Thumbs up: Thumbs up to the small army of staff and volunteers responsible for keeping Northern Illinois University’s move-in day moving smoothly, despite a series of thunderstorms throughout the day. Thousands of NIU students arrived in town en masse, most with an entourage of family members and a carload of belongings, but carefully-planned traffic patterns, an abundance of signage and the efforts of volunteers who offered both direction and muscle seem to have kept things moving on schedule with minimal aggravation.
Thumbs down: To new allegations of chemical warfare in Syria. Much of the world was appalled by images from outside Damascus this week, which rebels said showed the bodies of men, women and children killed in a nerve gas attack by the ruling regime of President Bashar Assad. If proven true, such crimes against humanity cry out for the international community to intervene.
Thumbs up: To Mary Lavoie, a DeKalb High School senior who earned a perfect score of 36 on the American College Testing Exam this summer. The ACT includes tests in mathematics, English, reading and science, which are graded on a scale of 1 to 36. It offers a guideline that some colleges take into account for admissions. Fewer than one-tenth of 1 percent of high school students achieve a score of 36. Way to go Mary!
Thumbs down: To thrill killing. Three teenagers in Duncan, Okla., were accused Tuesday of randomly targeting and murdering an Australian-born college baseball player simply because they were bored. Two of the suspects, ages 15 and 16, are charged with first degree murder in the death of Christopher Lane, 22, of Melbourne, Australia. A third suspect, age 17, is charged as an accessory. It’s a crime as appalling as it is senseless.
Thumbs up: To the DeKalb County Drug and DUI court, which this week was named one of 10 “mentor courts” nationwide by the National Drug Institute. One measure of it’s success: Only 20 percent of offenders who went through the drug court program committed another crime as of 2012, while offenders sent to prison had a 52 percent recidivism rate. Officials at the highest levels of the federal government have addressed the country’s burgeoning prison population as a threat to our country’s well-being, and programs such as Drug Court are one alternative to incarcerating people who can be rehabilitated through other means.
Thumbs down: To state elected officials, for continuing to fail to come to an agreement on massive pension reform, despite it being crucial to helping resolve Illinois’ ever-growing fiscal crisis. The state’s five public pension systems are underfunded by $100 billion. Every day that number grows by $17 million. Yet there’s no sign of progress from a committee of 10 representatives and senators who have been working behind closed doors on the issue. Gov. Pat Quinn and the General Assembly have failed public retirees and taxpayers on this issue for years. Sadly, they continue to do so.