Midday Roundup: SeaWorld to end killer whale shows

by Leigh Jones
Posted 3/17/16, 01:05 pm

Benching Shamu. Bowing to pressure from animal rights activists, SeaWorld announced today it will end its killer whale breeding program. The 29 orcas that now live at the company’s three parks in Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio, will be the company’s last, executives said. SeaWorld has faced years of criticism from activists who say its killer whale shows are inherently cruel. The 2013 documentary Blackfish offered an unflattering look at the company’s practices. All of the negative publicity has put a dent in SeaWorld’s attendance, which averages about 20 million a year. The orca performance shows that have been a staple at the park will be replaced with displays showcasing exercise and the animals’ health. The changes will start in San Diego next year and will be completed at the other parks by 2019. SeaWorld also has set aside $50 million to push for an end to commercial whaling and other oceanic conservation issues.

Slight complication. The main Syrian Kurdish group threw a wrench into peace talks today by announcing it would set up an autonomous region in the northern part of the country. Both the Syrian government in Damascus and the main rebel groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad criticized the announcement. The proposed federal region would include the regions of Jazira, Kobani, and Afrin. Participants in the Kurdish meeting included Turkmen, Arabs, Christian, and Kurds in northern Syria, according to Nawaf Khalil, an official with the Democratic Union Party. Although peace in Syria appeared to get a boost this week when Russia pulled its warplanes out of the country, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he could scramble his jets back to the Middle East at a moment’s notice.

Church plant. Mark Driscoll will launch his new church in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Easter Sunday, according to an announcement on the church’s website. The Trinity Church will hold its first meeting at the Glass and Garden Drive-In Church. The announcement describes the evening as a “modest open house and prayer meeting.” Driscoll plans to share the church’s vision in preparation for putting together a launch team. The former pastor and founder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle resigned in 2014 amid criticism of his aggressive leadership style. Several former Mars Hill members have filed suit against Driscoll and former elder John Sutton Turner, alleging they misused contributions to the church. Driscoll has called the claims “false and malicious.”

Fired. Tullian Tchividjian, the former senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been fired from his new post at Willow Creek Presbyterian Church in Winter Springs, Fla., over unspecified failings. “In view of some recent disclosures of which we were previously unaware, we recently decided to end [his] employment,” the church said in an announcement. Willow Creek’s senior pastor, Kevin Labby, also announced he and four other board members have resigned from the Liberate Network, the ministry resource Tchividjian founded in 2011. The former pastor, one of Billy Graham’s grandsons, admitted to ongoing mistakes without giving specifics: “Nothing grieves me more than the fact that people are suffering because of my sins, both in my past as well as in the present,” Tchividjian told Christianity Today. “I want to be perfectly clear that I take full responsibility for this.” Tchividjian resigned from Coral Ridge last year after admitting to having an affair and filing for divorce.

Enough debates! Fox News has cancelled a scheduled Republican presidential debate after GOP front-runner Donald Trump backed out. “I think we’ve had enough debates. … I think I’ve done well in all the debates, but I think we’ve had enough. How many times can the same people ask you the same questions?” Trump said. While Trump says doesn’t see the need for more debates, he told Fox and Friends that he might attend the debate, which was scheduled for next Monday, if not for a scheduling conflict. Trump is speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and said his speech at the group’s Washington conference was scheduled, “a while ago.” After Trump turned down the debate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich also backed out, forcing Fox News to cancel the event.

WORLD Radio’s Mary Reichard contributed to this report.

Leigh Jones

Leigh is the news editor for WORLD Radio. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate who spent six years as a newspaper reporter in Texas before joining WORLD. Leigh also co-wrote Infinite Monster: Courage, Hope, and Resurrection in the Face of One of America's Largest Hurricanes. She resides with her husband and daughter in Houston, Texas.

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