Archive for the ‘News’ Category

70 Jobs Cut at Universal Orlando

Following yesterday’s post about Disney’s voluntary lay-offs comes word via the Orlando Sentinel that Universal Orlando is also eliminating jobs.

From the OS:

Universal declined to identify the positions it eliminated. It described them as mostly management-level jobs, with some in administrative and support areas.

Yikes! For all that people gripe about tourists in Central Florida, this is proof positive that our local economy really needs them – now more than ever.

The park is set to open two new attractions within the next twelve months: “Hollywood, Rip, Ride, Rockit” roller coaster and “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” based on the famous literary wizard.

In related news, it appears that Universal has also started charging $3 for parking after 6pm in its garages. I can see where they might think that it’s a quick revenue source, but I wonder how that little nugget is affecting locals coming out to CityWalk at night for movies and entertainment. Not to mention they now have to pay employees to collect this extra toll all night, whereas before nobody manned the booths after 6pm.

Over 600 Executives Offered Buyout from Disney

In the ever-tightening economy, Disney is now making a cost-cutting move that will affect hundreds of people in Central Florida. According to the Orlando Sentinel, it is offering about 600 of its executives a buyout option, with more than half of those chosen working here in the Orlando-area.

Spaceship EarthMany of those are people that have been with the company for decades and are commanding top dollar salaries. Granted some may be near retirement, anyways, but the realities are that in this economy, many can’t afford to be without a job. And if they don’t take the voluntary leave, many of them will just be laid off in the next round of cuts – but without the severance package being offered now.

All of this is happening as Walt Disney World has several DVC building projects in various stages of completion, and is preparing to open the new “American Idol” attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which I would imagine involves some hefty licensing fees.

Last thing Orlando needs is less jobs and more people looking for work.  What are your feelings on all this? Are you affected by this move in some way?  Let us know.

Tropical Storm Fay World Tour To Rock Central Florida Today

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or somewhere else without access to any television or radio media, I’m sure y’all know that tropical storm Fay is due to arrive in the Central Florida area today.

Even though so far it doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as strong as any of the 2004 hurricanes, it is so far packing quite a punch as it hits land in southern Florida, with a tornado already touching down in West Palm Beach. So I thought I’d pop in with some quick tips and links to help everyone get through the worst of the storm.

Basic Storm Information:

  • The Orlando Sentinel maintains a hurricane survival guide on its website, including a list of items you should have on hand to ride out a severe storm, like Fay.
  • The website for WESH has several great links, from live tracking of the storm to being prepared for the storm.
  • If local media isn’t your thing, Mashable has a list of resources in their article “How to Chase Hurricane Fay Online.”
  • Make sure you have bottled water on hand -at least several gallons per person – in case of problems with the tap water
  • Also make sure you are stocked up on batteries for flashlights and other items like radios. Candles and matches couldn’t hurt either. It’s possible for power outages with a storm like this, so be prepared for that.
  • Fully charge any electronics like cellphones and laptop batteries, in case of said power outages
  • If you’re out and about today, fill up your gas tank and grab some cash out of an ATM. If there are any power outages, credit and debit cards may be useless.
  • If you live near any elderly or disabled neighbors, take a moment to check on them before and after the storms pass. It’s the right thing to do.

Closures and Cancellations:

  • Schools – for the most part, every school in Central Florida will be closed today and tomorrow. Check with yours to be sure before you send the young ones off.
  • Port Canaveral is closed to large ships, which means no cruise ships today or tomorrrow. If you were scheduled to take a cruise from here, check with the cruiseline before departing for the port.
  • Many airlines have canceled flights into and out of Central Florida airports, including OIA. Check with your airline if you have travel plans for today, or are expecting loved ones to fly in.
  • Kennedy Space Center is closed for today.
  • So far, Lynx bus service in Orlando is running, but their Access Lynx routes have been heavily scaled back. If you use the service, check with them for any schedule changes.
  • SeaWorld has canceled its evening program at Discovery Cove today, but otherwise reports both parks are staying open.
  • Walt Disney World reports they will open all four parks earlier today, at 8am, to allow park guests more time to enjoy them before the worst of the storm hits Central Florida.
  • Universal Orlando reports both parks will also be open
  • Tolls have been suspended for most roads in central and southern Florida for today. Check here for the complete list.
  • Promoters report tonight’s Stone Temple Pilots show at UCF has been canceled due to the storm. Tickets can be refunded at the point of purchase.

If you have any tips, closure news or links to share with the Metroblogging Orlando readers, please leave them in the comments. Otherwise, please stay safe and don’t go out in the storm if you don’t have to.

Central Florida Represented at Olympics

Beijing Olympics logoI am so excited that the Summer Olympics kick off today in Beijing! I almost never watch sports on TV, but come the Olympics, I am glued to the screen every chance I get.

So I thought it’d be interesting to see if there were any athletes from Orlando and Central Florida participating, and would you believe we have nine people representing us this year?

Here’s a quick run-down of the Central Florida Olympians:

  • Jenny Barringer – Track & Field: 3,000m Steeplechase.
    Barringer, who went to Oviedo High School, looks strong to medal, having set a new U.S. record in the event just three weeks ago.
  • Damu Cherry – Track & Field: 100m Hurdles.
    Cherry was born in Tampa and currently lives in Ocoee.
  • Phil Dalahusser – Beach Volleyball.
    This UCF graduate and his teammate Todd Rogers are the defending FIVB World Champions going into the Olympics, so they look very strong to medal.
  • Dwight Howard – Men’s Basketball.
    Howard is the center of the Orlando Magic when not a part of the Olympic’s Team USA basketball team, which has an excellent chance to medal.
  • Hunter Kemper – Triathlon.
    Born in Longwood, FL, this will be Kemper’s third Olympics. He placed ninth at the 2004 Olympics, and stands a good chance to medal this time.
  • Ryan Lochte – Swimming: 200m Backstroke, 200m and 400m Individual Medley, 4x200m Free Relay.
    Though teammate Michael Phelps gets more media attention, Central Florida’s Lochte still has an excellent chance to medal again in one of his four competitions. In the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Lochte won the gold medal in the 800m freestyle relay and won the silver in the 200 individual medley (Phelps took gold).
  • DeLisha Milton-Jones – Women’s Basketball.
    Milton-Jones attended the University of Florida in Gainesville before becoming a member of the LA Sparks. She was also a member of the Gold-medal winning US Olympic team in 2000.
  • David Oliver – Track & Field: 110m Hurdles.
    This Orlando resident goes into the Olympics as the 2008 US Indoor champ.
  • Nancy Rios – Sailing: Board (aka windsurfing).
    Cocoa Beach resident Rios came in first at the U.S. Olympic trials and looks strong to medal.

NBC-affiliate WESH has a team, headed by reporter Aixa Diaz, reporting live from Beijing, and you can catch the station’s complete local coverage online.

The Olympics will kick off with the opening ceremonies live on NBC tonight at 7:30pm, and our local athletes will be among the Team USA contingent walking into the stadium. If you miss it then, the network will be re-airing the ceremonies a few hours later at 2:30am tomorrow morning.

Anybody else going to be watching the Olympics? Got any fave sports or athletes you’ll be looking for?

Could Brett Favre Be Coming to Central Florida?

Brett Favre Sports Illustrated coverAs a former-Wisconsin resident, I think it’s safe to say former Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre has amassed quite a legendary career in football over his sixteen years with the team. And I can’t even begin to tell you the number of grown men I saw cry when several months ago, Favre announced he was finally retiring from the sport.

Only, it seems as though that idea was short-lived. Five months into said retirement, Favre asked to be reinstated and I guess expected to reclaim his QB throne with the Pack. But it seems they no longer are interested in his “yes I am/no I’m not” constant retirement talk, even going so far as to offer the 38-year-old QB $20 million to stay retired and work with the team in a marketing capacity.


So according to a story all over today’s news, it seems Favre has reached a “stalemate” with Green Bay and is looking for another team, with Tampa Bay’s Buccaneers suddenly in place as one of the front runners.

The Bucs, currently training out at Disney’s Wide World of Sports here in Orlando, have said they would entertain the idea of having Favre onboard, despite already having five QB’s on the roster already, but have otherwise remained silent on this new development.

I’ll admit to not being a diehard follower of Tampa, but I have to wonder if this would be a boost to the team or just a waste of a salary. And at this point, does anyone even care if he returns to the field?

Any football fans care to comment on whether you feel having Favre don a Bucs jersey would be a good thing? Should he have stayed in retirement? Or are you just tired of hearing about the whole thing?

Orlando Sentinel Cutting Staff

Speaking of the Orlando Sentinel, the past few weeks I’ve heard rumblings of an upcoming round of lay-offs at the newly redesigned paper. It appears this is the week the axe has fallen.

Orlando Sentinel Cutting StaffTwo area blogs were pointed out to me by a reader that I think anyone interested in this round of developments might want to check out. The first is Sentinel Watch, run by a previous employee; the other is The Amazing Shrinking Orlando Sentinel. Both are running lists and keeping tabs on who is being given the axe under the direction new Tribune owner Sam Zell is taking the company (the OS is part of the company). For those not familiar with the name, Zell is a real estate financier who took on an $8.2 billion debt when he bought the company last December. Since then, he’s been in the process of streamlining and selling off parts of the empire in an effort to make it profitable for him.

Strangely enough, even though people are leaving, pr for the OS seem to be denying its happening…even as recently as in an article in yesterday’s industry publication Editor and Publisher.

From that article:

As many as 20 of the paper’s approximately 250-person news staff were informed Wednesday that they would leave the paper, including several who chose to depart with a severance package. Other cuts are expected to be done before the end of July…

Editor Charlotte Hall declined to comment on the situation, referring inquiries to Lisa Jacobsen, a human resources and communications consultant, who told E&P no cutbacks are planned “at this time.” She also stated that the paper does not discuss employment status, adding that there is “a lot of misinformation out there. Nothing is happening, and nothing is planned.”

And unfortunately, it’s not just the OS — all of Zell’s papers are being trimmed of staff. The blog Tell Zell is even keeping a running tab in their blog column.

So what is actually going on over at the OS? Why are they going through the motions of denying everything if it is indeed happening? With the economy the way it is, I’m not entirely surprised at this employee streamlining, but I am surprised some really good writers have been given pink slips.

If any of you have any insider info, feel free to post it in comments. But it certainly doesn’t seem like a good week to write for local newspapers.

Did We Declare War on Alligators?

From Central Florida News 13:

LAKELAND – A man’s body was found floating in a Polk County lake Saturday morning. Now, investigators are trying to figure out if the man was killed by an alligator.

Two fishermen spotted the body floating in a canal near Saddle Creek Lake just east of Lakeland, and noticed a 7-foot gator was swimming close to the body.

The fishermen were able to keep the gator away until authorities could pull the body out of the water.

Investigators said the man had no signs of trauma to his body and don’t believe foul play was involved.

A medical examiner will now determine if the man was attacked by the gator or if he died from other causes.

A trapper was called out to destroy the gator.

Can someone explain to me why the heck they just up and killed this alligator? If the gator killed the man, it would have been apparent I would think, what with the missing limbs and large chew marks. So this guy keels over or drowns or whatnot and the gator just swims up probably out of curiosity. So we just execute the animal for being on the scene? Maybe the fisherman killed him? We don’t know for sure they didn’t. We didn’t just shoot them in the head on the spot did we?

Did I miss something, did we declare war on these animals? We seem to respond to every crossing of paths with alligators with just instant destruction of the animal. Where is PETA on this? Do they only care about animals they think are cute and fuzzy?

Summit Charter School Creeps (Allegedly) Steal From Kids

Did anybody else gag up their corn flakes this morning looking at the picture on the front page of the Sentinel, the one of that smug bastard who runs Summit Charter School?

You know, the guy who is accused of taking a fat salary and spending school funds willy-nilly while the educational institution almost went bankrupt?

Man, if ever a dude deserved a punch in the face, it’s him. Turquoise turtleneck and all.

Rat stench a persistent problem at Orlando airport, top customs official says —

I’m having a hard time getting my head around the Orlando International Airport rat thing.

This is going to make me sound like some random crank sitting on his front porch with a shotgun yelling at kids to stay away from his goldarned unmowed lawn, but seriously, dudes and dudettes: How freaking hard is it to keep a major public area used by millions of people on a regular basis free of RATS?!

Isn’t that, like, a basic, fundamental necessity? Table steaks? The place can be kinda dirty, or unorganized, and you may wait in line for two hours to get on a flight, but at least there aren’t RATS rotting in the ductwork. Right?!

I really just don’t get it. It’s like finding out you bought a car and they forgot to put tires on it. How does this happen?!

News 13 Goes Frothing Mad Stupid

Just read an article on Central Florida News 13 headlined: “Gator Goes Beserk” (by the way editors, it’s spelled “berserk”). What is with the news and their campaign to vilify the alligator? I watched the video and it looks like the alligator is scared out of its mind, hiding under a car from dozens of advancing people and it begins flailing, or going “berserk” after the trapper dragged it out from safety by its neck. And then the story comments that the awful alligator did some damage to a vehicle.

Look, obviously the trapper needed to remove the animal, and the neck noose thing does not harm the animal. I’m not trying to play the bunny hugger card here. What I’m saying is these are wild animals whose lands WE encroached on, and you are just being ignorant and a sensationalist when you characterize a situation like a stray gator getting under a car and a trapper removing him as a “gator going berserk”. He was doing nothing of the sort and alligators are not prone to “berserkdom” they are pretty much terrified of humans and when people get bit 9 times out of 10 they pretty much step on their head on accident or get drunk and skinny dip in the dead of night (which in my opinion is equivalent to declaring yourself gator bait and you deserve what you get.)

So to you news people, give the gators a break and stop trying to sell papers at the expensive of spreading fear and ignorance about one of our most impressive and interesting indigenous species. It seriously cheapens your legitimacy as an intelligent and worthy news source.

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