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SeaWorld's cruel breeding program comes to a very bittersweet end.

It's been a long time coming, but the breeding program is finally done with.

SeaWorld's cruel breeding program comes to a very bittersweet end.

Three months ago, SeaWorld's orca breeding program came to a long-awaited close with the birth of one last whale: Kyara.

It was welcome news, too. For years, activists have fought back against SeaWorld's treatment of orcas, which has been widely described as "cruel." The 2013 film "Blackfish" put a spotlight on some of SeaWorld's frightening behind-the-scenes antics, and in March 2016, the organization announced a plan to put an end to the breeding program and phase out the public shows.

It was a huge win for animal rights activists, and Kyara's birth at SeaWorld San Antonio was a milestone in itself, as she would be final whale to be born and raised in a SeaWorld park.


Kyara with her mom, Takara. GIF from SeaWorld/YouTube.

In late July 2017, tragedy struck. Kyara contracted an infection and, on July 24, the 3-month-old orca died.

SeaWorld announced the heartbreaking news on its website and social media channels later that day, writing, "Kyara had faced some very serious and progressive health issues over the last week that the animal care and veterinary teams had been aggressively treating." While the specific cause of death isn't yet known, SeaWorld says that signs point to it being pneumonia, a common illness in whale calfs.

Kyara's death is a powerful symbol of SeaWorld's marred reputation, a tragic — if fitting — end to an era.

The good news is that SeaWorld's breeding program is over, at least. SeaWorld's orca shows will be phased out by 2019 — also a positive.

Still, the question remains: What will happen to the more than 20 remaining orcas in captivity at SeaWorld? That's a fight activists aren't quite done with.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has called on SeaWorld to relocate its remaining whales to coastal sanctuaries. Whales that have spent a great deal of time living in captivity might not fare well being released into the wild, which makes the idea of a middle-ground solution sound appealing.

Unfortunately for PETA and other advocates, SeaWorld has rejected their proposition, calling the idea of relocating orcas to "unproven sea cages" dangerous.

Many activists want SeaWorld to extend its ban on captivity breeding to other animals, such as dolphins. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Humane Society executive Wayne Pacelle said, "This is the beginning of discussions with SeaWorld, not the end."

For now, rest in peace, Kyara — and may this tragedy be the last of its kind.

GIF from SeaWorld/YouTube

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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