Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • Top consumer cop: Mortgages, debt collection top complaints

    More than 230,000 complaints have poured into the fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the past two years, with mortgages and debt collection topping the list of grievances.

    But CFPB Director Richard Cordray told Yahoo News in an exclusive interview that he wants Americans to complain more.

    “I do want your Yahoo Nation to know that they can and should file complaints with us about problems with mortgages, credit cards, student loans, auto loans,” he said.

    The independent federal agency received 600 complaints, mostly about credit cards, in its first month. But it soon added other categories for unhappy consumers, and now the protests are pouring in at a good clip — 10,000-12,000 per month through http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/ and by phone at (855) 411-CFPB (2372).

    Once a complaint is filed, the CFPB passes it on either to the company concerned or to another government agency. Companies have 15 days to respond to the consumer and the agency, and must address most

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  • Top consumer cop Cordray wary of over-regulating

    The government’s top consumer advocate told Yahoo News in an exclusive interview Thursday his agency must battle fraud and abuse — but warned that Americans can’t rely only on government to protect them.

    “If I default on my loan, and go into foreclosure and lose my house, and then I ruin my credit and I can’t live a good financial life for 5-10 years — you know, that’s on me,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray told Yahoo News.

    “So what we want is we want to ... empower consumers to [be] better able to protect themselves — they shouldn’t rely entirely on a federal agency in Washington, they should rely on themselves in the first instance,” Cordray said.

    Cordray and the CFPB have taken fire from Wall Street and its allies in Congress, some of whom argue that new rules meant to protect Americans actually will make it harder for them to get a mortgage, or a credit card.

    “Each of us needs to try to learn what we need to know, make good decisions. We’re going to have

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  • Could 2014 rescue Obama from Obamacare debacle?

    Can President Barack Obama heal his second term from the self-inflicted wounds of Obamacare? How?

    The usual inside-the-Beltway doctors are offering the usual inside-the-Beltway prescriptions: Amputate! (He should fire someone.) Transfusion! (Bring new blood into his insular circle, ideally someone who can say “no” to him and have it count.)

    Inside the White House, one remedy dominates the discussion. As Obama himself said Nov. 14: Things may turn around “if we can just get the darn website working and smooth this thing out.” Aides say that growing numbers of Americans signing up for health insurance will defend those benefits — making it harder for Republicans to rally wavering Democrats behind crippling the Affordable Care Act.

    Dig a little more, and administration officials confess to hoping that a steadily improving economy could be a political cure-all. “The No. 1 priority has and will be economic progress,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Nov. 4.

    But there’s something else

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  • Can Obama keep campaign promise on Afghanistan?

    President Barack Obama’s credibility, stretched thin by the broken promise of Obamacare, may soon face another difficult test: explaining how his promise to end the war in Afghanistan squares with leaving thousands of U.S. and NATO troops there.

    Obama hammered away at Republican rival Mitt Romney on the issue last year, saying the former Massachusetts governor had no timetable for bringing Americans home from the country’s longest war.

    “We are bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. And I've set a timetable. We will have them all out of there by 2014,” Obama said in Boulder, Colo., in September 2012. “Gov. Romney doesn't have a timetable. I think he's wrong. That's what's at stake in this election.”

    “All out of there?” Even at the time, White House aides envisioned leaving behind a residual force —
    troops assigned the twin missions of training local Afghan security forces and targeting extremists. That briefly flickered in January 2013 when the White House let it be known that it was

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  • Obama skips Gettysburg events because of Obamacare

    President Barack Obama is skipping events marking 150 years since Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

    This shouldn't be a huge shock. Yes, Obama has sometimes embraced the opportunity to compare himself to Lincoln. And what a historical opportunity to miss: The nation’s first black president honoring Lincoln’s legacy in person.

    But parks officials point out that the last sitting president to attend a Nov. 19 event in Gettysburg was Rutherford B. Hayes.

    No, what’s surprising is the White House's apparent explanation for Obama’s decision to turn down an invitation offered months ago: It’s Obamacare’s fault. Specifically, the HealthCare.gov debacle.

    National Journal’s Ron Fournier pressed senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer on the issue via Twitter on Tuesday.

    “It didnt work schedule-wise,” Pfeiffer tweeted back.

    Fournier tried again: “Serious question: What is on his schedule that is more important than Gettysburg anniversary?

    Pfeiffer replied:

    "Oh, I don't know, there's this whole

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  • Obama: ‘I’ve got one more campaign in me’ for Obamacare

    President Barack Obama wearily pleaded late Monday with supporters of his Organizing for Action (OFA) group to fight for him through “one more campaign” — his legacy-defining drive to save Obamacare.

    “I’ve run my last political campaign, but I’ve got one more campaign in me, and that’s making sure that this law works,” Obama said on a conference call organized by OFA. “And we’re not backing off one bit.”

    Obama complained that “a lot of misinformation” about the Affordable Care Act has been “created and fed” by the failure of the federal HealthCare.gov portal for buying health insurance. He did not offer specifics.

    The president spoke for about 14 minutes — sounding utterly bone-tired but plainly trying to recapture the magic of his 2008 campaign or at least the competence of his 2012 re-election push.

    “I’m going to need your help, your energy, your faith, your ability to reach out to neighbors,” he said. “You’re going to make the difference.”

    Obama declared himself “confident” that the

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  • After JFK, a Secret Service transformed

    The date most closely associated with the Secret Service probably isn’t its founding in 1865. It’s not 1902, when it took over full-time protection of the president following William McKinley’s assassination. It’s probably Nov. 22, 1963 — when John F. Kennedy was killed, shot dead as he rode in a convertible with the top down, his government bodyguards powerless to help.

    “It isn’t something that we’re marking. It wasn’t a good day for us or for the country,” Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary told Yahoo News. “It was a dark day.”

    But 50 years later, there’s no mistaking that JFK’s death — and the June 1968 killing of Robert Kennedy, and the March 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan — utterly transformed the small agency with one of the government’s biggest jobs.

    If the White House is, in the tongue-in-cheek words of several presidents, “the crown jewel of the federal penal system,” that would make the Secret Service the country’s most elite prison guards.

    But in 1963,

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  • Obama: War can't solve Iran nuclear problem

    A blunt, rarely heard note of caution to advocates of using force

    Rejecting charges of appeasing Iran, President Barack Obama cautioned Thursday that tightening the economic vise on Tehran could be counterproductive and bluntly warned that going to war will never guarantee that the Islamic republic abandons its suspect nuclear program.

    "No matter how good our military is, military options are always messy, are always difficult, always have unintended consequences, and in this situation are never complete in terms of making us certain that they don't then go out and pursue even more vigorously nuclear weapons in the future," the president told reporters during a press conference dominated by the botched rollout of Obamacare.

    The notion might seem heretical in Washington, where successive presidents including Obama have professed that "all options are on the table" (including war) to force Iran to abandon what the United States and its partners regard as a covert effort to get the ability to build a nuclear weapon.

    But even under then-President George W.

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  • Obama, France’s Hollande paper over Iran rifts

    When last we left President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande, they were giving two rather different accounts of a conversation about American spying. Are they any closer when they talk about Iran? Yes.

    On Wednesday, Obama and Hollande spoke by telephone about the next round of world powers’ negotiations with Iran, aimed at ensuring Tehran cannot build a nuclear weapon. (Tehran says its intentions are wholly peaceful.)

    After the first round failed to yield an interim deal, France was either blamed (“Perversity,” huffed the Daily Beast) or celebrated (“Vive la France,” said Sen. John McCain), while the White House insisted that the United States and its allies were “unified” and “united” but that Iran “did not accept” the proposal. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif took to Twitter to blame divisions among Western powers for the setback.

    Now that the so-called “P5+1” (Britain, France, Russia, China, the United States plus Germany) are looking at another round of talks

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  • White House gets interim NSA report

    Amid shows of anger from U.S. allies and the American public over government espionage, the group of outside experts looking into National Security Agency practices has delivered its interim report to the White House, a senior aide to President Barack Obama told Yahoo News on Wednesday.

    Members of the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology met at the White House with national security adviser Susan Rice, homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco and other National Security Council staff, White House national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

    “The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology has orally provided their interim report to the White House, with their final report due by December 15,” Hayden said. “We expect that the outcomes of their work will be made public in some way once the final report is submitted.”

    It was not immediately clear which members of the group delivered the report, which was delayed from its original

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