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Maine claims beer label naughty, not nice

If state authorities have their way, Santa Claus won't be seen drinking beer in Maine this Christmas.

The state's Bureau of Liquor Enforcement in September denied a Massachusetts specialty beer importer permission to sell its Christmas-themed "Santa's Butt Winter Porter" because the label, which features the ample backside of a beer-drinking Santa Claus sitting on a barrel, is "undignified or improper."

Belchertown, Mass.-based Shelton Brothers, via the Maine Civil Liberties Union, sued the bureau late last month in federal district court in Portland arguing the state's denial violates the First Amendment by censoring artistic expression.

"There is no good reason for the state to censor art, even art found on a beer label. Artistic expression is entitled to the highest level of protection under the First Amendment," said Zachary Heiden, MCLU staff attorney and lead counsel for Shelton Brothers.

In addition to Santa's Butt Winter Porter, Maine authorities also denied Shelton Brothers label applications for its Les Sans Culottes, a French ale, and Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, a Belgian fruit beer, both of which feature topless women.

An official with the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement declined to comment citing the pending litigation, but Maine State Police Lt. Patrick Fleming said in an earlier press report that the state took issue with the Santa label because it might appeal to children and the other two labels are considered inappropriate because they show bare-breasted women.

"We stand by our decision and at some point, it'll go through the court system and somebody will make the decision on whether we are right or wrong," he said.

Maine is not the only state giving the beer importer trouble over its labels. Shelton Brothers filed a lawsuit against the New York State Liquor Authority last month after the state denied applications for six of its holiday-themed beer labels, including Santa's Butt Winter Porter, citing their appeal to under-aged drinkers.

Although the state has since backed down and allowed the sale of the beers, the lawsuit continues to challenge the validity of the regulation and is seeking damages and attorneys' fees, according to Shelton Brothers attorney George Carpinello, of Boies, Schiller & Flexner L.L.C. in Albany, N.Y.

Last year, Shelton Brothers squabbled with Connecticut authorities over the label for its Seriously Bad Elf English double ale beer, which depicts an elf taking aim at Santa and his sleigh with a slingshot, because it was deemed too appealing for children. Connecticut later approved the sale of the beer.

How not to succeed in business without really trying

Companies beware.

These days, corporate scandals can do more than tarnish a company's image and hurt the bottom line. They can get immortalized on stage.

"Enron--The Musical," a two-act play directed by Mark Fraser, opened this month in a Houston theater.

The play comedically traces the demise of the energy giant, using the perspective of a former employee to tell stories about Enron Corp. and its late founder and chairman, Kenneth Lay, as well as former Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling and former Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow.

The performance features Mr. Fraser's satirical takes on familiar Broadway showtunes including, "Seventy-Six Indictments" (instead of "Seventy-Six Trombones") and "Thank Heaven for Off-Book Deals" (instead of "Thank Heaven for Little Girls").

Untucked shirt not deemed a blessing of liberty

Park employees do not have a First Amendment right to keep their shirttails untucked, says a Cincinnati federal appellate court that upheld a lower court's dismissal of the suit.

The three plaintiffs in Roberts et al. vs. Ward et al., who were Kentucky Parks Department employees, were discharged in 2004 for failing to tuck in their shirts in violation of a department policy. The workers said their firing violated their First Amendment rights, among other charges, but a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in its recent decision.

A governmental employee's speech must involve a matter of public concern to be protected under the First Amendment, the appellate court said.

But, "the plaintiffs provide little argument to rebut the determination that untucked shirts do not amount to speech on a matter of public concern," the court wrote.

"There is no suggestion, for example, that they were untucking their shirts to express their opinion on some political question. RatherÖ they kept their shirts untucked because they were uncomfortable when they tucked them in," the appeals court ruled. "The state, on the other hand, justifies the policy as a regulation of their employees' appearance."

QB legend joins new team

National Football League Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr has a new job--educating seniors about UnitedHealthcare's Medicare Advantage health plans.

The Minneapolis-based health insurer announced last week that the 72-year old Mr. Starr and his wife of 52 years, Cherry, are the official spokespeople for its SecureHorizons Medicare Advantage plan. Both Mr. and Mrs. Starr are members.

"We can't think of anyone better to represent the brand to America's seniors," said SecureHorizon's Chief Executive Officer Rick Jelinek, who described Mr. Starr in a statement as "a natural leader and a well-respected decision-maker."

Mr. Starr led the Green Bay Packers to five National Football League titles, including two Super Bowl Championships, under legendary coach Vince Lombardi.

Mr. Starr will be featured in a SecureHorizons commercial to begin airing this month.

Contributing: Sally Roberts, Judy Greenwald, Rupal Parekh