The MTV reality show, Jersey Shore, which has already stirred up controversy by ticking off Italian Americans, a state legislature,?and pretty much the entire state of New Jersey, has a brand new issue to contend with.? A woman in south Florida is accsuing one of?the show's?cast members, Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola, of attacking her in a nightclub.? And she's threatening to sue both Ms. Giancola and MTV over it.
According to reports, potential plaintiff Kristen DeMinco says she was having a conversation with a man (who, apparently, is Ms. Giancola's boyfriend) when Ms. Giancolo approached.? In Ms. DeMinco's description of the incident, there was an exchange of "bad words" followed by Ms. Giancola striking Ms. DeMinco in the face twice.
Okay, barroom brawls are a dime a dozen, and sometimes they lead to litigation.? But why is MTV a potential defendant over Ms. Giancola's actions?? Well, it seems this happened while MTV was shooting episodes of Jersey Shore in Florida.? It's not clear to me from the news reports whether the incident took place with MTV actually shooting it (or overseeing/prompting it?), or whether MTV's people were off somewhere else when this was going on.? But, hey...when there's potential litigation, people always look around to see who has the deepest pockets.
A federal court in New Jersey has cited the First Amendment as a rationale for dismissing a defamation lawsuit filed against a stand-up comedian by her in-laws whom the comedian, in her act, had called "racist" and "dumb."
Sundra Croonquist, who is of African-American and Swedish descent, has used her interactions with her Jewish husband's relatives as fodder for her comedy routine. To say Ms. Croonquist does not paint a flattering portrait of some of her in-laws, is an understatement. Her comedy bits include such statements as the assertion that her mother-in-law is a racist and her sister-in-law is dumb—comments which the in-laws charged in their lawsuit as being defamation and false light.
The court disagreed, saying in its ruling dismissing the case, that these portrayals of the in-laws constituted obvious opinions rather than facts. An opinion is protected by the First Amendment's freedom of speech clause and is not actionable as a defamatory statement.
There's a new reigning king among works of fine art...at least, from a purely economic standpoint.? Pablo Picasso's 1932 painting, “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” has broken the record as the most expensive single piece of art ever sold at auction.? The winning bid was $106.5 million.
The last time the painting was sold, the purchase price was less than $20,000.? Now that's what you call a big time capital gain.
So what will the people who sold the Picasso be paying in income taxes on that gain?? Well, it all depends on what the IRS calls the "tax basis."? That is, what is the dollar figure deducted from the sale price that determines the actual taxable gain?? Does that seem like an easy bit of math?? Well, it would be if all you had to do was subtract $20,000 from $106.5 million.
But, as with most of the American tax system, it's not that simple.? You see, the former owner of the painting died, and, if that former owner bequeathed that, upon?the owner's?death, the painting?passed to an heir, then the heir would inherit the property with a newly adjusted tax basis that would be equal to the fair market value of the property at the time of the deceased's death.
What's "fair market value" for a Picasso?? Well, that's a question better posed to people who know a bit more about appraising art than I.
Remember that Witchdoctor song recorded decades ago by Alvin and the Chipmunks?? Remember last year’s Chipmunk movie, subtitled The Squeakquel?? Well, a jury just might not be able to get that “Ooh-eeh-ooh-ah-ah” melody out of its head if it ends up sitting in judgment on a lawsuit filed by a relative of the Chipmunks’ original creator against the producers of the film.
According to reports, the suit, filed in a Los Angeles federal court by a production company and Janice Karman, the daughter-in-law of Chipmunks’ creator, Ross Bagdasarian (a.k.a. David Seville in the original recordings), claims The Squeakquel was originally Ms. Karman’s script, although she says she never got paid for it.? The plaintiffs are seeking half of the more than $440 million profits earned by the film.
20th Century Fox, which released the picture, contends that the claim is without merit.
Once again the Comedy Central TV network has found an episode of the animated show, South Park, too hot to handle. The program, which is known for pushing the envelope and often exceeding the bounds of good taste, tried once more to put on screen a representation of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and, just as it did the last time South Park's producers tried to do that, Comedy Central again censored it. That included not only a censoring of the image (which the producers apparently self imposed) but also the network's bleeping of certain dialogue (some of which the producers said they had not bleeped themselved).
This follows certain "warnings" that an Islamic group made publicly, insinuating that the South Park producers could meet a similar fate to that of a Dutch filmmaker who was killed in 2004 after making a film that was critical of the way Muslim women were treated in certain Islamic groups.
Now, if you're wondering how this kind of censorship of free speech can possibly exist in the United States of America, where the First Amendment guarantees the right to spout off on just about anything you like (even hateful, unpopular, and scathingly critical opinions), I remind you of this: The First Amendment says the government "shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech." There's nothing in the Constitution that says private industry can't censor the speech it disseminates.