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


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


Mike Krempasky over at 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


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


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.


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Stem Cell Therapy – An ALS Treatment?


The Associated Press has the following story about the use of Stem Cells to possibly treat ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease:

A University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher said he would ask federal regulators Friday to approve the first clinical trial injecting special stem cells into the spinal cords of people with the degenerative nerve ailment called Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The trial would test whether a technique anatomy professor Clive Svendsen has pioneered on rats afflicted with the disease is safe to use on people. If successful, Svendsen said a much larger clinical trial aimed at treating the disease could be under way in two or three years.

About 30,000 Americans currently have the disease, which gradually kills brain cells that control muscle movement. The disease, formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, typically can lead to death in a few years and has virtually no treatment.

Svendsen and his colleagues are asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to bypass testing the technique on primates, typically the next step after rats, and to go straight to humans. The trial would involve five ALS patients treated by neurosurgeons at the Cleveland Clinic.

The trial would build on research Svendsen published this week in the journal Human Gene Therapy, which found that injecting certain types of stem cells into the spinal cords of rats could help stave off the disease and potentially prolong their lives.

Svendsen and his colleagues said the study was the first to show that the stem cells carrying a protein that fights ALS could flourish after being injected into their bodies.

The ALS Association, which is spending millions of dollars to fund Svendsen and other researchers rushing to find a cure, called the research encouraging.

“It is so exciting to see how rapidly ideas are moving from the laboratory into potential clinical applications through strong collaborations with leading investigators,” the association’s science director, Lucie Bruijn, said in a statement Thursday.

While noting the promise of his research, Svendsen sought to play down expectations, saying a cure of the debilitating disease was still years away.

“We’re not going to cure ALS in the first clinical trial,” Svendsen said Thursday at a forum on bioethics in Madison. “We’re going to tell the patients that as well.”

The research does not involve human embryonic stem cells, the blank-slate cells derived from human embryos that can be molded into any type of tissue cell in the body.

Researchers are instead using neural progenitor cells in fetal brain tissue, which are in the early stages of brain development. Those cells – derived from miscarried fetuses – are obtained through the National Institutes of Health.

Svendsen’s research team first created stem cells that pumped the disease-fighting protein, and then had to find the exact location in the rat’s spinal cord to inject them to fight ALS. The latter step took months of trial and error but may help surgeons deliver the treatment to humans.

Svendsen acknowledged the clinical trial proposal was risky. If the research on humans fails or is deemed unsafe, it could set back the field for years.

But he said waiting to unleash a potential cure for the lethal disease was unacceptable and the research has been safe so far.

“We’re hoping the FDA doesn’t require a lot more animal work,” he said.

Having seen this devastating disease ravage at least three men I have known, I can only pray that these trials will be successful.

Note: this treatment invovles Stem-Cells but not Embryonic Stem-Cells from Aborted fetuses.

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