THUMBS UP to the commercial sewing apprenticeship program, a partnering of Catawba County public schools and McCreary Modern, United Sewing Machine Sales and Sutter Street Manufacturing. The three businesses jumped into program wholeheartedly, and they are fully committed to training high school students learn a skilled trade. The program will enable a high-school student to be job-ready upon graduation. The students get hands-on training and experience and they get paid for their work. The domestic furniture industry is bouncing back, and manufacturers need the special skills the apprentices will have by the time they get out of high school. The young apprentices this program produces are in demand, a commodity. The objective is to have the program in every high school in the Catawba County system. The apprenticeship program represents an investment for McCreary Modern, Sutter Street and United Sewing Machine. It’s an investment that will pay off for the students and the local economy.

THUMBS UP to the selfless, caring people who volunteer for the Guardian ad Litem program. Guardian ad Litems are the personal advocates of children who must go through the court system because the Department of Social Services is investigating their parents for abuse or neglect. The guardian is the official advocate for a child and recognized by the court. Advocates are not for or against the parents. Their objective is to entreat the court on what is best for the child. Kids can’t be their own representative in court, but they are entitled to representation. Here’s where the guardian steps in, riding the emotional roller coaster with the child and speaking on his or her behalf. The job requires personal contact with the child and interaction with DSS and the courts. It is emotional and rewarding. The people who do this are among the most honorable and compassionate in our community. Trouble is, there are not enough guardians to go around. Our local program has the fewest guardians in the state compared to the number of kids who need an advocate. Participation in Guardian ad Litem is a high calling. The children need the help.

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THUMBS DOWN to the potentially fatal mistake made by the Army on a shipment of anthrax. The anthrax sent all over the country and to South Korea was supposed to be non-virulent – dead – anthrax. But it was live and several people were exposed. They’ll probably be OK, but the public is justified in asking how this can happen. The Army said it wasn’t a mistake caused by human error. Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said the problem may have been a failure in the technical process of deactivation. The process "might not have completely killed" the samples as intended before they were shipped, he said. Whoa. Who is responsible for the process? An inanimate object or artificial creation cannot be blamed for an error that is a direct result of human oversight. We need the research. We need the antigens produced by dead anthrax, and we need the live anthrax to get the dead anthrax. People created the process, and people are the only ones responsible for the outcome.

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