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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).

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Upcoming Shows

7/1 James Hand @ the Mucky Duck
7/3 John Evans @ the Mucky Duck
7/5 Kelly Willis @ the Mucky Duck
7/6 Clay Farmer @ Blanco's
7/6 Sean Reefer & the Resin Valley Boys @ the Continental Club
7/6 John Evans Band with the dedringers @ Cosmos Cafe
7/7 Harry Fish String Band @ the Mucky Duck
7/10 Danny Everitt, Graham Weber & Gordy Quist @ the Mucky Duck
7/12 Paula Nelson (Willie's daughter) @ the Mucky Duck
7/13 Charlie Robison @ the Firehouse Saloon
7/13 Two Tons of Steel @ the Continental Club
7/14 ZZ Top with Hank III, David Allan Coe & The Old 97's @ Woodlands Pavillion
7/19 The Gougers @ the Mucky Duck
7/20 Ray Wylie Hubbard @ the Mucky Duck
7/22 Pete Mayes @ the Mucky Duck
7/24 Shake Russell, Jed & Kelly & Mary Cutrufello @ the Mucky Duck
7/27 South Austin Jug Band @ the Mucky Duck
7/29 Ronnie Renfrow Big Band @ Cosmos Cafe


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Update on Indictment of Houston Silicosis Attorney

The Law Blog of the Wall Street Journal has a report here which links to the indictment as well as the press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.


The Never-Ending Lawsuit

This is the lawsuit that never ends....

From the Southeast Texas Record:

Plaintiff in never-ending asbestos case goes to trial

Wednesday, June 27, 2007
By David Yates

Mention Case No. B150-374 to any Jefferson County District clerk and they're likely to cringe. Encumbered with thousands of plaintiffs, the asbestos lawsuit is so massive that it fills more than a hundred boxes and hogs about half of the courthouse's district record vault.

First filed in 1994, the suit's original petition has been amended 141 times, with the number of plaintiffs attached to the suit steadily growing every year. One of those plaintiffs, Shirley Melvin, has been severed from the lawsuit and given a trial date, July 7.

With Provost Umphrey attorney Brian Blevins leading the charge, Melvin, representing the estate of Joyce Myers, along with Herbert Myers, will battle the Mobil Oil Corp. and Mobil Oil Refining Corp. in Judge Gary Sanderson's 60th District Court.

The original 1994 lawsuit, Harold Daniels vs. Pittsburg Corning Corp. et al, has been severed roughly 220 times, with pieces of the suit being shipped to Harris County along the way.

The suit's 141st amended petition, filed in August 2006, accuses 68 corporations of mining, manufacturing and distributing asbestos products throughout Jefferson County, naming 31additional defendants than the first suit.

"All of the asbestos products placed in to the stream of commerce by defendants reached the end-product users without substantial change," the suit states. "All of these products were defective and unreasonably dangerous."

Some of the defendants named include Viacom, Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse Electric and General Electric.

"Defendants were all negligent in failing to adequately warn of the dangers of asbestos exposure," the suit said. "Their failure was a proximate cause of plaintiffs' injuries and damages. Defendants were also negligent in failing to adequately test their products to determine the hazards associated with their products."

The petition also faults Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Corp. (3M Corporation) and American Optical Corp. for producing defective masks that failed to "provide respiratory protection."

In the upcoming trial, the plaintiffs will ask jurors to award them a substantial amount of money for physical pain and suffering in the past and future, mental anguish in the past and future, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, disfigurement in the past and future, physical impairment in the past and future, and past and future medical expenses.

Since June 20, 2007, Blevins has filed 13 new severances and added two new plaintiffs to the suit.

The case number going to trial is B150-374-BE


Breaking News: Houston Silicosis Attorney Indicted

From the Houston Chronicle:

June 28, 2007, 12:24AM
Local lawyer indicted in alleged kickbacks plot
Two insurance company workers on silicosis cases also face charges

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

A Houston plaintiff attorney and two insurance company employees were indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday in connection with an alleged kickback scheme that involved millions of dollars in settlement proceeds from silicosis cases.

Warren Todd Hoeffner, 42, and two claims managers for The Hartford, a Connecticut insurance giant, were charged with 14 counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and money laundering. The U.S. Attorney's Office also is seeking forfeiture of more than $8 million in fees and bribes allegedly collected by the trio.

Texas lawyers involved with silicosis litigation say Hoeffner once had an inventory of cases approaching 1,000 several years ago and decided to settle them all in bulk. Among the insurance companies he asked to meet with him in New Hampshire in February 2002 was The Hartford, which represented eight defendants named in his lawsuits, according to the indictment.

Hartford claims managers Rachel Rossow, 41, and John Prestage, 36, ultimately agreed to pay Hoeffner more than $34 million to settle all his cases. As part of the deal, however, Rossow and Prestage received a total of more than $3 million and each a new BMW automobile, the indictment alleges. Hoeffner collected more than $5.3 million in legal fees.

"There is a presumption of regularity and legality in the business of insurance litigation, which, when corrupted, damages our confidence in the integrity of the system," said local U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle. "These allegations ... represent a serious affront to the lawfulness we expect during the settlement of insurance claims."

The condition, controversy

Silicosis is a serious and occasionally fatal occupational lung disease caused by exposure to tiny airborne particles of silica, usually from industrial sandblasting operations. Because of enhanced safety precautions, the disease has been on the decline in recent decades and no longer represents the risk it once did to miners, sandblasters and foundry workers.

Hoeffner's silicosis cases, mostly in Texas, predated the mass filing of silicosis lawsuits in 2002 and 2003 in Mississippi that led to the discrediting of the lawyers who brought them. A federal judge in Corpus Christi, reviewing the 10,000-plus cases that landed temporarily in her court, found the entire enterprise laced with fraud and deceit.

Her 2005 ruling helped stall the progress of what plaintiff lawyers had hoped would be the successor to asbestos litigation, which was beginning to play out. Because of the corruption she exposed, along with tort-reform measures enacted by Texas and other states, the plaintiffs' strategy of filing so many lawsuits that defendants had no option but to settle no longer proved viable.

Hoeffner's settlements, however, took place in Texas before silicosis became a dirty word.

"I had cases with Todd, and it was like having cases with any other plaintiff lawyer," said Dallas defense attorney Steven Russell, who has represented asbestos and silica defendants for years. "It was always on the up and up. There was nothing ever suggested, no wink-wink here or there. So yes, I am surprised. This is almost like a John Grisham novel.

"I have heard of a plaintiff lawyers talking directly with the insurance company," Russell said. "But I've never heard of anyone ever paying kickbacks."

The allegations

Wednesday's indictment outlines an alleged scheme in which Hoeffner wrote a series of checks totaling more than $2.6 million to Rossow and more than $750,000 to Prestage, who were handling the silicosis claims for the companies they insured, and also wired $97,000 to a BMW dealership for a pair of 530i sedans. Hoeffner also is said to have paid for plane tickets for the two to Florida and California.

Hoeffner did not return calls from the Houston Chronicle. A spokesman for The Hartford could not be reached.

The backstory

Before plaintiff lawyers began to view silica as the next asbestos, silicosis lawsuits were limited to no more than 100 per year in Texas. Then a few big verdicts arose from a notorious East Texas foundry, and the idea of a broader mass tort took hold.

"Everybody took notice," Russell said, "and from 2000 on we saw this very rapid escalation of cases being filed. The escalation was part of the plan on the plaintiff bar side to overwhelm the defendants. There was a time when we had multiple cases set for trial every Monday."

Though few defendants are settling silicosis cases these days, at the time it was not an unreasonable solution to dispose of them, Russell said. The Hartford's settlement with Hoeffner likely would have had to be approved higher up but, given the volume of cases and the number of defendants, it might not have seemed out of line, Russell said.

Hoeffner, an attorney for 17 years, was arrested at his home in Tanglewood on Wednesday morning and later released on $250,000 bail. Rossow and Prestage appeared in federal court in Connecticut and were released on bail. The two are to travel here for arraignment.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Elder Cleopa - On Prayer

Here is a video of the late Elder Cleopa of Romania on the different stages of prayer as well as footage from his funeral.

Many Thanks to the person who is posting these videos of Elder Cleopa on YouTube.

This is a treasure!


Pants Suit

Does it really take 23 pages to reach the right decision in this case?

Donate to the Chung's Legal Defense Fund.

Impeach Judge Pearson.


Gaza Christians Fear Persecution


Gaza Christians fear persecution after convent damaged, vow to migrate if harmed

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Broken crucifixes and shards from a Jesus statue have been swept up, but Gaza's tiny Christian community says the violent warning sent by Islamic militants cannot be erased.

The ransacking of Gaza's Catholic convent and an adjacent Rosary Sisters school during Hamas' sweep to power this month broke more than wood and plaster: it signaled the end of a relatively peaceful, even if sometimes uneasy relationship between Gaza's 1.4 million Muslims and 3,000 Christians.

Despite Hamas promises of protection, Christians fear more attacks, and some say they want to leave. Gaza's flock has already been hit hard by emigration in recent years, and a new exodus could effectively wipe out one of the Arab world's tiniest and oldest Christian communities.

"We don't trust them (Hamas). Our time is coming," said a Greek Orthodox Christian who in the current climate of fear asked not to be identified.

No one has claimed responsibility for the damage, and Hamas vehemently denied involvement.

However, signs point to Muslim extremists rather than ordinary vandals. A statue and picture of the Virgin Mary — who is held in high esteem by Muslims — were left untouched.

In a Tuesday meeting with Catholic priest Manuel Musalam, deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas promised to find the perpetrators. However, he played down the attack, referring only to damage to the school, not the convent.

Assailants struck toward the end of Hamas' 5-day battle against rival Fatah forces for control of Gaza. The school and convent are close to a pro-Fatah security compound besieged by Hamas fighters, who pounded it with rockets and mortars. The compound was overrun on the last day of fighting, June 14.

The destruction was discovered a day later.

In the convent's chapel, two wooden crosses were found broken, another golden cross twisted out of place. The face of a ceramic statue of Jesus was smashed and prayer books littered the floor.

Three nuns living in the convent were on vacation, said deputy school principal Hanadi Missak. A rocket slammed into a bedroom, scorching walls. However, other areas appeared deliberately burned by setting fire to curtains.

The school's administrative computers and laptops were stolen. Missak said Hamas officials have returned the stolen computers, but didn't explain where they found them.

Missak suggested the vandals were acting on their own. "They were ignorant people. They don't represent all Muslims," Missak said.

Other Christians blamed Hamas for the destruction — at the least for not preventing it after taking over the security stronghold. One woman said only Hamas militants could enter the convent during the fighting, when Gaza's civilians were pinned down in their homes.

The attack marked a watershed for Gaza's Christians, crushing the belief that a shared Palestinian identity would always override Muslim-Christian differences.

Bernard Sabella, a researcher who has conducted surveys among Palestinian Christians, said the problem needs to be dealt with urgently because it tears at the fabric of Palestinian society. "People think seriously about migrating after such sectarian acts," he said.

Christians have held a unique place in Gaza's society as respected members of the territory's small elite, running schools, hospitals and businesses. Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, courted Christians, assigning them top posts in government and his Fatah movement.

Hamas too, is mindful of Palestinian Christians. The deposed Hamas government included a Christian Cabinet minister, and a prominent Gaza Christian, Hussam al-Tawil, was elected to parliament on the Hamas slate.

In September, after extremists hurled several pipe bombs at the Greek Orthodox Church following an uproar over Pope Benedict XVI's comments about Islam, Hamas' militia protected the church.

Many were shaken at the time, but optimistic about relations with their Muslim neighbors.

But the tone has changed: eight Greek Orthodox congregants, meeting in a church rectory after Sunday services, agreed to discuss their concerns, but on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

"We don't know what's coming, and I don't trust them (Hamas)," said one woman. "So far they aren't doing anything to us. But I don't know how sincere their intentions are or how long this will last."

Another said she's been harassed for not wearing a headscarf.

There haven't been any attacks on Christians since the ransacking, but many said they feared it was simply a matter of time.

Ghada Tarazi, a benevolent society director, said she was optimistic — Hamas gunmen treated her politely when they came to her home recently, looking for looted items.

But others fear a way of life is ending.

"Many Christians) say the easiest thing is to migrate if they can't feel safe," Sabella said. "But if we all leave, what is left for the nation?"


Monday, June 25, 2007

Guy Clark at the Crighton Theatre

Photo Source

Last Saturday night I had the privilege of seeing Guy Clark in concert at the Crighton Theatre in Conroe with my friend Fernando. This Sounds of Texas concert also featured Slaid Cleaves as the opening act.

This was the first time I had seen Guy Clark perform as well as the first time I had been to a concert at the Crighton.

The Sounds of Texas concert series brought in some great artists this year and I look forward to seeing who they will bring in for next year's series. Having these concerts at the Crighton Theatre in downtown Conroe also works really well. I had not been to downtown Conroe in years and had forgotten how much I like the old courthouse square area. Fernando and I arrived early and had time for a nice bite to eat at the MoonStruck Cafe.

The concert itself began with Slaid Cleaves accompanied by Michael O'Connor. I've seen Slaid perform before a few times at the Mucky Duck. It was nice to hear him in a venue with such good acoustics. Slaid and Michael played a great set featuring some of Slaid's best songs including: "Horeshoe Lounge", "Horses and Divorces", "Wishbone", "Drinkin' Days", "Heart's Break", "Skunk Juice", "One Good Year" as well as his version of Karen Poston's "Flowered Dresses" (a truly great song). It was encouraging to see the audience really getting into Slaid's music. I noticed a long line of new fans waiting to buy his cds at intermission.

Next up was the man everyone had come to see...the legendary singer-songwriter Guy Clark. Guy was accompanied on guitar by the very talented Verlon Thompson who is also a songwriter in his own right. It was a real pleasure to finally hear Guy live in concert.

A few years ago Guy was diagnosed with lymphoma but has now resumed touring. Since this was the first time I had seen him perform I can not tell what effect his illness has had on his voice. He sounded pretty good to me, especially for someone who has undergone treatments for lymphoma.

Guy started his set by announcing that he and Verlon did not have any plan, or setlist, or "clue" as to what they were going to play but that they had "no fear". This prompted various members of the audience to yell out different songs they wanted to hear throughout the set. While understandable it bordered on being disrespectful at times in my opinion.

As best as I can recall Guy's set included the following songs: "Dublin Blues", "Boats to Build", "Let Him Roll", "Magdalene", "Tornado Time in Texas", "Out in the Parkin' Lot", "Stuff That Works", "The Cape", "L.A. Freeway", "Texas, 1947", "Like a Coat from the Cold", "Homegrown Tomatoes", "That Old Time Feeling" and "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train".

Guy took a short break at one point so that Verlon could perform a few of his own songs including "He Left the Road". Then Guy was back for a few more songs and an encore.

Overall I really enjoyed the concert though there were some problems with the sound levels. Guy also had some difficulty starting a few songs as well as trouble remembering some of the lyrics. Still, it was pleasure to see this legendary songwriter perform.

I hope he keeps coming back to play the Crighton.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Guy Clark

Photo Source

Songwriting legend Guy Clark performs Saturday night at the Crighton Theatre in Conroe

June 21, 2007, 3:45PM
Guy Clark writes songs the same way he builds guitars — with precision, attention to detail and lots of heart

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Guy Clark fills a doorway like John Wayne. Tall and big-shouldered, he leans against the jamb in the front of his room at the Hotel San José in Austin, seemingly running the door's length from his shock of gray-and-white hair to his well-worn boots.

He takes a drag on a hand-rolled cigarette and croakily whispers, "Come on in."

Inside there are an old Martin guitar and a small suitcase and not much else. Sitting at a simple table, Clark talks about making songs and guitars, his chief creative pursuits for the past 40 years. In between, he rolls more smokes with the kind of precision that he applies to those songs. His fingernails are milky white, from the quick to the tip, and his long fingers create clean rolls. He then snips the ends off, dusts away any fallout.

It's practiced and precise and full of attention to detail.

Clark's latest album is called Workbench Songs, which is a title that could easily have applied to any of his recordings. The term "craftsman" gets applied a lot, so much that it became the title of a compilation.

But Clark, 65, might have best summarized himself, inadvertently, with a phrase from his best-known song, Desperados Waiting on a Train. In the tale of friendship between a kid and an old wildcatter, Clark refers to the older character as "an old-school man of the world."

Born in Monahans, Clark lived some before the release of Old No. 1, his 1974 debut album and song-for-song one of the great recordings in popular music, never mind the country, folk, Texas music or other genres it gets lumped with.

He was 34 when it was released, a full decade after he'd been playing "to few people and very little money" in Houston clubs.

By that time, he'd left a job as art director at Channel 11 and moved to Los Angeles, only to get sick of that town (listen to his song L.A. Freeway) and settle in Nashville, Tenn., where he's been ever since. But he gets around, and his music reflects that. Just see the pained, globe-trotting Dublin Blues.

Songwriters clique
Clips from the documentary Heartworn Highways position Clark as something of a father figure on the Nashville scene. He had a wife and a home, which made him the grown-up in a clique that included Townes Van Zandt, his best friend and peer, along with up-and-comers like Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell.

He hasn't moved much since then. Every three to five years, he'll release a new set of 10 to 12 songs, then go on tour, which brings him to the Crighton Theater in Conroe for a sold-out show on Saturday. But Clark seems happier at home.

The title of Workbench Songs reflects that. He says the originals on the record were all written in the area of his home, where he builds Spanish-style guitars.

"It's kind of a dream come true to be able to have a room where you write songs and build guitars," Clark says. "If you get stuck writing songs, you just get up and work on a guitar. It's a right-brain/left-brain thing.

"Writing is so cerebral. But then four steps away you have this real hand/eye-type stuff. They sort of feed off of one another."

Clark downplays his process, despite its consistency.

"However long it takes is however long it takes," he says. "They're just songs. It's not brain surgery."

Many of his songs — Desperados and Texas 1947, for example — are based on vivid childhood memories.

"Most successful songs, they're all based on stuff I know about. They have to ring true."

Life and death
Clark will field any question about craft. He likes trying different things, which explains the mix of story songs (like Texas 1947), surreal songs (Picasso's Mandolin, Cold Dog Soup), contemplative songs (Randall Knife, The Dark), food songs (Homegrown Tomatoes) and love songs (Anyhow I Love You).

He's more guarded about his health. He was diagnosed with lymphoma more than a year ago.

Are you feeling better these days?


So the cancer is in remission?

"Mmm, I can't really imagine why people would be interested in that."

You don't think people are concerned about your health?

"Well," Clark says. He pauses to blow a cloud of cigarette smoke. "(Expletive) 'em. I ain't."

Clark can be funny when talking about death. He played at Van Zandt's funeral, quipping at the time that he'd booked that gig "30 years ago."

But in talking about his work, he shows a twinge of vulnerability. Just a twinge.

"It's a crapshoot every morning," he says. "Can I do this again?

"But it's good work. You can't beat it."


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hamas Threatens Christians in Gaza

Christians warned: Accept Islamic law'
New Hamas rule means real changes,' missionaries to be 'dealt with harshly'

Posted: June 19, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Aaron Klein
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

JERUSALEM – Christians can continue living safely in the Gaza Strip only if they accept Islamic law, including a ban on alcohol and on women roaming publicly without proper head coverings, an Islamist militant leader in Gaza told WND in an exclusive interview.

The militant leader said Christians in Gaza who engage in "missionary activity" will be "dealt with harshly."

The threats come two days after a church and Christian school in Gaza was attacked following the seizure of power in the territory by the Hamas terror group.

"I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza," said Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a "military wing" to enforce Muslim law in Gaza.

Jihadia Salafiya is suspected of attacking a United Nations school in Gaza last month, after the school allowed boys and girls to participate in the same sporting event. One person was killed in that attack.

"The situation has now changed 180 degrees in Gaza," said Abu Saqer, speaking from Gaza yesterday.

"Jihadia Salafiya and other Islamic movements will ensure Christian schools and institutions show publicly what they are teaching to be sure they are not carrying out missionary activity. No more alcohol on the streets. All women, including non-Muslims, need to understand they must be covered at all times while in public," Abu Asqer told WND.

"Also the activities of Internet cafes, pool halls and bars must be stopped," he said. "If it goes on, we'll attack these things very harshly."

Abu Saqer accused the leadership of the Gaza Christian community of "proselytizing and trying to convert Muslims with funding from American evangelicals."

"This missionary activity is endangering the entire Christian community in Gaza," he said.
Abu Saqer claimed there was "no need" for the thousands of Christians in Gaza to maintain a large number of institutions in the territory.

About 2,000 Christians live in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of over 1 million.
Abu Saqer said Hamas "must work to impose an Islamic rule or it will lose the authority it has and the will of the people."

His comments come after gunmen Sunday attacked Gaza's Latin Church and adjacent Rosary Sisters School, reportedly destroying crosses, bibles, pictures of Jesus and furniture and equipment. The attackers also stole a number of computers.

The attack was the first targeting of Christian institutions since Hamas last week staged a coup against the rival Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, seizing all Fatah positions and security compounds, essentially taking complete control of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas officials in Gaza claimed to WND Fatah was behind Sunday's church attack in an attempt to discredit Hamas to the international community.

Abu Saqer claimed he had "good information" the attack actually was a robbery aimed at the church's school computers, even though Bibles and Christian holy objects were destroyed.

Christians, secular institutions targeted

Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip in 2005. Since then, there have been a slew of attacks there against Christians and non-Muslims.

A month before the U.N. school was targeted, Palestinians bombed a Christian book store in Gaza reportedly funded by American Protestants that exclusively sold Christian books. Two nearby Internet cafes also were bombed.

At the time, Abu Saqer, who didn't take credit for the attack, told WND the Christian bookstore was "proselytizing and attempting to convert our people."

"As a principle, we believe that Jews and Christians will always do everything in order to keep Muslims far from their religion," Abu Saqer said.

Even before Hamas took over Gaza last week, some analysts here called the recent bombings of secular and Christian institutions in the territory indications Hamas may be seeking to impose Islamic rule on the Palestinian population.

Israeli officials said Hamas in 2005 established hard-line Islamic courts and created the Hamas Anti-Corruption Group, described as a kind of "morality police" operating within Hamas' organization. Hamas has denied the existence of the group, but it recently carried out a high-profile "honor killing" widely covered by the Palestinian media.

A Hamas-run council in the West Bank came under international criticism last year when it barred an open-air music and dance festival, declaring it was against Islam.

'West can learn from Islamic values'

In response to the uproar, Hamas chief in Gaza and former foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar told WND in a recent interview: "I hardly understand the point of view of the West concerning these issues. The West brought all this freedom to its people but it is that freedom that has brought about the death of morality in the West. It's what led to phenomena like homosexuality, homelessness and AIDS."

Asked if Hamas is seeking to impose hard-line Islamic law on the Palestinians, al-Zahar responded, "The Palestinian people are Muslim people, and we do not need to impose anything on our people because they are already committed to their faith and religion. People are free to choose their way of life, their way of dress and behavior."

Al-Zahar said his terror group, which demands strict dress codes for females, respects women's rights.

"It is wrong to think that in our Islamic society there is a lack of rights for women. Women enjoy their rights. What we have, unlike the West, is that young women cannot be with men and have relations outside marriage. Sometimes with tens of men. This causes the destruction of the family institution and the fact that many kids come to the world without knowing who are their fathers or who are their mothers. This is not a modern and progressed society," al-Zahar explained.

The terror chieftain told WND the West can learn from his group's Islamic values.

"Here I refer to what was said in the early '90s by Britain's Prince Charles at Oxford University. He spoke about Islam and its important role in morality and culture. He said the West must learn from Islam how to bring up children properly and to teach them the right values."


Monday, June 18, 2007

Merck Ordered to Pay Legal Fees

A New Jersey State Court Judge has ordered Merck to pay $4 million in legal fees relating to a Vioxx case.

This article from the Associated Press has the details.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Bluegrass Solution at Anderson Fair

Saturday night I ventured over to Anderson Fair to hear some Bluegrass music courtesy of The Bluegrass Solution.

I had never heard of this group before and was not quite sure what to expect. Fortunately I was not disappointed.

The Bluegrass Solution is a great ensemble with decades of performing experience between its members. They played two very generous sets and kept on pickin' even after midnight! They also played some fine old Gospel songs for which they respectfully removed their hats.

I was glad to learn that they are a local-area band. I notice on their Schedule that they occasionally play over at Hickory Hollow...one of my favorite restaurants and one of Houston's better kept secrets.

You can sample some the the music from The Bluegrass Solution here and here.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Funeral Service for Fr. Elias Wen

Photo Source

Funeral services were held recently for Fr. Elias Wen (1896-2007) at the "Joy of All Who Sorrow" Cathedral of the Theotokos in San Francisco.

Fr. Elias reposed at the age of 110 and was probably the oldest living Orthodox Priest in the world.

Fr. Elias led a remarkable life and at one time served under St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco.

Reports on the Funeral services can be found here and here.

May His Memory Be Eternal!


More on Elder Cleopa

Photo from OrthodoxPhotos.com

More information on the life of Elder Cleopa of Romania can be found here.

I highly recommend the first volume of his work The Truth of Our Faith...though unfortunately it is now apparently out of print.

The second volume of this work is, however, still available.

Other books about Elder Cleopa can be found here.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Elder Cleopa on the Fear of God

Here is a video of some powerful words on this subject from Elder Cleopa of Romania (1912-1998).

This is an area of my life that I have been struggling with of late and I find these words from the Elder to be very edifying.

I believe that Elder Cleopa was a very Holy man and will one day be glorified as a Saint.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rostropovich Remembered

Photo Source

From the ROCOR Website:

MOSCOW: June 13, 2007

The 40th Day of the Repose of Mstislav Rostropovich is Marked in the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Krylatsk

On June 5, 2007, prayers were made for the restful repose of servant of God Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich during Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Krylatsk. This was the 40 th day after the death of the great Russian musician. His daughters, relatives and friends were in attendance. Mayor Yuri Luzhkov of Moscow, Minister of Culture Alexander Sokolov, Chief Physician Gennady Onischenko and other political and cultural figures also came to honor Rostropovich.

It is noteworthy that it was the fortieth day after his death that the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in this new church, performed by priests of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia—Protopriest Victor Potapov of Washington, DC, and Priest Viktor Zozulej (Frankfurt, Germany). Forced to flee his homeland during the communist era, Mstislav Leopoldovich keenly suffered the division between the two parts of the Russian Church.

At the conclusion of Liturgy, a moleben was performed, and an icon of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco containing a portion of his relics was blessed. The icon was a gift from Fr Victor, Rector of St John the Baptist Cathedral in the US capital, which was established by St John himself.

After the moleben, the clergymen, relatives and guests went to Novodevichy Cemetery, where the musician was buried. A pannikhida was then served over his grave.


Avandia Litigation Begins

Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal on a shareholder lawsuit over GlaxoSmithKline's diabetes drug Avandia.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

St. Luke's relic visits Russia

Photos from: patriarchia.ru

From Interfax:

09 June 2007, 11:38
St. Luke's relic visits Russia

Karea (Greece), June 9, Interfax - St. Luke the Apostle's relic has been given to the Moscow Patriarchate so that the Orthodox believers of Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia could venerate the shrine.

The ceremony of giving of the shrine took place on Saturday morning at the Russian St. Panteleimon's monastery on Mount Athos, an Interfax correspondent gives a running report.

The relic was carried in a procession from the church to the boat. The boat will bring the Russian delegation to Ouranopolis and further on to Moscow.

The shrine will arrive in Moscow near 4 p.m. local time and will be placed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, where Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and thousands of believers are expected to solemnly meet it.

The shrine will stay at the Church of Christ the Savior till June 17. Then it will be taken to St. Petersburg, Kiev, Zaporozhye, Krasnoyarsk, Kemerovo, Barnaul, Volgograd, Elista and finally to Minsk.

The event has been organized by St. Andrew the-First-Called Foundation with a blessing from Alexy II.

The delegation includes Council of Federation vice-speaker Alexander Torshin, St. Andrew Foundation president and senator Sergey Scheblygin, and Archpriest Nikolay Sokolov, rector of St. Nicholas's-at-Tolmachi.

St. Luke the Apostle and Evangelist was born in the Syrian Antioch. According to tradition, the Lord sent him out as one of his closest disciple to preach the heavenly kingdom as early as during His life on earth. He was a doctor from an enlightened Greek milieu. He is also the author of one of the four Gospels and the Book of Acts.

According to tradition, St. Luke painted the Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, which is believed to have saved Russia on several occasions. At present this icon is found at St. Nicholas's-at-Tolmachi in Moscow, the church of the State Tretyakov Gallery.

In 84 A.D., the apostle suffered martyrdom. In the absence of a cross he was hanged on an olive tree. He was buried in Theba, where his remains stayed till the second half of the 4th century. Later his relics were transferred to Constantinople. At present the shrine is kept in one of the monasteries on Holy Mount Athos.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Friday Night at the Continental

Photo from the Continental Club

Last Friday night I met some friends of mine over at the Continental Club to hear Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys.

First though we all walked down to Sig's Lagoon. In my opinion Sig's is the best music store in town and a worthy successor to the now closed Cactus Records store.

Then it was back over to the Continental where Molly and the Ringwalds were just finishing up their happy hour set. The Ringwalds are an 80's cover band that always brings in a big crowd.

Next Sean and the boys took the stage. This night they were the opening act for The Flamin' Hellcats. This was the first time I had seen Sean and the Boys perform. Sean has a great Hank Williams-esque voice and style of music. The band played an entertaining and generous set featuring a number of songs from their recordings. They also offered some cover versions of some of the old standards as well as a few of Hank III's songs.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Texas Supreme Court Rules on Asbestos Exposure

The Supreme Court of Texas has issued an important Opinion regarding asbestos exposure.

The Court found that plaintiffs must demonstrate that their exposure to asbestos-containing products was a substantial factor in their developing asbestosis

This article offers more details.

The Court's complete Opinion can be found here.

An audio file of the Oral Argument regarding this case can be heard here.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Verdict in Accutane Trial

A New Jersey jury recently found Hoffman-LaRoche Inc. liable in a trial involving the acne-fighting drug Accutane.

The jury awarded $2.62 in damages to the plaintiff who alleged that he developed inflammatory bowel disease through taking the drug.

This article from law.com has the details.


An Orthodox shrine rises on a Russian killing field

"This place is our Russian Golgotha...There is Golgotha in the Holy Land, where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins. All of Russia was Golgotha in the 20th century." - Andrei Kuznetsov

An Orthodox shrine rises on a Russian killing field

By Sophia Kishkovsky
Thursday, June 7, 2007

BUTOVO, Russia: Barbed wire still lines the perimeter of the secret police compound here on the southern edge of Moscow, where more - perhaps far more - than 20,000 people were shot and buried from August 1937 through October 1938, during the height of Stalin's purges. The killing field was run by the NKVD, a forerunner of the KGB, which controlled it into the 1990s.

Now, gradually, Butovsky Poligon - literally, the Butovo Shooting Range - is becoming a shrine to all the victims of Stalin's murderous campaigns. Grass-covered mounds holding the victims' bones crisscross the pastoral field, which is now dotted with flowers and birch trees. Searing portraits from victims' case files, found in the archives of the secret police, and a grim month-by-month chart of executions, are displayed in front of a small wooden church in the field.

"This place is our Russian Golgotha," the hill where Jesus was crucified, said Andrei Kuznetsov, 34, a social worker, making the sign of the cross recently in front of a newly built white stone church, the Church of the Resurrection and the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, near the site. "There is Golgotha in the Holy Land, where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins. All of Russia was Golgotha in the 20th century."

Butovo, now a hotbed of real estate development, has been in the news repeatedly over the past year because of a standoff between city officials and residents of a village who are resisting plans to raze their homes for high-rises.

But Butovsky Poligon is a symbol of a much larger, bloodier conflict in Russian society, that between the Bolsheviks and the Russian Orthodox Church. One thousand of those killed here are known to have died for their Orthodox faith. Over 320 have been canonized as "new martyrs" of the church - bishops, monks, nuns and lay people who were victims of the Soviet regime.

The new church was consecrated on May 19, as part of the celebration of the reunion of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Church Abroad, an émigré group that broke away in the 1920s. The walls of the church are filled with icons of the new martyrs - including one depicting the NKVD executioners shooting them - and hymns to them are sung at services. Glass cases in the lower church are filled with their personal items, such as an executed priest's prayer book, and his violin.

The names of the victims are engraved on plaques lining one of the fences around the field. The fence overlooks dachas that were built for KGB officials who enjoyed the park-like setting, the grounds of a prerevolutionary country estate.

"They say the strawberries grew especially large at these dachas," said Galina Pryakina, 70, nodding at the mounds of bones as she traced her finger across the plaques and found the name of a monk, now a saint, killed on the same day as her father, June 4, 1938.

She visited the site earlier this month, on the fourth Saturday after Easter, a day that Patriarch Aleksy II of the Russian Orthodox Church has chosen in recent years to commemorate Butovo's martyrs "I spent 66 years looking for him," Pryakina said of her father. Pryakina was an infant when he was arrested as an alleged Romanian spy; she and her mother were sent into exile.

Three years ago, she journeyed to Moscow from her home in southern Kazakhstan, near the Chinese border, determined to find her father's burial place. She headed for a cemetery in northern Moscow, but a woman at a bus stop (she is convinced it was a vision of the Virgin Mary) directed her to Butovsky Poligon. There, within minutes, her father's name was tracked in a database.

The Reverend Kirill Kaleda, rector of the Church of the Resurrection of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, has a tragically intimate connection to the parish he serves. His grandfather, Vladimir Ambartsumov, who was a priest, is one of the new martyrs. He was arrested in 1937 and sentenced to "10 years without the right of correspondence," which was frequently a euphemism for a death sentence. The Kaleda family spent decades searching for him.

"I remember very well how when we were little, after our morning and evening prayers, we would add a prayer asking to find how our Grandpa Volodya died," said Kaleda. "It seemed that hope of learning the circumstances of grandfather's death had almost vanished. We had thought he died somewhere in the camps."

Mikhail Mindlin, a concentration camp survivor who devoted his retirement in the 1980s and 1990s to systematically studying Soviet repression, fought to have the existence of Butovo Poligon recognized by the state. Eventually, thanks to sympathetic KGB officials, files with the names of those executed on the orders of Stalin's henchman, Nikolai Yezhov, were found in secret police files.

The scope of the killings staggers, not only in numbers, but also in the swathe it cut across society. Butovo's victims ranged from peasants and factory workers to Czarist generals, Russian Orthodox hierarchs, German Communists, Latvian writers, invalids, even Moscow's Chinese launderers (dozens of whom were executed as enemies of the people). Ultimately, many Soviet officials, including Yezhov and other NKVD officials who carried out the purges, were gunned down at Butovo and elsewhere as the revolution consumed its creators.

Some objections have been raised to the Russian Orthodox focus of Butovsky Poligon today, given the wide variety of victims buried there.

But Arseny Roginsky, the chairman of Memorial, an organization that works to catalogue Soviet crimes and help victims of repression, said that the church had stepped in to a void left by the state.

"It's a bit strange that this is a purely Orthodox place, but nothing tragic," he said. "I don't really like this. I think this should be multicultural place.

"But it's better that there be something than nothing. If the state is not ready to help understand the meaning of terror in its history, the role of terror in its history, it's not so bad that the Orthodox Church took it upon itself."


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Congressional Hearing on Avandia

A Congressional Hearing was held today on the FDA's evaluation of the diabetes drug Avandia.

This article from the Associated Press has more details.

A video of today's Hearing can be seen here.


Judge Rules Vioxx Plaintiff Can Choose Between Damages or Retrial

A Federal Judge has ruled that a Vioxx Plaintiff can either accept a $1.6 million damages award or have his case retried.

This article from the Associated Press has the details.

The Judge's Order can be read here.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Federal Prosecutors Appeal Decisions in W.R. Grace Asbestos Case

Federal prosecutors have taken their criminal asbestos-exposure case against W.R. Grace to the Court of Appeals.

The government is appealing several decisions by the Montana State Judge who is hearing the case.

This article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has the details.

An audio file of the hearing can be heard here.

More information on this case can be found here.


Monday, June 04, 2007

$5.2 Million Verdict in California Asbestos Case

A Jury returns a verdict against Foster Wheeler Corp. in an asbestos case in California.

The Jury found that Foster Wheeler acted with malice and awarded $5.2 million in damages of which $2 million were awarded for punitive damages.

This article from the Associated Press has more details.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Russian Orthodox Church Marks International Children's Day with Protest against Abortion

Photo Source

A Russian Orthodox Church in Vladivostok held a special observance in protest of abortion.

Details here.

The observance was held to mark International Children's Day in Russia.