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reports and thoughts on legal issues, music, Orthodox Christianity and/or whatever else strikes my interest

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Location: Houston, Texas, United States

My name is David Stone. I live in Houston, Texas. I am a 30-something single white male. I am an Orthodox Christian and am a member of an English-language parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Monday, October 31, 2005

Court says no to household exposure to asbestos

This article from the New York Law Journal discusses a recent decision by the New York State Court of Appeals regarding liability for secondary asbestos exposure.

The Court found that an employer cannot be held liable for secondary (or household) exposure to asbestos. Their decision reversed an earlier finding by an Appellate Panel of Judges.

By a unanimous vote the Court found that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was not liable for the secondary exposure to asbestos of the wife of one its employees. The woman had washed her husband's work clothes for decades. Her husband had heavy exposure to asbestos at his Port Authority jobsites and later died of mesothelioma.

In coming to their decision the Court took into account the current state of plaintiffs asbestos filings:

"The court reiterated its "reluctance to extend liability to a defendant for failure to control the conduct of others" and expressed concern that a contrary ruling would open a Pandora's box of litigation."

The judges said they were obligated to "consider the likely consequences of adopting the expanded duty urged by plaintiffs," and indicated those potential consequences are more than they are willing to risk.

"While logic might suggest (and plaintiffs maintain) that the incidence of asbestos-related disease allegedly caused by the kind of secondhand exposure in this case is rather low, experience counsels that the number of plaintiffs' claims would not necessarily reflect that reality," Read wrote.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Photo from www.nasa.gov

Here is a good article on this weekend's "close encounter" with Mars. Here is another good article on dust devils photographed on Mars.

Other "Martian" recommendations include this trilogy of books as well as this recording which features Mars, the Bringer of War.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

From the Fathers

"Do not pray that things may be according to your desires, for they are not always in keeping with the will of God. Better pray as you were taught, saying: "Thy will be done" on me (Matthew 6:10). And ask thus about all things, for He always desires what is good and profitable for your soul, whereas you do not always seek it."

St Nilus of Mt Sinai from "153 Texts on Prayer", in "Early Fathers From thePhilokalia.

Plaintiffs Lawyers plan "Dream Team" for Vioxx Cases

This article in the Washington Post offers some details on the new strategy for Vioxx cases planned by plaintiffs lawyers.

One of their chief objectives is to attempt to push all future cases into State Courts which are usually viewed as more favorable to plaintiffs.

As the article notes:

"Houston lawyer Mark Lanier and New York attorney Perry Weitz have assembled a legal team of at least 10 law firms and 350 lawyers, Lanier told The Associated Press Monday."

"We've got the best courtroom lawyers, we've got the best mass tort lawyers ... and we've got the best negotiators that America has to offer working together on a dream team that is Merck's biggest nightmare," he said. "We call it kind of the 'Legal Godfathers.' "

The article also mentions that Merck attorneys are also planning their response to this strategy of the plaintiffs.

"We expect to oppose any attempt to splinter, to disrupt the operation of the MDL," Frazier told the analysts, referring to multidistrict litigation in federal court.

Merck outside counsel Ted Mayer said the company also prefers keeping cases in the MDL because that gives Merck consistent rulings on standards for admitting evidence and for expert testimony. He added that Merck has plenty of legal teams to handle simultaneous trials.

Plaintiffs Lawyers plan to counter Merck's strategy by increasing the number and location of lawsuits.

Lanier said Merck expected to fight most Vioxx cases in federal courts in the MDL, but he expects to have 10 legal teams running state trials nearly continuously, tying up Merck resources.

Lanier said his lawyers' group already has about 18,000 potential lawsuits awaiting filing.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

From the Fathers

"When someone struggles against the exercise of sin and begins to fight against his passionate thoughts, he humiliates himself, crushes himself, struggles and through the accompanying affliction, he is gradually purified and returns to his natural condition. Thus, as we have said, if someone is distrubed by a passion, it is from ignorance and pride. The best thing a person can do is to know his own situation in humility and to have patience, praying until God shows mercy on him."

Abba Dorotheos: "Practical Teaching on the Christian Life".

Executive admits Merck considered reformulating Vioxx

This article shows that Merck considered reformulating Vioxx to add an aspririn-like compound to the drug in order to better protect the heart. The revelation came during testimony by one of Merck's lead researchers.

As the article notes:

"On Monday, she discussed minutes from meetings in which top executives of the pharmaceutical company discussed reformulating Vioxx with an aspirin-like compound. The company, meanwhile, was busy touting Vioxx for its ease on the stomach. "

East Texans Need Help

As this article from the Houston Chronicle points out the citizens of East Texas really need more help in dealing with the damage caused by Hurricane Rita.

This article is dead on about East Texans and their self-reliance and stoicism. These people are probably the very last people who would ever ask for any kind of handout.

As this article states:

"After Hurricane Rita, they set up their own health clinics and food banks, foraged for food and helped neighbors get the supplies they needed while waiting for federal relief.

As Hank Williams Jr. sang in what's become an anthem for the East Texas region, "Country folks can survive." But only for so long.

After more than three weeks of disappointing responses from the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and spotty media coverage, several Southeast Texas officials and business leaders are starting their own relief efforts and openly appealing to fellow Texans for assistance."

The article continues:

"Twenty-six days after Rita ravaged homes, businesses and forestland, turning nine counties into federal disaster areas, about 12,500 electric customers still lacked power Monday, down from 1.5 million originally, according to the Governor's Division of Emergency Management. Six school districts remained closed, according to the Texas Education Agency.

About 40 percent of Jasper County and 65 percent of Newton County lacked power, water and sewage services this week, Diggles said. Many East Texans haven't worked for weeks as businesses remain closed.

The price of Rita's destruction is still being tallied, but insured losses alone are expected to be $10-20 billion, according to the Southwest Insurance Information Service.

"I'm at the point where I've been so overwhelmed," said Newton County Judge Truman Dougharty. "I just want the system to work, but it's buried in bureaucracy."

East Texas leaders have complained about slow, disorganized and inconsistent relief efforts from FEMA and the Red Cross.

They say FEMA offered more benefits to Hurricane Katrina victims, and the Red Cross excluded most East Texas counties from automatic relief for damaged homes, even though President Bush declared many of the counties disaster areas."

The article concludes by noting:

"East Texans, you know, our heritage is that we're a proud bunch of people, and we're very resourceful and we can take care of a lot of things on our own. We're probably going to be the last group to ask for help, but Rita has struck some of the poorest rural counties in the state of Texas...They don't have a lot to start with, and they need help."

Donations to help the citizens of East Texas can be made to:

East Texas Rita Fund, benefiting 12 counties represented by the Deep East Texas Council of Governments. Contributions to: First National Bank, P.O. Box 700, Jasper, TX 75951


Southeast Texas Emergency Relief Fund for Hurricane Rita Recovery, established by business and philanthropic leaders in Beaumont. Contributions to: P.O. Box 201943, Houston, TX 77216-1943

For more info on East Texas and its history and people check out this book.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Third Vioxx Trial Delayed

The third scheduled Vioxx trial has been delayed. This article states that the trial, originally scheduled to start October 24th, has been delayed possibly up to six months.

The victorious attorney in the first Vioxx trial Mark Lanier is also the plaintiffs attorney for this scheduled trial in Edinburg in Hidalgo County, Texas.

The article quotes Lanier as stating that:

"I'm going to get more damages in the Guerra case than they did in the Ernst case...I want Merck to see that Ernst was a conservative verdict. I'm going to spank them hard."

This delay means that the next Vioxx case to go to trial will likely be one of the Federal lawsuits which will now be tried in Houston due to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Icon Restoration in Russia

Photos from www.nytimes.com
Here is an article that discusses some of the icon restoration work occurring now in Russia. This article details the work of Alexei Khetagurov, Chief of the Icon Restoration Studio of the State Historical Museum.
For more on some techniques used in icon restoration click here.

Dangerous Diabetes Drug?

Photo from www.forbes.com

This article details the recent findings of a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which links the diabetes drug Pargluva (muraglitazar) to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. The drug is being co-developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck. The drug has been pending approval by the FDA. It was already given preliminary approval by the FDA last month but now the FDA is asking for more data on clinical trials.

Here is an editorial from the Journal of the American Medical Association on Pargluva and the FDA.

Vote on Asbestos Bill delayed until next year

This article states that the vote on the Asbestos Trust Fund Bill has been delayed until next year. The article quotes Sen. Arlen Specter as stating that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has pledged to bring the bill up for a vote early in 2006. The article mentions a crowded legislative calendar, full of pending Hurricane Relief legislation, spending bills and the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, as well as a lack of support for the asbestos bill as reasons for the delay.

Harriet Miers on the proposed Asbestos Fund

Here is an article on comments made by Supreme Court Nominee Harriet Miers regarding the proposed asbestos compensation fund legislation still pending in the U.S. Senate.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Old Rite Orthodox Church Elects New Leader

Photo from www.rpsc.ru

The "Old Rite Russian Orthodox Church" has elected a new leader. Metropolitan Kornily succeeds Metropolitan Andrian who died earlier this year. For more on the election of Metropolitan Kornily click here. For more photos of Metropolitan Kornily click here. More information on the "Old Rite Russian Orthodox Church" can be found both here and here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Venerating the Cross

As I was driving home from work yesterday I happened to be listening to National Public Radio. They featured an essay by Senator John McCain as part of their "This I believe" project.

In the essay Senator McCain recalls an episode which occurred while he was a POW in Vietnam. He tells how one of his guards, who happened to be a Christian, would secretly aid him.

Senator McCain relates:

"As a scared American prisoner of war in Vietnam, I was tied in torture ropes by my tormentors and left alone in an empty room to suffer through the night. Later in the evening, a guard I had never spoken to entered the room and silently loosened the ropes to relieve my suffering. Just before morning, that same guard came back and re-tightened the ropes before his less humanitarian comrades returned. He never said a word to me. Some months later on a Christmas morning, as I stood alone in the prison courtyard, that same guard walked up to me and stood next to me for a few moments. Then with his sandal, the guard drew a cross in the dirt. We stood wordlessly there for a minute or two, venerating the cross, until the guard rubbed it out and walked away.

To me, that was faith: a faith that unites and never divides, a faith that bridges unbridgeable gaps in humanity. It is the faith that we are all equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is the faith I would die to defend."

The rest of Senator McCain's essay can be read here. The audio version can be heard here.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

in my cd player...

Lately I've been listening to the Valery Gergiev recording of Modest Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. I'm trying to gear up for Houston Grand Opera's upcoming production of this opera featuring the famous American Bass Samuel Ramey.

I've also been listening to Lonely Runs Both Ways the new recording from Allison Krauss and Union Station. I also noticed that they were featured on this week's episode of Austin City Limits.

Orthodox Response To Hurricanes Surpasses $3 Million

Here is an update from International Orthodox Christian Charities on their hurricane relief efforts.

Orthodox Response To Hurricanes Surpasses $3 Million

October 14, 2005

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina and later Hurricane Rita, the response by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to the Gulf Coast region has grown to more than $3 million – the largest intervention ever by the agency in the United States.

“This has been a truly inspiring effort made possible by the cooperation of so many partners in our work,” said Constantine M. Triantafilou, IOCC executive director. “The support of the SCOBA hierarchs, the clergy and their parishes, Orthodox and ecumenical partners and the dedication and determination of the IOCC board, staff and volunteers has been remarkable.”
The IOCC-led effort has brought emergency relief assistance to tens of thousands of hurricane victims, including the distribution of more than $2.3 million dollars of food, canned meat, vitamins, water, quilts, blankets and bed linens, diapers, personal health kits, air mattresses, medicines, oral electrolyte solutions and other aid.

The initial response period, which has focused on the provision of immediate emergency relief, is expected to last about 50 days from the onset of the disaster, according to Frank Carlin, IOCC field director for operations in the hurricane-affected areas.

During this first phase, which will end on October 20, 2005 when IOCC plans on withdrawing emergency response teams from the Gulf Coast, the response has taken the form of direct assistance to Orthodox parishes and communities impacted by the storms, direct assistance through ecumenical networks to the affected population at large, and the provision of services and supplies in some of the most critically affected areas.

Financial support given to IOCC for hurricane relief efforts have been focused on the emergency assistance activities in the initial phase of the disasters.

“At this point, we anticipate expending all of our available resources during this emergency phase,” said Carlin. “We are not sitting on funds; we are spending them quickly, responsibly and prudently.”

As part of its response in the immediate aftermath of the disasters, IOCC is finalizing plans to implement an Orthodox parish/parishioner emergency assistance program. Those families who have been seriously or moderately affected by the disasters will be eligible for assistance. A survey form and criteria for determining levels of assistance has been developed with the assistance of Rice University School of Social Work and will be used by parishes to determine the needs of families in their community.

Carlin described the second phase as “the recovery and rehabilitation period” that will extend beyond October 20 and carry-on for a further six to nine months depending on the resources to implement such programs.

During this second phase, an IOCC-supported mobile medical van will be in continuous operation through March 2006 to offer medical services in the New Orleans, La. area. The medical van was contributed by Mission of Mercy, a nonprofit organization that provides free medical and dental services to the uninsured working poor, homeless and economically disadvantaged people. Catholic Charities of New Orleans is also cooperating in the medical outreach program that will be staffed entirely by volunteer medical professionals.

Carlin said that while there is a multitude of needs and opportunity to serve in the recovery and rehabilitation process, IOCC is currently limited by the funds available for this phase.

“We are hoping for the continued generosity of our supporters to extend further assistance. At this point, IOCC’s resources to respond to this disaster are depleted,” he said.

Founded in 1992, IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) and has provided more than $200 million in disaster relief and development assistance to 29 countries worldwide.

Each of the nine SCOBA jurisdictions has provided support to IOCC for the hurricane response efforts.

“Were it not for the high quality of our emergency response this $3 million figure alone would not be impressive,” said Carlin.

“We have proven ourselves to be an effective and efficient link between resources and needs. Our church and parish leaders and the faithful supporters who gave so freely and contributed their resources of both time and money have enabled us to do what often looked impossible in the face of such massive and immediate needs.”

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Blood Test for Meso?

Here's an article on the possibility of a new early-detection test for diagnosing Mesothelioma. Meso is a horrible disease that is caused chiefly by prolonged and heavy exposure to asbestos fibers. It also occurs, extremely rarely, in persons with no known exposure to asbestos. This was the case not that long ago with the death of musician Warren Zevon.

A report on a study of the new test was recently featured in the New England Journal of Medicine.

If successful this test would be an important milestone in the treatment of Meso. Up to now there has been no way to perform early screenings for the disease. Typically the disease is detected too late for any effective treatments. The life expectancy after diagnosis is usually only 8 months to a year.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Congoleum Blues

Here is a link to a short article from the New York Times on a ruling by a Federal Appeals Court regarding a conflict of interest between a Washington D.C. law firm and Congoleum Corp.'s handling of its asbestos claims.

The law firm in question advised Congoleum on resolving its asbestos claims while at the same time representing plaintiffs who were filing such claims against the company.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Down at the Duck

Photo from www.chron.com

Last night I happened to catch Gerry O'Beirne performing at the Mucky Duck.

Gerry O'Beirne is a great guitar player, singer and songwriter from Ennis, County Clare, Ireland. He plays the both the six and twelve string guitar as well as a mean ukulele. That's right I said ukulele.

His best known songs are probably "Western Highway", "The Holy Ground", "The Shades of Gloria", and "Half Moon Bay". He has performed and worked with many other musicians involved in folk and traditional music styles.

His performance at the "Duck" was an entertaining show. He gave some good and often humorous insights into his songs and songwriting process. He is really a very accomplished guitarist and showed off his skillful playing on several pieces. My favorite songs were a few tunes he played on the ukulele that he said he recently had to learn to play for a Ceili for some Irish dancers.

You can purchase a copy of "Half Moon Bay" his solo cd here.


Here is a good article on the current state of mass tort litigation. This article focuses on the recent events in silicosis litigation. It goes into some detail on how the different defendants to these lawsuits begin to work together to fight the claims. It also covers some of the legal strategies employed by both plaintiffs and defendants in mass tort litigation. In particular it highlights the importance of the use of internal databases by the defendants.

Friday, October 07, 2005


This weekend Holy Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral here in Houston holds its 39th Annual Greek Festival. Here are the details on the schedule and events. Here is a preview of some of the delicious food available. You can also try different Greek wines and beer. I recommend trying a bottle of Mavrodaphne.
If you have never been it is a lot of fun. So go check it out and get your "Greek" on.

More Merck Miscues

There was some excitement today in the New Jersey Vioxx trial when the Judge and an attorney for Merck got into a shouting match.

As this article notes the Judge ruled to strike the entire testimony of one of Merck's witnesses provoking an angry outburst from one of their attorneys.

The Judge stated:

"Quite frankly, I felt sick yesterday afternoon and last night when I realized how I had gotten sucked into this,'' Higbee told lawyers outside the jury's presence in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

"I feel that I was misled repeatedly yesterday during that testimony. It doesn't even make me angry. It makes me sad.''

The article continues:

The ruling prompted an angry outburst by Merck attorney Diane Sullivan, who repeatedly tried to shout over Higbee as the judge stood to leave the courtroom. Sullivan said she wanted to make a record for an appeals court.

"What's going on here is not fair,'' Sullivan yelled as she waved her arms. Higbee told her seven times to "sit down.''

"Ms. Sullivan, sit down or I will have you taken out of the courtroom,'' Higbee yelled at Sullivan. "Once I rule it's over, then you can make your record to the Appellate Division.''

Chances for Asbestos Vote Slipping Away?

It is becoming increasingly doubtful that a vote on the proposed Asbestos Trust Fund Bill will be held this month. The measure was originally scheduled to be voted on by the full senate at some point in October. With the upcoming Hearings on Harriet Miers and pending legislation related to Hurricane Katrina this bill is simply no longer a major priority.

Still Senators Leahy and Specter are going through the motions. As this article details they are asking their fellow Senators to begin submitting any potential amendments to the bill.

Even if it is brought up for a vote, however, there are still several opponents to the bill.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Questions from the Vioxx Jury

Here is a very interesting article about the questions that are being asked by the jury in the New Jersey Vioxx trial. I had never heard of this procedure before. Apparently New Jersey is one of the states that allow questions by the jury during the trial. There is some debate about this practice but it is becoming more prevalent.

More on Putin's Visit to NYC Orthodox Cathedrals

Here is another article on Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to New York City last month. While in New York City to speak at the United Nations President Putin visited St. Nicholas Cathedral (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Synodal Cathedral of the Theotokos of the Sign (ROCOR).

cool music on the radio pt. 2

Photo from www.npr.org
Also today there was a great "new" old recording featured on National Public Radio. An almost forgotten recording of a 1957 concert at Carnegie Hall featuring Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane has been recently rediscovered.
What an amazing record to now have available of these two jazz legends playing together. Click here for the full story on the recording. Click here to sample and purchase the recording.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

cool music on the radio pt. 1

I usually try to listen to KUHF during the day at work. Some days I get to listen more than others. Today was particularly busy so I only could catch a few minutes here and there. I was pleasantly surprised then to hear Henryk Gorecki's "Amen" (Opus #35) being played this afternoon.

It's fairly unusual for KUHF to play any of Gorecki's music. I thought it was especially unusual that they would play this short, but very intense, a cappella work with just a single word of text.

Gorecki has always been one of my favorite composers since the first time I heard his Symphony #3. He has been getting more publicity recently since the death of Pope John Paul II. The two men were close friends and Karol Wojtyla actually commissioned Gorecki's "Beatus Vir" prior to his election as Pope.

The best introductions into Gorecki's music are the Symphony #3 and the Miserere cd which includes the piece "Amen".

For a different aspect of Gorecki's style a good recommendation is the String Quartets cd by the Kronos Quartet.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Asbestos Bankruptcies

Here is an interesting article on asbestos-related bankruptcies. This article focuses on Owens Corning but also gives an overview of several other asbestos-related bankruptcies.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Supremes

Photo from www.ap.org
Today was a busy day for anyone following the United States Supreme Court.

First John Roberts was sworn in as the new Chief Justice. Here is a link to a video of the swearing-in ceremony.

Then later Harriet Miers was nominated by President Bush to fill the seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

One point of interest is that Justice O'Connor is still serving on the Court until her replacement has been approved. She was present today during the Court's first session this term.

More information on news relating to the Supreme Court can be found here.

Saint Eustathius

Today on the Church Calendar is the Feast of Saint Eustathius. Here is a link to a life of the Holy Great-Martyr Eustathius Placidas and his family. This is one of my favorite lives of the Saints found in the Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints compiled by Saint Dimitry of Rostov.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Waiting Game

Here is a link to an editorial on the ongoing Vioxx litigation. This editorial points out one detail that may have been missed by some.

It refers to internal documents indicating that Merck decided to wait on adding a warning label to Vioxx in order not to hurt their sales.

As the editorial states:

"Documents revealed in the Vioxx trial show that Merck was aware of the cardiac risks of Vioxx as early as 1997. The company’s top scientist stated in March 2000 that a clinical trial of Vioxx confirmed that the drug had heart risks. In fact, this clinical trial showed that the drug caused five times as many heart attacks as another pain relief drug. Merck executives ignored an FDA request to add a warning label to Vioxx for four months, because they calculated they could make an extra $229 million by waiting."

The editorial also points out that the punitive damages awarded by the jury in the first Vioxx trial in Texas was directly related to this calculated sales figure.

"The headline-grabbing $229 million punitive damage award decided on by the jury was not chosen at random, but represented the exact amount of money Merck made by delaying changes to the drug’s warning label."

This detail may put the actions of the Texas jury (all but two of whom were Republicans) in a new light for some.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Hellholes of Madison County

Madison County, Illinois has been designated the nation's worst "judicial hellhole" by the American Tort Reform Association. Last week a plaintiff's firm from Texas filed 153 asbestosis and silicosis suits in Madison County. Each asbestos lawsuit names 87 businesses as defendants while each silicosis lawsuit names 49 businesses as defendants.

Madison County is already well known for having one of the largest asbestos dockets in the nation. Some are speculating that this recent wave of filings in Madison County is due in part to the increased scrutiny of asbestosis and silicosis cases in Texas which makes that location a less desirable filing option for plaintiff's firms.

Also of interest is that one third of the plaintiffs who filed silicosis claims in Madison County also filed asbestosis claims. This brings up the question of the likelihood that a person can suffer from both diseases.