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Thumbs up, thumbs down

December 09, 2006

Thumbs up to the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and conductor Elizabeth Schulze, for agreeing on a contract that will keep her directing the MSO through the 2011-12 season. Schulze, who came to Hagerstown in 1999, has drawn many talented musicians here to play. And, according to associates, she gives generously of her time for volunteer duties such as conducting the public school system's All County Orchestra program.

Thumbs up to the Johns Hopkins Research Center, for spending the last 20 years in Washington County studying a number of medical conditions, including atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty substances on the inner lining of the arteries. If too much material builds up and the oxygen supply to the heart is reduced, a heart attack might occur. Thanks to the researchers studying such ailments.

Thumbs down to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has racked up so many foul-ups that it just might need a permanent spot in this column, for failing to recover less than 1 percent of the $1 billion it squandered through such practices as providing people with free housing, then sending them money to pay for housing. Can we fire somebody, please?

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Thumbs up to the Dougherty County, Georgia judge who gave convicted burglar Breanna Klewitz the option of doing jail time or walking in front of the courthouse wearing a sign board that said "I am a thief" and "I stole what you worked for." That could work here. Imagine a Washington County man wearing a sign that said "I burned up kitty cats."

Thumbs down to the State of West Virginia, which the American Lung Association reports receives more than $30 million a year as part of a settlement from the big tobacco companies, but spends only $5.4 million to combat the use of cigarettes. The federal Centers for Disease Control says that the minimum should be $14.1 million. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reports that the state's smoking-related health-care costs top $600 million.

Thumbs up to the Bulldog Detachment of the Marine Corps League and all of the businesses that have agreed to be drop-off points for cash and goods collected as part of the league's annual Toys for Tots program. As of Dec. 8, the league reports that there were 1,889 children signed up and 800 toys collected. Among other sites, American Legion posts in Hagerstown, Funkstown, Williamsport and Cascade are drop-off points.

Thumbs down to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, for appointing Richard Gmerek to a panel that will write regulations to administer a new lobbyists disclosure bill. In case you've forgotten, Gmerek is a statehouse lobbyists whose lawsuit triggered court rulings that killed the state's last lobbyist-disclosure bill in 2002. Let's get this straight - he opposed the old disclosure bill four years ago and now he's going to help write the rules to make the new one work?

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