Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Obamacare enrollment drive’s secret weapon: Radio

    For months, the media story of how President Obama sold Obamacare to America has starred unconventional outlets like Funny or Die, unconventional pitches like this “Mom Jeans” message for Twitter, and unconventional sales reps like Kobe Bryant, Wil Wheaton, or the moms of Jonah Hill and Adam Levine.

    But a look inside the Affordable Care Act’s all-out enrollment drive shows that — for all the talk about social media and unorthodox strategies — the Administration relied heavily in the final stretch on a century-old way to reach the public: Radio.

    On Monday, senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett did her first radio interview at 8:30 am. By 6:30 pm, she was on her 21st, bringing her total over the past six weeks to 82.

    She has done them from her office, home, car, an airport runway, her hotel room. Some DJs she has spoken to did not have health insurance before the Affordable Care Act but have now signed up, a White House aide said. Some DJs – like Joe Madison, to whom she spoke on Monday —

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  • When the president meets the pope

    When President Barack Obama meets Thursday at the Vatican with Pope Francis, it will be the 28th time that a sitting American president has met with the man who leads the Catholic Church and its estimated 1.2 billion faithful worldwide.

    For nearly 140 years after America won its independence, presidents didn’t look at a meeting with the pope as a hot ticket. The dominance of Protestants in the new nation, persistent questions about who really led the Catholic Church and from where, to say nothing of the difficulties of travel, all made such summits impossible.

    That changed in 1919, when Woodrow Wilson became the first U.S. president to be granted a papal audience. John F. Kennedy, America’s only Catholic president, made his Vatican pilgrimage just a few months before his assassination in 1963. Jimmy Carter played host in 1979 to the first White House visit by a reigning pope. George W. Bush holds the record for papal greeting; he met with two popes during his eight years in office,

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  • Inside the Secret Service's secret museum

    On a downtown Washington street like any other sits a modern office building like any other. Commuters and tourists alike push past its anodyne brick and glass face without giving it a glance, never knowing that it houses the headquarters of the U. S. Secret Service — and the hidden museum that tells the story of the small agency with a big mission.

    The museum is not open to the public, only to invited guests. Yahoo News recently got an insider’s tour, complete with a welcome from Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, the first woman to hold the post.

    What treasures are in one of the most striking collections you’ll never see? Mainly artifacts reflecting the dangers of public life. There’s the actual window from the armored limousine Ronald Reagan was heading for on that fateful day in 1981 when John Hinckley Jr. tried to assassinate him. One of Hinckley’s six shots struck the glass, leaving a distinctive mark, while others hit the president and three officials, including a Secret

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  • Putin’s sanctions on Americans unite Democrats, GOP

    Vladimir Putin probably didn’t expect that newly announced Russian sanctions on nine Americans – three top White House aides, three Republicans and three Democrats in Congress – would spark a bipartisan love-in in Washington.

    But that’s exactly what happened on Thursday as Moscow retaliated for expanded U.S. sanctions by freezing the assets of a select handful of high-profile Americans and banning them from travel inside Russia.

    Here’s an early response from a spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Twitter to Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to President Obama, for making the list:

    Some of the lawmakers on the list had a quick public reaction to the news and expressed defiance — which is not hard to do when you likely have neither assets in Russia nor plans to travel there.

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  • Obama's Funny or Die video wasn't an ‘interview’

    So why does the White House call it that?

    President Barack Obama’s appearance on funnyordie.com’s parody show “Between Two Ferns,” where he took mock questions from comic Zach Galifianakis, was a lot of things: funny, unusual, an intriguing way to sell Obamacare and very popular. One thing it was not, though, was an “interview” — unless you’re White House press secretary Jay Carney.

    Carney was defending the administration’s aggressive campaign to get young people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. To work, the insurance marketplaces known as exchanges need millions of young, relatively healthy people to join to offset older, relatively less healthy people.

    “You've seen that effort include, you know, the president doing an interview with Zach Galifianakis, and you've seen in efforts undertaken by athletes and other celebrities,” Carney told reporters at his daily question-and-answer session in the White House press briefing room.

    “And you'll see it in the kinds of interviews that the president will

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  • How a presidential phone call gets made

    On a Saturday afternoon at the start of March, President Barack Obama set a new record for his administration, holding what aides say was his single longest phone call with another world leader. Obama’s tension-filled 90-minute marathon with Vladimir Putin failed to reverse Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine’s strategic Crimean Peninsula and heightened fears of a new Cold War with Moscow.

    It was one of four times in the past three weeks that the White House disclosed Obama had spoken with the Russian president and came amid a blizzard of telephone calls between the American president and world leaders as Obama sought to de-escalate the crisis.

    Obama has been stateside since returning to Washington from a short trip to Mexico for a Latin American economic summit. But he might as well have been at the United Nations. Since Feb. 20, the White House has revealed, Obama's held calls to discuss the Ukraine crisis with the leaders of Germany (four times), Britain (three times), France

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  • Moms of Jonah Hill, Alicia Keys, Adam Levine, Jennifer Lopez: Enroll in Obamacare

     Long before Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine was People Magazine’s “sexiest man alive,” he was “rambunctious, mischievous, naughty,” his mom Patsy Noah says in a new ad meant to get more young people to sign up for Obamacare.

    Alicia Keys “was an old soul,” who “never thought she had to practice” playing music, her mother, Terria Joseph, says in the nearly two-minute pitch. Jennifer Lopez “walked at 8 months, and she was climbing out of her crib when she was a year old,” says her mom, Guadalupe Rodriguez, adding: “At one point I thought maybe she should be a gymnast.” Jonah Hill “was a prankster,” says the actor’s mom, Sharon Feldstein. He “flooded the elementary school.”

    “Trust me: Us moms put up with a lot. But one thing we should never have to put up with is our kid not having health care,” Feldstein says. “Please just do this one thing and sign up for health care.”

    “We nag you because we love you,” first lady Michelle Obama says near the end of the ad.

    The March 31 deadline for

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  • Putin is not crazy. Frustrating, unpredictable. Not crazy.

    The Russian president may be calculating, sources say, even miscalculating. And worried

    President Obama has called Vladimir Putin “the bored kid in the back of the classroom,” putting on an unsmiling, tough-guy “shtick.” Hillary Clinton just compared the Russian president to Hitler. The State Department says Putin’s reasoning on Ukraine amounts to “two plus two equals five.” Republican House Speaker Boehner branded him a “thug.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly said he is “in another world.” And George W. Bush complained that debating policy with him was “like arguing with an eighth grader with his facts wrong” and called him “cold-blooded” to his face.

    Putin’s decision to respond to the ouster of a pro-Moscow government in Ukraine by deploying troops across Crimea and threatening to send them into eastern Ukraine has inflamed already painful relations with the United States. Some (wrongly) see the birth of a new Cold War. And some wonder whether the judo-loving former KGB colonel with the nuclear arsenal and the unsettling fondness for being photographed

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  • U.S. activist says Egyptian police beat her: 'They stomped on me'

    Anti-war activist Medea Benjamin charged Tuesday that she suffered a dislocated left arm and severe trauma after being detained on arrival in Egypt and then forced by security officials from a jail cell at the Cairo airport onto a Turkey-bound flight.

    “They dragged me and they threw me on the floor. They pulled my arm out of its socket, then dragged me across the tarmac,” the Code Pink co-founder told Yahoo News in a telephone interview from an airport clinic in Istanbul. “My arm is traumatized and swollen and torn, and I am in excruciating pain from the nape of my neck down to my waist.”

    Benjamin tweeted her ordeal, including photos of the airport prison cell she said she shared with four other women, one of whom lent her a power cord for her telephone when the battery ran down.

    Benjamin is a

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  • Obama warns Russia of 'costs' for any military intervention in Ukraine

    President Barack Obama bluntly warned Russia on Friday that it will face international condemnation as well as unspecified "costs" for any military intervention in neighboring Ukraine. A senior U.S. official said Washington could boycott a major international summit to be hosted by Russia in June and reject Moscow's efforts to promote trade with the United States.

    "We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine," Obama said in a hastily arranged public statement from the White House briefing room.

    "Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine," the president warned.

    His remarks came after top Ukrainian officials charged that Russian troops had taken over the two main airports in the strategic

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