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Published: Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Thumbs up: To Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict, 85, this week became the first Catholic pope in 600 years to resign, citing his failing health. It takes real work to provide leadership to a major world religion, and if Benedict does not feel he can handle the job any longer, making way for someone who can is a fair, sensible course of action. The church is at a critical point in its history, and it needs a strong leader in Rome. Benedict deserves a thumbs-up for having the humility to acknowledge he can no longer be that leader.

Thumbs down: To the potholes that have popped up on roads around the area. It seems everyone has a road they travel regularly that has become a minefield of chuckholes. Local road maintenance crews have been out trying to fill them – DeKalb crews poured 10 tons of asphalt mix Monday alone – but the freeze/thaw cycle that has been so common this winter has made this a particularly tough year for pavement.

Thumbs up: To the start of Major League Baseball’s spring training. It often seems as though spring training is the first sign that spring is around the corner. Even though it has been a mostly mild winter so far, it’s nice to look forward to better weather, more sunshine and being able to enjoy more outdoor activities. And for now, it’s great to be hopeful about the prospects for the White Sox and the Cubs.

Thumbs down: To accidents at sea that leave thousands in danger. About 4,200 people spent five days stranded at sea aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ Triumph cruise liner after an engine room fire on Sunday left the ship without power. Passengers endured filthy conditions, including sewage soaked carpets and scarce food supplies. The cruise industry has enjoyed healthy growth over the past decade, and cruise lines have sought megaships capable of holding ever more passengers. We have seen the risks in that approach, not only in this latest episode with the Triumph, but also in the capsizing of the Costa Concordia off the coast of an Italian island in January 2012. Of the 4,200-plus people on board the Concordia, 32 were killed.

Thumbs up: To the DeKalb/Sycamore Bookcase Project, which held a fundraiser this week. The project aims to distribute 50 bookcases and a bag of books to children who attend the Two Rivers Head Start program. The bookcases will be built by local craftsmen, each with a small plaque with a child’s name engraved on it. The group will now start the process of collecting gently used preschool-level books for the project. Some young readers will be off to a great start thanks to this project.

Thumbs up: To Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra and DeKalb Municipal Band, whose leaders say they are thriving despite the struggling economy. The fine arts are an important part of a vibrant community, and we applaud the musicians and the people who support them for enriching DeKalb County.

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