.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


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

My Photo
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, February 27, 2006

Next Vioxx Trial

The next state court Vioxx trial gets underway this week in New Jersey.

Actually the trial is a consolidation of two separate cases.

Both cases involve long-term use of Vioxx.

This case will also feature Houston attorney Mark Lanier.

Mr. Lanier is the only attorney to win a verdict so far against Merck in the Vioxx litigation.

More information on this trial and Mr. Lanier's involvement can be found here.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Congressional Investigation into Silicosis Debacle Widens

The Committee on Energy and Commerce in the U.S. House of Representatives has widened its investigation into possible fraudulent Silicosis claims.

The Committee has sent out letters requesting more information to 13 law firms across the country including 7 in Texas.

Here is the letter that was sent to the law firms.

Another letter that was sent to various State health officials regarding mass tort screenings can be read here.

More information on this story can be found both here and here.

An earlier post on this topic can be read here.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

From the Fathers

"Time passes without stopping, and my body, even during my lifetime, constantly changes and passes on, and the whole world as is seen in its motion, also passes on, as though it were hurrying to its appointed end, like a machine set in motion. Where, then, is constancy?

Constancy is that which moves and directs all this to its purpose. The first Cause of all that is complex and created is constant, being Itself not complex, and therefore not passing, but eternal. The souls of angels and men, created after the image of the first Cause, are also constant. Everything else is like a soap bubble.

I do not lower creation by these words, but only thus speak of it in comparison with the Creator and beatified souls."

St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ, Part 1; Holy Trinity Monastery pg. 16)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Another Vioxx Editorial from The New England Journal of Medicine

The New England Journal of Medicine has published a second editorial regarding the VIGOR study.

The Journal claims that Merck withheld information that could have changed the results of the study.

Here is some supplementary information referenced in the second editorial.

Here is some related correspondence to the original NEJM editorial.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Congoleum Blues (Reprise)

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge has ordered that a Washington D.C. area law firm must forfeit $13 million in legal fees for work it performed involving Congoleum Corp.

The Judge found that the law firm had a conflict of interest due to also representing asbestos claimants who were suing the company.

Here is an article from Law.com on this decision.

Here is an earlier post on this case.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Asbestos Bill Vote Count

The Vote was 58 to 41 to reject the Asbestos Bill in the Senate.

Here is the breakdown of how the Senators voted.


For those keeping score...Merck wins the retrial in New Orleans of the first Federal Vioxx trial.

You can read about the verdict here.

The case ended with a mistrial in the first go around held in Houston due to the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The next Vioxx case to be decided is an ongoing trial in a Texas State Court. You can read more about that trial here.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I probably won't be blogging...

for the next few days since I will be helping out at the Icon Exhibit hosted by Saint Jonah's. If you live in the Houston area come on down and see the Exhibit this weekend!

Down at the Duck

Great show down at the Duck last night.

Brennen Leigh opened for the Sidehill Gougers.

I have to admit up front that I came down just to hear Brennen Leigh and had not heard of the Sidehill Gougers before. Lucky for me that I caught their show because now they are one of my favorite bands.

I caught Brennen Leigh's last show at the Duck a few months ago. They were just as good this time around though the normally reliable sound system at the Duck had a few issues during their set. They played some of the songs from their first two cds including: "The Legend of Benny Ambrose", "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome" (an old Bill Monroe song), "Shine like silver", "Single Girl", "Let Him Go On Mama", "Jeremiah Johnson" and "Angel's Ferry".

Their set was great as always. I know there were a number of people there that night who had never heard of her before and were very impressed by their set. I picked up their second cd "Too Thin to Plow" which you can buy here. Don't just take my word for it. You can check out what others in town have said here. Brennen said that they have a new cd which should be released in the next month or two. So check back at www.brennenleigh.com for updates.

The Sidehill Gougers were a great discovery. They opened up their first set by playing Townes Van Zandt's "White Freightliner Blues". That is the song that turned me on to Towne's music and has always been one of my favorites. So they got off to a great start in my book. They opened their second set with Jamie Wilson singing a solo version of "Red Dirt Girl" by Emmylou Harris. That is also one of my favorite songs.

Their set was made up of a good mix of original songs and covers of some great country tunes. Two of the highlights were "Love Hurts" by Gram Parsons, and "Oh, Atlanta" a song made famous by Allison Krauss. The impressive duo of Jamie Wilson (think Natalie Merchant-like voice fronting a country band) and Shane Walker led the rest of the band in a fun-filled and very entertaining show.

It was refreshing to see a group that clearly just loves the music. Their style is a very down-home, back porch, music-making among friends approach. Someone wrote about them that: "It is truly the best band you have never heard of ". I don't think they will have that problem much longer. Check them out yourself you can buy their cd here.

Both Brennen Leigh and the Sidehill Gougers included some southern gospel influenced songs in their sets.

One pleasant surprise was the amount of younger people at the concert. Both bands are made up mostly of twenty-somethings. The audience seemed to have a number of other twenty-somethings who knew some of the older songs pretty well. I had not realized that the younger crowd had much interest in the old country styles.

There is hope for us all yet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Asbestos Bill Falls One Vote Short

This just in...

The Senate Asbestos Bill failed by one vote to pass a procedural challenge today.

Read all about it here.

Was this the final nail in the coffin for the current bill?

Stay tuned...

Valentine's Day

On a humorous note...

Happy Valentine's Day to all the Valentine's Day haters out there!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

That Pesky Metadata

Here is a good article from ABC News on metadata.

As the article reveals it was through metadata that the New England Journal of Medicine learned that Merck had deleted data about the number of heart attacks suffered by subjects taking Vioxx in a safety study of the drug.

I am at least somewhat familiar with metadata and its implications since I work at a law firm that actually has a policy regarding metadata and how we produce our documents.

You can even read this report by the National Security Agency on the proper method of stripping metadata when converting from Word to PDF.

Republican Discord over Senate Asbestos Bill

Here is a good article from Bloomberg on the difficulties that the Senate asbestos bill faces from some Republican Senators.

Russian Bear

Last night I paid a visit to the Russian Bear Restaurant for the first time.

I had heard a lot about this place but had never had a chance to check it out before. It has gotten some write ups in the local press before including this piece.

Well it certainly lived up to all the hype.

The restaurant is located in a fairly non-descript strip-shopping center on Houston's far west side. Once you walk in the door, however, you definitely don't feel like you are in Houston anymore. Actually that feeling started even before I got to the front door as I passed by several people in the parking lot who were all speaking (arguing?) excitedly in Russian.

Once inside I was immediately assaulted by the loud music and flashing lights from the dance floor which is almost immediately adjacent to the front door. The dance floor was packed. I arrived late, about 10:30pm, when the weekend night switch from Russian restaurant to international nightclub has formally been made.

When I came in the nightclub scene was in full effect. There were two young Russian women who were belting out some Russian dance tunes on the karaoke machine. It seemed at least half the clientele was out on the dance floor and the bar was rapidly filling up.

The whole place was pretty packed and it was controlled chaos just trying to maneuver through the room to our table.

Unfortunately I had missed out on the dinner side of the nightclub/restaurant set up so I can't comment on the food. I've heard it is very good if a bit on the overpriced side.

I finally made my way to the bar and suddenly began to wonder if: (a) this place had any Russian beer, and (b) would the bartender speak any English?

Fortunately for me they came through on both counts.

Somewhere recently I had read about the attributes of a Russian beer called Baltika. I have seen this beer carried at a few places in town and had been meaning to check it out.

Once I had been assured that they had Russian beer. I asked what kind they had? Evidently they only carry Baltika because the bartender immediately said "We have #'s 1, 3 and 9!"

"I'll take a #9." I said, hoping that meant the strongest not the weakest flavor.

No problems there. They brought me a nice pint sized bottle of #9 which has about an 8% ABV. I can definitely recommend this as a good beer. Now I'll just have to work my way down through the rest of the Baltika series.

For the rest of the night I just sat back with my #9 and watched the scene unfold. This definitely seems to be the night spot for Russians in Houston. The place was full of Russians of all ages.
There were also plenty of non-Russians on hand as the place seems to have a reputation for a great party club.

The music also reflected this with a mix of Russian dance tunes, Latino music and even some Patsy Cline being played! Some folks at my table who had been there before said the music was usually a lot more eclectic and they were playing a lot more English selections that night than they usually did.

Unfortunately we also arrived too late (or maybe it was too early) for the folk and belly dancing.
At some point I will have to go back just to check out those shows.

To sum it up, the "Bear" was a fun place to visit and offered some good Russian beer. This would be a great place to visit with a Russian acquaintance. I will definitely have to make some return visits.

Friday, February 10, 2006

From the Fathers

"Be ashamed when you sin, don't be ashamed when you repent. There are two things: sin and repentance. Sin is the wound, repentance is the medicine. Sin is followed by shame; repentance is followed by boldness. Satan has overturned this order and given boldness to sin and shame to repentance."

St. John Chrysostom, +407

Fen-Phen Fraud Investigation Widens

Here is an article from the Clarion-Ledger that details an ongoing investigation into the filing of fraudulent claims involving Fen-phen litigation.

Here is an earlier post on the same subject.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Photo from www.npr.org/

Last night I was able to hear Mary Gauthier (pronounced go-shay) in concert at the Mucky Duck.

All I can really say is wow.

I had never heard of Mary Gauthier before but happened to hear a bit of her interview and on-air performance on KUHF's Front Row program yesterday afternoon. You can listen to this interview and performance here.

After hearing that amazing broadcast I immediately changed my plans for the evening and headed over to the Duck straight after work.

I'm glad I got there early because it was standing room only by the time I arrived. I was lucky enough to get one of the last seats at the bar. There were plenty of people standing throughout the first show.

What a great show Mary and Tom Utz, who accompanied her on guitar, put on! The audience was hooked from the opening song. She even shared one of her newest songs "Can't Find the Way" about the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. This was a great great song. So were her renditions of "Mercy Now" and "I drink". Actually every song in the set was great. I have seldom seen such a spontaneous and heartfelt audience reaction as was on display during her performance of "Mercy Now". Even the waitstaff and barbacks were offering their "Amens" at the end.

Mary Gauthier writes some of the most direct, unflinching and poetic lyrics that I have ever heard from a songwriter. You can check out some of her song lyrics here. Really you should check these out.

You can sample and purchase her recordings here.

Her newest cd Mercy Now is a must buy! Go ahead and buy a copy now and you can think me later. : )

Ok, seriously, if you don't believe me then listen to all of these people.

Thanks to Mary and the Mucky Duck for putting on one of the best shows there I have ever seen.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

In the Sun

Michael Stipe, lead singer of REM, has launched the "In the Sun Foundation" to help benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Through the foundation he has released a 6-track EP featuring covers of the Joseph Arthur song "In the Sun". All proceeds from the sale of the EP will go to the charity organization Mercy Corps which is involved in recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast.

Back in January Michael Stipe performed this song on an Austin City Limits broadcast with Chris Martin and Coldplay.

iTunes also has a page dedicated to this project.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Asbestos Bill Clears First Hurdle

This was certainly surprising! Sen. Reid has dropped his objections to opening debate on the bill. Read more about it here.

Enron Trial - The Big Picture

You can go here for an interesting post on the ongoing Enron trial. This is from the perspective of a former federal prosecutor who worked in the Enron Task Force within the Justice Department.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Technical Difficulties

I've been having some technical difficulties with Blogger of late.

For some unknown reason the last words or sentence of every post is being deleted when I try to publish to the blog. I now have to spend an inordinate amount of time for every post just to publish something that doesn't break off mid sentence.

I have not been able to figure out what is going on or correct the problem.

If anyone else out there in the blogosphere has had this problem I would like to hear your suggestions on how to fix it.



Asbestos Bill Fireworks

The proposed Asbestos Bill in the U.S. Senate has finally come up for consideration by the full Senate.

The opening remarks got rather feisty today. In the end the Senators decided to hold a vote tomorrow on whether to proceed with a debate on the bill.


The retrial of the first Federal Vioxx case got under way today in New Orleans.

The case was originally tried in Houston after Judge Fallon's Court, in the Eastern District of Louisiana, was temporarily relocated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The original trial ended with a hung jury.

An article on the retrial of this case from the Houston Chronicle can be found here.

More information on the Vioxx MDL, to which this case belongs, can be found here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

In my cd player...

I've increased my trips down to Cactus after learning that they will be closing next month. : (

Some recent purchases from Cactus that I have been enjoying are:

Neko Case: The Tigers Have Spoken
Clandestine: The Haunting and To Anybody at All
Townes Van Zandt: Be Here to Love Me

Friday, February 03, 2006

End of an Era

I just read that Cactus Music and Video will be closing at the end of next month.

What sad news for Houston.

Cactus is a great music store where one can easily spend a few hours just browsing through all the different kinds of cool (and often hard to find) music and videos that they regularly stock.

The store has also been a mainstay for local music fans in Houston for decades. It has also been something of a physical landmark for Houstonians with its famous "cactus" sign near the intersection of Shepherd and West Alabama.

In-store performances from both local and nationally known artists have been a regular feature of the store. They always have a sizeable selection of recordings available from local Houston artists and bands. No matter what your musical tastes are you can probably find something that will interest you at Cactus.

For many Houstonians Cactus is not just a store but an experience. It is located right next to a Bookstop that was once the Alabama Theater. When I was in High School I would go down every weekend to Shepherd to hit the trifecta of Bookstop, Cactus and the now defunct Record Rack across the street. Cactus is still a place I enjoy visiting about once a week to just look for some cool and interesting music.

I've usually found the staff to be very knowledgeable and courteous. They seem to have a lot of fun as well which I can relate to being a former record store clerk myself.

Cactus will indeed be missed...it is the certainly the end of an era.

You can read more about the impending closing here. Some commentary from a local music blog can be found here.

An earlier post on Cactus from this blog can be found here.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

From the Fathers

"The mind is the rudder of the whole of a man's being. It counsels, it urges and it guides. The soul and the body are directed by the mind. If the mind is right before God, the whole man is right. If the mind is not, then neither is the whole man. If a man only thinks: `There is no God,' this is immediately apparent in his actions. Evil thoughts spring up first, and are quickly followed by evil deeds. Do you see how the inspired knew human nature? He first isolates the cause and then states that which follows. Evil deeds follow inevitably on evil thoughts. Therefore, my brethren, do not believe those who say: `I do not believe in God but I do good works.,' for he who does not believe in God does not know what is good, nor can he distinguish good from evil."

Saint Nikolai Velimirovich

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Vioxx article roundup

Merck has been in the news again of late with some updates on the Vioxx litigation.

One article can be found here. The most interesting part of this article is the following paragraph:

"Merck also announced its received a subpoena from Attorneys General of 31 states and the District of Columbia who are investigating whether the company violated state consumer protection laws when marketing Vioxx."

Another interesting article can be found here. This article discusses how former Merck CEO Raymond Gilmartin will testify at the next Vioxx trial held in New Jersey. Houston attorney Mark Lanier will also be involved in this case for the plaintiffs.

Hear for Yourself

Today I stumbled across a link to a webpage featuring some of the Enron tapes.

These tape recorded calls deal with Enron's western electricity traders I believe.

The calls are available as both sound files and in transcript.

I haven't had a chance to listen or look at most of these calls so if anyone finds any that are particularly interesting please let me know.

Senate Asbestos Bill Fate Uncertain

Here are two articles regarding the Asbestos bill pending in the Senate. The bill is scheduled to come to the floor for debate starting on Feb. 6th.

Most commentators now believe that the bill has little chance of passing.

The first article can be found here and the second one can be found here.