Dealer faces fines, jail time after parking cars in public garage during Irma

Published: Thursday, September 14, 2017 @ 1:12 PM

Carl Court/Getty Images
(Carl Court/Getty Images)

The owner of a used car dealership in South Florida is facing thousands of dollars in fines and potential jail time after he was accused of using a downtown parking garage to store his cars during Hurricane Irma.

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Autoline on Federal Highway in Hallandale Beach parked 47 cars, with warranty stickers and no tags, in residents’ spaces in a city garage, according to WPLG.

The dealership’s alleged action forced residents, who were supposed to have reserved spots in the garage for their cars, to have to find another place for their vehicles during the storm.

Workers moved the fleet of vehicles back to the dealership on Wednesday and declined to comment on the impending fines and possible arrest, according to WPLG.

The owner of the dealership was issued 24 notices to appear in court from the city of Hollywood, claiming that Autoline violated a city ordinance that makes it illegal to use public property for private business.

The owner faces $12,000 in fines and a potential 60 days in jail.

Irma Aftermath In Florida


SeaWorld to eliminate 350 positions by the end of fiscal year 2017

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 10:49 PM

Entrance to SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images)
Matt Stroshane/Getty Images
Entrance to SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images)(Matt Stroshane/Getty Images)

SeaWorld officials have announced that they will be restructuring the company and as a result, that 350 positions will be eliminated by the end of fiscal year 2017.

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According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, SeaWorld was implementing the restructuring program to “reduce costs, increase efficiencies, reduce duplication of functions and improve the company’s operations.”

The layoffs will be spread across SeaWorld theme parks and corporate headquarters, the filing said.

In a statement, SeaWorld said that it would be assisting employees affected by the layoffs.

“We do not take this task lightly. It is an unfortunate, but necessary, consequence of the restructuring that some positions will be lost,” the statement said. “For those employees, we are offering severance benefits and outplacement assistance to help with their transition.”

Read SeaWorld’s full statement on the elimination of 350 positions:

“Today SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. implemented the latest phase of our previously announced company-wide cost initiative. Approximately 350 positions across the company will be impacted by these changes, including open positions that will not be filled.

This ongoing work to improve efficiency is focused on administrative functions and non-guest facing positions, and we are redeploying resources from the related cost savings into our growth initiatives. This includes intensifying our efforts related to marketing SeaWorld to drive growth in park attendance, while maintaining our commitment to the guest experience.

We do not take this task lightly. It is an unfortunate, but necessary, consequence of the restructuring that some positions will be lost. For those employees, we are offering severance benefits and outplacement assistance to help with their transition.

We remain committed to creating world-class guest experiences, providing comprehensively for the care of all our animals, and continuing our company's focus on stranded marine animal rescue and ocean conservation initiatives.”

Halley’s Comet is source of this week’s Orionids meteor shower

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 10:18 PM

The Orionid Meteor Shower

A waxing crescent moon lends the celestial stage this week to the Orionid meteor shower — a wash of rock and ice shed from the venerable Halley’s Comet.

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While the Orionid shower runs from Oct. 2 to Nov. 7 this year, the heavenly theatrics will be most robust in the predawn hours of Saturday when the greatest number of meteors are expected to slip into Earth’s atmosphere.

With the moon just past new Saturday, there will be no lunar interference. During the peak, 10 to 20 Orionids per hour should be visible.

Deborah Byrd, editor in chief at the astronomy website Earth and Sky, said that while Saturday is the shower’s peak, meteors are likely to be firing from Friday morning through early November.

“The Orionids are known to be fast and on the faint side, but can sometimes surprise you with an exceptionally bright meteor that might break up into fragments,” Byrd wrote in her blog. “Maybe half of the Orionid meteors leave persistent trains — ionized gas trails that last for a few seconds after the meteor itself has gone.”

The Orionids are the only well-recognized major shower that happens twice a year. In May, the Earth again runs through the detritus of Halley’s Comet, creating the Eta Aquariid meteor shower.

Halley’s Comet was discovered by Edmund Halley in 1705, but is believed to have been recognized for millennia.

The comet returns every 72 years and was last seen from Earth in 1986. It won’t come again until 2061.

The Orionids are named for the celestial hunter Orion, which is easy to spot in the night sky by its bright belt of three aligned stars. Orion is the namesake because the meteors appear to radiate from north of Betelgeuse, one of the constellation’s most well-known stars.

You don’t have to stare at Orion to see a meteor; they will be visible in all parts of the sky.

If it looks like the Orionids will be clouded out, the website is aiming its telescopes at the sky Friday beginning at 7:59 p.m. in a live hunt for meteors. The show requires registration, so arrive early if not already a member.

The annual Orionids meteor shower is not considered the showiest of meteor showers, but it is generally a reliable one,” the site advertises.

Halley's Comet photographed by the Soviet Probe "Vega" in 1986. (Photo by Liaison)(Getty Images/Getty Images)

Vodka maker is now one of the richest people in America

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 9:55 PM

This 2002 American-Statesman archive photo of Tito Beveridge shows the Tito's Vodka founder packing up cases of 1.7 liter bottles of his signature liquid. He's come a long way since then, when his company was five years old; now, it's worth more than 2 billion.
Rodolfo Gonzalez
This 2002 American-Statesman archive photo of Tito Beveridge shows the Tito's Vodka founder packing up cases of 1.7 liter bottles of his signature liquid. He's come a long way since then, when his company was five years old; now, it's worth more than 2 billion.(Rodolfo Gonzalez)

Texas has a new billionaire, and he’s made his fortune through peddling booze.

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The appropriately named Bert “Tito” Beveridge, the founder and sole owner of Austin-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka, is now part of the exclusive Forbes 400, the list of the richest people in America. His company is worth an estimated $2.5 billion.

Tito’s Vodka sold an estimated 45 million bottles last year, a number that will likely go up to 58 million this year, according to Forbes, which recently profiled Beveridge as part of the release of the latest Forbes 400. 

Now 55, the entrepreneur originally got his start in the oil-and-gas industry but found a more lucrative calling starting up his own distillery — Texas’ very first. Prior to 1997, when Tito’s Vodka was bootstrapped together, the state didn’t have any distilleries; there supposedly wasn’t a law that permitted them. Beveridge dug through the code book and proved regulators wrong.

As a result, Texas (and Tito’s home of Austin in particular) has a booming spirits industry that goes far beyond vodka and into rum, whiskey and even Texas’ first amaro.

But Beveridge’s success has always been with the odorless, colorless alcohol, and his once-fledgling company turned 20 this year still producing the stuff and only that.

As with any business, there have been bumps in the road.

In 2014, a pair of lawsuits were leveled against Tito’s Handmade Vodka, claiming that the bottles were “deceptively labeled,” specifically through the use of the word “handmade” in the brand’s name. Both lawsuits were dismissed last year.

The suits were filed in U.S. District Court a year after a not-so-nice 2013 Forbes profile of Beveridge, which explored “how to maintain the fiction of being a small-batch brand that's actually expanding rapidly in the $5.5-billion-a-year U.S. market for the colorless liquor.” 

Whatever the case, Beveridge is using a portion of the Tito’s fortune for good: Tito’s founded the charitable side project of Vodka for Dog People a few years ago, making rescue dogs one of the core missions of the company when it’s not producing vodka. (Beveridge is a self-professed dog lover whose half-Labrador, half-German shepherd mix was constantly at his side during the early days of the distillery.)

And earlier this year, Tito’s took the philanthropy a step further and now donates all proceeds from its online store to designated nonprofits. You can choose which one you want your money to go toward on the site.

Beveridge made the Forbes 40 list despite an ever-steeper cost of admission to this most exclusive club: “The minimum net worth to make The Forbes 400 list of richest Americans is now a record $2 billion, up from $1.7 billion a year ago,” according to the publication.

Witnesses say 3-year-old chased, shot man, father charged with murder

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 7:39 PM

Witnesses Say 3-Year-Old Chased, Shot Man, Father Charged With Murder

A South Carolina man has been charged with murder after his 3-year-old son allegedly shot a man in the chest.

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According to The Augusta Chronicle, deputies found 24-year-old Timothy Johnson with a gunshot wound to the chest Tuesday. 

Aiken County Sheriff’s Sgt. Stephen Shunn said witnesses told deputies that he was shot when Albert Monted Davis gave the toddler a handgun and the 3-year-old chased the victim around the home. The weapon discharged, killing Johnson.

Shunn told The Associated Press that deputies are still investigating why Davis gave the child the gun and whether Davis was angry at Johnson.

Davis, 31, was charged with murder, possession of a stolen handgun and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. 

Neither court nor jail records indicated whether Davis has an attorney.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.