APNewsBreak: Ringling Bros. circus to close after 146 years

Published: Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 10:11 PM
Updated: Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 10:10 PM


            Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey performers ride camels during a performance Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end the

After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on "The Greatest Show on Earth." The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told The Associated Press that the show will close forever in May.

The iconic American spectacle was felled by a variety of factors, company executives say. Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise.

"There isn't any one thing," said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. "This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family."

The company broke the news to circus employees Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami.

Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses this season and will perform 30 shows between now and May. Major stops include Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and Brooklyn. The final shows will be in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.

The circus, with its exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, has been a staple of entertainment in the United States since the mid-1800s. Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin. Eventually, they merged and the modern circus was born. The sprawling troupes traveled around America by train, wowing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals.

By midcentury, the circus was routine, wholesome family entertainment. But as the 20th century went on, kids became less and less enthralled. Movies, television, video games and the internet captured young minds. The circus didn't have savvy product merchandising tie-ins or Saturday morning cartoons to shore up its image.

"The competitor in many ways is time," said Feld, adding that transporting the show by rail and other circus quirks — such as providing a traveling school for performers' children— are throwbacks to another era. "It's a different model that we can't see how it works in today's world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price. So you've got all these things working against it."

The Feld family bought the Ringling circus in 1967. The show was just under 3 hours then. Today, the show is 2 hours and 7 minutes, with the longest segment — a tiger act — clocking in at 12 minutes.

"Try getting a 3- or 4-year-old today to sit for 12 minutes," he said.

Feld and his daughter Juliette Feld, who is the company's chief operating officer, acknowledged another reality that led to the closing, and it was the one thing that initially drew millions to the show: the animals. Ringling has been targeted by activists who say forcing animals to perform is cruel and unnecessary.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a longtime opponent of the circus, wasted no time in claiming victory.

"After 36 years of PETA protests, which have awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity, PETA heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times," Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in a statement.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, acknowledged the move was "bittersweet" for the Felds but said: "I applaud their decision to move away from an institution grounded on inherently inhumane wild animal acts."

In May of 2016, after a long and costly legal battle, the company removed the elephants from the shows and sent the animals to live on a conservation farm in Central Florida. The animals had been the symbol of the circus since Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882. In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from groups including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year fight over allegations that circus employees mistreated elephants.

By the time the elephants were removed, public opinion had shifted somewhat. Los Angeles prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant trainers and handlers, as did Oakland, California. The city of Asheville, North Carolina nixed wild or exotic animals from performing in the municipally owned, 7,600-seat U.S. Cellular Center.

Attendance has been dropping for 10 years, said Juliette Feld, but when the elephants left, there was a "dramatic drop" in ticket sales. Paradoxically, while many said they didn't want big animals to perform in circuses, many others refused to attend a circus without them.

"We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Bros. was getting to see elephants," she said. "We stand by that decision. We know it was the right decision. This was what audiences wanted to see and it definitely played a major role."

The Felds say their existing animals — lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas — will go to suitable homes. Juliette Feld says the company will continue operating the Center for Elephant Conservation.

Some 500 people perform and work on both touring shows. A handful will be placed in positions with the company's other, profitable shows — it owns Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Marvel Live, among other things — but most will be out of a job. Juliette Feld said the company will help employees with job placement and resumes. In some cases where a circus employee lives on the tour rail car (the circus travels by train), the company will also help with housing relocation.

Kenneth Feld became visibly emotional while discussing the decision with a reporter. He said over the next four months, fans will be able to say goodbye at the remaining shows.

In recent years, Ringling Bros. tried to remain relevant, hiring its first African American ringmaster, then its first female ringmaster, and also launching an interactive app. It added elements from its other, popular shows, such as motorbike daredevils and ice skaters. But it seemingly was no match for Pokemon Go and a generation of kids who desire familiar brands and YouTube celebrities.

"We tried all these different things to see what would work, and supported it with a lot of funding as well, and we weren't successful in finding the solution," said Kenneth Feld.

LA Fitness in Florida tests positive for Legionella

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 6:49 PM

Legionella pneumophila bacteria, illustration.
ROYALTYSTOCKPHOTO/SCIENCE PHOTO/Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

At least one of the Central Florida LA Fitness gyms the state health department linked to four cases of Legionnaires’ disease tested positive for Legionella bacteria.

>> Read more trending news  

The Orange County Health Department reported that multiple samples from local LA Fitness came back positive.

>> Read: 4 LA Fitness members contract Legionnaires' disease in Orlando

Officials are still waiting to get the results from the LA Fitness in Metro West in unincorporated Hunters Creek.

Legionella can cause two illnesses, including Legionnaires' disease, which is a rare but serious form pneumonia. 

The affected gym will have to consult with a water systems management company.

>> Read: 2 cases of Legionnaires' disease linked to hot tub at Clermont retirement community

Earlier this year, three members of the LA Fitness in Ocoee were sickened by Legionnaires’ disease, but test results came back negative for the Legionella bacteria.

In Orange County, LA Fitness gyms were also linked to the disease in 2008 and 2010.

Update: Police in Florida review test kits after drywall tests positive for cocaine

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 7:22 PM

(WFTV)

Police in Oviedo, Florida, said they will take a closer look at their drug-test kits after what may have been drywall powder tested positive for cocaine.

>> Read more trending news

Karlos Cashe was pulled over in March for driving without headlights. 

A K-9 officer made a hit on possible drugs on the passenger side of Cashe’s vehicle, police said.

>> EARLIER: Powdered drywall mistaken for cocaine lands innocent man behind bars for 90 days

Oviedo police used a test kit and said a powdery substance tested positive for cocaine; police said they also found marijuana in the car. 

Cashe was on probation for marijuana and cocaine charges. 

However, further testing by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed the powdery substance was really drywall. 

Cashe sat in jail for 90 days before the test results came back. 

>> RELATED: Florida police officer who mistook doughnut glaze for meth resigns

“I sat there 90 days knowing I was innocent,” Cashe said. 

Police Tuesday released body-camera video of Cashe’s arrest in March. 

“We had probable cause. Our presumptive tests on the cocaine was positive and that’s what we go off of. That’s why with every presumptive that we do, we send it off to FDLE,” said Lt. Heather Capetillo with the Oviedo Police Department. 

Police use a NarcoPouch, made by Safariland, to test for the narcotics. 

Safariland is the same company used by Orlando police when they arrested a man after doughnut glaze tested positive for meth. 

WFTV asked Oviedo police if there was an issue with the test kits. 

“We will probably review test kits. (We will) contact FDLE and see if there are other test kits or other brands we can use,” Capetillo said.

Fake Time magazine covers displayed at Donald Trump’s golf club locations

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 7:07 PM

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 27:  U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House June 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

UPDATE June 27 at 7:00 p.m.: The Washington Post reported that by Tuesday evening, a spokeswoman for Time Magazine said that the publication “asked the Trump Organization to remove the phony cover from the walls where it was on display.”

Original story:

President Donald Trump has a framed Time Magazine cover of himself decorating at least four of his golf clubs, two in the United States and two overseas, but according to reports, the cover is fake.

>> Read more trending news 

According to a report in The Washington Post, the magazine cover is dated March 1, 2009, and features a full-size image of Trump. The headline reads, “Donald Trump: ‘The Apprentice’ is a television smash!”

Then, in another place the cover, in all caps no less, is the statement: “TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS . . . EVEN TV!”

RELATED: President Trump reacts after three CNN journalists resign over a retracted Russia story

A reporter visiting one of Trump’s properties recently saw the cover and noticed several discrepancies from normal Time covers. For one, the red border on the Trump cover was thinner than a normal Time cover, and it lacks the thin white line that the magazine usually features. The fake cover also features two exclamation points – something that a cover from Time normally wouldn’t feature.

The Washington Post contacted Time Magazine to find out if the cover was, in fact, a fake, and the publication revealed that it was not a real magazine cover.

There was no March 1, 2009, Time Magazine, and on top of that, Trump was not featured on any of the publication’s covers in all of 2009.

The Trump Organization has not responded to requests for comment from The Post, and when they contacted White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to find out why the clubs displayed a fake cover, she replied that they “couldn’t comment on the decor at Trump Golf clubs one way or another.”

Pregnant Taco Bell employee choked by woman upset over hot sauce packets, report says

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 5:53 PM

A customer reportedly attacked a pregnant Taco Bell employee because she did not get enough sauce packets.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images/Getty Images

A Taco Bell customer in Goshen, Indiana, attacked a pregnant employee because she did not get enough hot sauce packets, according to a report from The Elkhart Truth.

Goshen Police Department spokeswoman Tina Kingsbury said that the woman came into the restaurant Monday afternoon and ordered a meal.

>> Read more trending news

Kingsbury told The Elkhart Truth that the suspect, described as a woman in her late 30s, became upset over how the 26-year-old pregnant employee handed her hot sauce packets. She also wanted more of the packets.

The woman pushed the employee against a wall and choked her, according to police.

The Elkhart Truth reported that authorities are still investigating the incident. No surveillance footage has been released.