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July 15, 2014
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Janet Yellen today took the stand in front of the Senate Banking Committee to answer questions about the Federal Reserve's monetary stimulus, the ongoing economic recovery, banking regulation, fiscal policy, and a host of other topics.

At the time of her previous semi-annual report — Yellen's first — the U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7 percent and inflation was 1.2 percent. The unemployment rate has since fallen to 6.1 percent and inflation has risen to 1.8 percent. That means that both are closer to the Fed's targets of 2 percent inflation and 5.5 percent unemployment.

But even with those signs of improvement, Yellen was pretty clear that the recovery is not complete. "Too many Americans remain unemployed, inflation remains below our longer-run objective, and not all of the necessary financial reform initiatives have been completed," she said. Yellen emphasized the dangers of allowing mass unemployment to persist, arguing that individuals "experience exceptional psychological trauma" when they become unemployed.

A number of senators also asked questions about economic bubbles. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), for instance, argued that economic bubbles were being inflated because low interest rates were encouraging investors to take on risky investments. Yellen answered that that was a possibility and that the Fed was monitoring developments closely, but warned that "we're not going to be able to catch every asset bubble." She defended the ultra-low interest rate policy as "necessary" due to the economy "operating significantly short of its potential." John Aziz

11:18 a.m. ET
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At least 17 Kyrgyz migrant workers were killed and four more injured Saturday when a printing warehouse in Moscow, Russia, caught fire. The blaze was put out after two hours.

The fire was caused by a broken lamp on the first floor, said Ilya Denisov, chief of Moscow's emergency services, and then spread upstairs through an elevator shaft. The victims are all believed to be young women who were trapped while putting on their work uniforms.

"Most of them were in Moscow to earn money," said Abdygani Shakirov, who works at a local Kyrgyz community organization. "They were in the dressing room and were unable to get out. The smoke had blocked the exit." Bonnie Kristian

10:41 a.m. ET

if you're ever stranded on a desert island, writing "SOS" in giant letters in the sand actually can help — or, at least, it helped a pair of boaters rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard from an uninhabited island in Micronesia on Friday.

The pair began their journey on Wednesday, August 17, and were expected to arrive at their destination one day later. Instead, they landed on the empty island near the Chuuk Lagoon on Friday, August 19, and survived on limited supplies for a week until the SOS was noticed by a U.S. Navy plane. Before the SOS was spotted, rescuers searched some 17,000 square miles without success. Bonnie Kristian

10:08 a.m. ET
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The United States and Russia are close to reaching agreement on national ceasefire in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday, but have yet to sign a deal. Following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Kerry said there are still "a few narrow issues to be resolved" before a lasting accord can be reached.

"We don't want to have a deal for the sake of the deal," he explained. "We want to have something done that is effective and that works for the people of Syria, that makes the region more stable and secure, and that brings us to the table here in Geneva to find a political solution."

The U.S. and Russia previously reached a ceasefire agreement in February, but that temporary peace collapsed by April. Bonnie Kristian

9:51 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump's personal physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, wrote a letter in December declaring Trump the "healthiest individual ever" to have a shot at the presidency, with "astonishingly excellent" test results. Speaking publicly about the letter for the first time on Friday evening, Bornstein revealed he wrote it in "five minutes" while his limo driver waited outside. He did not proofread the letter.

As for the remarkably Trumpian style of the note, Bornstein insisted he wrote it himself, but admitted he "might have picked up [Trump's] kind of language and then interpreted it as my own." Bornstein also justified his claim about Trump's unparalleled health by saying all past presidents "are either sick or dead" — which I guess is at least half true, though you can't really fault guys born 200 years ago for failing to make it to 2016.

Watch Bornstein's remarks below, including the little giggle he can't resist while labeling Trump's mental health "excellent." Bonnie Kristian


(NBC News)

9:14 a.m. ET
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A federal judge on Friday placed a temporary injunction on enforcement of North Carolina's controversial bathroom law, H.B. 2, which requires people to use restrooms matching the sex listed on their birth certificate. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder's ruling only applies to three transgender people at the University of North Carolina, one employee and two UNC students, who will now be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice on campus.

"North Carolina's peeping and indecent exposure statutes continue to protect the privacy of citizens regardless of" the bathroom law, Schroeder wrote, referencing fears that a bathroom free-for-all would be abused by criminals, "and there is no indication that a sexual predator could successfully claim transgender status as a defense against prosecution under these statutes."

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory stood by the law on Friday, saying it is a "very, very complex issue," and asking for respectful disagreement. H.B. 2 will face constitutional challenge in court this fall. Bonnie Kristian

8:02 a.m. ET
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Speaking at a press conference Friday, Maine Gov. Paul LePage said while responding to a question about whether Maine police engage in racial profiling in drug arrests that the "enemy" his state faces is typically racial minorities:

"Look, a bad guy is a bad guy, I don’t care what color it is. When you go to war, if you know the enemy, the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, you shoot at red, don’t you? You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority right now coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin. I can’t help that. I just can’t help it. Those are the facts." [LePage, via The Hill]

Earlier on Friday, LePage found himself in hot water when he followed up an expletive-filled voicemail to a state lawmaker by saying he'd like to shoot the representative in the head. "I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you," he said, referencing Alexander Hamilton's famous duel with Aaron Burr. "I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt." Bonnie Kristian

7:43 a.m. ET
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A state funeral was held Saturday for 35 of the victims of this week's devastating earthquake in Amatrice, Italy. So far, 290 bodies have been found in Amatrice and nearby towns as rescuers continue to sift through rubble — though after three days there is little hope of locating additional survivors.

"Don't be afraid to bewail your suffering, we have seen so much suffering. But I ask you not to lose your courage," said Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole at the funeral mass. "Only together can we rebuild our houses and churches. Above all, together we can give life back to our communities."

Aftershocks continue to strike the mountainous region, the strongest with a magnitude of 4.2 around 5 a.m. on Saturday. About 150 families are living in a large gymnasium until rebuilding or relocation efforts can begin. Bonnie Kristian

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