As local people read about and watch video of the flooding victims that Harvey left in its watery wake, the first instinct of many is to want to help.

That's indicative of the caring hearts possessed by North Country residents.

Even though they sat here safely through a week of beautiful weather, empathy was strong for the distraught residents of Houston and other southern cities.

But people who donate need to feel confident that the money they part with will make it to the people most in need. So it's important to choose carefully where your donation is directed.

The Press-Republican recently received a letter from Art Taylor, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau's give.org branch. His warning seems especially pertinent at this time, so we share it here:

"While the vast majority of soliciting charities act responsibly and deserve your support, Americans must remember that not all organizations are created equal.

"Case in point: In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission, all 50 states and the District of Columbia charged four sham cancer charities with bilking donors of $187 million over a five-year period.

"The New York Times reported these charity operators spent a significant portion of the money on personal expenses.

"And they hired fundraisers who often received 85 percent or more of collected funds.

"Charity fraud has consequences. Generous donors lose money, social issues stay unsolved, and the needful remain in need.

"But it can be avoided — scams have common signs. If a charity solicits you, ask specific questions to get details; be on guard against aggressive fundraising tactics; and be cautious if they try tugging at your heartstrings.

"Above all, check them out using a charity evaluator, such as BBB's Give.org, which help donors of all kinds decide which charities to trust with their donations.

"So, when you're donating, do it with peace of mind by taking the time to check out the charity first. It just might make all the difference," Taylor concluded.

If you go to Give.org, you can put in the name of a charity and search how it rates on a number of categories ranked by the Better Business Bureau.

— The Press-Republican

We and others criticized President Donald Trump last month for insisting that white supremacists and neo-Nazis were not the only ones to blame for violence that broke out at their rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. We still believe these groups' agenda to eliminate whole categories of people was the worst part of that incident and deserved unqualified revulsion by national leaders.

Nevertheless, we do not excuse violence by other extremists, either. They, too, are a national problem.

That was demonstrated Aug. 27, when a "Rally Against Hate" was held in Berkeley, California. It drew about 2,000 participants, most intent on making a peaceful statement.

Reporters chronicled that the anarchists, sometimes called anti-fascists or "antifa," attacked at least four people, according to The Associated Press. Their ferocity was such that police had to use a smoke bomb to drive them away from one man they had attacked.

Earlier in the day, another group of left-wing protesters also dressed in black assaulted three men in a park.

Ironically, this park is named for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose nonviolent — and effective — protests against racism and injustice ought to be an enduring template.

Also ironically, some of the anarchist thugs were carrying shields on which they had written, "No hate."

They wear masks to hide their identities, like many terror squads throughout human history.

Here in the United States of America, we believe in the freedoms of speech and peaceable assembly. We do not accept violence of any sort as a means of silencing those with whom we disagree.

— The Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Standardized testing results for students in New York's public schools have been released and, once again this year, there are plenty of reasons for hand-wringing as well as head-scratching.

On the whole, the numbers are not good. Data released last week by the state Department of Education showed 34 percent of Chautauqua County students scored as proficient in math compared to 32 percent in 2016. English language arts proficiency increased from 30 percent in 2016 to 32 percent this year. Statewide, the percentage of students proficient in ELA in grades three through eight increased 1.9 percent from 37.9 percent in 2016 to 39.8 percent this year, whereas the same figures for mathematics increased 1.1 percent from 39.1 percent to 40.2 percent this year.

It sounds as if we are making progress, but how many of those gains are addition by subtraction? Every school district in Chautauqua County except for Ripley had a portion of their students refuse to take the tests, with 43.1 percent of students in the Fredonia Central School District refusing the math test and 47.8 percent of Fredonia students refusing to take the math exams. An analysis of 2017 test refusers showed many, though certainly not all, test refusers hadn't shown proficiency in 2016 or didn't take the tests at all in 2016.

School district officials contacted by The Post-Journal say they are still digging into the data. We can say one thing with near certainty — only about one-third of Chautauqua County students are proficient in English language arts and math, by the state's own definitions.

These results are cause for concern — they mean nearly two-thirds of students in our schools right now aren't ready for college or a career. The students who end up in college will need remedial help in writing and math before they are ready for college-level courses. Those who end up in the workforce are going to need additional training before they are ready for jobs that can pay a living wage. Part of those children struggling to attain proficiency will likely find themselves in poverty.

— The Post-Journal

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