William Potter and his mum Lynn Potter
PACKMOORE, England, Feb. 17 (UPI) — A 3-year-old British boy has become one of the youngest-ever members of the world’s largest organization for people with high IQs.
David Potter and Lynn Goldstraw of Packmoore, England, said their son, William Potter, was accepted to Mensa after scoring an IQ of 140 on the organization’s tests, placing him in the 99.6 percentile among Britons, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday.
“He could count to 20 before he was 2 and knew his alphabet and colors and shapes,” Goldstraw said. “When in his pushchair, he’d read car number plates. Now when we go in the car, he’s in the back with a map on his knee.”
“He reads the signs and tells you when to turn,” she said. “He’s like a sponge. You only have to tell him something once and he remembers it. I think a lot of it is about spending time with him.”
According to the filings in Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District (PA) et al, the laptops issued to high-school students in the well-heeled Philly suburb have webcams that can be covertly activated by the schools’ administrators, who have used this facility to spy on students and even their families.
The issue came to light when the Robbins’s child was disciplined for “improper behavior in his home” and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence. The suit is a class action, brought on behalf of all students issued with these machines.
If true, these allegations are about as creepy as they come. I don’t know about you, but I often have the laptop in the room while I’m getting dressed, having private discussions with my family, and so on. The idea that a school district would not only spy on its students’ clickstreams and emails (bad enough), but also use these machines as AV bugs is purely horrifying.
Schools are in an absolute panic about kids divulging too much online, worried about pedos and marketers and embarrassing photos that will haunt you when you run for office or apply for a job in 10 years. They tell kids to treat their personal details as though they were precious.
But when schools take that personal information, indiscriminately invading privacy (and, of course, punishing students who use proxies and other privacy tools to avoid official surveillance), they send a much more powerful message: your privacy is worthless and you shouldn’t try to protect it.
Taxman targets 100,000 top earners to claw back millions
More than 200 years after rules on tax status were introduced to meet the cost of the Napoleonic wars, a new battle is being waged against Britons and foreign workers.
Scrutiny of the tax affairs of wealthy individuals, foreign workers, entrepreneurs and celebrities has gathered pace since the Labour Government came to power. High earners are being pursued with new vigour by the authorities, which are under immense pressure to bolster Treasury coffers and deliver hundreds of millions of pounds.
Their persistence is paying off. According to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by McGrigors, a law firm and tax investigation specialist, compliance activity focusing on high-net-worth taxpayers and wealthy foreigners resident in Britain by Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has yielded astonishing results: in 2008-09, tax teams netted £373 million. Four years before that they collected only £81 million.
The figures represent the work of the Revenue’s expatriate and complex personal returns teams, now replaced by one dedicated team. Launched last year, the high-net-worth unit is made up of about 500 staff, each dealing with just ten wealthy taxpayers.
The department has not specified the level of wealth for individuals to fall under scrutiny, but accountants suggest it could be in excess of £10 million. Figures published in 2007 showed that while about 400 people earned more than £10 million a year in Britain, only 65 of them paid income tax.
France yesterday put in its bid for an unlikely prize, becoming the first western country to make even Australia look liberal when it comes to state powers of internet censorship.
In the teeth of fierce opposition both inside and outside parliament, the National Assembly approved, by 312 votes to 214 against, a first reading of a bill on Internal Security – the quaintly titled “LOPPSI 2”.
LOPPSI – otherwise known as Loi d’Orientation et de Programmation pour la SÈcuritÈ IntÈrieure (pdf)- is a ragbag of measures designed to make France a safer place. Like similar UK legislation – most notably the various Criminal Justice acts brought in over the last decade – LOPPSI brings together a number of apparently unrelated proposals which would severely restrict individual rights in all walks of life.
Last week, for instance, the Assembly agreed to include within the new law a measure that would allow Prefects to sign off on a curfew for children aged under 13, out unaccompanied between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am.
The bill also includes measures that would increase police spend on “security”, create additional penalties for counterfeiting and ID theft, increase CCTV surveillance, and widen access to the Police DNA database.
However, it is in the online area that some of the most radical proposals are to be found, with the criminalisation of online ID theft, provision for the police to tap online connections in the course of investigations, and most controversially of all, allowing the state to order ISPs to block (filter) specific internet URLs according to ministerial diktat.
It has also been suggested that the state should have the right to plant covert trojans to monitor individual PC usage.
Whilst the latter measures are put forward on the grounds of child protection, critics have been quick to point out that, in the absence of any judicial oversight mechanism, this is a power just waiting to be abused.
Not that we already have more than enough censorship!
Google says it will not “voluntarily” comply with the government’s request that it censor YouTube videos in accordance with broad “refused classification” (RC) content rules.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy referred to Google’s censorship on behalf of the Chinese and Thai governments in making his case for the company to impose censorship locally.
Google warns this would lead to the removal of many politically controversial, but harmless, YouTube clips.
University of Sydney associate professor Bjorn Landfeldt, one of Australia’s top communications experts, said that to comply with Conroy’s request Google “would have to install a filter along the lines of what they actually have in China”.
As it prepares to introduce legislation within weeks forcing ISPs to block a blacklist of RC websites, the government says it is in talks with Google over blocking the same type of material from YouTube.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
Paul Craig Roberts
The media has headlined good economic news: fourth quarter GDP growth of 5.7 percent (“the recession is over”), Jan. retail sales up, productivity up in 4th quarter, the dollar is gaining strength. Is any of it true? What does it mean?
The 5.7 percent growth figure is a guesstimate made in advance of the release of the U.S. trade deficit statistic. It assumed that the U.S. trade deficit would show an improvement. When the trade deficit was released a few days later, it showed a deterioration, knocking the 5.7 percent growth figure down to 4.6 percent. Much of the remaining GDP growth consists of inventory accumulation.
More than a fourth of the reported gain in Jan. retail sales is due to higher gasoline and food prices. Questionable seasonal adjustments account for the rest.
Productivity was up, because labor costs fell 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter, the fourth successive decline. Initial claims for jobless benefits rose. Productivity increases that do not translate into wage gains cannot drive the consumer economy.
Housing is still under pressure, and commercial real estate is about to become a big problem.
The dollar’s gains are not due to inherent strengths. The dollar is gaining because government deficits in Greece and other EU countries are causing the dollar carry trade to unwind. America’s low interest rates made it profitable for investors and speculators to borrow dollars and use them to buy overseas bonds paying higher interest, such as Greek, Spanish and Portuguese bonds denominated in euros. The deficit troubles in these countries have caused investors and speculators to sell the bonds and convert the euros back into dollars in order to pay off their dollar loans. This unwinding temporarily raises the demand for dollars and boosts the dollar’s exchange value.
The problems of the American economy are too great to be reached by traditional policies. Large numbers of middle class American jobs have been moved offshore: manufacturing, industrial and professional service jobs. When the jobs are moved offshore, consumer incomes and U.S. GDP go with them. So many jobs have been moved abroad that there has been no growth in U.S. real incomes in the 21st century, except for the incomes of the super rich who collect multi-million dollar bonuses for moving U.S. jobs offshore.
Without growth in consumer incomes, the economy can go nowhere. Washington policymakers substituted debt growth for income growth. Instead of growing richer, consumers grew more indebted. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan accomplished this with his low interest rate policy, which drove up housing prices, producing home equity that consumers could tap and spend by refinancing their homes.
In the October 2009 print edition of the UK Column, we reported in our article BBC Hides Truth of Girls Sexual Abuse Ordeal the shocking ordeal of Downs Syndrome girl, Hollie Greig, who was horribly abused by an Aberdeen paedophile ring, over a period of ten years. After investigating and planning a documentary, the BBC abruptly dropped the case, despite admitting that Hollie was a reliable and accurate witness. It is important to stress that both the police and qualified medical experts have described Hollie as a competent and entirely honest witness.
From the age of just six, Hollie was repeatedly sexually abused by her father, Denis Charles Mackie. Later, Mackie began sharing his daughter with a gang of paedophile swingers that has been operating in Aberdeen for many years. The identities of a further seven child victims are already known. There is no question that the gang are well-connected, efficiently organised and totally ruthless. Our frightening story is that they are protected by individuals of high standing within the Scottish establishment.
In 2000, after 14 years of terrified silence, Hollie eventually told her mother, Anne, about the abuses. Formal statements were made to Grampian Police, providing all the horrifying details and the names of the abusers. They included a senior Scottish Sheriff, a policeman, social workers, a nurse, a solicitor, an accountant, a fire officer, married couples and others. Some of the rapes were carried out at the homes of these individuals, including that of the Sheriffs sister. Other children were sometimes involved, including children of the paedophiles themselves.
The latest chapters in this astonishing and horrifying story about Hollie, and the seven other abused children, have taken place over the past few weeks. The key issues are a continued refusal by Grampian police to fully investigate the overwhelming evidence for the paedophile rapes, and a wall of silence by the Scottish establishment.
Whilst there has been some general Scottish media coverage, notably in The Firm and the Aberdeen Press and Journal, the media has been largely silent on what must be one of Scotlands worst top level paedophile scandles. A key figure in the press silence is the Lord Advocate, in her former role as Procurator Fiscal in Aberdeen, when in 2000 she is alleged to have effectively buried the case. Was this to prevent her associate and most influential member of the paedophile ring, Sheriff X, from being investigated, along with the other named members of the fifteen-strong rape gang?
At Utah’s West Jordan High School, the halls have swirled lately with debate over the merits of 12th grade. The sudden buzz over the relative value of senior year stems from a recent proposal by state Sen. Chris Buttars that Utah make a dent in its budget gap by eliminating the 12th grade.
Buttars has since toned down the idea, suggesting instead that senior year become optional for students who complete their required credits early. He estimated the move could save up to $60 million, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The proposal comes as the state faces a $700-million shortfall and reflects the creativity — or desperation — of lawmakers all over.
“You’re looking at these budget gaps where lawmakers have to use everything and anything to try to resolve them,” said Todd Haggerty, a policy associate with the National Conference of State Legislatures. “It’s left lawmakers with very unpopular decisions.”
“The bottom line is saving taxpayer dollars while improving options for students,” said state Sen. Howard A. Stephenson, a Republican and co-chairman of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “The more options we give to students to accelerate, the more beneficial it is to students and taxpayers.”
The Jordan School District will lay off 500 employees by July 1 as part of an effort to make up for a $30 million shortfall.
By a 6-1 vote, the Jordan Board of Education approved options to reduce the 2010-11 budget, which include personnel cuts, programs and services cuts, transfer of expenditures to other programs, compensation adjustments, class-size increases, and possible tax increases.
Between now and the end of March, the board will determine which positions and programs will be eliminated. As many as 250 teaching positions and 250 administrative/support staff positions will be cut.
Not a single teacher need be cut. All it takes is unions to lower salary demands and/or pensions. Any cuts are the direct responsibility of the Teachers’ union.