Numbers don't lie
April 3, 2014
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Is it the Blackfish backlash? SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. just reported a 13 percent drop in attendance in the first quarter of 2014, falling to 3.05 million visitors January through March, from 3.5 million in the same quarter of 2013.

SeaWorld has been pushing back against claims made in the 2013 documentary film Blackfish that the company mistreats its killer whales. The Los Angeles Times could not reach the company for comment, but notes that during a conference call in March, SeaWorld officials rejected the notion that the movie had anything to do with declining attendance.

So what does SeaWorld believe is the reason behind the drop in visitors? An increase in ticket prices last year, and the calendar: Holidays like Easter and spring break fell earlier in 2013.

Ferguson
1:00 p.m. ET
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Lawyers for Michael Brown's parents announced Thursday that they will file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, and former police officer Darren Wilson.

Wilson, who is white, fatally shot Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, in Ferguson last year.

The announcement comes after the Justice Department said it would not bring charges against Wilson. The department also released a report Wednesday that charged Ferguson's police department with routine racial discrimination.

Daryl Parks, Brown's family's attorney, said the report documented "rampant, wholesale, systemic" problems in Ferguson's police department that must "change soon for the safety of the citizens."

This just in
12:16 p.m. ET
(POOL/Reuters/Corbis)

An Arizona judge on Thursday declared a mistrial in the sentencing phase of the Jodi Arias murder case, after a jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict. The mistrial came after another jury, which convicted Arias of murder two years ago, also failed to agree on whether she should be sentenced to death or face life in prison.

Arias was found guilty in May 2013 of brutally killing her boyfriend five years earlier. A judge will now decide her fate at a sentencing hearing set for April 13, though the death penalty is off the table because of the two mistrials.

This just in
12:03 p.m. ET

A Delta plane skidded off a snowy runway at LaGuardia Airport on Thursday morning, crashing through a fence.

No injuries have been reported. The passengers were evacuated from the plane, which is apparently leaking fuel. The plane was Flight MD-88, arriving from Atlanta.

All LaGuardia traffic has been shut down until 7:00 p.m. EST.

Really?
10:51 a.m. ET
Screenshot/KATU.com

After an Oregon family's elderly pony escaped from its stall to wander the neighborhood, a local police officer shot and killed the miniature horse for reasons its owner finds suspect.

When Crista Fitzgerald noticed Gir, her 30-year-old pony, had gone missing one morning, she immediately started looking for him. Spotting Gir laying down in a neighbor's yard, she assumed he'd gone to sleep, but, "We walked up closer and I bent down to pet him, and that's when I saw the pool of blood behind his cheek bones."

When Fitzgerald contacted the officer who had shot the pony, he claimed Gir had been hit by a car and broken his back legs — but two separate vets said there was nothing wrong with Gir when he was killed. The sheriff's office also said the officer contacted the local humane society before shooting the pony, which the humane society denies.

At the Fitzgeralds' request, the sheriff's department will investigate the incident. Gir "was part of our family," Fitzgerald says. "There's no way to replace him."

Boston Marathon Bombing
10:49 a.m. ET

Rebekah Gregory, who lost part of her left leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, on Wednesday condemned accused attacker Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a letter posted to her Facebook page.

"You are a coward," she wrote. "A little boy who wouldn't even look me in the eyes to see that. Because you can't handle the fact that what you tried to destroy, you only made stronger."

The trial of Tsarnaev, who faces 30 charges and a potential death sentence, began Wednesday with the defense admitting Tsarnaev carried out the attack. Gregory was one of several survivors of the attack who testified on the trial's opening day.

You can read Gregory's full letter here.

we dare you to eat it
9:56 a.m. ET

Is there any holiday treat as polarizing as marshmallow Peeps?

If you're in the pro-Peeps camp, you'll be thrilled to learn that starting this week, Prairie Farms is releasing a limited-edition collection of Peeps-flavored milk. The delicacy will be available in three flavors, "Marshmallow Milk," "Chocolate Marshmallow Milk," and "Easter Egg Nog."

Unfortunately, the milk will only be available at stores in the Midwest. And if you're lucky enough to get your hands on Peeps milk, be warned that it has 37 grams of sugar per serving, so you probably don't want to overindulge.

hypocrisy
9:46 a.m. ET

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been under fire this week after the revelation that she and several of her top aides used private email addresses while at the State Department, a move which fails to comply with federal transparency regulations. In 2007, however, Clinton explicitly said that the use of similarly private email accounts by the Bush administration was an attack on the Constitution. The quote begins at the seven minute mark below:

Our Constitution is being shredded. We know about the secret wiretaps, the secret military tribunals, the secret White House email accounts....It’s a stunning record of secrecy and corruption, of cronyism run amok. It is everything our founders were afraid of, everything our Constitution was designed to prevent. [Clinton, via a Daily Caller transcript]

In a tweet published late last night, Clinton said she has asked the State Department to release her emails, but critics have noted the emails to be released have already been reviewed and culled by her staff.

Watch this
9:28 a.m. ET

It's been almost 20 years since the release of Happy Gilmore, but Adam Sandler and Bob Barker's feud is as red-hot as ever. In a promo for Comedy Central's charity event Night of Too Many Stars, the unlikely comedy duo rekindle the brutal feud they first acted out as golf partners in Happy Gilmore — and take their violent fight to its logical conclusion:

Night of Too Many Stars airs on March 8.

This just in
9:20 a.m. ET
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Soon, elephants will no longer be a part of your visit to the circus.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will get rid of elephant acts by 2018, according to The Associated Press. The move comes after public concern about animal rights. Before the announcement, some cities had passed ordinances against circus elephants during performances.

Feld Entertainment, the circus' parent company, told AP the elephants will retire to the company's Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. "Things have changed," Kenneth Feld told AP. "How does a business be successful? By adapting."

The circus will still showcase other animals, such as camels.

Marvel-ous News
9:12 a.m. ET
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

To ring in the release of the blockbuster superhero sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron, select AMC and Regal theaters will host a screening of every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — a marathon screening that will span about 27 hours. The full roster:

Iron Man

- The Incredible Hulk

- Iron Man 2

- Captain America: The First Avenger

- The Avengers

- Iron Man 3

- Thor: The Dark World

- Captain America: The Winter Soldier

- Guardians of the Galaxy

The marathon screening event will culminate with Avengers: Age of Ultron — not that any of the attendees will be awake to see it.

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