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Thumbs up to everyone who participated in the midterm elections Tuesday — from voters, to candidates, to election judges and members of the media who brought the results to the public. The fact that we are free to choose our own leaders makes us all winners. And, while some of the candidates got more votes than their opponents, everyone willing to put their name on the ballot and work tirelessly attempting to win often thankful jobs deserves our admiration and gratitude. In the end, the process is really more important than who won and who lost. We will undergo the same process in two years with some of the same names on the ballot. That is the beauty of living in a free nation.

Thumbs up to Benton junior Mia McLain. She capped a stellar cross country season by placing third overall in the Class 1A race at Peoria’s Detweiler Park Saturday. The third-place finish is the best by a Southern Illinois runner since Mount Vernon’s Margo Richardson placed second in 2009.

Thumbs down to the premature end of the prep football season in Southern Illinois. Thirteen teams from The Southern's coverage region qualified for the IHSA playoffs. Seven survived the first round, but all seven teams met their demise last week. Thumbs up to all the teams that qualified, and another thumbs up to those who advanced to the second round. Now, it’s time for local sports fans to focus on indoor sports.

Thumbs up to Southern Illinois University for embarking on a new initiative to study cannabis. Within the next year, the university will create a five-acre plot to plant and study hemp. Although it’s happening on a college campus, this study is not what some people might think. SIU is concerned about finding non-intoxicating uses for the plant. “We will not be cultivating THC-containing cannabis on campus,” said Aldwin Anterola, of the Department of Plant Biology. “We want to see what useful things are hiding behind the THC.” Hemp has been used for centuries to produce ropes, fabric and paper. Oils from the plant also have industrial possibilities.

Thumbs down to the late payment of parking lot staff at the Du Quoin State Fair. The fair ended Labor Day and two months later staff has not been paid. We understand the state’s financial difficulties. We understand and layer of bureaucracy. But, waiting two months to get a paycheck? That’s unreasonable.

Thumbs up to the optimism expressed by Doug Helfrich, Illinois Department of Transportation District 9 construction engineer, that the work currently being done on Illinois 13 at the eastern edge of Carbondale will eventually result in improved traffic flow. This isn’t to diminish the project, or the need to expand 13 to three lanes in the area, it’s just that the highway seems to be under a perpetual state of construction between Murphysboro and Harrisburg. The construction cones, barrels and barricades just seem to migrate from one stretch of road to another.

Thumbs up to the belated closure of the area’s famous Snake Road. A late-season warm front delayed the migration of snakes and amphibians to their hibernation habitat. In order to minimize vehicular mortality, the road is normally closed from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31. The road is also closed for several months in the spring to allow the critters to migrate back to their summer homes. Snake Road was re-opened to traffic Nov. 6, which, coincidentally, was election day. Write your own jokes.

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