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Trump says he’d replace Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen if he wins US presidency

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would be inclined to replace Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen if he is elected U.S. president in the November election despite supporting the central bank’s low interest rates, he told Fortune magazine.

In an interview published late Tuesday, the billionaire real estate mogul also said he “absolutely” backed efforts to diminish the Fed’s power and allow congressional audits, and backed away from his pledge to erase the more than $19 trillion in U.S. debt in eight years.

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“I think she’s done a serviceable job,” Trump said of Yellen. “I don’t want to comment on reappointment, but I would be more inclined to put other people in.”

Fed officials were not immediately available for comment.

Yellen, the most powerful figure in world finance, took office in February 2014 for a four-year term under President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

Still, Trump backed the Fed’s focus on holding U.S. interest rates down, saying that raising them now would be a blow to the U.S. economy. Trump had accused the Fed in November of keeping interest rates low to help Obama, an assertion the White House has flatly rejected.

“The best thing we have going for us is that interest rates are so low,” he told Fortune.

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“If rates are 3 percent or 4 percent or whatever, you start adding that kind of number to an already reasonably crippled economy in terms of what we produce, that number is a very scary number,” he added.

Trump told the magazine he would take advantage of lower rates to refinance the country’s debt and boost government spending on infrastructure and the military. Fortune will publish a full transcript of the interview later this week.

On the nation’s debt, Trump moved away from comments he made to the Washington Post earlier this month in which said he would eliminate it “over a period of eight years.”

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Instead, he told Fortune he could tackle a portion of it.

“You could pay off a percentage of it, depending on how aggressive you want to be,” he said. “I’d rather not be all that aggressive. I’d rather not have debt, but we’re stuck with it.”

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Trump rival Ted Cruz, a U.S. Senator from Texas, has said he would audit the Federal Reserve and move to a rules-based monetary policy.

Other U.S. presidential candidates, including Democrat Bernie Sanders, have also vowed changes to the Fed.

(Reporting by Washington Newsroom; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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Elections 2016

Vietnamese women strive to clear war-era mines

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Inching across a field littered with Vietnam war-era bombs, Ngoc leads an all-women demining team clearing unexploded ordnance that has killed tens of thousands of people -- including her uncle.

"He died in an explosion. I was haunted by memories of him," Le Thi Bich Ngoc tells AFP as she oversees the controlled detonation of a cluster bomb found in a sealed-off site in central Quang Tri province.

More than 6.1 million hectares of land in Vietnam remain blanketed by unexploded munitions -- mainly dropped by US bombers -- decades after the war ended in 1975.

At least 40,000 Vietnamese have since died in related accidents. Victims are often farmers who accidentally trigger explosions, people salvaging scrap metal, or children who mistake bomblets for toys.

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Elections 2016

Chief Justice John Roberts issues New Year’s Eve warning to stand up for democracy

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In a progressive welcoming move, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his New Year's Eve annual report urging his fellow federal judges to stand up for democracy.

"In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital," he wrote. "We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability."

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Trump’s next 100 days will dictate whether he can be re-elected or not — here’s why

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According to CNN pollster-in-residence Harry Enten, Donald Trump's next 100 days -- which could include an impeachment trial in the Senate -- will hold the key to whether he will remain president in 2020.

As Eten explains in a column for CNN, "His [Trump's] approval rating has been consistently low during his first term. Yet his supporters could always point out that approval ratings before an election year have not historically been correlated with reelection success. But by mid-March of an election year, approval ratings, though, become more predictive. Presidents with low approval ratings in mid-March of an election year tend to lose, while those with strong approval ratings tend to win in blowouts and those with middling approval ratings usually win by small margins."

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