The Fed ditches the Evans Rule
In December 2012, the Federal Reserve announced the advent of the Evans Rule — that the Fed will keep the federal funds rate low either until unemployment falls below 6.5 percent, or inflation rises above 2.5 percent.
Today, Fed Chair Janet Yellen and the rest of the Federal Open Market Committee ditched that rule, announcing that the central bank will continue to keep rates low, even though unemployment is now at 6.7 percent, just 0.2 percentage points away from the target.
That's a great idea. Why? The Evans Rule was never really fit for the purpose; 6.5 percent is a totally arbitrary level. The Fed's mandate calls for "maximum employment and 2 percent inflation." The current employment rate is not — as I have argued — "maximum employment." The natural rate of unemployment is variable, and with growth still relatively weak, there is considerable room for more jobs growth. And with inflation remaining almost a full percentage point below the 2 percent target, there really is no need to tighten right now. More stimulus — and lower unemployment — is merited.
The other decision Yellen announced today — reducing the quantitative easing bond-buying programs by another $10 billion to $50 billion per month — was entirely to be expected given February's strong employment growth. Tapering is a gradual process. If unemployment fails to fall further, further tapering can be delayed or reversed. Or, if inflation picks up, tapering can be accelerated.
All in all, a good start for Janet Yellen.
KFC is testing the Double Down Hot Dog
KFC's new "Double Down Dog" is exactly what it sounds like: a hot dog with fried chicken in lieu of a bun, covered in cheese.
The monstrosity is currently only for sale in the Philippines. Replacing bread with fried chicken seems pretty American, though, so perhaps one day you'll be able to live the Double Down Dog dream right here in the states.
A huge asteroid will fly by Earth today
A giant asteroid is headed straight toward Earth, but NASA says not to worry.
The asteroid, 2004 BL86, will come about 745,000 miles from Earth, which is roughly three times as far away as the moon is. That may sound far away, but today's event marks the closest known asteroid of its size to pass near Earth until 2027.
Check out a livestream of the asteroid event here — and if you've got clear skies at home, scientists estimate that the best time to watch the event is between 8:00 p.m. Monday and 1:00 a.m. Tuesday. If your skies aren't affected by the Northeast blizzard, these NASA sky charts will help you figure out when is the best time to look for the asteroid today.
NASA's next mission might be sending a helicopter to Mars
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory hopes to send a remote-controlled helicopter to Mars. The camera-equipped helicopter could triple the distance that Mars rovers travel in a Martian day and would "pinpoint interesting targets for study," according to NASA.
Flying the helicopter over Mars won't be easy, though — the planet's atmosphere has low density, and the copter will need to maintain stable flight on its own. But the scientists have been developing the Mars helicopter for month, and they've already made a full-scale prototype.
The scientists are testing the prototype in a vacuum chamber with Martian conditions to see what needs to be improved before it goes into flight. They also have to make sure it has a functional landing system before they can send it to Mars. Check out the JPL roboticists' explanation of how the helicopter will do what Martian rovers can't in the video below. —Meghan DeMaria
Alexis Tsipras sworn in as new Greek prime minister
Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greece's left-wing party that won a decisive victory in Sunday's election, was sworn in Monday as the nation's new prime minister.
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) January 26, 2015
Tsipras' Syriza party won 149 of 300 seats in parliament behind an anti-austerity message and vows to renegotiate Greece's monumental debt. Earlier Monday, Syriza joined with the right-wing Independent Greeks to form a coalition government.
Emma Watson will play Belle in a live-action Beauty and the Beast remake
Disney's live-action remake of the 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast has found its Belle. Emma Watson, best known for playing Hermione in the Harry Potter series, will star in the film.
Waston confirmed the news of her casting on her own Facebook page. "I'm finally able to tell you... that I will be playing Belle in Disney's new live-action Beauty and the Beast!" she wrote. "It was such a big part of my growing up, it almost feels surreal that I'll get to dance to 'Be Our Guest' and sing 'Something There.' My six year old self is on the ceiling — heart bursting. Time to start some singing lessons. I can't wait for you to see it."
After the box-office successes of recent movies like 2010's Alice in Wonderland and last year's Maleficent, Disney has been busily mining its animated history for new live-action films. A live-action adaptation of Cinderella is bound for theaters in March.
The NFL is finally launching a YouTube channel
For years, as other professional sports leagues made highlight reels and clips readily available for fans to consume online, the NFL maintained a tight grip on its video stash. That will soon change, as the NFL on Monday announced it would be launching a YouTube channel to host game action, interviews, and clips from the NFL Network.
The move is part of a broader multimillion dollar deal with Google, which owns YouTube, that will give the tech giant the right to host the NFL Network. Under the deal, Google will also prominently feature NFL videos in its search results.
IRS insists living man is dead — but still takes his money
Siegfried Meinstein of Upper Arlington, Ohio, is 94 years old, but he is definitely still alive. But since April of last year, the IRS has insisted the World War II vet is dead, despite all evidence to the contrary, including the eyewitness account of an IRS agent.
Originally the Meinstein family thought the problem may have originated with the Social Security Administration, which mistakenly decides about 1,000 people are dead each year. Yet though the SSA is actually well aware that Meinstein is still alive, the IRS refuses to back down. In the meantime, the agency continues to cash Meinstein's checks.
"If they keep insisting, what is it you say?" said Meinstein's son, Ron. "'Eventually, they'll be right?'"
BLS: Texas is responsible for most new jobs since 2007
Employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Texas Workforce Commission indicates that Texas alone is responsible for the net job growth of the last seven years. While the other 49 states plus the District of Columbia have seen a 0.2 percent decline in available employment, Texas has added more than 1.4 million new positions:
While the oil industry has contributed significantly to the job boom in Texas, other areas of work — like construction, finance, mining, and office work — are surging in the Lone Star State.
Study: Many breast cancer patients don't understand the disease
A new study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston found that many breast cancer patients don't understand what, exactly, the disease's characteristics are.
The study, published Monday in the journal Cancer, surveyed 500 women with breast cancer. The researchers found that only 20 to 58 percent of the women understood the tumor stage, grade, and type of tumor with which they were diagnosed. African-American and Hispanic women in particular didn't correctly identify their tumor characteristics.
Rachel Freedman, author of the study, said that patients not understanding breast cancer makes it harder for them to follow their treatment plans and make informed medical decisions. Freedman noted that the study "identified a critical need for improved patient education and provider awareness" about breast cancer.
Secret Service hunting for suspects after quadcopter drone crashes on White House lawn
The Secret Service has confirmed that a small drone quadcopter crashed inside the White House compound early Monday morning.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 26, 2015
The administration is searching for suspects or a motive, but White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says the incident "does not pose any sort of ongoing threat." President Obama is in India as part of an international swing.
The incident comes one month after a report faulted the Secret Service for a range of lax behavior and called for the construction of a taller fence around the White House.