May 6, 2014
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A Southern California school district is revising an assignment that asked eighth grade students to write an argumentative essay on the Holocaust, and whether it was an "actual event in history," or "merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth."

The San Bernardino Sun discovered the assignment's instructions over the weekend. The Rialto Unified School District middle-schoolers were directed to use three sources in their essay, including one that called concentration camp gassings and The Diary of Anne Frank a "hoax," claiming that no evidence has been found proving that Jews died in gas chambers. KTLA reports that the source is a page on the website that says: "In whatever way you can, please help shatter this profitable myth. It is time we stop sacrificing America's welfare for the sake of Israel and spend our hard-earned dollars on Americans."

The district first defended the assignment, with spokeswoman Syeda Jafri saying the point was to engage students in "critical thinking." But on Monday, Jafri read a statement that announced interim Superintendent Mohammed Z. Islam would talk to administrators to "assure that any references to the Holocaust 'not occurring' will be stricken on any current or future argumentative research assignments."

"This was a mistake," Jafri said. "It should be corrected. It will be corrected. We all know it was real. The Holocaust is not a hoax.... I believe our classroom teachers are teaching it with sensitivity and compassion."

The Rialto Unified School District serves 26,000 students in the suburbs east of Los Angeles. Jafri told The Sun that the district did not receive complaints from parents, teachers, or administrators over the assignment, and added that since the press picked up the story, district officials have received death threats. For more on the story, watch this news report from CBS Los Angeles. --Catherine Garcia

12:42 p.m. ET
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Residents of Trump Tower have access to the usual list of luxury building amenities, including a full-time doorman, valet, and maid service. Only, tenets now have access to an amenity even some of the poshest buildings in the country can't boast — the U.S. Secret Service.

"The New [Amenity] — The United States Secret Service," bragged a flier obtained by Politico that promotes a one-bedroom apartment on the 31st floor of the tower. "Best value in the most secure building in Manhattan," it adds. Another advertisement for an available condo asked, "Fifth Avenue buyers interested in Secret Service protection?"

Most of Trump Tower's units are individually owned, and business associates promoting the "Secret Service" as an amenity are not tied directly to Trump. Politico reports that there are apparently 16 active sale listings and 16 active rentals currently in the building.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has said security for Trump currently costs the city about $500,000 a day and that protecting Trump Tower is an "unprecedented" challenge, requiring street closures, 24-hour security, and barricades. While Trump will move in January to the White House in D.C., his wife, Melania, and son, Barron, plan to stay in Trump Tower so Barron can finish school. They will have their own security detail. Jeva Lange

11:49 a.m. ET

Google announced Tuesday that it plans to rely entirely on renewable energy sources to power its 13 data centers and 150 global offices in 2017. Though Google will not solely use sources like wind and solar power, given that it receives power from a company operating a multi-source energy grid, its consumption of non-renewable energy will be offset entirely by its purchase of renewable energy.

The move is significant, as Google reportedly gobbled up "as much energy as the city of San Francisco" last year. Already, the company says it is the "largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world," sourcing 44 percent of its energy from renewable sources in 2015. "For one company to be doing this is a very big deal. It means other companies of a similar scale will feel pressure to move," Jonathan Koomey, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, told The New York Times.

Moreover, Google argues the environment isn't all that's benefiting from its green investment. "We are convinced this is good for business, this is not about greenwashing," Marc Oman, EU energy lead at Google, told The Guardian. "This is about locking in prices for us in the long term. Increasingly, renewable energy is the lowest cost option." Becca Stanek

11:08 a.m. ET

When Donald Trump promised to save 1,100 jobs in the Carrier deal last week, he was apparently inflating the number with jobs that were never threatened in the first place, WTHR reports. The Carrier deal had the air conditioner and furnace manufacturer agreeing to keep hundreds of jobs in Indiana that had been slated to go to Mexico in return for $7 million in state financial incentives — but while Trump had promised 1,100 jobs would be saved, the reality is that only 730 union jobs are apparently being preserved.

"We didn't know the breakdown before because no one would give us any information. Now what we're losing is 550 member jobs," Union President Chuck Jones said. Carrier worker T.J. Bray added, "It seemed like since Thursday, it was 1,100 then it was maybe 900 and then now we're at 700. So I'm hoping it doesn't go any lower than that."

The union workers learned that Trump's deal saves 730 jobs in Indianapolis, and that 553 jobs in the plant's fan coil lines are being moved to Mexico. All 700 workers at Carrier's Huntington plant will additionally lose their jobs. Trump had apparently arrived at the 1,100 number he boasted last week by including 350 research and development jobs that were never going to go to Mexico in the first place, Bray explained.

"It appears they may have hyped that number [1,100] a little bit and then once the company and everything settled down we started seeing the real numbers and started getting a little discouraged about how many jobs [were really being saved]," Bray said. Jeva Lange

10:28 a.m. ET

American teenagers performed below average for the developed world in the results of the latest PISA education test, released Tuesday morning, with nearly three dozen countries outperforming the U.S. But the kind of education reform promised by President-elect Donald Trump and his nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, could make things even worse, The New York Times reports.

The PISA test is given every three years to half a million 15-year-olds from 69 countries around the world to gauge their ability to make strong written arguments and solve problems they haven't seen before — the aim being to test what conditions make teenagers "smart." Money spent per student isn't a firm indicator of a country's success on the test, nor are low child poverty levels or fewer immigrants. Instead, here's what the findings showed:

Generally speaking, the smartest countries tend to be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms.

Of all those lessons learned, the United States has employed only one at scale: A majority of states recently adopted more consistent and challenging learning goals, known as the Common Core State Standards, for reading and math. These standards were in place for only a year in many states, so [analyst Andreas] Schleicher did not expect them to boost America's PISA scores just yet. (In addition, America's PISA sample included students living in states that have declined to adopt the new standards altogether.) [The New York Times]

Trump and DeVos want to repeal Common Core, although their ability to do so is a little unclear since the federal government did not create or implement the program. Common Core-like standards are also seen across every high-ranking nation in the PISA test, including Poland and South Korea, the Times points out.

But what about America's middling scores on the PISA? There is a silver lining, The New York Times reports — read a further breakdown of the findings here. Jeva Lange

10:20 a.m. ET

During an appearance Monday night on The Daily Show, CNN commentator Van Jones reminded America once again that not every person who voted for President-elect Donald Trump was "voting for every crazy thing he said." To move forward in the days after the election, Jones argued, Democrats especially need to remember that many people found Trump's remarks "distasteful, but not disqualifying, because they had so much other economic pain and problems that were not being talked to." "Listen, Trump is much worse than anybody in this country is willing to accept," Jones said, "but a lot of his voters are much better and I don't want to give them away."

In the midst of the presidential election, Jones was one of the first to point out that Trump's supporters — even the white supremacists — should not be written off. In the days after the election, Jones shirked shutting himself off in favor of engaging with Trump voters — and he's encouraging everyone, "especially this younger generation" of African-Americans, to do the same. "They shot [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] in the face the year I was born because he was trying to fight for these ideals," Jones said. "I have one bad election and some bad tweets and quit? I can't do that. And I will tell you: You cannot, especially this younger generation. They can't quit either."

Catch the rest of Jones' interview below. Becca Stanek

10:10 a.m. ET

A single tweet from President-elect Donald Trump had immediate real-world implications Tuesday morning, when shortly before the markets opened, Trump criticized Boeing for how expensive its new 747 Air Force One plane is:

He expanded upon that tweet in New York on Tuesday morning, saying "the plane is totally out of control. It's going to be over $4 billion for Air Force One program," he said, per CNBC. "I think it's ridiculous, I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money."

At the mere threat of Trump canceling his order on the latest model of the presidential jet, Boeing's stock plummeted. At Tuesday's opening bell, Boeing stocks were down 0.86 percent and had slid more than 1 percent in early trading. Though that may not sound all that steep, with a market cap at $93 billion, even a 1 percent decline is significant for Boeing.

Moreover, Politico reported, Trump's tweet seems to have misquoted the actual projected cost of the Boeing 747. Air Force One estimated it would cost $1.65 billion to build two new jets — about $825 million per aircraft.

When asked for comment by The Associated Press, Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher indicated the company still wasn't quite sure how to respond to the president-elect's tweet. "We are going to get back to you after we figure out what's going on," Blecher said. Becca Stanek

9:49 a.m. ET

British actor Peter Vaughan, known for his role as the blind Maester Aemon on Game of Thrones, died Tuesday at the age of 93, the BBC reports. Vaughan had appeared in five seasons of the HBO show.

Vaughan was born in 1923, and was a stage and television actor throughout the 1960s. He is also known for his part as Grouty in the British TV sitcom Porridge and played supporting roles in Citizen Smith, Chancer, and Our Friends in the North.

"This is to confirm that very sadly Peter Vaughan passed away at approximately 10:30 this morning," his agent, Sally Long-Innes, told the BBC. "He died peacefully with his family around him." Jeva Lange

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