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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.

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.


[rebelmouse-image 19529071 dam="1" original_size="500x281" caption="Kyara with her mom, Takara. GIF from SeaWorld/YouTube." expand=1]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.

[rebelmouse-image 19529072 dam="1" original_size="500x281" caption="GIF from SeaWorld/YouTube" expand=1]GIF from SeaWorld/YouTube

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Education

Teacher of the year explains why he's leaving district in unforgettable 3-minute speech

"I'm leaving in hopes that I can regain the ability to do the job that I love."

Lee Allen

For all of our disagreements in modern American life, there are at least a few things most of us can agree on. One of those is the need for reform in public education. We don't all agree on the solutions but many of the challenges are undeniable: retaining great teachers, reducing classroom size and updating the focus of student curriculums to reflect the ever-changing needs of a globalized workforce.

And while parents, politicians and activists debate those remedies, one voice is all-too-often ignored: that of teachers themselves.

This is why a short video testimony from a teacher in the Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett County went viral recently. After all, it's hard to deny the points made by someone who was just named teacher of the year and used the occasion to announce why he will be leaving the very school district that just honored him with that distinction.

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