THUMBS UP: To Southland Church of Valdosta for marking its fifth-year anniversary with a celebration aimed at the community at large. The church gave $1,000 awards to a variety of organizations, most not of a religious nature. The awards are named for the Biblical Nehemiah, who was called by God to rebuild his city to a level of greatness. That is exactly what Southland is helping others to do for Valdosta. We congratulate this young church for a great initiative. Just imagine what our community would be like if other churches did the same.



THUMBS DOWN: To the Georgia Department of Education for spending $1.5 million for a training conference in Atlanta for more than 2,000 teachers of children in the state's poorest 45 schools. Schools were required to send teachers to the questionably named Best Practices Institute in Atlanta, which was supposed to help teachers help their neediest students to read by the third-grade. We question the decision process inside this department that would allow such wasteful spending, when money from the federal grant would have been better spent on actual reading coaches and tutors. Fewer teachers could have attended the conference and shared information with teachers back home. In addition, much material can now be learned through the Internet.



THUMBS UP: To actor Bruce Willis and President Bush for their campaign to promote the adoption of the thousands of older children who remain in foster care. The initiatives include a federally sponsored Web site that has photos and profiles of more than 6,500 children in 46 states waiting to be adopted. Willis has agreed to be a spokesman for these children, and a public service announcement will tell Americans about the Web site and a toll-free phone number.



THUMBS DOWN: To U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, a most astute politician who knows if you say something loud enough, enough people won't question its logic or veracity. McKinney, facing a primary opponent from her own party who also is an African-American woman, is running radio ads comparing her opponent to the California police officer who was videotaped slamming a hand-cuffed teen-ager onto the hood of the car. The ad compares that abuse of power to a decision by her opponent, former DeKalb County Judge Denise Majette, to sentence a woman convicted of speeding in a jury trial to two days in jail and fined her $1,000. The sentence was later vacated by a higher court. To our knowledge, judges are not penalized or punished because their sentences are later overturned. It's a big stretch to compare that to a police officer accused of brutality.



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