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Yellen, denied second term as Fed chair, announces resignation


Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen said Monday she will leave the central bank once her term as chair ends in February, wrapping up a pivotal tenure in which the Fed began to reverse its extraordinary, decadelong support for the economy.

Yellen’s departure from the Fed long before her term as a governor ends in 2024 gives President Donald Trump another big opportunity to shape the world’s most important central bank.

Her announcement comes almost three weeks after Trump nominated Fed Governor Jerome Powell as the next U.S. central bank head, replacing Yellen with a similarly minded but Republican chairman.

Yellen’s move — capping off her nearly three decades at the agency — means the Fed will have a fourth vacancy to fill. Trump has already installed a vice chair of supervision, Randal Quarles, on the Fed board and will have the opportunity to name his own vice chair and three more governors.

Other than Powell, the only remaining appointee of former President Barack Obama is Fed Governor Lael Brainard, once considered a front-runner to serve as Treasury secretary under a Hillary Clinton administration.

“I am enormously proud to have worked alongside many dedicated and highly able women and men, particularly my predecessor as Chair, Ben S. Bernanke, whose leadership during the financial crisis and its aftermath was critical to restoring the soundness of our financial system and the prosperity of our economy,” Yellen said in her resignation letter.

She cited evidence that the economy is much stronger than a decade ago, including 17 million net jobs produced in the past eight years.

“Of course, sustaining this progress will require continued monitoring of, and decisive responses to, newly emerging threats to financial and economic stability,” she added.

Yellen’s steady leadership has drawn praise from Trump since his election, even though he criticized her harshly on the campaign trail.

“We are obviously doing great together,” Trump told Fox Business on Oct. 25. “You look at the markets.”

Trump indicated that his decision not to keep Yellen — making her the first Fed chief not to receive a second term since the 1970s — stemmed from his desire to make his own mark on the central bank.

Her resignation letter underscored the importance of the Fed’s independence, which is viewed as crucial to separating key monetary policy decisions from short-term politics.

“The Federal Reserve has been and remains a strong institution, focused on carrying out its vital public mission with integrity, in a professional, nonpartisan manner,” she wrote. “I am confident that my successor as Chair, Jerome H. Powell, is deeply committed to that mission and I will do my utmost to ensure a smooth transition.”

Yellen’s departure will mean the loss of decades of institutional knowledge. She has been part of the central bank’s leadership since 1994, with a break from 1997 to 1999, when she served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under former President Bill Clinton.

She served on the central bank’s board from 1994 to 1997, as San Francisco Fed president from 2004 to 2010, as vice chair of the board from 2010 to 2014, and as chair since then.

She also worked as a staff economist at the Fed in the 1970s.

Under her leadership, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 6.7 percent to 4.1 percent, in part because she decided to keep stimulating the economy even after unemployment dropped to 5 percent.

Her predecessor, Bernanke, in his book “The Courage to Act,” wrote of Yellen’s “longstanding concerns about high unemployment and the hardships it imposed on individuals, families, and communities.”

“She prepared for meetings meticulously and backed her positions with careful analyses,” he wrote of her time as San Francisco Fed president. “Her contributions were always among the most substantive at the meeting. The room hushed when she spoke.”

One of her most notable achievements as chair was beginning the process of weaning the U.S. economy off the exceptional support the Fed provided during and after the financial crisis.

The central bank took the unprecedented step of buying trillions of dollars in assets to prop up the housing market and convince banks they should lend. But once the economy began to right itself, the Fed needed to bring its policy back in line with more normal conditions.

Typical of Yellen’s deliberate approach, the Fed telegraphed for months in advance how it planned to shrink its balance sheet by allowing a certain amount of assets to mature without being replaced.

The process started last month with no panic from investors. That’s in stark contrast to 2013, when the Fed announced it would start to taper off its purchases of new assets, leading to a market reaction now known as the “taper tantrum.”

A Wall Street Journal survey in September found that almost three-quarters of economists polled thought Yellen should be reappointed as chair.

Still, the full effects of a decade of easy money policies are not yet apparent. Powell, if confirmed, is expected to continue the Fed’s current pace of rate hikes, which could reveal any asset bubbles that have formed as well as potentially lead to more painful defaults for companies and households that have built up high levels of debt.

Those risks will soon no longer be Yellen’s responsibility.

She gave no indication of what she plans to do next, but the outgoing Fed chief has had a long career as an academic, working at the University of California, Berkeley, the London School of Economics and Harvard University.

Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/20/yellen-announces-resignation-from-fed-179399

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Ex-Fox News Employee Says She Was Blocked From Investigating Trump-Russia Ties

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Plan to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan clears key hurdle to ballot

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Drones to airdrop hundreds of thousands of mosquitos to fight disease

One approach to fight mosquito-borne diseases is to introduce huge numbers of sterilized male mosquitos to beat out the wild males in competition for female mosquitos. The challenge is that it’s expensive to airdrop the mosquitos from airplanes and often difficult to traverse developing nations by ground. Now, WeRobotics has prototyped a drone that carries hundreds of thousands of mosquitos and releases them at just the right moment. The first experiments in South or Central America will take place in the next few months. From IEEE Spectrum:

The goal is to pack as many mosquitoes as possible into the drone. However, clumping is a problem because the insects form “a big collection of legs and wings,” he says. The trick, according to Klaptocz, is to keep them inside a precooled container: “Between 4 °C and 8 °C, they’ll fall asleep, and you can pack them up fairly densely.”

It’s also important to control the release of the mosquitoes, rather than dumping them out all at once. “We tried different systems to get the mosquitoes out of the holding canister, including vibrations and a treadmill,” he says. “Right now, we’re using a rotating element with holes through which individual mosquitoes can fall.” Once the mosquitoes fall out of the canister, they spend a few seconds in a secondary chamber warming up to the outside air temperature before exiting the drone, to make sure they’re awake and ready to fly.

Source: https://boingboing.net/2017/11/20/drones-to-airdrop-hundreds-of.html

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3 Steps White Christians Must Take to Fight Racism and Intolerance

Once again, America is having a discussion about race and faith the exact wrong way.

The recent news that the head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships made disparaging comments about black and Islamic communities showed an attitude that is unacceptable and wrong.

Among other things, Rev. Jamie Johnson said that the black community had turned America’s major cities “into slums because of laziness, drug use and sexual promiscuity” and that “all that Islam has ever given us is oil and dead bodies over the last millennia and a half.”

Johnson resigned, stating that he regretted his remarks, and a Homeland Security spokesman said they don’t represent the agency.

End of story, right? Sadly, that’s where most of the dialogue ends within the Christian community. But white Christians in particular need to take some important lessons from this moment to focus on better ways to combat inaccurate, racist and harmful ideologies.

Here are three takeaways.

White Christians need to do more

Disasters disproportionally impact racial and religious minorities who are more likely to suffer greater losses and isolation amidst the recovery process. Overcoming cultural barriers, stigma, and racism during an emergency response is an already difficult task.

The nation witnessed some of these cultural hurdles in the response to New Orleans, when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, and more recently when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. The dilemmas already inherent in disaster relief, and compounded by cultural barriers, have now likely been made even more challenging by Johnson’s remarks, which followed President Trump’s “both sides” comments after Charlottesville, pardon of controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and claim that the people of Puerto Rico “want everything to be done for them.”

White Christians must refuse to accept the disparities our country has taken for granted for too long. Before, during, and after disasters strike, it’s our responsibility, as people of faith, to address and work toward dismantling the systemic disparities that negatively impact racial and religious minorities in our nation.

Christians’ words about race and religion matter

Whether we like it or not, Jamie Johnson represents the negative, and all too familiar, stereotype of evangelical Christianity in America. And if we do not pause to take issue with his remarks, we implicitly lend our support to inaccurate, racist and harmful ideologies. Being very clear in our rejection of Johnson’s sentiments is important for all of our relationships, and that includes our relationships with those impacted by disaster.

Disaster response is relational at its core: aid is delivered and received through human interactions. Social bonds are important to the recovery process. Disaster survivors are already subject to receiving aid from “helpers” who may be “other” in any number of ways. Often those who arrive to assist in the wake of disaster are from out of state, and they may also be people whose race, religion, class, and privilege are different from those in need of assistance.

Aid that is truly Christian will reflect the dignity and value of every individual created in God’s image.

Christians must refuse to dilute the Gospel with nationalism

Minority communities are already less likely to trust disaster messaging if they don’t trust the messenger. As a result, those who are conveying the message can be just as important as the message itself.

Though little has been reported thus far, Johnson occasionally leveraged his position as a faith-leader and his disaster relief platform to promote a religiously guised political agenda. On the popular blog site Medium, Johnson wrote, in September, after addressing the annual United Pentecostal Churches International Convention:

“Once I started speaking, it didn’t take long to sense the high level of support that these pastors have for President Trump and his ‘Make America Great Again’ agenda.” Johnson seemed to equate spiritual vitality with support of right wing politics when he wrote, “The atmosphere in the convention hall was electric. At times, it seemed more like an old-fashioned revival service than a denominational business meeting. It was clear during my remarks — and in the half-hour following, when pastors rushed to speak with me about their support for President Trump — that domestic and international events of recent months have strengthened support for the President among these faith-based voters.”

In fact, many Christians of all cultures and ethnicities who are “faith-based voters” do not support the President’s “Make America Great Again” agenda. In response, we must refuse to participate in the dangerous conflation of Christian faith and nationalist ideology.

Sadly, the ugly comments of Rev. Jamie Johnson not only misrepresent the values of many Christians, they also negatively affect disaster recovery by inflicting harm on those who are impacted disproportionately by disasters. As a result, it is incumbent on people of faith to renounce Johnson’s un-Christian assumptions and remarks so that we might be about the necessary work of dismantling the disparities that make minority communities most vulnerable to disaster.

Source: http://time.com/5031647/jamie-johnson-dhs-racism-christianity/

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McMaster Reportedly Told Oracle CEO That Trump Has Intelligence of a ‘Kindergartner’

hmxbrxul5miiml29on45.jpgCiting “five sources with knowledge of the conversation,” Buzzfeed News reports that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster called his commander-in-chief an “idiot” and a “dope” during a private dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz. Catz has had a notably close relationship with the Trump administration and denied the…

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Source: https://gizmodo.com/mcmaster-reportedly-told-oracle-ceo-that-trump-has-inte-1820615720