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.

10 things new grads should know before starting first jobs

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 12:21 PM



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As colleges across the country wrap up classes, final exams and commencement ceremonies, it’s time for new grads to find new jobs.

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If you’ve landed one, congratulations! Take a minute, enjoy the moment and read these pointers to help you get ready for the real world:

1. Your boss is a valuable resource

A smart boss will take the time to explain the job to you, provide training and monitor your progress. They aren’t your friend, so maintain professional relationships, but they, and you, should be friendly and pleasant.

A good supervisor will be responsive to your questions and help you move forward in your career.

2. Walk in prepared

No matter how much research you do, there is going to be a learning curve. But if you have a good idea of what the company does and how your role relates to that, you’ll flatten out that learning curve quickly after learning where the cafeteria and bathrooms are. Look at LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other online resources.

3. Be part of the team

You’re joining a group of people who have been working together for some time. While you might have hated doing group projects in school, you’ll need to learn how to do that now. You will likely rely on your co-workers, and your co-workers will rely on you. The most successful groups complete their tasks by working well together.

4. Hang your ego next to your diploma

Since you’re the new person on the scene, be prepared to listen and learn. Soak up all the information you can. Learn from people at the company who have experience on the job and can help get you up to speed.

As a new employee, the phrase “you have two ears, two eyes and one mouth -- use them proportionately” directly applies to you.

5. Enjoy lunch

While it is tempting to work extra hard to make a good impression, give yourself a chance to meet and get to know your co-workers. This is a simple way to build team chemistry without resorting to the painful “team-building exercises” you may have to go through.

6. Dress the part

This is office life 101: before you start, try and determine the office’s dress code and conform to it.

If you aren’t able to figure this out before your first day, err on the side of formality. Leave the extra piercings and ripped jeans at home until you get a sense of the office protocol.

7. Be nice

Having your first impression be one of a friendly, open person goes a long way. You’ll meet a lot of new people; expect a diversity of ages, backgrounds, attitudes, work habits and experiences. A positive attitude and cheerful demeanor will mark you as someone people want to be around and work with.

8. Be flexible

You might have strolled off the graduation stage with a 4.0 and an armload of awards, but that still means you’re the new person in the office. That’s going to involve doing a certain amount of menial labor to work your way up the food chain. It’s not sexy work, but getting it done with a smile will give your boss a good impression.

Flexibility, responsiveness and adaptability are all good traits.

9. Mistakes happen

You make a mistake. It happens. The worst thing you can do is try to cover it up. Instead try to find a solution and fix it.

Keep your head up, recognize what you did wrong, learn from it and do your best to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If whatever you’re doing still feels awkward, take the time to practice on a weekend or away from the office without other people watching.

10. Make the effort

The easiest path to success at your first job is figuring out what your objective is and doing your best to achieve it. Particularly for entry positions, effort is an important, if not the most important, part of the job. Be there early and ready to get started. 

>> Related: 19 mistakes college grads make when finding their first apartments

Man dies after eating gas station nachos

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 11:42 AM



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A man who contracted botulism, a rare and deadly poisoning, after consuming nachos purchased at a California gas station has died.

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Martin Galindo, 37, was one of 10 people hospitalized after eating contaminated nacho cheese sauce at Valley Oak Food and Fuel in Walnut Grove, California, near Sacramento.

A GoFundMe account for Galindo said he was in the hospital for weeks, where he was on a ventilator, fell into a coma and was pronounced brain dead. He was a husband and father of two, according to the account.

The California Department of Public Health found toxins released by bacteria that cause the illness in cheese sauce that was sold at the gas station. The sauce was removed from the gas station May 5.

>> Previous story: At least 5 contract botulism, potentially fatal poisoning, from gas station nachos

Lavinia Kelly, a mother of three who ate nacho cheese from Food and Fuel on April 21, has been in intensive care for more than three weeks. She has been unable to open her eyes or perform motor functions.

“While there are still unanswered questions about this outbreak, these tragic illnesses are important reminders to be vigilant about food safety,” said CDPH director and state public health officer Karen Smith. 

According to the California Department of Public Health, the toxin that causes botulism can be found in foods that are not properly processed or stored.

“As we head into the summer barbecue season, both indoor and outdoor chefs need to be on guard against all food-borne illnesses,” Smith said.

Botulism symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, difficulty speaking, drooping eyelids, blurry vision, slurred speech and paralysis.

Between 5 and 10 percent of botulism cases are fatal, according to the World Health Organization.

The poisoning is rare; only 15 food-borne cases of botulism were reported 2014.

Jury selection to begin in Bill Cosby sex assault trial

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 9:34 AM

NORRISTOWN, PA - MAY 24:  Bill Cosby departs the Montgomery County Courthouse after a preliminary hearing, May 24, 2016, in Norristown, Pennsylvania.  Cosby was ordered to stand trial on sexual assault charges after a hearing that hinged on a decade-old police report. (Photo by Matt Rourke-Pool/Getty Images)
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Thirteen years after a Temple University basketball team manager went to famous alumni Bill Cosby's nearby home for career advice, her complaint that Cosby drugged and molested her that night will soon be a task for a Pennsylvania jury.

>> Read more trending news

Jury selection in the sexual assault case will begin Monday at the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh, two weeks ahead of Cosby’s scheduled trial in Montgomery County.

The trial will start June 5.

Cosby, 79, is accused of drugging and assaulting the former Temple University employee in 2004.

WPXI's legal analyst expects that more than the usual 12 jurors and two alternates will be selected because of the extremely high-profile nature of the case. More than 100 potential jurors will be called.

Cosby is expected to be in the courtroom.

Allegheny County officials said last week that they called in additional security and staff to handle the high-profile case.

After the jury is selected, it will be bused across the state to Montgomery County for the trial and sequestered for the duration.

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The Associated Press and the Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Search for missing Ohio woman leads investigators to boyfriend’s backyard

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 3:22 PM

Ohio authorities are digging in a backyard at a home in metro Dayton, searching for a woman who disappeared in 2010.

Cold case investigators believe Nikki Lyn Forrest, 19, may be buried in the back of a home in Troy where she once lived with her boyfriend.

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“We’re digging,” Troy police Detective Captain Jeff Kunkleman said. “We have information that at the time close to her disappearance she was at this residence.” 

Forrest’s aunt and uncle, Dan and Mickey Langston, of Troy, were at the home as the search for Forrest or clues in her disappearance continued Tuesday.

“I hope she is preferably found alive and comes home, or if she’s not living I would like them to find her and give her a proper burial and service,” Mickey Langston said.

Kunkleman said Tuesday’s search was prompted by new information Dayton cold case investigators received from new interviews and re-interviews of people.

Kunkleman said the backyard search was focused on an area that would have been below a shed.

He said “human remain,” or cadaver dogs helped to narrow down the search. Kunkleman also said the current property owner has been cooperating.

“We want to bring some closure to the family if we can,” Kunkleman said. “If we don’t find her we want to eliminate this residence as a possibility.”

Mickey Langston said her niece was an upbeat and carefree person. 

“She had a lot of boyfriends and she was just looking for love and that’s what I’m afraid led to all this,” Langston said.

Forrest was four months pregnant when she disappeared in June of 2010.

Read more here.