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Tips for celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom

On Earth Day, April 22, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will celebrate its 20th anniversary with entertainment, parties, and educational experiences for a limited time.

Party for the Planet

It wouldn’t be a milestone celebration without a party, and all 500 acres of Disney’s Animal Kingdom will come alive with a wild party that includes animal encounters, activities, and special desserts the Party for the Planet celebration that will take place from April 22 until May 5.

During the two-week celebration, guests can attend conservation talks by animal-care experts and participate in enhanced interactions with some of the more than 2,000 animals at thepark.

Take a Peek Backstage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Rafiki’s Planet Watch has long been a favorite of guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and during the 20th anniversary it will take center stage. 

After boarding the antique train you will make your way to Rafiki’s Planet Watch to find educational exhibits and activities that help create awareness of animal issues, and for the rest of the year you will also get a ‘backstage experience’ with animal experts around animal nutrition, visit the veterinary hospital, and hear how Disney promotes global wildlife conservation.

A New Show Debuts

On April 22 a new show, UP! A Great Bird Adventure featuring Russell and Dug from the Disney•Pixar animated comedy-adventure film, will make its debut.

Senior Wilderness Explorer Russell and his fuzzy friend Dug and park guests will encounter exotic birds from around the world in a free-flying show, multiple times a day.

Special Anniversary Photo Opportunities

Disney Photopass photographers will have a specially branded oversized picture frame to celebrate the park’s 20th anniversary, as well as ones that will help the “Reverse the Decline” initiative to help protect 10 threatened animal species. Recently the program has been credited with the birth of two critically endangered Sumatran tiger cubs at the park.

The Wilderness Must be Explored…Caw, Caw, Roar

The popular park scavenger hunt centered around “Up”’s Wilderness Explorer will have a new, limited-edition badge to earn through fact-finding challenges.

The Wilderness Explorer Program is one of the free experiences available at Walt Disney World.

Dine with Animal Experts

If learning about animals is your passion, six different Tiffins Talks offer intimate dining experiences with specialty food and beverages that complement the topics shared by animal and conservation experts.

You can find more information on the Tiffins Talks here.

Merchandise & Treats

It wouldn’t be a celebration at Walt Disney World without commemorative merchandise, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom 20th anniversary is no exception!

The merchandise offered will include t-shirts, hats, pins, Alex and Ani bangles, 2 styles of Disney Dooney & Bourke purses, a limited edition banshee for adoption in Pandora, and more.

In addition the merchandise there is also a special-edition print that was created by renowned Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, and he will be available on April 22 from 1-4 p.m. to sign prints at Discovery Trading Company. Quantities are limited. 

There are going to be two celebratory cupcakes, a Tree of Life Cupcake will be available at Creature Comforts and Flame Tree Barbecue, and an Earth Day Cupcake will be available at Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus.

On the savory side, there are delicious plant-based burger offerings at Nomad Lounge and Restaurantosaurus. Nomad Lounge will offer Impossible Burger Sliders with tomato chutney and smoked onion on a brioche bun and served with yucca fries. At Restaurantosaurus, you’ll find an Impossible Burger with avocado and tomato on a brioche bun.

Tiffins will offer a limited-time 20th Anniversary Chef’s Lunch Tasting Menu. Served daily from 11:30am to 3:30pm, this 3-course tasting menu celebrates the cuisines of Africa, Asia, and South America. Walk-ups are welcome!

All of these offerings will be available during Party for the Planet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom through May 5.

Can't make the celebration in person?

If you want to experience the 20th Anniversary moment during Sunday's Celebration, the Disney Parks Blog will be live streaming the #DisneyAnimalKingdom20 ceremony starting at 10:15 am EST!

Wild Adventures Before an Incredible Summer

All of these wild adventures help kick off an ‘Incredible Summer’ at Walt Disney World that includes a new celebration at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! 

Donald and his friends from Ducktales will premiere a ‘dino-tastic’ celebration Memorial Day weekend in DinoLand, U.S.A. as Donald celebrates his discovery that bird ancestors were actually dinosaurs. DinoLand U.S.A. will feature colorful new décor and playful character greetings with rarely seen pals like Scrooge McDuck, Launchpad McQuack and more.

Make sure to follow @icFloridaEvents on Instagram and Twitter for the latest news and fun that Central Florida has to offer. And to use the #icFloridaInsider when you post for a chance to be featured!

Related video: 

Watch live: Corpse flower ready to bloom

A rose by any other name, in this case Rosie, would smell as sweet. That’s the saying right? Well when it comes to the flower about to open at the Cox Butterfly and Orchid Pavilion of the Tucson Botanical Gardens it won’t be a sweet smell that Rosie’s visitors will notice when it blossoms. It will be a pungent one. 

Rosie is a corpse flower that could open at any moment. 

>> Read more trending news 

Corpse flowers are known for the massive, beautiful flower that gives off a not so beautiful smell -- but that of a rotting corpse.

YurView.com is offering live, up-to-the moment updates of Rosie’s bloom and is even offering a livestream of the waiting game.

Technically, a corpse flower is called Amorphophallus titanum, and is one of the world’s largest and rarest flowers. 

The entire process of a bloom can take a decade, with the flower lasting only 24-36 hours. 

Because of how rare of an event of a corpse flower blooming, people are booking flights to see the big reveal in person, according to Yurview.com. The Cox Butterfly and Orchid Pavilion of the Tucson Botanical Gardens is also getting a hand with the crush of people expected to pay her a visit with the Chicago Botanic Garden lending the garden in Tucson educational interpretive signs for visitors. Botanists from Chicago’s garden also sent pollen from its corpse flowers, Sumatra and Sunshine, to help pollinate Rosie. Michael Madsen is in charge of tracking Rosie’s progression, by taking temperature measurements and then will help spread the pollen at the perfect time. Then it will be a waiting game to see if it was successful.

Rosie’s about 9 years old, about 3 feet tall and came from the University of California Fullerton. It is her first time to flower.

 

When is Barbara Bush’s funeral?

Barbara Bush’s funeral arrangements are set for this weekend in Houston.

>> Read more trending news 

A public viewing for the former first lady was held on Friday, where approximately 2,500 mourners paid their respects.

The private funeral service for Bush is set for Saturday at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. Attendance at the service is by invitation only. The Rector of St. Martin's will preside over the service along with the chaplain of St. Ann's Episcopal from Kennebunkport, Maine.

Related: Former first lady Barbara Bush dead at 92

President Donald Trump has ordered flags at the White House and on public and federal property around the United States flown at half staff this weekend in honor of Barbara Bush.

Related: Condolences pouring in for Barbara Bush, ‘she had grit and grace, brains and beauty’

She’ll be laid to rest at the Bush Library in College Station, Texas, next to her daughter, Robin, who died at the age of 4, according to an interview the Bushes did with CNN’s Larry King in 2004.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Teacher suspended for making pancakes for students during state tests

A Pennsylvania teacher was suspended last week after he cooked breakfast for his students as they took state assessments.

LancasterOnline reported that Kyle Byler, an eighth-grade teacher at Hand Middle School, was suspended without pay and warned that he would be fired for “causing a distraction” while his students took the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSAs. 

Byler told local media that he brought an electric griddle to school the morning of April 10 and cooked each of his students a whole-grain pancake to eat while they took their exams. An assistant principal walked in and questioned why he was making the children breakfast.

>> Read more trending news

The teacher, who many parents consider the “eighth-grade dad” at the school, was called into a meeting with administrators within 24 hours and told he would be fired, LancasterOnline reported

Byler said in an interview Monday that he did not understand what he did wrong. The state education department does not have a rule against serving food during the PSSAs.

Pennsylvania Department of Education spokeswoman Nicole Reigelman told LancasterOnline, however, that “those activities would likely interfere with ‘actively monitoring’ the assessment, which is a key task.”

Byler said the pancakes did not deter the students. 

“At no point was it any distraction for any of the students,” Byler said. “They worked their butts off.”

A student told the news site that the assistant principal was the only distraction.

“The moment she walked in, everybody turned,” Alizea Rodriguez told LancasterOnline. “She was the distraction. Not pancakes. Not Byler.”

Rodriguez and other students were distraught when Byler was not in class the next day. Many of those students showed up at a Tuesday night school board meeting, at which Byler expected to learn his fate. 

School district officials dismissed the claim that he was to be fired Tuesday, saying that there was never a dismissal action on the meeting agenda and that a teacher cannot be fired without the board approving a written notice setting a hearing in the matter. None of that had taken place.

“Nor will it occur in this situation, as the personnel matter has been resolved with the employee, who is scheduled to return to work,” School District of Lancaster officials said in a statement

The district statement said that free breakfast and lunch are offered to all students every day, including testing days. 

“Moreover, the Pennsylvania Department of Education strictly requires that teachers who proctor PSSA testing focus their full attention on monitoring students during the test,” the statement read. “All teachers serving as PSSA test proctors receive specific training on testing protocol. Had permission been sought by a teacher to cook in the classroom during PSSA testing and serve food to the students, the response would have been that such activities would distract the teacher from the required duties as a test proctor.”

LancasterOnline reported that about 100 concerned residents, including both parents and teachers, turned out at Tuesday’s board meeting to support Byler. 

“It takes a village to raise children,” mother of two Crystle Martinez said. “He’s part of that village.”

Students and teachers were not Byler’s only fans. Officials at Holiday Inn Express sought to gift him and his students a one-touch pancake machine -- like those on the breakfast bars in Holiday Inn Express hotels -- and enough pancake batter to get them through the remainder of the school year. 

“As a hotel brand that knows how important an energizing breakfast is to being ‘THE READIEST’ for the day ahead, Holiday Inn Express salutes Byler for taking the initiative and making pancakes for his students,” said Lauren Schuster, manager of PR firm Weber Shandwick. 

“The brand welcomes this teacher back to school, and hopes he and his students enjoy their very own one-touch pancake machine as much as Holiday Inn Express guests do,” read a statement from the company. 

It was not clear if the school district would allow Byler to put the pancake machine in his classroom. 

The Oak Ridge Boys attending Barbara Bush funeral

Country and gospel vocal quartet The Oak Ridge Boys are will attend the private funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush.

The group made the announcement Friday. Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban are lifelong friends of the Bush family, starting in 1982, when former President George H.W. Bush was vice president to Ronald Reagan.

>> Read more trending news 

Barbara Bush died Tuesday at age 92. Family spokesman Jim McGrath said earlier that week that Bush would no longer seek medical treatment and would “instead focus in comfort care.”

Related: Former first lady Barbara Bush dead at 92

“The Oaks and their wives have been the guests of President and Mrs. Bush at their homes in Kennebunkport and Houston, or on one of the numerous occasions where the Bushes have attended the Oaks’ shows, most often at the Opera House in Galveston, Texas,” the group said in a news release.

“They have also been guests at and/or performed at the White House at the behest of the Bushes. During President Bush’s re-election campaign, the group traveled on Air Force One with the First Couple.”

The public can pay respects to Bush Friday at St. Martin’s Church in Houston, where she lays in repose from noon to midnight.

Swedish musician Avicii dead at 28

Swedish DJ Avicii was found dead Friday in Oman, his publicist confirmed. He was 28.

>> Read more trending news

Man mistakes van for Amber Alert vehicle, rams, shoots it, police say

A man, thinking a van was involved in an Amber Alert, rammed, then fired gunshots at it Tuesday, police said. 

>> Read more trending news

An Amber Alert was issued at 1:18 a.m. for a 2006 Hyundai Sonata with two missing children from Toronto, Iowa, not a white panel van, which Matthew Golden saw and called police about, according to the Des Moines Register

He followed the van then rammed it with his Toyota Sequoia, then shouted commands at the driver, investigators said. 

Dispatchers told Golden to stop. However, he went into his vehicle, got a handgun and fired two shots at the driver’s side of the van, according to police. 

The van’s driver, who is from Florida and was traveling alone to Illinois, also called 911, where dispatchers told him to take cover, according to the Des Moines Register.

"It's no different than what we tell police officers who aren't working: Your eyes are our best resources, not your actions," police chief Greg Stallman told the Des Moines Register. "If you see something, say something. But we don't necessarily want you to act on it." 

Golden was arrested and charged with assault with intent to inflict serious injury, intimidation with a dangerous weapon and possession of marijuana, according to police. He was being held on $23,000 bond.

Democrats sue Trump campaign, Russian government, WikiLeaks for alleged election conspiracy

The Democratic National Committee filed a wide-ranging, multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, President Donald Trump’s campaign officials and WikiLeaks, alleging the group conspired to meddle in the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.

>> Read more trending news

The 66-page lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, alleges that members of Trump’s inner circle, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner, conspired with Russian government officials and the country’s intelligence service to sway the election for Trump.

>> Read the lawsuit

“During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement released to The Washington Post. “This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for President of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency.”

The president was not named in the suit, in which Democrats said, "Russia mounted a brazen attack on American Democracy" with a cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee’s servers. 

>> Related: WikiLeaks emails: FBI investigates, Podesta claims he was targeted by Russian hackers

"In 2015 and 2016, Russian intelligence services hacked into the DNC's computers, penetrated its phone systems and exfiltrated tens of thousands of documents and emails," according to the lawsuit. 

"Russia then used this stolen information to advance its own interests: destabilizing the U.S. political environment, denigrating the Democratic presidential nominee and supporting the campaign of Donald J. Trump, whose policies would benefit the Kremlin. In the Trump campaign, Russia found a willing and active partner in this effort."

Democrats said the stolen data was shared with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who released thousands of emails last year that were allegedly taken in a hack of the DNC's servers. The lawsuit alleged Assange shared the emails because he “shared the defendants’ common goal of damaging the Democratic party in advance of the election.”

>> Related: Julian Assange: WikiLeaks source was 'not the Russian government'

Assange said in late 2016 that his source for the DNC emails “was not the Russian government.” The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the hack.

Democrats did not mention in their lawsuit that FBI officials warned the DNC that it was being hacked or that officials at DNC headquarters in Washington ignored the warning for weeks, Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree reported.

>> From Jamie Dupree: Democratic Party sues Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, Russia, others over 2016 elections

The suit seeks millions of dollars in damages, as Democrats said the hacks hindered the party’s ability to communicate with voters or effectively operate, according to the Post.

Officials, including special counsel Robert Mueller, continue to investigate whether people who worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign worked with Russian government officials to sway the election. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion allegations. The Kremlin has denied that officials meddled in the election.

Royal Wedding: Everything to know before Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle

On May 19, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry in Windsor, England, in a ceremony that will be low-key only by royal standards.

For the millions of commoners expected to watch on TV, some aspects of the nuptials may seem as odd or over-the-top as the more highbrowed guests’ headgear.

>> Read more trending news 

This guide covers everything anyone’s ever wanted to know about the big event.  

The happy couple: Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales, 33, is the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger son of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales. He’s fifth in line to the throne -- Charles is first -- but the order will change when his sister-in-law Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, gives birth to her third child

Related: Meghan Markle: 7 things to know

Rachel Meghan Markle of California, 36, is the only child of Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland, who are divorced. She co-starred for seven seasons on “Suits” on USA Network. One day after the royal engagement announcement on Nov. 27, 2017, the cable network made it official Markle wouldn’t be back for season 8. Her last appearance, in the two-hour season finale, airs April 25.

The “I Do” date and time: The ceremony begins at noon local time on May 19. That’s 7 a.m. EST in the U.S. After the ceremony, the newlyweds will take a carriage ride through the town of Windsor, then head back to Windsor Castle.

The venue: St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. A royal residence some 20 miles west of London, Windsor Castle is where Queen Elizabeth spends most weekends. It’s the largest inhabited castle in the world.

The chapel, which was built in the 14th century, is where some other royals have wed. In 2005, Harry’s dad and stepmom, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles were married in a civil service in the town of Windsor, then had a prayer service at St. George’s Chapel. It seats 800 people.

Related: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engaged: What to know

Many royals are buried in the chapel as well. Most infamously, perhaps, King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, his third of six wives, lie there for eternity.

Will it be on TV?: Nothing’s been officially announced yet, but two things are beyond certain about this wedding: The queen will have the best seat in the house and it will be televised and live-streamed. 

Nothing brings in tourists and other business like TV coverage of a fancy wedding. When Harry’s brother, Prince William, married Kate Middleton in 2011, it was shown live on TV in over 180 countries and streamed online. YouTube alone had 72 million livestream views. 

The reception: All guests invited to the actual ceremony will attend a luncheon afterward hosted by the queen at St. George’s Hall. The traditional wedding cake for royal weddings is fruitcake.

Related: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle seek charity donations over wedding gifts

People reported that, according to a March 20 statement from Kensington Palace, Harry and Meghan are said to be going rogue and having a lemon elderflower cake with buttercream icing. After that, will be a reception that night for an even more select guest list of 200 people that Prince Charles is throwing at Frogmore House, another royal residence about a half-mile from Windsor Castle. 

The wedding party: The Brits do this differently, generally favoring little kids as bridesmaids/flower girls and page boys instead of adult attendants. In past royal weddings, this has led to memorable incidents, like a 4-year-old Prince William playing with his straw boater hat and talking away during the 1986 nuptials of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Right now, William’s own kids, Prince George and Princess Charlotte are considered a done deal for Harry’s wedding party. So is the 4-year-old daughter of Markle’s Canadian stylist and close friend, Jessica Mulroney.

You can bet on everything in the U.K.when it comes to this wedding and William is getting top odds to be his brother’s best man. Plus, oddsmaker William Hill is reportedly taking bets on how William will wear his hair on the big day.

Who’s invited: Six hundred invitations to the ceremony have gone out. Count on all the immediate royal relations, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, Uncle Prince Andrew and his daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, plus various dukes and duchesses and major and minor European royalty. 

Then there are some celebrity friends of the bride -- tennis star Serena Williams) and groom -- singers James Blunt and, if you believe the tabloids, Rihanna -- who should make the cut. Also, the Spice Girls may or may not be there. Mel B, aka Scary Spice, has said they will be, but when asked about it by “Late Late Show” host James Corden, Posh Spice Victoria Beckham  stammered, “I don’t know.”

Related: See Prince Harry, Meghan Markle’s official wedding invitation

Additionally, 2,640 members of the public have been invited inside the grounds of Windsor Castle to watch the arrival and departure of the wedding party and guests. Included are 100 schoolchildren, 600-plus people who live and work around Windsor Castle, plus others from charities, nonprofits and other causes important to the couple.

Who’s not invited: Besides you and me? President Donald Trump. And he’s in good company. British Prime Minister Theresa May isn’t invited either. In fact,  no U.S. or world political leaders have been invited, according to Kensington Palace (home base and official representative of Harry and William). “It has been decided that an official list of political leaders — both UK and international — is not required for Prince Harry and Ms. Markle’s wedding,” the palace explained in that lovely, do forgive us sort of British way. Royal officials won’t say if good FOH (Friends of Harry) Barack and Michelle Obama, were invited, but it’s known they’re not going.

What about Fergie? That would be Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York and friend of Harry’s late mother, Diana. The fun-loving redhead fell out of favor with the royal family after her 1996 divorce from Prince Andrew. In a very public dis, she was left off the guest list for William and Kate’s 2011 wedding.

British tabloid the Sun quoted an unnamed source who said she won’t be there because Harry supposedly couldn’t trust her to “keep her mouth shut and respect their privacy.” People reported Harry had “pushed for” Fergie to be invited because he’s very close to her daughters, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice. 

What about Meghan’s family? Though long divorced, Markle’s parents released a joint statement of joy over her engagement and it’s said both will be at the wedding. In fact, Thomas Markle, an Emmy-winning lighting director, is expected to give his daughter away.

Related: Who are Meghan Markle’s family members, Prince Harry’s future in-laws?

After that, things get a bit sticky. Proving that the royals don’t have a monopoly on family issues, Meghan’s two older half siblings from her dad’s first marriage reportedly aren’t invited -- and at least one of them isn’t happy about it. Her half sister, Samantha Grant, has reportedly claimed Meghan is “inviting 2000 complete strangers” to the wedding rather than family and even blasted Harry about it with a “Time to man up!” tweet. Grant’s reportedly writing a book about Markle. Trevor Engelson, an American movie and TV producer and Markle’s ex-husband, is said by some British newspapers to be developing a show about an American divorcee who moves to England to marry a prince.

Meghan’s wedding dress: Despite her convention-flouting penchant for wearing pants at some royal engagements, it’s expected that Markle will wear a dress. The design is top-secret, but the designers mentioned most often as front-runners to create it are Erdem Moralioglu, Ralph & Russo and Alexander McQueen. All three are London-based and McQueen designed Kate Middleton’s royal wedding gown. With it being the U.K., spectators can bet on the dress. However, sometimes British bookmakers have periodically suspended betting as a lot of money pours in on one particular designer.

Harry’s duds: Most likely a uniform.  Harry served in the British Army for 10 years, doing two tours in Afghanistan and rising to the rank of captain. In 2014, he launched Invictus Games, an annual Paralympic-style sporting event for injured servicemen and women In December, he was appointed Captain General Royal Marines, taking over the important ceremonial role after 64 years from his grandfather, Prince Phillip.

What everyone else will wear: For men, the invitation specifies “dress uniform, morning coat or lounge suit.” For the ladies, it’s “day dress with hat.” Many women will sport fascinators, lightweight headpieces decorated with feathers, flowers and beads, among other items. They are worn for formal occasions. 

Royal Wedding Souvenirs : Shops in London already have royal wedding mugs, tea towels, decorative objects and the like for sale.

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