March 19, 2014

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. John Aziz

8:22 a.m. ET

That revelation comes courtesy of a New York Times article pulling from "hundreds of pages of sworn testimony by Mr. Trump over the past decade." The Times wryly notes that the picture of Trump under oath is "something less flattering" than Trump's preferred image as "a teller of difficult truths, whose wealth unburdens him from the careful pronouncements of ordinary candidates."

To wit: "You're disgusting," Trump told a lawyer who asked for a medical break from court proceedings in 2007 in order to pump breast milk for her 3-month-old baby. "Do you even know what you're doing?" he additionally challenged her during questioning.

But beyond that, Trump tipped his hand as to how disconnected he is from 21st century technologies.

Television? "I don’t have a lot of time," he said, "for listening to television."

Text messages? Not for him.

For a candidate who says he is an authority on modern business, Mr. Trump is slow to adopt technology. In 2007, he said he had no home or office computer.

"Does your secretary send emails on your behalf?" he was asked.

His secretary generally typed letters, Mr. Trump said. "I don’t do the email thing."

By 2013, Mr. Trump was still not sold on email. "Very rarely, but I use it," he said under questioning. [The New York Times]

Read the whole thing at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

By the numbers
7:55 a.m. ET
Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images

At least since they each declared that they're running for president.

Here's a full sampling of the tally of total combined Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network appearances for all the GOP candidates since their official campaign launches, per Politico:

1) Paul, 35 … 2) Huckabee, 31 … 3) Trump, 30 … 4) Perry, 24 … 5-6) Fiorina and Jindal, 20 each … 7) Cruz, 17 … 8) Santorum, 16 … 9) Rubio, 14 … 10-11) Carson and Graham, 12 each … 12-13) Kasich and Pataki, 11 each … 14) Christie, 7 … 15) Walker, 4 … 16) Bush, 3. [Politico]

The number of appearances doesn't quite track with candidates' running in the polls. Trump is the only candidate who appears both at the top of national polls and near the top of Fox News' list. The most recent Monmouth poll shows Fox's most frequent guest, Paul, at only 6 percent. Becca Stanek

Watch this
7:45 a.m. ET

Jimmy Kimmel's emotions got the better of him during Jimmy Kimmel Live Tuesday night. During a segment about the killing of a beloved Zimbabwean lion named Cecil, the comedian got choked up and momentarily had to pause during his routine. It was an uncharacteristic moment for Kimmel, whose quips about Cecil and the poachers had more of an edge to them than his usual antics.

"First of all, quit saying you took the lion," Kimmel snapped, addressing the Minnesotan dentist who allegedly poached Cecil. "You take Aspirin. You killed the lion."

Kimmel added, "If you're some A-hole dentist who wants a lion's head over the fireplace in his man cave, so his douche-hole buddies can gather around it and drink scotch and tell him how awesome he is, that's just vomitous."

Then, while sharing the website for the wildlife conservation organization that was tracking Cecil, Kimmel was moved nearly to tears and apologized to his viewers. It happens around the 4:10 mark. Watch below. Jeva Lange

The Daily Showdown
7:13 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, President Obama returns from a five-day trip to Africa, including the first visit ever by a sitting U.S. president to Ethiopia and his first presidential trip to his father's homeland, Kenya. "His father's homeland, the place where his father was born — wink," Jon Stewart said on Tuesday's Daily Show, trying to make a birther joke. Then a clip of Obama making his own birther joke in Kenya.

"Well, that stole a lot of the joy out of my joke," Stewart mock-griped. "You host The Daily Show, Obama, how about that? When you leave, you just host this show, and I'll just pack up and move to some farm in New Jersey." When his fake earpiece told him that's what he's actually doing next week, Stewart deadpanned, "Wow, that's f—ed up." But Obama wasn't the only one pre-empting his jokes — an African anthropologist's Donald Trump joke almost made Stewart abandon his own Trump joke. Almost.

Stewart took a similarly lighthearted approach to the rest of Obama's "Wet Hot African Summer" until the end, when he noted that Obama chastised Kenya for its record on gay rights and women's rights, but declined to make similar criticisms of Saudi Arabia during his 2009 visit there. His ending jab includes a reference to oil, and lubing America up. You can watch it below. Peter Weber

6:14 a.m. ET
Getty Images

Mullah Omar, the Afghan Taliban leader who has not been seen in public since the U.S. and coalition forces ousted his government in 2001, is dead, and has been for two or three years, senior sources in Afghanistan's security services and government tell BBC News and other news outlets. According to Pakistan's Express Tribune, Omar died more than two years ago of tuberculosis. "It is widely speculated that Mullah Baradar Akhund will succeed Mullah Omar as the supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban," the paper reports.

This isn't the first report of the reclusive leader's death, but "this is the first to be confirmed by top sources in the Afghan government," BBC News notes. "A Taliban spokesman contacted by the BBC said the group would issue a statement shortly." The Taliban has issued several statements in Mullah Omar's name since his apparent death in 2013, most recently a July 15 message supporting peace talks with the Afghan government. Peter Weber

Europe's Migration Crisis
5:37 a.m. ET
Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

For the second night in a row, hundreds of migrants on Tuesday tried to force their way into the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais, France, in a desperate bid to jump a ride on freight trains to Britain. One of the migrants, reported to be a Sudanese man age 25 to 30, died in Tuesday night's attempt, probably hit by a truck leaving a train from Britain. More than 2,100 people tried to rush the Eurotunnel on Monday night, and eight others have died attempting to stow aboard the trains to Britain since June.

Most of the migrants — from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Syria, Sudan, and North Africa — "plan to seek asylum when they arrive in Britain or ask for protection as refugees," explains The New York Times. "They say they are choosing to go there because they have relatives there, speak some English, or believe they are more likely to get housing once they apply for asylum. It is not clear whether that belief is true."

Their attempts are causing delays on passenger service through through the Eurotunnel and even longer ones for commercial trucks. That, rather than the migrant crises, was the focus of British Prime Minister David Cameron's response. "I have every sympathy with holiday-makers who are finding access to Calais difficult because of the disturbances there, and we will do everything we can to work with the French to bring these things to a conclusion," he said from Singapore. Britain and France have pledged millions of dollars to increase fencing and security at the Calais terminal. Peter Weber

last night on late night
4:34 a.m. ET

Jimmy Kimmel's "pedestrian question" on Tuesday's Kimmel Live was whether the random people his crew stopped on the street had any nude pictures of themselves on their phones. The game involves stopping the interview right before the pedestrian answers and having the audience guess yes or no. There's not a lot to go on — first name and where he or she is from, and of course, what they look like — and there's some sizable element of the audience that seems to pick its response based mostly on what they want the answer to be. What to guess about an attractive young woman from Canada, for example? Or an older, bearded man from Australia? You can play along below. Peter Weber

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