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A group of federal, state and local leaders look out over the Ohio River in May as they toured Cairo and discussed a future Mississippi River Port in the city.

Thumbs up to Gov. Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana, for their donation to the Cairo Port project. The Rauner Family Foundation donated $100,000 to the effort Wednesday. "The contribution from the Rauner Family Foundation is providing us with a great platform to move forward with our efforts to make this river port a reality for the people and communities of Southern Illinois," said state Sen. Dale Fowler, who gets a bonus thumbs up for working so diligently toward this project. Larry Klein, chairman of the Port District and general manager of the Cairo Public Utility, said that the donation will allow them to drum up interest from shipping companies. It’s no secret that Cairo needs something to jump-start its struggling economy, and a port just might be that starting point. “We’re a great state with great resources and even better people. We need to seize the opportunities to attract new jobs and businesses to Illinois. This is an investment in the future of Southern Illinois and the state as a whole,” Rauner said.

Thumbs down to the news that the city of Zeigler may not be able to recoup all the money its former treasurer allegedly embezzled. City treasurer Ryan Thorpe in October was charged in federal court with stealing $315,890.94 from the city between Jan. 1, 2013, and Aug. 31, 2017. Mayor Dennis Mitchell was confident that they city would get all the money back, but now he’s not so sure. He said the city has received $100,000 from the Illinois Municipal League, but that there is a disagreement about how much their insurance policy actually covers, and Mitchell said it is possible the city may not get the other $215,000. That’s a lot of money — for any city. It’s a shame that’s come down to this.

Thumbs up to the Carbondale Lions Club, the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale and the Carbondale Park District for teaming up to recycle plastic to create a new bench at Hickory Ridge Golf Course. The organizations are looking to collect 400 pounds of plastic in various forms to drop off at Green Tree Plastics in Evansville, Indiana, where the company will turn the recyclables into a bench. The process will be part of Green Tree’s ABC Promise Partnership, which is a cap and lid program designed by school children for school children. All sorts of different plastic caps and lids will be accepted as long as they don't not have any metal. Jim Dooley, president of the Lions Club, said there have been about 100 gallons collected as of Tuesday, but in order to reach the necessary 400 pounds, the organizations will need to collect enough lids to fill 10 55-gallon bags.

Thumbs down to the injury situation the SIU men’s basketball team is in. Over the past week, the Salukis lost three important contributors in Jonathan Wiley, Eric McGill and Thik Bol to injury as head coach Barry Hinson announced all three would miss the rest of the season. Bol had yet to play this season. The injuries leave the Salukis’ active roster at just nine players — not enough to practice. “I’ve never been in this situation before,” Hinson said after the Salukis’ win on Wednesday over Evansville. Wiley’s injury — a torn ACL and MCL in his knee — hurts even more as he is a senior, likely ending his Saluki career. Here’s to hoping the team overcomes this adversity and makes a run at a Missouri Valley Conference title.

Thumbs down to the cold spell that has taken over Southern Illinois. Sure, it is winter, and it’s supposed to be cold. But this cold? No, thanks. With the cold comes more chance for fires and accidents around the house — be careful with space heaters and gas ovens. There’s one thing to be thankful about during this cold spell — at least we’re not having the bomb cyclone that the eastern part of the country is going through.

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