Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • 7 rejected Republican National Committee Valentine’s Day jokes

    Ahhh, February 14, when a young party official’s thoughts turn to the sweetness and light of Valentine’s Day-themed political attacks.

    The Republican National Committee’s contribution this year are these e-cards that you can send to share a chuckle with a fellow Republican, or use to troll your political frenemies. A totally unscientific Yahoo News poll judged the Vladimir Putin one the best, with “If you like this Valentine, you can keep it” a close second.

    But wait — there’s more. Or at least, there could have been. Here, courtesy of two Republican officials, are some of the committee’s jokes that didn’t make the cut “for various reasons.”Those reasons should be as obvious as some of the would-be quips themselves.

    1) "I'll change positions for you" (featuring Charlie Crist, the Republican turned Democrat running for governor of Florida).

    2) Let's keep our love a secret: We'll only announce it on MSNBC.

    3) Sorry, the Love Doctor is no longer in your network.

    4) Even if I could buy

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  • Obama, Jordan’s king, hold stag California summit on Valentine’s Day

    Jordan’s King Abdullah II has been in Washington since Monday. He met with top members of Congress at the Capitol, with Secretary of State John Kerry at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown and with Vice President Joe Biden at his official residence. So why is he flying all the way to California to sit down for a summit with President Barack Obama at a sprawling estate that bills its par-72 golf course as “a magnet for famous golfers?” On Valentine’s Day. With their wives thousands of miles away. At the start of the long Presidents Day weekend.

    The White House has been keen to emphasize that the king isn’t there to tee off on Obama’s handling of the bloody civil war in Syria, which has sent a flood of some 600,000 refugees into Jordan — equivalent to about 10 percent of that country’s overall population.

    “Jordan is an invaluable ally and close friend of the United States,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said. The Sunnylands estate hosted Obama’s June 2013

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  • Obama: Give Olympians a tax break on their medals

    President Barack Obama thinks American Olympians returning home from Sochi with a medal shouldn’t have to pay income taxes on their gold, silver or bronze haul, the White House said Thursday.

    Roll Call reported that Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., has introduced legislation that would give Olympians who reach the podium a break by excluding their medals when they calculate their individual taxable income. The measure has bipartisan support — Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and New York’s Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, back the proposal.

    What about Obama? He supports the idea in principle, as he did in 2012, White House spokesman Bobby Whithorne told Yahoo News.

    “The president believes we should support efforts to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to honor and support our Olympic athletes who have volunteered to represent our nation at the Olympic Games. We still support this effort.”

    Two years ago, the legislation never made it to the president’s

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  • Finland No. 1, US sinks to 46th in global press freedom rankings

    The United States did not live up to the promise of the First Amendment last year, “far from it,” sinking to 46th in global press freedom rankings, a respected international nonprofit group said Wednesday.

    The U.S. plummeted 13 slots to 46th overall “amid increased efforts to track down whistle-blowers and the sources of leaks,” Reporters Without Borders warned in an annual report.

    “The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest,” the organization said.

    The group, known by its French initials, RSF, also cited the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press telephone records and a court’s pressure on New York Times reporter James Risen to testify against a CIA staffer accused of leaking classified information.

    “The whistle-blower is clearly the enemy in the U.S.,” Delphine Halgand, who heads

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  • Bradley Cooper, Mindy Kaling, Stephen Colbert, big donors at Obama-Hollande state dinner

    “Hangover” star Bradley Cooper, Mindy Kaling from “The Office,” Stephen Colbert, “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Star Trek” director J.J. Abrams, openly gay NBA player Jason Collins, top House Republicans Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan — the guest list for President Barack Obama’s state dinner in honor of French President Francois Hollande late Tuesday brought together Hollywood, politicians, champions of causes dear to the White House, French officials and executives. And big-time campaign donors.

    There were prominent CEOs — Best Buy’s Hubert Joly (born and raised in France), and Philippe Dauman of Viacom (his parents immigrated from France), for example.

    The superexclusive event also drew a phalanx of superwealthy donors whose cash powered Obama’s presidential runs and who might soon be asked to bankroll his presidential library.

    Just run the names on the guest list through the website run by the Center for Responsive Politics that tracks money and elections. The result is a platoon of

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  • Obama’s state dinners cost how much?

    President Barack Obama and visiting French President Francois Hollande will be joined by more than 300 notable guests in a tentlike heated pavilion on the South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday for a dinner whose menu includes caviar, rib-eye steak, chocolate cake and cotton candy.

    Who picks up the tab? Taxpayers, sure, but specifically a special fund overseen by the U.S. State Department’s chief of protocol. Now, thanks to Mark Knoller of CBS News, the peerless White House press corps' authority on presidential data, we for the first time have a sense of just how much such dinners cost.

    Here’s what Knoller squeezed out of the State Department’s Office of Protocol 13 months after submitting a Freedom of Information request:

    The 300-guest November 2009 dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — best remembered for Michaele and Tariq Salahi’s ability to crash the party — cost $572,187.36.

    It was the president’s first state dinner and also the most expensive of the five state or

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  • Obama: Choosing between Britain and France would be like picking a favorite daughter

    President Barack Obama threw a platterful of red meat to Britain’s tabloid press on Tuesday, saying that he could not judge a “best ally” contest between Britain and France any more than he could pick a favorite between daughters Sasha and Malia.

    “I have two daughters. And they are both gorgeous and wonderful, and I would never choose between them,” Obama said at a joint press conference with visiting French President Francois Hollande at the White House. “And that's how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways.

    “What I do believe is, is that the U.S.-French alliance has never been stronger,” Obama went on. "That's good for France. It's good for the United States. It's good for the world, because we share certain values and certain commitments and are willing to act on behalf of those commitments and values.”

    Obama had been asked whether Paris had “replaced” London as Washington’s best friend on the global stage. The tight friendship

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  • Are Obama and Hollande trying to take credit for improved relations under Bush, Sarkozy?

    President Barack Obama and visiting French President François Hollande said in a rare joint op-ed published Monday that the world benefits from a France-U.S. alliance that “is being made new again.” But they didn’t give any credit to George W. Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy, who did most of the work to repair a relationship that soured in the run-up to the Iraq War.

    Obama and Hollande, writing in the Washington Post, declared that “a decade ago, few would have imagined our two countries working so closely together in so many ways.”

    That’s undeniably true. The period from 2002-2004 was a poisonous time in Franco-American relations. France fiercely opposed the invasion of Iraq. Angry American conservatives, turning to "The Simpsons" for inspiration, denounced the French as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” On Air Force One, the official breakfast menus included “freedom toast” rather than French toast. In the House of Representatives cafeteria, “freedom fries” replaced french fries.

    And

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  • Lawmaker: ‘Very little’ Obama work so far to rewrite ‘war on terrorism’ law

    Will the law that justified the invasion of Afghanistan outlive the U.S. combat mission there? One prominent lawmaker worries that it will.

    President Obama’s drive to rewrite America’s main “war on terrorism” legislation has stalled, a victim of national security staffers’ heavy focus on NSA spying and the charged partisan climate of a mid-term election year.

    That’s the diagnosis from Rep. Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.), a leading voice in his party for changing the legislation conceived to authorize the war in Afghanistan but also used to justify everything from drone strikes in Yemen to an unprecedented expansion of government spying.

    “I don’t see any real movement in the administration on this. And apart from some discussions during various hearings I don’t see much congressional appetite on it either,” Schiff told Yahoo News in a telephone interview on Thursday.

    Asked how much progress he’s seen from the administration on rewriting the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF)

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  • Hollande first French president since 1958 not to address Congress on state visit

    French President Francois Hollande will be the first French president since 1958 not to address a joint session of Congress during a state visit to Washington, French media are reporting. Hollande, who has seized headlines around the world with the soap opera-style mayhem in his personal life, will get a visit to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and, of course, a lavish state dinner at the White House.

    So are House Republicans snubbing Hollande?

    Republican House Speaker John Boehner's office denies that the French leader's very public romantic troubles (or his Socialist Party credentials) played a role.

    "The Speaker values America's strong relationship with our oldest ally, but the schedule made an address
    impossible during this visit," spokesman Michael Steel told Yahoo News.

    Hollande's predecessor, the proudly pro-American Nicolas Sarkozy, made an official visit to Washington in late 2007 (a few weeks after his very troubled marriage ended in divorce). Sarkozy addressed Congress.

    And

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