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Celebrated writer George Saunders to appear in Tampa on February 18

Acclaimed writer George Saunders will be making a rare appearance in Tampa next month, just days after the publication of his debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.

Saunders will be at the Tampa Theatre on Saturday, February 18, at 2:30 p.m., in an appearance with 2016 National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35’ honoree Thomas Pierce and LA Times Book Prize finalist David James Poissant for what the Tampa Theatre’s website calls “a landmark conversation about writing, humor, and the role of fiction in contemporary life.”

The event is part of the OE Spotlight series and is being presented by the Tampa Theatre and Oxford Exchange.

 

Saunders was known in literary circles for more than a decade before the publication of his last collection of short stories, Tenth of December, was published to critical praise four years ago. The book prompted a cover story in the New York Times Magazine,  calling it the best book of the year, which was particularly noteworthy since the story was published just three days into the new year.

 

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Five nominees slated for Law Enforcement Hall of Fame

As many as five people – including a former FDLE head and two late county sheriffs – will likely be added to the Florida Law Enforcement Officers’ Hall of Fame, according to documents filed for the next Cabinet meeting.

Cabinet aides meet today to prepare for the next meeting, set for next Tuesday.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen will present Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam with the latest nominees. In alphabetical order:

Richard M. Beary. He served more than 39 years in state and local law enforcement, including the Altamonte Springs Police Department, the Lake Mary Police Department, and the University of Central Florida, where he is now chief. Beary also was president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “He has been a national voice on community-oriented policing and served on the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a group dedicated to develop community-involved solutions for bias-free policing,” the nomination says.

William B. Berger. He’s spent 42 years in “public service and public safety,” starting with the Miami Police Department and later as chief of police for North Miami Beach Police Department. In 2004, he was named as the chief of police for Palm Bay Police Department, “where he continued to create and implement new programs and use technology to enhance policing.” Berger is now U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Florida.

James T. Moore. He began his career with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 1973, and was named FDLE Commissioner in 1988 by Gov. Bob Martinez and the Florida Cabinet. Moore then served under Govs. Lawton Chiles, Buddy MacKay (in office after Chiles’ death for less than a month) and Jeb Bush until his retirement in 2003. His focus included “involv(ing) the public in the recovery of missing children and the identification of sexual offenders and predators.” After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “his leadership led to the establishment of Florida’s domestic security infrastructure, which continues to provide a framework for managing and reducing potential threats to national and state security,” his nomination says.

Neil J. Perry. He began his career as a reserve patrol officer with the St. Augustine Police Department in 1968, then was a deputy with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office in 1974 before being sheriff in 1984. Perry was re-elected five more terms until his retirement on Dec. 31, 2004. Perry was president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, chairman of the Florida Youth Ranches, chairman of the Commission on Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation and chairman and co-founder of the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute. “His commitment to create an accreditation program for Florida led to the establishment of an award named after him,” the nomination reads. He died in 2012.

J.M. “Buddy” Phillips. He served 45 years in law enforcement in Florida, starting as a deputy sheriff with Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office in 1963. Phillips was elected sheriff there in 1968, later joining FDLE, where he became director of mutual aid. He became executive director of the Florida Sheriffs Association in 1988, retiring in 2002. “Due in part to his ability to bring stability to an agency, he was appointed by two different governors to serve as sheriff in several counties between 1983 and 2004 and was the only person to serve as sheriff in seven different Florida counties,” his nomination says. Phillips died in 2008.

Current Hall of Fame members are Willis D. Booth, who served more than 40 years in law enforcement, including the Clearwater Police Department and FDLE; Larry Campbell, a 53-year law enforcement veteran who died in office in 2014 as Leon County Sheriff; Thomas D. Hurlburt Jr., an Orlando Police Department chief, Orange County’s director of public safety, and U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Florida before retiring in 2011; James F. Medley, who served more than 35 years with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and was the longest continuously certified deputy sheriff in Pasco County history; and Leonidas George Mavro Thalassites, who served on the Metro-Dade Police Department, Hialeah Police Department and Tampa Police Department, and is the oldest-serving law enforcement officer in America, according to the International Police Association.

The Florida Law Enforcement Officers’ Hall of Fame, created by the Legislature in 2014, “recognizes and honors law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line for the safety and protection of Florida’s citizens and visitors through their works, service and exemplary accomplishments,” its website says.

Nominations were accepted from the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Police Chiefs Association, the Police Benevolent Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the State Law Enforcement Chiefs’ Association.

Members’ photos hang on a wall in the Capitol’s plaza level rotunda.

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FSU “policy pub” chat surveys a future with robot cars

Self-driving cars promise to reshape the country into a more urban, but more humane, place. But we need to make sure the technology serves human needs, rather than adjust ourselves to technology’s demands.

That was the word Tuesday evening from Tim Chapin, a professor of urban and regional planning and interim dean of the College of Social Sciences at Florida State University.

“It’s happening, and it’s happening very quickly. Your grandkids and great-grandkids are going to grow up in a very different world because of this technology,” Chapin said during a “policy pub” discussion the college staged at a Tallahassee restaurant.

“It’s my view that we need to make sure we get in front of the technology and what we want our communities to look like — and have the technology serve the communities rather than the communities we build to serve the technology as it comes to the fore.

“Because that’s what happened with the automobile 100 years ago,” he continued. “It’s about us as humans and not the expensive vehicles that we drive or that we ride in.”

Self-driving cars — also called autonomous vehicles or robot cars — promise to undo some of the damage done to the landscape by human-driven cars, Chapin said. They could free real estate occupied by parking lots, and ease traffic and urban sprawl.

And they’re legal in Florida.

They will communicate with one another and potentially with road infrastructure to warn of potholes, congestion, and other hazards. They could be shared, obviating the requirement to purchase a personal vehicle. One could simply summon a car for the morning commute — as with ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

That would mean many fewer cars on the road. One autonomous vehicle could replace as many as 11 personal vehicles, Chapin said.

We wouldn’t need expansive parking lots — just drop off zones. People could live in that space, instead of cars, which could be relegated to exurban parking facilities when not in use.

The United States sees 5.5 million auto accidents every year, 93 percent of them because of human error, Chapin said. But autonomous vehicles don’t fall asleep or spill hot coffee in their laps.

“The vehicle will have true situational awareness that will be able to react better and more quickly than a human driver would be, and they are paying attention better than a human driver would be,” Chapin said.

He foresaw “free-flowing” intersections that don’t need traffic lights.

“You’re sitting in the vehicle. It doesn’t have a steering wheel. It doesn’t have brakes. It doesn’t have a gas pedal. You’re just going to go through that interchange and trust the vehicle is smart enough not to hit any other vehicle out there,” Chapin said.

“And I can tell you; we’re pretty sure we can get that right,” he said.

As in “99.9999 percent” sure.

“That’s a pretty high probability you’re going to make it through that intersection.”

Someone asked: With so many fewer cars on the road, how would people in Florida evacuate ahead of a hurricane?

Chapin said his researchers raised that very question with state officials, asking them to consider that scenario.

“We talked to our friends at emergency management about this, and their answer is, ‘Huh. Yes, we should.’ ”

Chapin’s a professor, so he naturally had a reading list: He recommended this book and this report, prepared for the Florida Department of Transportation by the FSU Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

The college began staging these discussions before last year’s elections, “to bring the scholarship of our outstanding college to the community,” Chapin told the crowd at Tallahassee’s Backwood Bistro. “And to get your feedback on the work we do.”

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Evidence against Florida officer charged in killing released

An undercover police officer is never heard identifying himself before he fatally shot a black drummer whose car had broken down on the interstate, according to evidence released Tuesday by prosecutors who have charged him with manslaughter.

The Palm Beach County state attorney’s office released thousands of documents, photos and video and audio recordings to former Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja‘s attorneys and the public, including recordings of two phone calls and Raja’s interview with investigators hours after the shooting.

Those recordings played key roles in prosecutors charging Raja, 39, last year with manslaughter and attempted murder for the October 2015 shooting of 31-year-old Corey Jones, whose SUV had broken down on an Interstate 95 off-ramp before dawn as he returned home from a performance.

Raja, who is of South Asian descent, has pleaded not guilty and his attorneys and union have said the shooting was justified as Jones was armed.

Jones, who also worked as a housing department inspector, was sitting in his SUV talking to a tow truck dispatcher when Raja, who was investigating car burglaries, drove an unmarked white van the wrong way up the off ramp, according to records.

Wearing a T-shirt and jeans, Raja got out of the van and came toward Jones, who had a Florida concealed carry permit for the handgun. His family said he had just purchased the gun to protect the expensive drum gear in his vehicle’s trunk.

As Raja neared the SUV, the door chime began sounding, the recording shows, indicating Jones had opened the door.

As he apparently exited, Jones told Raja, “No. I’m good. Yeah, I’m good.”

“Really?” Raja replied, with Jones quickly responding “Yeah.”

Suddenly Raja yelled for Jones to raise his hands, twice using profanity. Jones responded, “Hold on. Hold on.” Raja again, using profanity, told him to raise his hands before firing two shots.

Jones began running down an embankment and into the grass as Raja fired several more shots, killing him. Jones’ unfired gun was found about 75 feet from his SUV. Jones’ body was found another 125 feet away.

In a 911 call that prosecutors say Raja placed about 30 seconds later, the officer yells for Jones to drop his gun even though they say he knew Jones had been felled by his shots.

About four hours after the shooting, Raja told Palm Beach County sheriff’s detective Kenny Smith in a voluntary interview that he had walked up to the van thinking it was unoccupied and that he was surprised when he saw Jones inside.

“The door swung open and, uh, this guy jumps outside immediately,” Raja told Smith. “He got out of the van and then he’s like, ‘I’m OK, I’m OK man.’ And at which point I said, ‘Hey, man, police, can I help you?’ And the second I said police, he jumped back and I clearly remember him drawing and…pointing a gun at me.” He said he ordered Jones to drop the gun and then fired when he didn’t.

“It’s just like, you know, your family flashed in front of you, your kids flashed in front of you,” Raja told Smith. He said he called 911 as he was chasing Jones and fired again only after Jones turned back toward him with the gun.

The recording of the 911 call contains no gunshots.

Raja was fired shortly after the shooting. Jones’ family is suing him and the Palm Beach Gardens police.

A court hearing is set for Feb. 21. There, a date for Raja’s criminal trial could be scheduled.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

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Alicia Garza, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, to speak at USF

Alicia Garza, social activist and co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, will speak at the University of South Florida at 8 p.m. today (doors open at 7:30 p.m.) as part of the student-run University Lecture Series in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom.

The lecture is part of the university’s MLK Commemorative Week, celebrating the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The student organizers of the event expect Garza to engage the audience in a discussion about race relations in America and how her organization’s activism became the national movement it is today, galvanizing individuals to stand up together against violence, police brutality and social injustice.

According to Garza’s bio, her work helped #BlackLivesMatter grow from a social media phenomenon into a human rights organization. The movement began with Garza’s social media posts in the wake of George Zimmerman’s 2013 acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin. Along with co-creators Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, she turned the hashtag into an organizing network of more than 26 chapters and a rallying cry of human rights marches.

Garza’s career has put her at the intersection of organizational strategies and social movements. As executive director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), she organized against police violence in black communities. In 2015, she was named to The Root 100 list of African-American achievers and influencers between ages 25-45 and the Politico 50 guide to thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics. She is now special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

The lecture is free and open to the public on a limited first come, first served basis following priority seating for USF students.

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Ringling Bros. Circus performs last Orlando show

They stood 10 deep in lines to buy tickets to witness the end of an era at the last Orlando performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Many said they changed their plans on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and headed to the Amway Center after hearing that the circus was ending its 146-year run.

Ringling’s demise was blamed on declining ticket sales, high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups that claimed the circus abused its animals.

Katie Robinson drove from Port St. Lucie with her five daughters, who range in age from 6 to 16, to see the show.

“This is a huge loss for the American public and a tragedy that such a pure form of entertainment will soon be gone,” said Robinson, who worked as an aerialist and rode the elephants for the Hanneford Family Circus in Fort Lauderdale.

Robinson said during her eight years with the circus, she never saw any animal abuse and felt that the trainers treated the animals with loving care.

“The allegations are just ridiculous,” she said.

Ringling owner, Feld Entertainment, announced Saturday that their two traveling circuses would end their 30-show tour May 21. Monday was the last day of a five-day run in Orlando.

Four representatives of the Animals Rights Foundation of Florida stood across the street from the Amway Center and urged people to go to circuses.com to watch videos of animal abuse. The website is sponsored by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a vocal opponent of Ringling.

“I’m out here for every animal that ever felt the sting of a whip or been beaten by a bull hook,” said Carla Wilson, who added that she has been protesting at Ringling events for 20 years.

Another animal rights advocate said she came to celebrate the end of the Ringling circus.

“Animals belong in the wild,” said Patti Boyle. “They were not born to entertain people. You never see elephants wearing tutus and walking on their back feet in the wild.”

Ringling removed elephants from its shows last May, following a 14-year legal battle with PETA and The Human Society of the United States. The animals had been the symbol of the circus since P.T. Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882.

The show dates back to the late 1800s, when P.T. Barnum partnered with ringmaster James A. Bailey to produce a traveling show of animals and human oddities. The show merged with five brothers from the Ringling family who performed skits and juggling routines. The circus spent decades traveling by train, transporting hundreds of animals, performers and big-top tents to cities throughout the United States.

The family-owned Feld Entertainment bought the circus in 1967.

Despite the controversy, Donna Allen said she wanted to show the next generation a piece of what will soon be history.

“I grew up watching the Ringling Bros. circus and wanted my grandsons to experience it,” said Allen, who brought her daughter and her two sons, ages 1 and 3. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the last show.”

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Love it or hate it, people have opinions on the circus

Reaction to news that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was closing after 146 years – from saddened celebrities to elated animal rights advocates – flew as fast as a flying trapeze.

Feld Entertainment, owner of the iconic circus, broke the news to circus employees Saturday night that the show would close permanently in May. The reasons cited for the closure were falling ticket sales, high operating costs, changing public tastes in entertainment – and prolonged battles with animal rights groups.

Some well-known fans took to Twitter to mourn.

Basketball star Shaquille O’Neal wrote on Twitter: “”noooooo pls don’t close whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy nooooooooo noooooooooo.” Singer Donnie Wahlberg recalled when New Kids on the Block played with de la Soul at Madison Square Garden with Ringling. “dancing on elephant dung!” he tweeted.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee took to Twitter to bemoan the show’s end. “Greatest Show on Earth won’t be seen by future generations. Thanks for the memories, RB!”

However, fondness for the circus was not universal. Actress and animal rights advocate Pamela Anderson wrote, simply: “It’s over!” And Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, claimed victory.

“We’ve been protesting the circus vigorously for 36 years since our inception,” she said. “We see this as a wonderful evolution in human awareness.”

After the news broke, circus fans ran out to get tickets for “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Laurice Marier, a 45-year-old entertainment production manager, said she rushed out to buy tickets for the Orlando show on Sunday.

“When I think of a circus, I think of childhood, and I think we all want to recapture who we were,” she said. “To just have that one last moment of recapturing your childhood, that’s what provoked me to buy the tickets today.”

Marvin Freeman of Orlando, who bought tickets for Sunday’s show, had adored the elephants before they were removed from the show in 2016 following costly years of litigation with animal rights groups.

“Because, you could be down in the first row and the ground would bounce up and down, you could smell it and say, here they come! Now, it’s just terrible,” he said. “What do you do? No clowns anymore, no trained dogs anymore, there’s just a whole part of Americana that’s gone.”

Kay Baker, a 57-year-old office coordinator in Lexington, Kentucky, recalled fondly how when she was a child, she’d purchased a chameleon at the circus one year that lived for about a year. Over the years she brought her child, then her grandchildren, to the circus. But she gradually noticed a change in quality.

“I thought the show had deteriorated. It didn’t have as much trapeze artists and those kinds of acts. There were people riding motorcycles around ramps. To me, it wasn’t even the circus anymore.”

She was also torn between her magical childhood memories and her feelings of unease about the performing animals.

“I’m such an animal lover, it breaks my heart to see them,” she said. “It saddens me. Now it doesn’t entertain me.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Nowhere left to run away to: The final days of the circus

Goodbye to death-defying feats — daring young men (and women) on the flying trapeze, whip-wielding lion tamers, human cannonballs. Goodbye to the scent of peanuts and popcorn, the thrill of three rings, the jaunty bum-bum-dadadada of circus music.

Send out the clowns. The Big Top is coming down — for good.

On Saturday, officials of the company that owns the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it will close in May, ending a 146-year run that dates back to a time before automobiles or airplanes or movies, when Ulysses S. Grant was president and minstrel shows were popular entertainment.

What killed the circus? There are many suspects: increased railroad costs. Costly court battles with animal rights activists that led to an end to elephant acts — and the fact that some people didn’t want to see a show without elephants.

But mostly, in an era of Pokemon Go, online role-playing games and YouTube celebrities, the “Greatest Show on Earth” doesn’t seem so great.

“It’s been through world wars, and it’s been through every kind of economic cycle and it’s been through a lot of change,” said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. “In the past decade, there’s been more change in the world than in the 50 or 75 years prior to that. And I think it isn’t relevant to people in the same way.”

For a long time, the circus was more than relevant — it was the stuff that dreams were made of.

The first circuses were created in Europe; the American twist would be canvas tents that allowed mobile troupes to go to the far-flung audiences of the 19th century.

Phineas Taylor Barnum‘s traveling menagerie was wildly popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits in Wisconsin. Eventually, Barnum, the Ringlings and another performance-minded businessman named James Bailey pooled their resources and knowledge. Some of the early performances were merely zoos on wheels and a few human oddities, but over time, the acts became truly spectacular — attractions like Jumbo, touted as the world’s largest elephant.

Sprawling companies traveled around America by train, wowing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals. Deborah Walk, assistant director of legacy and circus at The Ringling — circus impresario John Ringling‘s mansion, art and circus collection in Sarasota — said that the circus’ impact on small town America is often overlooked.

“That wonderful show that you can see in Madison Square Garden crisscrossed the country and ended up in San Francisco. And every place in between saw the same thing,” she said.

“In the 1880s, especially, here you had this huge colossal canvas city that tracked across the country. It brought the wonders of the world to your door. You didn’t have to go to Africa or Asia to see the animals.”

The circus also heralded societal changes, she said. Women became performers around the turn of the 20th century (although there would be no African-American ringmaster until 1999 or a female ringmaster until 2016).

When the circus came to town, kids dreamed of running away to join it and its ever-changing roster of stars: the sad-faced clown, Emmitt Kelly; the daredevil trapeze act, the Flying Wallendas; Gunther Gabel-Williams, blond-maned and fearless in the ring with the big cats.

The circus was so important to homefront morale that President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave Ringling Bros. special permission to use the rails during World War II.

“The circus is the only ageless delight that you can buy for money,” Ernest Hemingway wrote in a three-page essay for the Ringling Bros. program in 1953. “It is the only spectacle I know, that, while you watch it, gives the quality of a truly happy dream.”

But as the 20th century went on, kids became 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. After 1956, the circus no longer performed under tents, moving to arenas.

The public grew conflicted about animal acts. Circuses without animals — such as Cirque du Soleil — were smaller and growing in popularity.

Animal rights activists put pressure on cities where the circus toured. Los Angeles and Oakland prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant trainers. Asheville, North Carolina, banned wild or exotic animals from performing in the city-owned stadium.

In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from groups including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year legal battle over allegations that circus employees mistreated elephants.

The initial lawsuit was filed by a former Ringling barn helper who accepted at least $190,000 from animal-rights groups. The judge called him “essentially a paid plaintiff” who lacked credibility and standing to sue, and rejected the abuse claims.

Kenneth Feld testified about the elephants’ importance to the show at that 2009 trial.

“The symbol of the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ is the elephant, and that’s what we’ve been known for throughout the world for more than a hundred years,” he said.

Asked whether the show would be the same without elephants, Feld replied, “No, it wouldn’t.”

And, it wasn’t. Feld Entertainment removed the elephants in 2016, sending all 40 of them to their Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. Ticket sales plummeted. The circus, already an afterthought for many, receded further in the public mind.

Jeff and Carol Fouse of St. Louis, Missouri, toured the Ringling Circus Museum on a recent day. They saw the old-timey diorama of the circus encampments. They shuffled past the colorful, sequined ringmaster costumes and peered into the rail cars that were once filled with clowns and elephants and even a pygmy hippo.

Then they squinted into the bright Florida sunshine. “I don’t even know if there is a circus anymore,” said Jeff Fouse, a 63-year-old engineer, tilting his head.

The Feld family, which bought the circus in 1967, has branched out and bought and created other large-scale touring shows, such as Disney on Ice, Marvel Live and Monster Jam. Each was specialized with characters and stories, but Feld made sure that each had a bit of the circus in them, as well. It was, after all, about the show.

But the circus, itself, was dying.

The Felds said they looked at scenarios and costs. They ran numbers and tried new things — an interactive phone app, ice skaters in the show, adding motorcycle stunts — but nothing worked.

The show will go on at smaller and more specialized circuses. But come May, after almost a century and a half of spectacular revels, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will vanish, like a big, colorful, improbably long dream.

Sixty-three years ago, in his circus program essay, Hemingway marveled at the way performers made stunts and tricks in the ring look so simple.

“It is all wonderfully easy in your dreams,” he wrote.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Ringling Bros Circus to end its 146-year run

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is folding up its tent, ending nearly a century and a half of performing the Greatest Show on Earth.

A combination of declining attendance, increasing operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups caused the downfall of the American icon.

Circus employees were told Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami.

“After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will hold its final performances in May of this year, according to a statement from Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which produces the circus.

Feld added that ticket sales dropped dramatically after the circus retired elephants from its shows last May after a 14-year fight with animal rights activists over allegations that circus employees mistreated the elephants.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), one of the circus’ most vocal critics, took credit for the demise.

“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.

Ringling’s two traveling shows have 30 remaining scheduled appearances. The final shows are May 7 in Providence, R.I. and May 21 in Uniondale, N.Y.

The announcement puts most of the shows’ 500 or so employees out of a job, the Associated Press reported. Feld said some would be transferred to the company’s other shows like Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Marvel Live! The company will help with job placement, resumes and, in some cases, housing relocation.

Ringling’s 40 retired elephants are living at the Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk County, which the company will continue to operate. Homes will be found for the other animals, which include lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas.

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Aegis Technologies celebrates 20 years of helping businesses with all things tech

Twenty years ago, Pam Butler and Brad Mitchell saw an opportunity in North Florida.

With no qualified tech consultant to serve the region’s growing business community, the pair founded the Tallahassee-based Aegis Business Technologies to fill the gap.

Since 1997, Aegis has transformed into a one-stop-shop for all things tech – obtaining, installing and supporting tablets, laptops, servers, firewalls, wireless, email, cloud storage, websites, cabling – just about anything technological a business might need.

“We are a Managed Services Provider (MSP),” explained CEO Blake Dowling, a regular tech columnist for FloridaPolitics.com. “We manage all of your tech, including serving as a liaison to all third-party providers (software, printers, etc.)”

“We take care of it all,” Dowling said. “And act as your trusted adviser.”

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, Aegis received armfuls of awards, including a five-time Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Technology Company of the Year. Aegis has been ranked nationally as a high-performing MSP by organizations such as Ingram Micro, Channel2Channel Magazine and MSP Mentor. There’ve also been recognized for excellence by the Jim Moran Institute, Best of Tallahassee and Tally Awards.

“I often say I have more courage than brains, and my advisers over the years have said that I am the most persistent creature they’ve ever known,” said Butler, who now serves as Aegis’ chair. “That’s why I have surrounded myself with a brilliant partner, the most skilled CEO, learned advisors, trusted customers and a supportive community.”

Butler pointed out that the company, located at 1310 Thomasville Rd. in Tallahassee, is “as vibrant as ever.”

Looking forward to the next 20 years, Butler said Aegis and her team are committed to providing the latest solutions and support for businesses of any size.

“For this, I will be forever grateful,” she added vibrantly. “We changed our stars.”

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