Many happy Australians, whether locally indigenous or immigrants from far-off jungles like England, understand their land to be a true wilderness as well as a civilization. The size of their country is much larger than even California, but their population is but 20 million or so to 34 million in this state. This leaves a lot of room in Irwin country for what we often call nature, and perhaps the key point about nature is that in the state of nature, man is not in control. That lack of control propels men to try to tame nature with highways, condo developments and so on. The great Irish playwright and acidic wit Oscar Wilde once scoffed at the idea that nature was “perfect” by arguing, disingenuously, that if nature were so perfect, why did we spend so much time trying to improve it? But nature has an answer to everything, even to the greatest Oscar of all. Whether it’s waking up in Florida to find an alligator doing strokes in the backyard pool, or living in Southern California and having your pet dog taken away by a coyote or a mountain lion, nature will surprise you from time to time and strike back. We should take all such incidents as serious and unmistakable warnings. Tom Plate is a full-time adjunct professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! I have long had a special awe for the late Steve Irwin, perhaps in part because I never personally met him. Many of my Australian friends actually didn’t like him much, thought him a national embarrassment, and wished he’d go away before all Americans believed that Aussie dress consisted solely of khakis, their Saturday-night social life devoted to crocodile-wrestling, and the national vocabulary dominated by quaint exclamations like “barbie” and “crikey!” But a more generous view of this international media celebrity from Australia’s outback who became widely know as “The Crocodile Hunter” was there for the taking. Indeed, for many Americans, he seemed a delightfully un-self-reflective human bridge to that part of our souls that gets steam-cleaned out of our lives by the daily press of urbanization. Prime Minister John Howard, with his ear always close to the ground of nonelitist Aussie public opinion, was quick to eulogize the croc hunter as a “passionate environmentalist who cared passionately about Australia.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhy these photogenic dumplings are popping up in Los AngelesThat was the image we in the U.S. had of the man as well, through the medium of his regular shows on “Animal Planet,” full-length films and various public appearances. Irwin’s khaki image may have been carefully controlled, but his actuality seemed wonderfully unpolished and slightly vulgar, in the sense of being honest and true-to-self. It was his lack of willingness to submit to the uniformly oppressive jacket-and-tie world that may have most upset my polished Australian mates, who work the waxed corridors of power in diplomacy, industry, academia and the media. Visit Sydney or Melbourne and you feel very much at home. But splash around with the rays or crocs in the real countryside and you are pretty much out of your element _ unless you’re a Steve Irwin. Another aspect of Irwin’s public persona, it seemed, was that he seemed perhaps deliberately immature. Taking the plunge seemed at least as important to him as assessing risk and holding back. Many of us, especially urban dwellers, spend lives of quiet desperation, mindlessly stroking our cats that sleep 18 hours a day and offer little in the way of menace, save for the scary moment when the cupboard is bare of canned cat food and the nearest market is boarded up for the night. For Irwin, who died earlier this week, life was not remotely like this at all: It was a carnival of animals – the more the merrier, the more dangerous the better. And it seemed as if nature offered him no dangerous animal to which he did not want to get close; in contrast to the rest of us, where such relationships are delimited by cages, nets, aquarium walls and admission tickets. It was thus fitting, in a ghoulish sort of way, perhaps, that his death was to come from the poisonous lash of a stingray lurking in waters off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
“Where we sit is, there is no question according to their own documents, that Vioxx causes heart attack and stroke,” Girardi told jurors. Girardi implored the jury to set an example for other drug companies by returning a verdict in favor of his client. “This case is far greater than Mr. Stewart Grossberg,” Girardi said. “What if one company out there based upon what you do says, `We’d like to think this through. We don’t want to hurt anyone?”‘ The drug maker faces more than 16,000 lawsuits involving Vioxx, which was pulled from the market in 2004 after a study found that it increased the risk of heart attacks. More than 2,000 Vioxx lawsuits filed in California have been consolidated in Los Angeles Superior Court by Judge Victoria G. Chaney. The outcome of the case is expected to serve as a guide for navigating through other California cases involving Vioxx. Grossberg took the stand briefly during the trial, which entered its fifth week Tuesday. “I used Vioxx for a number of years,” Grossberg told jurors, adding he only took the painkiller “as needed,” not every day. He detailed how he took the painkiller during a pain flare-up, suffering a heart attack a few weeks later that he said forced him to take a break from his job as a construction site supervisor. Doctors placed a stent in one of his arteries and he was eventually released from the hospital and put on medication to reduce his lipid levels. Stents are tiny metal scaffolds that prop up arteries to help blood flow. Two years later, Grossberg resumed taking Vioxx, but stopped in late August 2004 after hearing about problems with the painkiller. Three months later, he suffered chest pains and underwent a second stent placement. Medical experts who testified for Merck told jurors Grossberg had pre-existing health factors that led to his heart problems, including a history of heart disease in his family, elevated cholesterol, poor diet and exercise habits and years as a smoker.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! An elderly man who sued Merck & Co. had a long history of heart disease before he took the painkiller Vioxx, the drug he claims caused his heart attack, a lawyer argued Tuesday in closing arguments of a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company. Merck attorney Tarek Ismail told jurors they should reject the claim that Vioxx caused Stewart Grossberg’s heart attack or accelerated his heart disease. He cited testimony from a pharmacist who reviewed Grossberg’s records that showed he had three prescriptions of 30 Vioxx pills each in the two years before his heart attack in September 2001. Ismail said Grossberg, at most, was a sporadic Vioxx user. “Mr. Grossberg had heart disease for years and that heart disease started years before he had his first Vioxx pill,” Ismail said. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREFrumpy Middle-aged Mom: My realistic 2020 New Year’s resolutions. Some involve doughnuts.The case – the first Vioxx liability lawsuit to go to trial in California – was brought by Grossberg, 71, who began taking Vioxx in 1999 to manage joint pain in his knees, hands and elsewhere caused by osteoarthritis. Grossberg blames his heart attack on Vioxx and is seeking unspecified damages on grounds that the company was negligent and failed to warn users of the drug, among other allegations. Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck & Co. claims Vioxx had no role in Grossberg’s heart ailments. Merck has won four cases and lost three. Another trial began this week in New Orleans. Earlier, Grossberg’s attorney Thomas Girardi argued that Merck knew the drug caused heightened risk of heart ailments but sought to mislead physicians and market Vioxx anyway.