Chuck Shepherd

Schools' standardized tests are often criticized as harmfully rigid, and in the latest version of the Texas Education Agency's STAAR test, poet Sara Holbrook said she flubbed the "correct" answer for "author motivation" — in two of her own poems that were on the test. Writing in the Huffington Post in January, a disheartened Holbrook lamented, "Kids' futures and the evaluations of their teachers will be based on their ability to guess the so-called correct answer to (poorly) made-up questions."

The litigious society

• In December, James Leslie Kelly, 52, and with a 37-conviction rap sheet dating to 1985, filed a federal lawsuit in Florida claiming that his latest brush with the law was Verizon's fault and not his. Kelly was convicted of stealing the identity of another James Kelly and taking more than $300 in Verizon services. He bases his case on the Verizon sales representative's having spent "an hour and a half" with him — surely enough time, he says, to have figured out that he was not the James Kelly he was pretending to be. He seeks $72 million.

• In 2006, a photographer on assignment roamed a Chipotle restaurant in Denver, snapping photos of customers. Leah Caldwell was one person photographed, but says she refused to sign the photographer's "release" — and was surprised, nevertheless, to see a photo of herself in a Chipotle promotion in 2014 and again in 2015 (and on her table in the photo were "alcoholic beverages" she denied ever ordering). In January, Caldwell said the misuse of her image is Chipotle's fault for ignoring her non-"release," and thus that she is entitled to all of the profits Chipotle earned between 2006 and 2015: $2.237 billion.

Precocious

In December, Ashlynd Howell, 6, of Little Rock, Ark., deftly mashed her sleeping mother's thumbprint onto her phone to unlock the Amazon app and order $250 worth of Pokémon toys. Mom later noticed 13 e-mail confirmations and asked Ashlynd if something was amiss. According to the Wall Street Journal report, Ashlynd said, "No, Mommy, I was shopping."

Leading economic indicators

• The British think tank High Pay Centre reported in January that the average CEO among the U.K.'s top 100 companies (in the Financial Times Stock Exchange index) earns the equivalent of around $1,600 an hour — meaning that a 12-hour-a-day boss will earn, by midday Jan. 4, as much money as the typical worker at his firm will earn the entire year. Around the same time, the anti-poverty organization Oxfam reported, to an astonished press, that eight men — six Americans, headed by Bill Gates — have the same total "net worth" as the 3.6 billion people who comprise the poorest half of the planet.

• An organization that tracks "high net worth" investors (Spectrem Group of Lake Forest, Ill.) reported recently that, of Americans worth $25 million or more, only about two-thirds donate $10,000 or more yearly to charity. And then there is Charles Feeney, 85, of New York City, who in December made his final gift to charity ($7 million to Cornell University), completing his pledge to give away almost everything he had — $8 billion. He left his wife and himself $2 million to live on, in their rental apartment in San Francisco. A January New York Times profile noted that nothing is "named" for Feeney, that the gifts were mostly anonymous, and that Feeney assiduously cultivated his low profile.

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