Hats off to West Richland school's circus

Tapteal has talent

Thumbs up to Tapteal Elementary School in West Richland for keeping its 21-year-old Circus Club tradition alive.

Fourth-grade teacher Shannon Case is the current ringmaster, spending each Thursday afternoon in the school's gym, helping 36 fourth- and fifth-graders learn self-discipline along with some cool circus skills.

The kids practice riding unicycles, walking on stilts, throwing a Chinese yo-yo, juggling, pedaling wheeled walkers and spinning plates -- and put on a handful of performances for parents and classmates.

That's all great for building hand-eye coordination and confidence, but we're just as impressed by the lessons these young performers are learning about commitment.

Circus Club members agree to a three-strikes rule. Collect three demerits for failing to come to practice, being picked up late or creating behavior problems and you're out of the club.

We weren't surprised to learn Case rarely has to use the rule. When expectations and rewards are clearly outlined, results can be astounding.

Vital history

Thumbs up to the Atomic Heritage Foundation for making the voices of those who built Hanford and other Manhattan Project sites available on a new website.

The foundation joined forces with the Los Alamos Historical Society to launch "Voices of the Manhattan Project."

The two groups plan to post 200 oral histories from their collections and possibly include some from other organizations.

So far, 26 oral histories are available at www.manhattanprojectvoices.org, including six related to Hanford.

It's a good start toward bringing this crucial period in America's history to new audiences.

Now Congress needs to approve legislation creating the Manhattan Project National Park to ensure that Hanford's B Reactor and other artifacts also are preserved and accessible.

Give wisely

Thumbs down to everyone who gives charity a bad name, especially at Christmastime, when decisions about giving with our hearts.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna are urging state residents to make wise choices with their holiday gifts to charity.

It's good advice. Reed and McKenna's annual report on professional fundraisers recently was released, and it shows that too many of these groups continue to be motivated solely by greed.

Commercial fundraisers solicit donations on behalf of legitimate causes, including police, firefighter and veteran organizations, medical research, animals, civil liberties and the environment -- but pocket most of the money themselves.

Some collect a reasonable service fee -- but not many. Of the 114 commercial fundraisers included in the report, only eight (7 percent) returned more than 80 percent of the money they collected to charity.

Of the $519 million in contributions raised this year by these enterprises, less than $238 million went to the intended charities, or about 46 percent.

But with little effort, it's possible to ensure your donations benefit the people you're trying to help. Learn how at sos.wa.gov/charities/givewisely or call 800-332-4483.

Unpaid debts

Thumbs down to the Department of Veterans Affairs outreach efforts.

More than half of America's veterans say they have little or no understanding of the benefits due to them. The record is particularly poor for older vets who served in Vietnam or earlier conflicts.

A new law mandates all departing service members go through beefed-up information sessions on the benefits they earned.

The VA had been reaching 150,000 service members per year, but under the new law that's expected to rise to 307,000.

It should improve things for veterans just leaving the service, but the VA still needs to find better ways to reach older vets.