Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • Obama to press Congress to act on economy


    Looking to retake the initiative on Americans’ No. 1 concern, President Barack Obama this week will deliver three speeches on the economy. The addresses, set for Wednesday and Thursday, come as Obama has been struggling with issues largely out of his control, including Syria’s civil war and deadly unrest in Egypt.

    “The president thinks Washington has largely taken its eye off the ball on the most important issue facing the country,” senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer said. “Instead of talking about how to help the middle class, too many in Congress are trying to score political points, refight old battles, and trump up phony scandals.”

    Obama will kick off the speeches on Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where he delivered a speech focused on the middle class in June 2005—one of his first national addresses on the economy. He will also speak in Warrensburg, Mo., and on Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla.

    “The president will return to Knox College to kick off a series of speeches

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  • Obama: Trayvon Martin ‘could have been me 35 years ago’

    President Barack Obama, making his first public remarks on the George Zimmerman acquittal, said on Friday that many African-Americans believe that “both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different” if Trayvon Martin had been white.

    “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,” Obama said somberly during a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room. “Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

    In searingly personal terms, Obama described his experience with race-based prejudice. “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store—that includes me,” he said.

    “There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me—at least before I was a senator,” he said. “There are very few

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  • Senior U.S. commander: Assad will ‘fight to the death’

    Top U.S. military officials painted a grim picture of the civil war in Syria on Thursday, saying the tide of battle has shifted in Bashar Assad’s favor and that he will “fight to the death.”

    The nation’s top uniformed military officer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, warned that Assad would probably be in power a year from now unless the U.S. ramps up support for rebels fighting to oust him.

    “If nothing changes, if we don’t change our game, will he be in power a year from now?” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Dempsey in an Armed Services Committee hearing.

    “I think likely so,” the general replied. “Currently the tide seems to have shifted in his favor."

    At the same hearing, Admiral James Winnefeld, the Joint Chiefs vice chairman, told Graham the rebels were “hanging on” in some parts of the country. But “if I were to have to pick who’s winning it would be the regime, but not by much right now.”

    Winnefeld warned, “Assad, he’s going to fight to the

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  • Biden: I can die happy without ever being president

    Will he or won’t he? GQ Magazine’s newly released profile of Vice President Joe Biden doesn’t answer That Question — will he make a play for the White House in 2016 — but it does make clear that the issue is on his mind. Literally.

    “I can die a happy man never having been president of the United States of America,” Biden tells Jeanne Marie Laskas. “But it doesn’t mean I won’t run.”

    The piece describes Biden as being “a Hillary Clinton away from the White House” — a nod to the loose Inside-the-Beltway consensus that he won’t run in 2016 if she does. And the voluble veep hints at it, too.

    “The judgment I’ll make is, first of all, am I still as full of as much energy as I have now — do I feel this?” he said. “Number two, do I think I’m the best person in the position to move the ball? And, you know, we’ll see where the hell I am.”

    Does “President Biden” seem far-fetched. The piece quotes Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., as saying it’s believable.

    “Suppose the economy comes on strong. He’s

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  • White House: 'Yeah,' Olympics boycott would be a bad idea

    The White House grudgingly acknowledged on Wednesday that boycotting the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, to protest Moscow’s sheltering of NSA leaker Edward Snowden would be a bad idea.

    It’s not (or at least not just) a silly, media-stoked Beltway debate. The U.S. has been trying to escalate pressure on Russia to turn over Snowden, who faces felony charges tied to his disclosure of how the government collects the telephone and Internet records of millions of Americans.

    Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has urged President Barack Obama to consider boycotting the upcoming games in response.

    Republican House Speaker John Boehner slapped the idea down sharply. But he doesn't speak for the president. So what did White House press secretary Jay Carney have to say?

    “Our view is that we’re continuing to work with the Russian government and other nations on this matter, and we hope to see Mr. Snowden return to the United States,” Carney replied to the first of maybe five or six

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  • Obama: 'Suspicious' GOP opposes immigration overhaul for political reasons

    President Barack Obama charged Tuesday that some Republicans oppose comprehensive legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration policies because they are “suspicious” that the measure will swell the ranks of Democrats.

    "I think some in the House who believe that immigration will encourage further demographic changes -- and that may not be good for them politically," he told Norma Garcia, of Telemundo's KXTX in Fort Worth, Texas.

    Obama also rejected calls for a piecemeal approach to the problem – as advocated by some key GOP lawmakers – and said he hoped that the bill could reach his desk in the fall. The president had previously said he hoped it would be done before lawmakers head home next month -- and face voters potentially angry about the sweeping blueprint.

    The president's comments came as he sat down for four question-and-answer sessions with Spanish-language TV interviewers, part of a White House push behind the measure, which has stalled in the Republican-held House of

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  • U.S. to Russia: Turn over Snowden or risk 'long-term problems'

    The White House left no doubt on Tuesday that American patience with Russia playing host to NSA leaker Edward Snowden is wearing thin.

    “The Russian government has an opportunity here to work with us,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing. “This should not be something that causes long-term problems for U.S.-Russian relations.”

    Washington and Moscow have been “engaging on a number of important issues, both economic and security related issues, and we want to continue that relationship unimpeded by this issue,” Carney added. By turning over Snowden, or at least expelling him, Russia could “resolve this situation that they have been dealing with now for three weeks.”

    Could the dispute over Snowden lead Obama to cancel his planned attendance at the Group of 20 summit in Russia? Carney did not close out that possibility. "The president intends to travel to Russia in September for the G20 summit. And I don't have any further announcements."

    By the standards of

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  • Key Senator Levin: Wouldn't want J. Edgar Hoover to have NSA powers

    This is not exactly a huge vote of confidence in the National Security Agency's institutional safeguards against wrongly invading Americans' privacy. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D.-Mich, told reporters Tuesday that he wouldn't want someone like notorious FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to have the NSA's powers to spy on U.S. citizens.

    "If this technology were in the hands of J. Edgar Hoover, would I feel comfortable? No," Levin declared at a breakfast with reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor. "But on the other hand, I wasn't comfortable with J. Edgar Hoover with his technology."

    Levin, who also sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he had been "adequately informed" about the NSA's program of collecting the telephone records of millions of Americans. That program and a parallel program to intercept online communications, known as PRISM, were the focus of revelations by Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor.

    "It's got to be looked at, I

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  • Holder: I share concerns about Zimmerman acquittal

    Attorney General Eric Holder declared on Monday that he shares the worries of those concerned about Travyon Martin’s “tragic, unnecessary shooting death” and the court case that resulted in George Zimmerman’s acquittal.

    Speaking to the Delta Sigma Theta sorority’s national convention, Holder said “the Deltas are deeply, and rightly, concerned about this case.”

    “The Justice Department shares your concern – I share your concern – and, as we first acknowledged last spring, we have opened an investigation into the matter,” he said, referring to a process that could lead the department to file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.

    At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said it would be “inappropriate” for President Barack Obama to weigh in on that process.

    “Cases are brought on the merits, and the merits are evaluated by the professionals at the Department of Justice,” Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.

    But McClatchy reported that the FBI – which interviewed

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  • Obama: 'Honor' Trayvon Martin by preventing future tragedies

    Saying "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken," President Barack Obama on Sunday urged Americans to stay calm in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case and "honor" the slain teen's memory by preventing similar tragedies in the future.

    "I know this case has elicited strong passions.  And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher.  But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken," Obama said in a written statement released by the White House.

    [RELATED: Jury finds George Zimmerman not guilty]

    "I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son," the president said, calling Martin's death "a tragedy."

    "We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a

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