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January 31, 2008

Goodbye to elephant rides?

The Minneapolis City Council will vote on Friday on a proposed ordinance that would ban children from touching or riding elephants at the circus.

The measure is a response to increasing concerns about animal cruelty, public health, and safety concerns. The Shriners, a local circus organization, report that no patrons have ever been injured on the rides.

Officials from the Shriners would consider leaving the city if the ordinance is enacted. Elephant rides are a lucrative component of the circus industry; circus-goers pay $8 for an elephant ride.

Christine Coughlin, executive director of Circus Reform Yes (CRY), who has been advocating the measure for the past eight years, cites "environmental and animal awareness" as two of the reasons the ban should be put in place.

If the ordinance is enacted, circus operators would have to buy a license for $750 and pay for routine inspections by local veteranarians, most likely from the University of Minnesota.

Star Tribune

Australia admits past wrongs, apologizes to Aborigines

The New York Times and the BBC reported today that Australia's government will issue a formal apology to the nation's Aborigines for decades of mistreatment.

In colonial Australia, tens of thousands of Aborigines died from disease brought by European settlers. The government then removed Aboriginal children from their families and placed them with white families or in institutions. The Aborigines were not even given the right to vote until 1962.

Public opinion on Aboriginal issues, however, remains split. The Aborigines, who have the backing of several university professors, are hoping to receive monetary reparations for the past abuses. Australian whites, on the other hand, widely refuse to assume responsibility for the plight of the nation's native peoples.

Aborigines have a lower life expectancy and higher incarceration and unemployment rates than other Australians.

Many hope to see next month's apology coupled with more funding for Aboriginal health care and eduaction.

January 30, 2008

Edwards bows out

John Edwards, presidential hopeful for the Democratic Party, has officially ended his run for the White House today, USA Today reports.

Edwards has failed to win a primary thus far and has consistently scored low in national polls.

The former U.S. senator from North Carolina has decided not to endorse either of his rivals, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, just yet.

Edwards was the vice-presidential candidate when John Kerry ran for president in 2004. Edwards's campaign suffered a blow earlier this year when Kerry announced he would endorse Obama and not his former running mate.

Giving a statement earlier today in New Orleans, Edwards remained optimistic about his party's chances for winning the election, saying "We do not know who will take the final steps to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but we do know that our Democratic Party will make history."