Economics
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

This just in
1:29 p.m. ET
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After California legislators voted Monday to eliminate the state's personal belief exemption for school vaccinations, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the bill into law Tuesday. The legislation will require virtually all school-attending children in California to be fully vaccinated, the San Jose Mercury News reports, whether the school is public or private and regardless of their parents' religious or personal beliefs.

California's law does allow medical exemptions for children with serious health concerns and permits children with existing personal belief exemptions to go unvaccinated until their next checkpoint. Otherwise, the new law effectively requires all of California's school-age children must either be vaccinated or be homeschooled. Only Mississippi and West Virginia have similarly strict laws.

"The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases," Brown wrote in an official statement. "While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community." Kimberly Alters

champs
1:20 p.m. ET
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The World Health Organization has confirmed that Cuba is the first country in the world to eradicate mother-to-child transmitted HIV and syphilis. WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chen called the progress a "major victory."

"It shows that ending the AIDS epidemic is possible and we expect Cuba to be the first of many countries coming forward to seek validation that they have ended their epidemics among children," Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé added in the WHO report.

The Pan American Health Organization and WHO have worked jointly in Cuba since 2010. Globally, the organization estimates that 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant every year and have a 15 to 45 percent chance of transmitting the virus to their children during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding. Likewise, nearly one million pregnant women become infected with syphilis. Jeva Lange

en pointe
12:56 p.m. ET
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The American Ballet Theater named Misty Copeland, 32, principal ballerina on Tuesday, making her the first African-American woman to hold the position in the company's 75-year history. Stella Abrera was also promoted to principal.

Copeland has been with the American Ballet Theater for 14 years and spent eight of those years as a soloist. Last week, she performed as Odette/Odile in "Swan Lake" at the Met; she has also performed in Alexei Ratmansky's "Firebird" and debuted in "Romeo and Juliet."

"When she's on, the audience is totally diverse," Artistic Director Emerita of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Judith Jamison told The Wall Street Journal. "This is what happens when you give people opportunity to do things they are capable of doing." Jeva Lange

D'oh
12:56 p.m. ET

As of today, 14 Republicans have announced their intentions to run for president in 2016 — which means 13 will be probably be looking for a new gig when the party selects its official nominee next year. In a video for Buzzfeed, Ted Cruz has submitted himself as a possible contender for another high-profile gig: a voice role on The Simpsons.

Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Homer and Lisa... they're all there, kind of. Scott Meslow

Race and the South
12:43 p.m. ET
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Less than two weeks after a white man shot and killed nine people at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, officials granted approval to the Ku Klux Klan to hold a pro-Confederate flag rally on the Statehouse grounds.

The KKK's reservation was confirmed by Brian Gains of the South Carolina Budget and Control Board, Politico reports. Gains explained in an email that the KKK was given the reservation because the office allows "any group, regardless of ideology, to reserve the grounds on a first-come, first-serve basis."

The event is slated for July 18 from 3-5 p.m. James Spears, Great Titan of the Ku Klux Klan's Pelham, North Carolina chapter, which reserved the grounds, said the group will be protesting "the Confederate flag being t[aken] down for all the reasons." Becca Stanek

Quoteables
12:28 p.m. ET

One day after NBC severed ties with 2016 GOP nominee Donald Trump over "derogatory statements" he made about Mexican immigrants, fellow GOP candidate Sen. Ted Cruz has sided with Trump.

"When it comes to Donald Trump, I like Donald Trump. I think he's terrific. I think he's brash. I think he speaks the truth," Cruz said in a Tuesday morning interview on Fox & Friends. Cruz added that NBC is "engaging in political correctness that is silly and that is wrong."

NBC announced Monday it would no longer air the Miss USA and Miss Universe beauty pageants, which Trump owns, and indicated Trump would be bumped from his role as host of The Apprentice. 

When asked if Mexican immigrants are "mostly" rapists and drug dealers, as Trump suggested in his speech, Cruz replied: "They're not mostly that. But Donald Trump — he has a way of speaking that gets attention. And I credit him for focusing on an issue that needs to be focused on."

"I don't think you should apologize for speaking out against the problem that is illegal immigration," Cruz said. "Donald Trump is exactly right to highlight the need" to crack down on illegal immigration, he added.

Trump expressed gratitude for having Cruz in his corner, sending a "thank you" tweet on Tuesday morning. Emily Goldberg

2016
11:58 a.m. ET
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On Tuesday morning, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie formally announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in the gymnasium of his old high school in Livingston, New Jersey. "I am now ready to fight for the people of the United States of America," he said.

Christie critiqued the dysfunction of Congress and President Obama, and emphasized the country's need for "strong leadership and decisiveness to lead America again." He promised to run a campaign "without spin or focus on group pandering."

"You're going to get what I think," the tough-talking governor said, "whether or not you like it."

The New Jersey governor was once a rising GOP star — many high-powered conservatives all but begged him to run for president in 2012 — but his fortunes have since tanked, largely due to a 2013 scandal about politically motivated traffic on the George Washington Bridge. Christie is the 14th GOP candidate to enter the presidential race. Becca Stanek

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