Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

Hurt Me, Baby

Monday, March 21st, 2011
Intern Rebecca here with thoughts on Kathryn Bigelow…
While I do not know the writer/director/producer personally, I must admit, in the last year I have felt a deep range of emotions for Kathryn Bigelow.
I cried for her when she became the first female ever to win an Academy Award for directing. I laughed for her when her ex‐husband, James Cameron, made a fool of himself at the Golden Globes by speaking in his own made‐up Avatar language. I feared for her when I realized that at the spry age of 60 she can never slack off again, because if she does she will forever set an example of not only why women really shouldn’t direct, but also why they shouldn’t be given Oscars for it. I felt even more anxiety for her when I realized she’s 60 and that she can never look any less hot than she does now, for it would only be another reason why women should never direct.
But now, I just feel sorry for K‐Big. Can’t a director get some peace and quiet after
their passion project goes all the way and wins the Oscar? Apparently not. Seems the Bigster is being SUED for her film The Hurt Locker by some man who claims the movie is about him. The lawsuit, filed by Sergeant Jeffery Sarver, started way back on the eve of last year’s Academy Awards, but it’s back this year, in full force as Sarver claims the film has done irreversible damage to his character since it took home the golden statue last March. According to the claim, Sarver’s fellow troopsters in Afghanistan are teasing him hard core, saying he clearly doesn’t know how to follow correct procedure because they character who is maybe him in The Hurt Locker doesn’t follow correct procedure.
Um, guys, it’s called a movie…?
From what I can scrounge up via The Internets, here are the facts of the case:
Sarver’s Side:
1. He wants money. More specifically, he wants compensation for the big bucks the film eventually grossed. (I guess big is relative when you’ve been frequenting Friday double features in Afghanistan.)
2. He claims he used to go around saying, “The hurt locker,” as well as the film’s famous line, “War is a drug.”
3. The character whom he believes to be himself in the movie takes improper action. This has led his real life buddies to tease him, as if the improper actions taken in the movie were really taken by him in real life.
Bigelow’s Side:
1. Free speech. If she says a procedure happens one way in her movie, it happens that way!
2. Free speech! She can write whatever characters she wants.
3. On the characters, she and screenwriter Mark Boal interviewed over 100 soldiers in the course of writing the script. They all informed the creation of the characters. I repeat, no one person was used as a model for the protag.
4. Again, free speech. Also, it’s a movie.
The lawsuit has sparked some hefty debate in cyber world over the past few weeks. I’ve even read blog posts left by parents of Sarver’s fellow soldiers saying it is true, their sons are teasing him! Therefore, K‐Big should pay up! She did this!
Um, side note to the parents: why don’t you tell your sons to lay off the nice Sergeant instead of spending your time blogging?
Naturally, Bigelow hopes the case will soon be dismissed, and Server says he’ll keep holding out for ever for the mullah, whether he’s in Afghanistan or Los Angelistan. Given the number of folks interviewed for the pick, and that, again, it is a movie, I say the guy has no case. Who knows, though, I’m not a lawyer. So what do you think?

Warning: May Cause Intense Urges…

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Intern Rebecca here, with thoughts on drugs…

No matter what the kids on the street may say, drugs can mess you up. Don’t worry, this isn’t another Charlie Sheen blog – he’s already got press enough for three men, at least. Instead, let’s delve into the story of another kind of addict: the prescription drug addict. What could be more devastating than addiction handed directly to you by a doctor (other than the bill)?

Meet Didier Jambart, a 50-something father of two, and former employee of the French Defense Ministry. Jambart started taking a drug way back in the Paris-Hilton’s-sex-tape days of 2003 called REQUIP. The drug is used to treat Parkinson’s disease via dopamine agonists, which are common in all leading prescription drugs for Parkinson’s.

Unfortunately for Jambart, as his Parkinson’s cleared up, his life crumbled. Within the first year, he gambled his family’s savings away by placing bets on horses online. Once he burned through that stack of cash, Jambart spent his income, then even sold his children’s toys, to support his new hobby. The next year, the very straight and once happily married husband grew addicted to gay porn, and even took gay lovers, whom he also found online.  By 2005, Jambart had already attempted suicide three times.

And he blames? The drug, of course.

The first time I read through Jambart’s story, I thought, “There’s no way. This man is obviously disturbed.” But once I read the warning labels issued with REQUIP, I changed my tune. They include:

Tell your doctor if you have ever had an urge to gamble that was difficult to control … You should know that some people who took medications such as ropinirole (REQUIP) developed gambling problems or other intense urges or behaviors that were compulsive or unusual for them, such as increased sexual urges or behaviors. There is not enough information to tell whether the people developed these problems because they took the medication or for other reasons. Call your doctor if you have an urge to gamble that is difficult to control, you have intense urges, or you are unable to control your behavior.

This seemed to make the case cut and dry, until I learned that these warnings were not added to the REQUIP label until 2006, after Jambart had stopped REQUIP and started his lawsuit. As of today, only a handful of other cases have been filed against REQUIP for similar side effects, so it is hard to say if Jambart himself affected the addition of this label.

Jambart is seeking $610,000 in damages (he’ll need half that just to cover his gambling debts) from both REQUIP and his neurologist, whom he claims mislead him regarding the drug’s potential side effects. His current crummy situation aside, does Jambart stand a chance in court?

Pre-Nup: I DO or I DON’T?

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

We’re approaching wedding season, kids, and that means one thing: our mother’s fingers will again start tapping the kitchen table wondering when one of her daughters will finally make her proud. But it also means that divorce lawyers are about to get 50% busier if statistics are to be believed.

He loves me not...

He loves me not...

Well Amy and I have a fun little piece about pre-nuptial agreements today on wowOwow, a fantastically cool website that’s worth checking out even if we were not featured today.

Here’s just a little teaser. More, as they say, after the jump:

Traditionally, in exchange for getting to dress up in a fancy white gown and walk down the aisle to become Mrs. Him, it was the doting bride who was asked to sign a prenuptial agreement, considered by many to be a skittish groom’s James Bond-like marital ejector seat. If he wanted out, the prenup easily and elegantly allowed him to bail from the wreckage with his satchel full of money intact. But these days women are frequently coming into marriages with more than their loving — if less financially secure — grooms. Across the United States, 22 percent of wives are out-earning their husbands, which means the assets in need of greater protection are those swaddled in white tulle… [To keep reading about this and the divorces of famous people, click HERE]

Biggest Legal Stories of the Year… Beyond SO SUE ME, JACKASS!

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Well, seems our response to Worried Jewish Mother’s question has yet to be posted on the Forward’s website (and now we’re a bit worried we may have pissed off some Jews with our response…).  So in lieu of linking to our answer today, instead we’ll share Amy’s thoughts on the biggest legal stories of the annus horribilis that was 2009.

Here’s our girl on My Fox Philly (and though some might argue the point about the Madoff case, since it technically unraveled in Dec ’08, we think you’ll still have to agree that Amy’s hair looks particularly nice in this clip.):

Location, location, location…

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Bintel Brief readers in The Forward gave us another great question to answer this week, and this time the subject’s Manhattan real estate, a subject near and dear to Robin’s cold, cold heart.

Here’s the Q and for the A, click below…

Dear Bintel Brief:

My husband and I live in New York City and are getting ready to buy our first apartment. We realize that a home purchase is a sizable financial commitment, and we are preparing to take the plunge.

Adding to what is already a tremendously stressful decision-making process, we are considering buying a building with friends that we would then split into separate apartments. A decent amount of actual livable square footage is hard to come by in a large city when working within a budget, and we feel this would be a smart way to each get more square feet for our hard-earned dollars. I’ve been told we could essentially condo the building or turn it into a cooperative so that each family is only liable for their own apartment. What contractual precautions should we take to ensure everyone is protected? Is this as good an idea as it sounds? Or, are we entering into a minefield that could potentially blow up our friendships?

Click here for the answer to: MIXING REAL ESTATE WITH FRIENDSHIP

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do…

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
And I'm definitely not going to miss your morning breath...

And I'm definitely not going to miss your morning breath...

Particularly if Your Partner’s an Asshole.

Yes, that’s actually the title of our chapter on Love & Romance, or, more accurately “I Used to Be In Lust But Now Even Your Facebook Updates Make Me Want to Vomit In My Cereal.” In that chapter we discuss what happens when good love goes bad. As we learned, there are a lot of unhappy people in relationships, and we’re not just saying that because we’re bitter. (Or maybe we are, so what? Still true.)

In any event, we give a lot of advice to those who have recently broken up from answering the question as to who gets to keep the ring if an engagement busts up pre-wedding (the dude), to should I anonymously slag my ex in online forums? (No, too obvious and easy for you to get caught), to do I have to let my ex’s parents see our kids after the divorce? (Probably yes, even though they’re responsible for raising a horrible child themselves.)

We also offer financial advice to consider like canceling joint credit cards before your ex goes to Paris and rings up $100,000 in charges which you’ll be responsible to pay. (In that one instance, it sucked to be A-Rod.)

But in Saturday’s New York Times, Ron Lieber offers a really outstanding piece on the financial ramifications of divorce. And if this is something you’re considering, you should click this link and read the article because it offers a terrific number of protections and a check list of things for you to consider while you’re likely more concerned with licking your failed relationship wounds.

We’re on Wallet Pop!

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Listen to our interview with Lan Nguyen on AOL’s personal finance site:

click me!

click me!

Run Monkey Run!

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

gorilla-runDid you have a happy Halloween? Not me. I made the mistake of attending the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade and found myself in the midst of the boob warfare that was being waged on the streets of New York City. Let’s just say that’s not a lot of fun for a girl whose only ammunition is at home in her sock drawer.

But happily 1,061 residents of Denver, Colorado made far better use of the holiday. Setting a new Guinness Book World Record, these folks donned gorilla costumes and ran 3.5 miles for the Denver Gorilla Run to raise money for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund, which continues the work of noted gorilla lady, Dian Fossey.

The charity run charges first time participants $100 to enter the race – part of the cost of which goes to the purchase of a gorilla suit (presumably not made of real gorillas), and each entrant is asked to raise at least $300. Don’t know exactly how much was made this year, but suffice to say, that kind of money can buy a lot of bananas.

So, aside from the great image of 1000+ people running the streets of the Mile High City dressed as great apes, why are we interested in this story? Well, because as the end of the year approaches, traditionally the time when we all get an uptick in charitable donation junk mail and phone solicitations, it’s important to realize that not all charities are created equal. In fact, not all so-called charities are really raising money for charities at all. Unfortunately, many of those phone calls you get from organizations are really only putting money in the telemarketers pockets.

As we discuss in our book, SO SUE ME, JACKASS!: Avoiding Legal Pitfalls That Can Come Back to Bite You at Work at Home and at Play, The attorney general of Tennessee discovered that of the $11 million raised by telemarketers on behalf of charitable operations, the telemarketers kept $8 million for themselves.  In fact, the Federal Trade Commission initiated a campaign entitled “Operation Phoney Philanthropy” designed to stop scamming telemarketers.

Of course we’re not trying to dissuade you from donating to the causes of your choice—in fact, we encourage that! Give till it hurts!—but we want you to be sure that the money is actually going where you believe it is. So if you get a phone call during dinner hour, ask the following questions:

  • Ask for identification and the name of the company the person on the phone actually works for.
  • Ask how the money you give will be distributed and what percent of your gift will actually go to the charity on whose behalf you are being solicited.
  • Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making. It’s a common ploy used by telemarketers to make you think you’ve given money in the past.
  • Know the difference between tax exempt and tax deductible. Even if the organization is tax exempt, it doesn’t mean that the dollars you give to the telemarketer will be tax deductible. If you choose to give, ask if your donation will be tax deductible and ask to get a receipt so you can deduct it.
  • Finally, if you’re still uncertain if the charity is on the up-and-up, two helpful watchdog Web sites are www.give.org and www.guidestar.org, and you can check these resources to see where organizations are spending your donation dollars.

Check, Please!

Thursday, August 27th, 2009
But I paid retail for that purse!

Stop! Thief! I keep my husband's balls in there!

Yeah, so this piece of news out of Washington does not exactly inspire confidence… It seems that the personal bank account of Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, was hacked and looted by a group of Virginia purse snatchers!

The theft, which occurred last year, but which has only come to light now, went down like this: Banker-in Chief’s wife, Anna Bernanke, was at a Starbucks near Capitol Hill, probably enjoying a $17 cup of burnt coffee, when her handbag was grabbed. But heedless of the warnings not to carry sensitive identity information in a purse that she’d dangled off the back of her chair, Mrs. B’s bag contained her driver’s license, Social Security card, four credit cards, and a book of Wachovia bank checks from the couple’s joint checking account. Printed on each check were the Bernankes’ bank-account number, home address, and telephone number. (Honestly, I’m surprised she didn’t have another card in there listing her weight, eyeglass prescription, and the names of all previous sexual partners.)

What was especially unfortunate for the Bernankes was that it turned out that the person who randomly stole Anna’s bag was actually tied to a sophisticated crime ring, and began cashing checks from the couple’s account a few days later. According to Michael Isikoff’s story in Newsweek,  the syndicate had stolen more than $2.1 M from its victims. But Federal Investigators were already on the trail:  “One of the group’s ringleaders, Clyde Austin Gray Jr. of Waldorf, Md., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in federal court in Alexandria, Va., just last month. Gray (who was known to members of his ring as Big Head) employed an army of pickpockets, mail thieves, and office workers to swipe checks, credit cards, military IDs, and other personal records, according to his plea agreement and other court records filed in his case.”

Isikoff’s full article is kind of stunning and worth checking out. And if you’re interested in learning more about what to do if you’re a victim of identity theft or are worried you might become one, you just might want to turn to page 144 in SO SUE ME, JACKASS! because we’ve got some tips for you even beyond, “What do you think this is, 1951? Never, never carry your social security card in your wallet, you big ding dong!”

Read the Fine Print!

Monday, June 8th, 2009

The Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of a man who is being prosecuted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for child pornography. Kenneth Sodomsky (name has not been changed to protect the litigant) brought his computer into Circuit City to install a dvd burner, where a clerk noticed that he had files containing the names and ages of boys, along with questionable video, and called the cops.

Hey genius–when you turn in a computer to be serviced, READ THE TERMS IN THE FORM THEY GIVE YOU. It says that they reserve the right to view everything contained on your hard drive.  If you don’t want some 18 year old geek in  the geeksquad to see what you’re storing, either wipe it or learn how to service your own computer.  If the form they give you discloses the fact that they have a right to look at your junk (unfortunately in the urban dictionary sense of the word in this case)  they will do it and you have no invasion of privacy claim against them.

Mr. Sodomsky moved to suppress the evidence but was rebuffed.  Mr. Gomorrahsky was unavailable for comment.  And, in a sad and unrelated turn of events, Circuit City turned into a pillar of salt.