Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • White House turns to ‘Magic’ to sell Obamacare

    Eager for an assist in getting young Americans to sign up for Obamacare, the White House is turning to NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.

    Johnson, in a two-minute video released Wednesday, notes that access to reliable health care “saved my life” with the early detection of his HIV infection 22 years ago.

    "If it wasn’t for that quality health care that I had, and the plan that I had, I probably would have been dead," Johnson says in the video.

    “You never know when you’re going to need it,” the former world-class athlete says. “Young people, they think they’re Superman, like nothing’s ever going to happen to them. But trust me, one day something’s going to happen, and you’re going to need a quality health plan, so make sure you get Obamacare.”

    The retired Los Angeles Laker, 54, is the NBA’s all-time leader in average assists per game. He plans to promote the video—soon to be a 30-second ad on networks like ESPN, ABC and TNT—via Twitter and on a blog.

    The Obama administration has acknowledged

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  • Greenwald: I’ll watch Obama’s NSA speech, more stories coming ASAP

    When President Barack Obama lays out his proposed changes to the way America spies on its citizens and the world in a major speech on Friday, Glenn Greenwald will be watching.

    But the independent journalist and civil liberties champion whose work with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden effectively forced Obama’s hand scoffs at the notion that he is looking to time a new bombshell revelation to overshadow the president’s remarks at the Department of Justice.

    Obama administration officials privately expressed resignation this week that a new revelation, drawn from Snowden’s trove of NSA documents, could land even as Obama is trying to retake the initiative on the spying issue.

    “I think it's funny that US officials think that I calculate my stories that strategically - they're like Internet conspiracy theorists,” Greenwald told Yahoo News by email.

    It’s not just U.S. officials who are mindful of Snowden’s next move. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy implied that America’s allies, stung

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  • Robert Gates considered Michael Bloomberg a possible Pentagon successor

    Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates writes in his buzzy memoir that, when it came time to hand over the reins at the Pentagon, he created a short list of possible successors that included one unlikely name: Michael Bloomberg, the news company billionaire serving as New York City's mayor at the time.

    "For my own job, my short list included Hillary [Clinton], Colin Powell, [then-CIA director Leon] Panetta, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg," Gates reveals on page 537 of "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War."

    Panetta was plainly Gates' top choice, and ultimately got the job. Gates doesn't spell out why Bloomberg would have made a solid candidate to replace him, though New York City's government bureaucracy probably rivals the Pentagon's.

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  • U.S. State Department warns Americans — especially gays — about Sochi Games

    The State Department on Friday cautioned Americans looking to travel to the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, that the competition may be an “attractive target” for terrorists – and issued a special warning for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers.

    In a document titled “Travel Alert: Russia,” the department noted Russia had passed a law banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors, including promoting equal rights for the LGBT community.

    Any Americans convicted of breaking that law might face fines of up to $3,100, up to 14 days in jail and deportation, said the department, which referred LGBT travelers to a special website.

    That site notes, “Attitudes and tolerance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons vary from country to country, just as they vary among U.S. cities and states” — and that in some places, gays might even be sentenced to death. “Before choosing one’s international destination, LGBT travelers should carefully

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  • Did Obama screw up by picking Gates?

    Is the lesson of Robert Gates’ buzzy memoir that President Barack Obama shouldn’t have picked a Republican as his first defense secretary? No.

    A lot of the frowny faced early responses to Gates’ “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” have tut-tutted earnestly that his sometimes punishing disclosures will kill off the tradition, such as it is, of picking someone from the opposing party for a job that important.

    But that’s nonsense.

    For one thing, fellow party members can do just as much damage. You may as well argue that presidents aren’t going to hire big-time American corporate executives, former governors of Pennsylvania, or longtime loyal aides for important positions.

    That’s what former President George W. Bush’s experience with books from (or starring) former ALCOA chief Paul O’Neill, Tom Ridge and ex-press secretary Scott McClellan would suggest. Recollections from those fellow Republicans hurt Bush’s standing on economic policy, homeland security and the selling of the war in Iraq.

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  • Rand Paul to make move to repeal Iraq War law

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., plans to introduce legislation Friday to repeal the law that green-lighted the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and which remains on the books two years after President Barack Obama declared that war over, Paul’s office said Wednesday.

    Paul's announcement came one day after Yahoo News reported the White House now favors scrapping the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq, signed into law in late 2002 by then-President George W. Bush.

    Paul has been seeking Senate co-sponsors, and hopes Obama’s decision to support repeal will clear opposition from Democrats and some prominent Republicans.

    “This bill will ensure that our chapter of action in Iraq is officially closed, and that any future President seeking to engage in the region will be required to come to Congress to gain authorization and support, as is Constitutionally required,” Paul wrote in a letter to colleagues obtained by Yahoo News.

    “I look forward to a bipartisan process that will close this

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  • White House defends Biden against brutal Gates hit

    Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivers blistering criticisms of Vice President Joe Biden in a new tell-all memoir that's set Washington abuzz and has the White House defending President Barack Obama's No. 1 aide.

    Biden, who has served as the administration's point man on Iraq and spent years leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is "a man of integrity," Gates writes, according to what amounts to a review of his book in the New York Times, "[but] I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."

    The White House politely but firmly defended Biden.

    “The President disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment – from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement emailed to

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  • Obama backs repeal of law that green-lighted Iraq War

    The law that green-lighted the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq is still on the books but maybe not for much longer if President Barack Obama has his way, the White House said on Tuesday, two years after he declared the war officially over.

    “The Administration supports the repeal of the Iraq AUMF,” national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told Yahoo News, referring to the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

    Obama frequently cites the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq as one of his key foreign policy successes. He has repeatedly defended the pull-out, even as he pursues a strategy to leave only a residual force of maybe 8,000 to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014. His administration recently promised it would not put boots back on the ground in Iraq in response to the current bloody chaos that threatens its stability.

    But leaving the Iraq military force authorization in place could probably come in handy if he, or a future president, wanted to send troops in.

    The last serious

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  • Escalating Iraq violence not a result of U.S. force withdrawal, says White House

    The White House pushed back hard on Monday against allegations that the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq is partly to blame for a surge in deadly sectarian violence there.

    “I've heard members of Congress suggest this, but if members were suggesting that there should be American troops fighting and dying in Fallujah today, they should say so,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “The president doesn't believe that.”

    Al-Qaida-linked extremists have escalated attacks in Iraq and captured two cities in Anbar province, Ramadi and Fallujah, sites of some of the bloodiest battles U.S. troops waged in the aftermath of the March 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

    Over the weekend, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham blamed Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011 for making that possible.

    “While many Iraqis are responsible for this strategic disaster, the Administration cannot escape its share of the blame,” they said in a joint statement. “Many of us

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  • Countdown clock for Iran nuke deal could start ‘soon’

    The United States and its diplomatic partners hope to seal an interim agreement restricting Iran’s nuclear program “soon,” the White House said Monday. Doing so will start a six-month countdown to reach a final accord — or face the possibility of war.

    U.S. officials say that the breakthrough deal, unveiled with great fanfare in late November, offers Iran gradual, limited and reversible sanctions relief in return for halting suspicious nuclear activities. It sets a six-month time frame for reaching a comprehensive agreement that could lift sanctions entirely if Washington and its partners are satisfied that the Islamic republic has verifiably abandoned what they fear might be a quest to develop the ability to build nuclear weapons.

    “Reagan said trust but verify. We say test but verify — test and verify,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in December.

    That “verifiably” is key. Ever since the interim deal was announced, negotiators from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia

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