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May 17, 2013

A Virginia second-grader was suspended from school for pretending to be a Marine and making "gun noises" while pointing his pencil at another student. The father of 7-year-old Christopher Marshall thinks the school's zero-tolerance policy for weapons goes too far, but a school spokesman disagreed, calling a pencil "a weapon when it is pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made." Samantha Rollins

2:22 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Danny Johnston

Liberal political operative David Brock is gearing up for four years of Donald Trump, and he plans to remold his media networks into anti-Trump weaponry in preparation. Media Matters, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the social media platform Shareblue will all be refocusing in anticipation of the incoming administration, The Hill reports.

Specifically, Brock is looking for financial investment for Shareblue, which he believes could become the "Breitbart of the left" if it finds backing. Brock is also looking to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch as a template for how CREW might operate, and he plans to steer Media Matters' focus away from Fox News to zero in on fake news, conspiracy theories, and hoaxes.

Additionally, Brock's super PAC, American Bridge, is prepared to comb through Trump's history, use the Freedom of Information Act to uncover new stories, and fact-check his claims in real time. The group will feed its potential findings to the media, lawmakers, and Trump's supporters, The Hill reports.

"The Trump administration is shaping up to be one of the most corrupt since the Gilded Age," Brock said. "American Bridge will use everything at its disposal to hold it accountable." Jeva Lange

1:55 p.m. ET

When asked by reporters Tuesday about the tax plan of his party's leader and the nation's president-elect, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) only had this to say:

Then, after he reportedly "apologized for raising his voice," McCain apparently quipped he'd someday come around to answering these "stupid questions" about America's future:

Apparently, McCain hasn't totally sworn off of Trump talk though. Also Tuesday, the Financial Times published an op-ed detailing the damage Trump would do if he withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal — authored by none other than McCain. Becca Stanek

1:44 p.m. ET
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images

Former Sen. Bob Dole admitted Monday that he "may have had some influence" on the controversial phone call between President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Public filings show that Dole is paid $20,000 a month to advance Taiwan's interests in Washington, BuzzFeed News reported Tuesday.

Trump's decision last week to accept the congratulatory phone call was a sharp break with diplomatic norms. American and Taiwanese leaders are last known to have spoken directly in 1979 as the United States does not formally recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, separate from China.

BuzzFeed News found that none of the documents it reviewed between Dole's client, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), and his firm suggest that TECRO explicitly asked Dole to arrange the conversation between Trump and the Taiwanese president. But a March 17 letter from Dole to Taiwan's former top representative in Washington, Lyu-shun Shen, stated that "through close coordination with your staff, we are also prepared to undertake other special assignments on your behalf, provided that they are mutually agreed to by both parties."

The letter also includes Dole's assurance that "this year, we agree that our activities will continue to focus specially [sic] on assisting you with [your] agenda as it relates to the U.S. administration and Congress." Jeva Lange

12:42 p.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Residents of Trump Tower have access to the usual list of luxury building amenities, including a full-time doorman, valet, and maid service. Only, tenants 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 in the building.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has said security for Trump 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
JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

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
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

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

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