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When is a Wal-Mart less than a Wal-Mart? When it's a "Neighborhood Market," the Big W's effort to muscle its way into the grocery-store biz. There are a couple of Neighborhood Markets already in Orlando, and a new one is planned for the intersection of North Pine Hills and Clarcona Ocoee roads.

Oftentimes a new Wal-Mart store opening attracts protest like a rotting corpse attracts blowflies, what with the company's reputation for low wages, big-box ugliness, sweatshop outsourcing, union-unfriendliness, etc. In this case, however, the groups that normally lead the charge – the Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now (WARN) and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) – are calling off the fight before the first blows have been exchanged. WARN's Greg Mellowe says that area of town – Pine Hills – desperately needs a grocery store. "It's not that the grocery store isn't good," says Mellowe. "It's just that the way the company does business diminishes the overall benefit to the neighborhood."

Even critics of Wal-Mart admit that the company is one of the few that dares to open grocery stores in blighted urban areas. "… Wal-Mart moves in where its competition won't, or even in places from which it has fled," writes John Dicker in The United States of Wal-Mart, a book that doesn't have too many nice things to say about the company.

Dicker writes that the strategy of opening stores in urban areas is Wal-Mart's way of establishing a beachhead in cities, which have been much less welcoming to the world's largest retailer than rural areas and suburbs. Mellowe notes that even though the company is providing something needed – a grocery store in the ghetto – Wal-Mart is none too forthcoming about its plans. Though the county approved the plan in August, there's nothing on the site that would indicate a Wal-Mart is coming. "There is no way anyone would have known about this," he says. "You would have to ferret it out yourself."

We're sad to report that our favorite environmentalist is packing up and moving on. For a decade, Sue Eberle has been a fighter for all things natural, from preserving wetlands to a battle with the University of Central Florida over its expansion. "I'm looking for something new and different," Eberle told us. "It's like a rebirth."

She's moving to North Carolina to be closer to her daughter and expected grandchild. And she's more than a little exhausted from the fight that has consumed much of her life in recent years. "I think I made a difference," Eberle says. "`But` not as I much as I might have wanted." We'll miss you, Sue.

Last week, Happytown™ received a press release from the Liberty Counsel, noting that its anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment was headed to the Florida Supreme Court for review. We're not going to vote for it if it reaches the ballot, but there are enough homophobes out there to ensure easy passage.

What was interesting about the release was the name of one of the Liberty Counsel lawyers working on the amendment: Marriage McAlister. Yes, it seems the Liberty Counsel has a lawyer named Marriage working on the anti-gay marriage amendment.

According to Florida Bar records, there is no lawyer named Marriage McAlister, though there is one named Mary Elizabeth McAlister who works at Liberty Counsel. Is Mary short for "Marriage," or was this just an amusing slip-up? The Liberty Counsel isn't saying.

Not to get all Sally Struthers on you or anything, but considering the rampant misery along the Gulf Coast – and realizing that Orlando is full of musicians with nothing to do – we thought we'd forward the message that the Making Music Matter Project, along with the Children's Miracle Network, is looking for "inspirational" songs for a new project. "Music for Miracles" is to be both a CD and a concert, with proceeds benefiting the Children's Miracle Network. Think "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey and you're probably close.

Interested musicians who aren't and never have been Amy Grant can contact Tony Ward at (407) 579-4190, because he's a really nice guy. Or you can e-mail him at [email protected].

So access your inner Debbie Boone and help out, you stinkin' rocker.

Back in May we reported on the Orlando Sentinel's little $600 million problem with psychiatrist Michael Gutman, a local doc who is suing the paper on the grounds that "they made accusations tantamount to calling him a murderer," according to high-flying lawyer Willie Gary. Seeing as the Sentinel is probably not the best source of news on a $600 million lawsuit against itself, we've decided to keep you, the reading public, up to date on this vital case.

The brouhaha stems from a Nov. 30, 2003, story in the Sentinel which stated that 11 of Gutman's patients died due to overdoses of drugs prescribed by the doctor. Gutman didn't take kindly to the inference that he was a murderer, and in May he sued the Sentinel, claiming the newspaper published "false and defamatory" statements.

In June, Gutman's side filed a motion to get notes and materials used to write the story. Legal wrangling ensued, with the Sentinel asking for more time and Gutman attorney Charles Emanuel (of Gary's law firm) filing another motion to receive the notes. As of press time the Sentinel still hadn't provided the records, says Emanuel. Sentinel spokesperson Cindy Williams says the paper doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Will this case see the inside of a courtroom (or any more ink in the Sentinel)? We don't know, but Emanuel had this to say about the case so far: "We anticipate this one will go all the way."

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This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, James Carlson, Billy Manes and Bob Whitby.


Q: What's with all the hurricanes?

A: What are you, my mother? I'll have as many hurricanes as I want. Just because I fell off my stool a little while ago doesn't mean I'm drunk. I'm fine. And you know what? I don't even like hurricanes any more. I'm switching to scotch for this next round. You want one too? Oh, what, you have to get up early in the morning? Where's my cigarettes? Bartender, get us two Macallans, neat. No, no rocks, no nothing. What? You sure are drinking it, girly man. I didn't buy it for you to stare at.

Hey, who's that girl over there? She's cute. Bartender, another drink for the lady! Don't tell me to keep my voice down! I'm the customer, and that means I'm always right! And give me a cigarette!

No, listen, seriously, I love you guys. Let's have a toast! What do we drink to? New Orleans? Hell yeah! Those guys have had it rough! May she rise again, like some gaudy, bead-wearing, papier-mâché phoenix, louder and with more soul than ever! May the Bush administration drown in its own bureaucratic excrement, like the poor souls they abandoned in the sewage that ran through the streets of the Big Easy! To the heroes of the Gulf Coast!

And hey, I bet King George and his oil-tycoon buddies were pretty happy about those 15-hour traffic jams before Rita hit! Hell, he gets the best of both worlds; the refineries in Houston were spared, yet gas shortages and poor planning kept people paying almost $3 a gallon, if they didn't break down on the interstate waiting for traffic to move! Not to mention that all that burning oil just goes right into the atmosphere, warming the seas even more, ensuring deadlier hurricanes to come!

Speaking of which, bartender, I need some more and deadlier hurricanes for me and my buddies here. I'm starting sober up and I can't let that happen – at least not until 2008! Where's my cigarettes?

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