Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Inside the Secret Service's secret museum

    On a downtown Washington street like any other sits a modern office building like any other. Commuters and tourists alike push past its anodyne brick and glass face without giving it a glance, never knowing that it houses the headquarters of the U. S. Secret Service — and the hidden museum that tells the story of the small agency with a big mission.

    The museum is not open to the public, only to invited guests. Yahoo News recently got an insider’s tour, complete with a welcome from Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, the first woman to hold the post.

    What treasures are in one of the most striking collections you’ll never see? Mainly artifacts reflecting the dangers of public life. There’s the actual window from the armored limousine Ronald Reagan was heading for on that fateful day in 1981 when John Hinckley Jr. tried to assassinate him. One of Hinckley’s six shots struck the glass, leaving a distinctive mark, while others hit the president and three officials, including a Secret

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  • Putin’s sanctions on Americans unite Democrats, GOP

    Vladimir Putin probably didn’t expect that newly announced Russian sanctions on nine Americans – three top White House aides, three Republicans and three Democrats in Congress – would spark a bipartisan love-in in Washington.

    But that’s exactly what happened on Thursday as Moscow retaliated for expanded U.S. sanctions by freezing the assets of a select handful of high-profile Americans and banning them from travel inside Russia.

    Here’s an early response from a spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Twitter to Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to President Obama, for making the list:

    Some of the lawmakers on the list had a quick public reaction to the news and expressed defiance — which is not hard to do when you likely have neither assets in Russia nor plans to travel there.

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  • Obama's Funny or Die video wasn't an ‘interview’

    So why does the White House call it that?

    President Barack Obama’s appearance on’s parody show “Between Two Ferns,” where he took mock questions from comic Zach Galifianakis, was a lot of things: funny, unusual, an intriguing way to sell Obamacare and very popular. One thing it was not, though, was an “interview” — unless you’re White House press secretary Jay Carney.

    Carney was defending the administration’s aggressive campaign to get young people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. To work, the insurance marketplaces known as exchanges need millions of young, relatively healthy people to join to offset older, relatively less healthy people.

    “You've seen that effort include, you know, the president doing an interview with Zach Galifianakis, and you've seen in efforts undertaken by athletes and other celebrities,” Carney told reporters at his daily question-and-answer session in the White House press briefing room.

    “And you'll see it in the kinds of interviews that the president will

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  • How a presidential phone call gets made

    On a Saturday afternoon at the start of March, President Barack Obama set a new record for his administration, holding what aides say was his single longest phone call with another world leader. Obama’s tension-filled 90-minute marathon with Vladimir Putin failed to reverse Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine’s strategic Crimean Peninsula and heightened fears of a new Cold War with Moscow.

    It was one of four times in the past three weeks that the White House disclosed Obama had spoken with the Russian president and came amid a blizzard of telephone calls between the American president and world leaders as Obama sought to de-escalate the crisis.

    Obama has been stateside since returning to Washington from a short trip to Mexico for a Latin American economic summit. But he might as well have been at the United Nations. Since Feb. 20, the White House has revealed, Obama's held calls to discuss the Ukraine crisis with the leaders of Germany (four times), Britain (three times), France

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  • Moms of Jonah Hill, Alicia Keys, Adam Levine, Jennifer Lopez: Enroll in Obamacare

     Long before Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine was People Magazine’s “sexiest man alive,” he was “rambunctious, mischievous, naughty,” his mom Patsy Noah says in a new ad meant to get more young people to sign up for Obamacare.

    Alicia Keys “was an old soul,” who “never thought she had to practice” playing music, her mother, Terria Joseph, says in the nearly two-minute pitch. Jennifer Lopez “walked at 8 months, and she was climbing out of her crib when she was a year old,” says her mom, Guadalupe Rodriguez, adding: “At one point I thought maybe she should be a gymnast.” Jonah Hill “was a prankster,” says the actor’s mom, Sharon Feldstein. He “flooded the elementary school.”

    “Trust me: Us moms put up with a lot. But one thing we should never have to put up with is our kid not having health care,” Feldstein says. “Please just do this one thing and sign up for health care.”

    “We nag you because we love you,” first lady Michelle Obama says near the end of the ad.

    The March 31 deadline for

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  • Putin is not crazy. Frustrating, unpredictable. Not crazy.

    The Russian president may be calculating, sources say, even miscalculating. And worried

    President Obama has called Vladimir Putin “the bored kid in the back of the classroom,” putting on an unsmiling, tough-guy “shtick.” Hillary Clinton just compared the Russian president to Hitler. The State Department says Putin’s reasoning on Ukraine amounts to “two plus two equals five.” Republican House Speaker Boehner branded him a “thug.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly said he is “in another world.” And George W. Bush complained that debating policy with him was “like arguing with an eighth grader with his facts wrong” and called him “cold-blooded” to his face.

    Putin’s decision to respond to the ouster of a pro-Moscow government in Ukraine by deploying troops across Crimea and threatening to send them into eastern Ukraine has inflamed already painful relations with the United States. Some (wrongly) see the birth of a new Cold War. And some wonder whether the judo-loving former KGB colonel with the nuclear arsenal and the unsettling fondness for being photographed

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  • U.S. activist says Egyptian police beat her: 'They stomped on me'

    Anti-war activist Medea Benjamin charged Tuesday that she suffered a dislocated left arm and severe trauma after being detained on arrival in Egypt and then forced by security officials from a jail cell at the Cairo airport onto a Turkey-bound flight.

    “They dragged me and they threw me on the floor. They pulled my arm out of its socket, then dragged me across the tarmac,” the Code Pink co-founder told Yahoo News in a telephone interview from an airport clinic in Istanbul. “My arm is traumatized and swollen and torn, and I am in excruciating pain from the nape of my neck down to my waist.”

    Benjamin tweeted her ordeal, including photos of the airport prison cell she said she shared with four other women, one of whom lent her a power cord for her telephone when the battery ran down.

    Benjamin is a

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  • Obama warns Russia of 'costs' for any military intervention in Ukraine

    President Barack Obama bluntly warned Russia on Friday that it will face international condemnation as well as unspecified "costs" for any military intervention in neighboring Ukraine. A senior U.S. official said Washington could boycott a major international summit to be hosted by Russia in June and reject Moscow's efforts to promote trade with the United States.

    "We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine," Obama said in a hastily arranged public statement from the White House briefing room.

    "Just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine," the president warned.

    His remarks came after top Ukrainian officials charged that Russian troops had taken over the two main airports in the strategic

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  • Obama makes it official: U.S. planning for full Afghan withdrawal

    After giving him the silent treatment for eight months, President Barack Obama on Tuesday called Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The message? A blunt warning that all U.S. troops will leave his war-torn country by 2015 unless Karzai or his successor sign a bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the United States.

    The president had not spoken to Karzai since a June 25, 2013, video conference, and the two had had no contact since a Nov. 21, 2013, letter from Washington to Kabul.

    Obama has said repeatedly that he hopes to leave a residual force of some 8,000-12,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan to train local security forces and target extremists after most combat forces depart in 2014. But U.S. officials had warned that Obama would pull all American troops absent a BSA that gives American and allied forces immunity from local prosecution.

    Karzai refused, saying his successor should be the one to make that commitment. He continued to say no even after Afghanistan’s “loya jirga”

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  • U.S. diplomats to Obama: Ambassador nominees should really know something about their destination

    Please, presidents, stop picking big campaign donors to be ambassadors whether or not they know anything about the country where they’d be posted and are clueless about foreign affairs in general.

    That’s the basic message to President Barack Obama and future administrations from a group that represents some 31,000 current and former career diplomats.

    The American Foreign Service Association put it quite a bit more diplomatically (of course) on Tuesday in a set of new guidelines to help presidents select the best candidates for the job sometimes known as “chief of mission.”

    A good nominee ideally “has experience in or with the host country or other suitable international experience, and has knowledge of the host country culture and language or of other foreign cultures or languages,” AFSA said in its six-page report.

    “The actions and words of an ambassador have consequences for U.S. national security and interests far beyond the individual country or organization to which he or she is

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