Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Obama taps former Biden aide Ron Klain as ‘Ebola czar’

    A well-regarded manager, not a doctor, called in to fix the federal response

    President Barack Obama has picked Ron Klain, an inside-the-Beltway veteran and well-regarded manager, to oversee and fix the wobbly federal government response to West Africa’s deadly Ebola outbreak.

    “The president has asked Ron Klain to take on the task of coordinating his administration’s whole of government Ebola response,” the White House said. His formal title will be “Ebola Response Coordinator.”

    Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, “will report directly” to Obama Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

    His job will be to ensure “that efforts to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa,” the White House said.

    Klain, a veteran of political knife fights like the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, is generally well regarded in Congress

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  • Obama annoyed by weak Ebola response from France, Italy and others

    U.S. pushing allies for more money, health workers for West African nations affected by the virus

    Even as the wobbly U.S. response to Ebola dominated the headlines this week, President Barack Obama ramped up a frustration-powered campaign to get reluctant major allies to shoulder more of the burden of quelling the deadly outbreak at its source in West Africa.

    Speaking to reporters after an emergency meeting with top aides on Wednesday, the president put his personal annoyance on full display as he portrayed the international response to the crisis as hesitant and shortsighted and warned that it endangered American national security.

    “This is not simply charity,” he intoned. “Probably the single most important thing that we can do to prevent a more serious Ebola outbreak in this country is making sure that we get what is a raging epidemic right now in West Africa under control.”

    Obama declared that he had convened a videoconference earlier in the day with leaders of core U.S. allies Britain, France, Germany and Italy “to make sure that we are coordinating our efforts and that we are

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  • Obama: Feds must tackle Ebola 'in a much more aggressive way'

    Says new CDC SWAT teams will deploy to any new case

    Trying to calm fearful Americans weeks from a pivotal election, President Barack Obama on Wednesday promised a "much more aggressive" federal government response to Ebola, including health care SWAT teams to help inexperienced local hospitals cope with any new case on U.S. soil.

    Obama spoke after a hastily arranged meeting with top aides steering the government response to the deadly disease, called to review mistakes that led to a second health care worker in Dallas contracting Ebola.

    “What we’ve been doing here today is reviewing exactly what we know about what’s happened in Dallas and how we’re going to make sure that something like this is not repeated,” he said, underlining that the government needed to be “monitoring, supervising, overseeing in a much more aggressive way” any new cases.

    “What I’ve directed the CDC to do is that as soon as somebody is diagnosed with Ebola, we want a rapid response team a SWAT team, essentially  from the CDC to be on the ground as quickly as

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  • Obama’s war on Islamic State militants finally has a name: Operation Inherent Resolve

    Two months after American bombs and missiles began pounding fighters of the so-called Islamic State, President Barack Obama’s undeclared war in Iraq and Syria finally has a name: Operation Inherent Resolve.

    The Wall Street Journal had reported on Oct. 3 that the name had been considered and rejected, with one unnamed military officer saying “it is just kind of bleh.”

    The long search for a name had sparked a flurry of jokes on Twitter, where one leading tongue-in-cheek suggestion was that it be called “Operation Hey Wasn’t That My Humvee” – a reference to U.S. airstrikes hitting Islamic State fighters using American equipment captured from Iraqi troops.

    The Obama Administration announced the moniker a day after the president attended a meeting of defense chiefs from some 20 partners in the coalition trying to beat back the rampaging extremist group, which has captured broad swaths of Iraqi territory. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted the gathering at

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  • CDC could quarantine U.S. citizens for weeks if they refuse Ebola screenings

    Non-citizens could be turned back

    U.S. citizens who refuse to undergo the new screenings for Ebola at five major American airports could find themselves held in quarantine for up to three weeks, officials told Yahoo News on Thursday. Non-citizens who refuse the screenings could be quarantined or turned away from U.S. soil by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    The Obama Administration announced on Wednesday that it would soon require passengers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone the countries at the epicenter of the deadly outbreak in West Africa  to answer questions about their potential exposure to the illness and to have their temperature taken upon arrival.

    Officials unveiled the new rules hours after the only patient thus far diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, Thomas Eric Duncan, died of the illness. Neighbors said he helped a pregnant woman in Liberia get to a hospital, where she was turned away from a crowded Ebola treatment ward. Liberian government officials said they planned to prosecute him for lying

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  • White House: Beefed-up Ebola screenings coming to five U.S. airports

    New measures will be put in place in New York City, Newark, Chicago, Atlanta and the Washington, D.C., area

    Hours after the first Ebola patient diagnosed on U.S. soil died from the illness, the United States government announced tougher screenings of passengers arriving at five major American airports from the countries at the epicenter of the crisis.

    “We don’t have a lot of margin for error,” President Barack Obama told state and local officials on a conference call to discuss the response to the historic outbreak in West Africa.

    “If we don’t follow protocols and procedures that are put in place, then we’re putting folks in our communities at risk,” Obama said.

    The new screenings will begin Saturday at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport. They will be implemented next week at Newark Liberty International Airport, Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., Chicago's O’Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, officials said.

    Those five American airports are the places of entry into the United States for 94 percent of

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  • U.S. officials acknowledge ‘missteps’ in Dallas but defend Ebola response

    There will be no outbreak in the United States, they say in White House briefing

    Top government officials steering the nation’s response to the catastrophic spread of Ebola in western Africa admitted Friday that health officials made “missteps” in responding to a case of the deadly disease in Dallas.

    But the officials, holding what was clearly meant to be a reassuring briefing at the White House, promised that there would be no “outbreak” in the United States.

    The health care systems in afflicted African countries are "inadequate and incapable of actually handling the kind of identification, isolation, rapid treatment, [and] protection of the people who come into contact [with infected people] and contact tracing,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told reporters.

    “We have a case now, and it is entirely conceivable there may be another case. But the reason that we feel confident is that our structure, our ability to do those things would preclude an outbreak,” he added.

    The officials laid out measures meant to keep infected

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  • How to force Congress to vote on Obama's war against the Islamic State

    Retired Rep. Tom Campbell, who sued a president over the War Powers Resolution, tells today's lawmakers to do their duty

    Fifteen years ago, little-known Republican Rep. Tom Campbell bucked the White House and congressional leaders of both parties to force a vote on President Clinton’s air strikes against Serbia. And then he brought one of the relatively few lawsuits in U.S. history against a president under the 1973 War Powers Resolution — for going to war without explicit authority from Congress.

    Today, the libertarian-minded law professor scolds his former colleagues for ducking what he describes as their constitutional duty to vote on President Obama’s new war against the Islamic State militant group. And Campbell says even just one determined lawmaker could force a reluctant Congress to take a stand.

    “This is Congress running way from its responsibility,” the soft-spoken Campbell told Yahoo News in a telephone interview. “Is there anything left to the Constitution’s requirement that it’s the Congress’s role to declare war?”

    The White House says it would welcome a vote authorizing Obama’s war on the

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  • Secret Service chief Pierson resigns amid security breach scandal

    DHS secretary says independent panel will review Sept. 19 fence-jumping incident

    U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, appointed to fix the embattled agency in the wake of a scandal in which agents consorted with prostitutes in Colombia, has resigned, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced on Wednesday.

    Pierson “offered her resignation, and I accepted it,” Johnson said in a statement. “I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the nation.” She was the agency's first female director.

    At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama had telephoned Pierson to thank her for her service.

    "Over the last several days, we’ve seen recent and accumulating reports raising questions about the performance of the agency," Earnest told reporters. "The president concluded that new leadership of that agency was required."

    Johnson said he had appointed retired Secret Service agent Joseph Clancy, former head of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service, as acting interim director of the Secret

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  • Eric Holder announces resignation, sets up confirmation battle

    President Obama’s attorney general says he will step down as soon as a replacement can be confirmed

    After a stormy 5½-year tenure, Attorney General Eric Holder formally announced Thursday that he plans to resign as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Holder's decision sets up what will likely be a bruising confirmation battle for his successor as President Obama's second term winds down.

    The resignation robs Obama of one of his longest-serving aides one of the handful who have been with him since the dawn of his history-making first term. Holder will stay on until his successor is confirmed.

    "This is bittersweet," the president admitted as he formally announced the move in the White House's State Dining Room. "Eric has done a superb job."

    Obama gave no hint of whom he might name for the job, but some administration officials have floated figures like Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and two-term Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

    "I come to this moment with very mixed emotions," said Holder, who choked up as he

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