the Wendy’s in question — announced the arrest of Anna Ayala in Las Vegas (search). Police spokesman Enrique Garcia (search) said authorities would not give any details until a news conference Friday.

Ayala’s 18-year-old son, Guadalupe Reyes (search), said he had gone to the store around 9 p.m. when he got a phone call from a friend who was back at the house.

“We rushed back and she was already gone,” Reyes said.

Reyes said he had no other details and was waiting to hear from his mother.

The arrest is the latest twist in the bizarre case about how the 11/2-inch finger tip ended up in a bowl of fast-food chili.

Ayala told police she found the finger March 22 while eating at a Wendy’s in San Jose. She said she intended to sue but relented, claiming the publicity was too emotionally taxing.

When police and health officials failed to find any missing digits among the workers involved in the restaurant’s supply chain, suspicion fell on Ayala, whose story has become a late-night punch line.

Ayala has a litigious history. She has filed claims against several corporations, including a former employer and General Motors (search), though it is unclear from court records whether she received any money. She said she got $30,000 from El Pollo Loco after her 13-year-old daughter got sick at one of the chain’s Las Vegas-area restaurants. El Pollo Loco officials say she did not get a dime.

Earlier Thursday, Ohio-based Wendy’s International Inc. announced it had ended its internal investigation, saying it could find no credible link between the finger and the restaurant chain.

All the employees at the San Jose store were found to have all their fingers, and no suppliers reported any hand or finger injuries, the company said.

Sales have dropped at franchises in Northern California, forcing layoffs and reduced hours, the company said. Wendy’s also has hired private investigators, set up a hot line for tips and offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who provides information leading to the finger’s original owner.

I guess you can say she has been fingered in this case and wonder if she will knuckle under during interrogation?

More later……

Update # 1

Yahoo News has more here:

And Captain Ed over at Captain’s Quarter’ weighs in on the Fickle Finger of Fate here.

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U.K. Proposal on Alzheimer Drugs – Removal From Formulary

Health

Internal Medicine News has this story about Alzheimer Drug rationing in the United Kingdom:

A British proposal to remove four antidementia drugs from the National Health System formulary is unlikely to affect Medicare coverage of these agents, but some experts in the United States worry that it could influence private payers here.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), the independent body that recommends which medical therapies the National Health System (NHS) should provide in England and Wales, has proposed that donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine, and memantine no longer be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Although acknowledging that the drugs provide moderate, short-term cognitive and behavioral benefit for some Alzheimer’s patients, NICE’s proposal holds that the drugs fail to delay time to institutional placement and thus are not cost effective.

The proposal appears to be a wholly economic one, according to the draft document and experts in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Although the drugs aren’t prohibitively expensive on an individual basis—annual therapy runs about $2,000 per patient—they cost the NHS the equivalent of $92 million in 2004. As in the United States, the United Kingdom has projected steadily increasing Alzheimer’s drug expenditures, saying spending could exceed $134 million by 2006. The total NHS 2004 budget was about $151 billion.

Withdrawing the drugs from the NHS could save $29 million the first year and $115 million by the third year, the document said.

The U.K. proposal would have no effect on national policy this side of the Atlantic, said Peter Ashkenaz, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The federal government has already committed to offering at least two cholinesterase inhibitors as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. The new coverage will begin in January 2006. Mr. Ashkenaz did not know which two in the class would be covered.

“As long as these drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for Alzheimer’s, they will be covered under the new prescription drug benefit,” he told this newspaper.

But should the proposal pass, some U.S. dementia experts are concerned about spillover into the policies of private payers and managed care systems. “Insurance companies worldwide are always looking to minimize their expenses,” said Samuel Gandy, M.D., professor of psychiatry, neurology, and gerontology at Philadelphia University and director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences, Philadelphia. “I would predict that the U.S. insurance companies are watching this very closely.”

This country’s private health care system is a “patchwork” of different companies that make decisions based on both economic and clinical factors, Lon S. Schneider, M.D., said in an interview. A national dictum condemning a class of drugs as not cost effective will get plenty of notice, he predicted.

“Private payers are really this country’s prescription benefits managers, and they are constantly assessing whether the drugs on their formularies are working and are cost effective,” said Dr. Schneider, professor of psychiatry, neurology, and gerontology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. “They are very interested in the NICE decision and analyses, which may have implications into how these companies manage their pharmacies.”

If the recommendation is accepted, no new prescriptions for antidementia drugs will be written through the NHS, although the drugs will not be withdrawn from patients already taking them.

Physicians, advocacy groups, and families in the United Kingdom have bitterly criticized the proposal, announced on March 1. Protesters contend that the drugs’ true value can’t be measured by a single outcome and have complained that the public comment period of only 3 weeks was far too short. They also said the decision would contribute to health care disparity in the country, since patients could still obtain the drugs through a full-price private prescription.

Britain’s health minister, Stephen Ladyman, said his department will ask NICE to reconsider its cost analysis, taking into account the economic and social benefits the drugs provide to caregivers, as well as to patients. But the minister also said he wouldn’t interfere with NICE’s decision-making process.

NICE is expected to render its final recommendation in July.

Damn! And the U.K calls itself a civilized society?

How could you possibly equate the rationing of Alzheimer’s disease care with cost?

I suggest that Tony Blair and his Labour Party get off their arses, privitize a few industries and use the resulting mega-increase in tax revenues to support their own citizens.

Indeed!

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