Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • Obama, tech execs to discuss costs of NSA spying

    Apple, Twitter, Netflix, Google, Facebook, Yahoo … a phalanx of top executives from leading tech companies meets Tuesday with President Barack Obama to discuss the impact that his controversial spying programs have had on online commerce.

    Obama will host the group in the Roosevelt Room of the White House one day after a federal judge decreed that NSA bulk collection of telephone data likely violates the Constitution.

    The White House is billing the get-together as a chance “to discuss progress made in addressing performance and capacity issues with HealthCare.Gov and how government can better deliver IT to maximize innovation, efficiency and customer service.”

    What about the NSA spying? After all, the blue-ribbon commission charged with reviewing the National Security Agency’s mass warrantless collection of Americans’ telephone metadata and other controversial practices delivered its report to Obama on Friday.

    “The meeting will also address national security and the economic impacts of

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  • Judge: NSA spying ‘almost Orwellian,’ likely unconstitutional

    In a stinging rebuke to President Barack Obama’s surveillance policies, a federal judge on Monday branded the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ telephone data “almost Orwellian” and likely a violation of the Constitution. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden cheered the ruling.

    Appeals Court Judge Richard Leon invoked Founding Father James Madison and the Beatles in a frequently scathing ruling. Leon, appointed by then-President George W. Bush, ordered the government to halt bulk collection of so-called telephony metadata and destroy information already collected through that program. But he suspended his order as the case works its way through the courts.

    “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘abitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Leon wrote.

    The judge also dealt a blow to the government’s

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  • Obamas to host moms in Oval Office ‘Obamacare’ push

    Always listen to your mother! President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will be highlighting that message Wednesday as they host a group of moms in the Oval Office to promote Obamacare.

    “Women are often the primary decision-makers on finances and health care for their families,” a White House official explained. “Moms have a huge influence on their kids and husbands and are a key demographic for the ongoing effort to make sure women and their families know the benefits they can access through the health law.”

    The Obamas, who rarely co-host events in the Oval Office, aim to enlist moms in the campaign to convince their adult children, family members and peers to sign up for health insurance under the president's signature law.

    The campaign has become only more urgent since Oct. 1 because of the botched rollout of the federal website for buying insurance. Obama officials notably worry they won’t get enough of the young, healthy enrollees they need to offset the

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  • Yes, Virginia, there will be an Iran sanctions bill

    Congress will act, whether the White House likes it or not

    Bad news, White House: It looks like the Senate will push ahead with a legislative response to the Iran interim nuclear deal over your strenuous objections.

    Good news, White House: The measure will most likely be so watered down that it will give President Barack Obama broad latitude to pursue his high-wire diplomatic effort to ensure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.

    And it won’t get voted on before January, at the earliest.

    Lawmakers will act despite an aggressive campaign by the Obama administration, including a classified question-and-answer session on Iran Wednesday with Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

    “If what we do next screws up the negotiations with the Iranians, then the Iranians weren’t serious about the negotiations,” one senator told Yahoo News after emerging from that closed-door briefing. The senator requested anonymity to discuss the still-fluid state of play in Congress.

    Kerry, Obama’s point man on convincing lawmakers to hold their fire,

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  • Obama shakes hands with Cuba’s Raul Castro

    President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday as both leaders attended an emotional memorial for the late Nelson Mandela. The moment drew fire from key Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, who likened it to shaking hands with Hitler.

    The fleeting exchange, captured in photographs and video from a giant soccer stadium in Johannesburg, came after Obama bounded up the steps toward the podium to address the massive crowd.

    The United States and Cuba have seen their enmity outlive the Cold War that spawned it — even as Raul’s brother Fidel Castro, now in reportedly poor health, outlasted the decadeslong American embargo meant to push him from power.

    The two countries have not had formal diplomatic relations since shortly after Fidel Castro led a 1959 revolution and aligned his country with the Soviet Union. Fidel passed the reins to Raul in 2008.

    It was believed to be the first such encounter between the leaders of the two countries since Bill Clinton gripped

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  • Uphill fight as Kerry defends Iran deal in Congress

    Will Congress shrug off President Barack Obama’s warning that imposing new sanctions on Iran would derail fragile diplomatic efforts to ensure Tehran does not get a nuclear weapon?

    That’s one of the key questions as Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Congress on Tuesday to face off with lawmakers wary of the tentative and temporary nuclear deal. His visit comes amid signs the American public doesn’t much like the agreement and doesn’t much trust Iranian intentions.

    Kerry will testify at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing entitled “The Iran Nuclear Deal: Does It Further U.S. National Security.”

    His appearance comes at a critical juncture for the agreement: Obama has been warning lawmakers against imposing any new sanctions on Iran, and saying that military action would have only limited impact on that country’s nuclear ambitions.

    The hearing on Tuesday will likely provide some clues as to whether lawmakers are prepared to hold off or plan to press ahead.

    Rep. Ed Royce, R.-Calif.,

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  • Is Afghanistan’s Karzai getting the Obama freeze-out?

    President Barack Obama hasn’t communicated with Afghan President Hamid Karzai since a Nov. 21 letter. And before that, the last known conversation between the two leaders dates back to a June 25 teleconference.

    When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made a surprise stop in Afghanistan on Saturday, aides let it be known that he had no plans to meet with Karzai.

    Obama didn’t just inherit what is now America’s longest war from George W. Bush — he also inherited a troubled diplomatic relationship so frustrating that an American official once joked that Karzai’s first name should be permanently replaced with a common obscenity.

    The latest problem? Karzai is refusing to sign an agreement that lays out the rules for the U.S. troop presence past the 2014 deadline for pulling out most American and NATO troops. The Obama administration has envisioned a residual force comprising some 8,000-12,000 personnel to continue training Afghan military and police and to carry out strikes on Islamist extremists.

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  • Hillary? Biden? They’d both be great, Obama says

    There may come a day when President Barack Obama has to say whether he’d rather hand the keys to the White House to Vice President Joe Biden or former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. That day is not today.

    “Not a chance am I going there,” Obama told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in an interview on Thursday. “Both Hillary and Joe would make outstanding presidents and possess the qualities that are needed.”

    “I think Joe Biden will go down in history as one of the best vice presidents ever,” the president went on. “Hillary, I think, will go down in history as one of the finest secretaries of state we’ve ever had.”

    “They've got different strengths, but both of them would-- would be outstanding,” he said.

    The interview, held at American University, served mostly as a springboard for Obama’s efforts to reconnect with young voters: He urged them to enroll for health insurance under Obamacare, pleaded with them not to let America’s angry politics turn them off, allowed that NSA leaker Edward

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  • Obama: Mandela 'took history in his hands' and wrought justice

    President Barack Obama paid somber tribute to Nelson Mandela Thursday, celebrating the late South African leader’s “fierce dignity and unbending will” and unquenchable thirst for justice.

    “For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived — a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice,” Obama said in the White House briefing room.

    “He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today he's gone home, and we've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth,” Obama said. “He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages.”

    Mandela, who was 95, died from complications of a recurring lung infection.

    "His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings — and countries — can change for the better," Obama said.

    The president also recalled the personal connection he felt to Mandela, and the antiapartheid campaign

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  • White House reverses course, says Obama lived with Kenyan uncle

    The White House acknowledged Thursday that President Barack Obama lived briefly years ago with a Kenyan uncle previously targeted for deportation — after initially insisting there was no evidence they had ever met.

    Why the stark turnaround? “Nobody spoke to the president” when the question first arose in 2011, press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.

    Instead, staff appear to have relied on one of the president’s autobiographical books.

    “Back when this arose, folks looked at the record, including the president's book, and there was no evidence that they had met, there was — and that was what was conveyed,” Carney explained.

    That appeared to be a reference to “Dreams From My Father,” which famously includes the warning that some people in the book are composites.

    Carney also denied any improper White House meddling in the deportation procedures against the elder Obama, whom he described as “his father’s half brother.” The uncle, who has lived in the United States for

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