Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • With George Clooney, shirtless Putin, Republicans wish not-so-happy birthday to Obama

    A shirtless Vladimir Putin? A birthday cake captioned "You Didn't Bake That"? A mocking reference to Vogue magazine? Warm words from Hugo Chavez? George Clooney offering to "party at my house again?" Welcome to the world of Republican birthday cards for President Barack Obama.

    Obama, who turns 51 on Saturday, has joked that his birthday wish is to win Florida in November. The Republican National Committee has other ideas, and is using the occasion to raise money and enlist volunteers with a website, www.baracksbirthdaycards.com. The cards have mocking or pointed messages about everything from the sputtering economy to the collapse of clean-energy firm Solyndra.

    One card, with a photo of Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, reads "News of Your Birthday Leaked Out." On another card, a grinning, shirtless Russian President Putin says "After The Election You Are Flexible For Me. I Flex For Your Birthday." A particularly dark card reads "Mr. President. I Couldn't Afford To

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  • Obama’s birthday wish: Win Florida

    World peace? A new car? Nope. President Barack Obama joked Thursday that his birthday wish this year would be to win Florida.

    "I'm going to be 51 on Saturday. Fifty-one. Michelle says I look 50. That's not bad," Obama told a cheering crowd of supporters at Rollins College in Orlando, Fla. In response, the crowd sang part of "Happy Birthday" to the president.

    "If I'd known you guys were going to sing, we would have had a cake," Obama said. "And then I would have blown out the candles. I would have made a wish—that probably would have had to do with electoral votes. Winning Florida wouldn't be a bad birthday present."

    The Sunshine State's 29 Electoral College votes would indeed be a nice haul on the road to the 270 needed to win. Florida is on the list of battleground states that Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are fighting for. The president enjoys a narrow 1.4 percentage point lead over the former Massachusetts governor in an average of polls by the Real Clear Politics

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  • Annan quits as Syria envoy, White House ups pressure on Assad to go

    Former international mediator for Syria Kofi Annan, seen here meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in June, resigned his post on Thursday. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

    The White House sped new humanitarian aid to Syria and heaped fresh pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to quit power on Thursday after Kofi Annan resigned as the top international mediator in the bloody 17-month crisis.

    In a parting shot, the former U.N. secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize winner wrote in the Financial Times that the international community had proved "strikingly powerless" in the face of the violence. He also scolded President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, saying they needed to show "courage and leadership" to find a compromise.

    Obama spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One that the president was "grateful" to Annan for his work and said his resignation highlighted Assad's determination "to brutally murder his own people" as well as the "failure" of Russia and China to support international efforts to end the bloodshed.

    "It is disgusting, and really highlights the absolute requirement that for the future of the Syrian people, Assad must step aside," Carney said, declaring that Russia and China were "on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the Syrian people."

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  • Obama asks gold-winning women gymnasts: ‘How do you not bust your head?’

    Team USA’s Alexandra Raisman competes on the balance beam in the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Team final on Tuesday (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

    President Barack Obama telephoned the five members of Team USA's women gymnasts on Wednesday to congratulate them on winning the gold in London—and to express his astonishment at their gravity-defying exploits.

    "I told these young ladies, as I was congratulating them: 'How do you not bust your head every time you're on that little balance beam? I couldn't walk across that balance beam," Obama told supporters at a campaign rally in Mansfield, Ohio.

    The president expressed pride in all of America's athletes in London, underlining that "the wonderful thing about the Olympics is, it reminds us that for all our differences, when it comes down to our country, we're Americans first."

    "And we could not be prouder of them and everything they're doing on our behalf," said Obama.

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  • Obama hammers Romney tax plan in Ohio

    Stumping for votes in the pivotal battleground of Ohio, President Barack Obama hammered Mitt Romney's tax plan on Wednesday, highlighting a new study that said the Republican challenger's blueprint could leave poor and middle-class Americans paying more to the IRS to offset tax cuts for the wealthiest.

    "If Gov. Romney wants to keep his word and pay for this plan, then he'd have to cut tax breaks that middle-class families depend on to pay for your home, the home mortgage deduction; to pay for your health care, the health care deduction; (or) to send your kids to college," the president said.

    "And here's the thing: He's not asking you to contribute more to pay down the deficit, he's not asking you to pay more to invest in our children's education, or rebuild our roads or put more folks back to work," Obama said in Mansfield, Ohio. "He's asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut."

    The Romney campaign charged that "glaring gaps" in the study invalidated its analysis and accused Obama of trying to distract voters from the sputtering economy.

    Both sides were sparring over a new independent study by the Brookings Institution think tank and the Tax Policy Center that found Romney's tax plan would leave millionaires paying less in taxes and the poor and middle class paying more. (Romney aides noted that one of the study's authors is a former member of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. But another author, William Gale, served on President George H.W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. And Democrats noted that the Romney campaign had described the Tax Policy Center as providing "Objective, Third-Party Analysis" when using its analysis of former Romney rival Rick Perry's plan back in November.)

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  • Romney campaign welcomes Obama to Florida with ‘I Built This’ ads

    One of the billboards set to welcome President Obama to Florida (image courtesy of the Romney Campaign)

    When President Barack Obama arrives in Florida on Thursday, Mitt Romney's campaign will welcome him to the Sunshine State with 13 electronic billboard ads featuring small business owners declaring: "Mr. President, I Built This."

    The ads each feature one of three local entrepreneurs: Tanya Burns, who runs an insurance agency, Walter Garcia, who helms a trucking company, and Lou Ramos, who heads a computer training company.

    The line refers to Obama's contention, at a June campaign stop in Virginia, that entrepreneurs need government help in the form of infrastructure like bridges and roads, investments in education, and preserving what Obama called "this unbelievable American system that allowed you to thrive" in order to be successful. "If you've got a business — you didn't build that," he said. "The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

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  • Obama aide: Romney ‘struck out playing t-ball’ on foreign trip

    Mitt Romney and his wife Ann visit the monument honoring the Warsaw Uprising in Poland on the last leg of his trip. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)The truce, such as it was, is over. Top Obama campaign aides blasted Mitt Romney's overseas trip on Tuesday, calling his foray on the world stage an "embarrassing disaster" and mocking the verbal stumbles that clouded his visit to staunch ally Britain.

    "It's not that Romney struck out against a major league pitcher," Colin Kahl, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, told reporters on a conference call as Romney flew home. "I mean, here, he struck out playing t-ball. This should have been easy and it wasn't for him apparently."

    Kahl underlined Romney's comments suggesting that Britain might not be ready to host the Olympics, which drew rebukes from British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

    "He managed to insult the leaders, citizens and press of the United Kingdom, probably our closest ally in the entire world on the eve of the Olympics, an event that they've been planning for years," Kahl said. "If Romney can't handle our special relationship with the British on the eve of the Olympic Games, what's going to happen when he has to deal with our enemies, or has to deal with really tough situations?" 

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  • Obama announces new sanctions against Iran

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Getty Images)President Barack Obama ramped up sanctions on Iran Tuesday as senior aides disputed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's contention that such punitive measures in the past have not slowed Tehran's nuclear program "by one iota."

    Mitt Romney's campaign has repeatedly cited Netanyahu's words as part of an effort to paint the president's strategy for keeping Tehran from getting nuclear weapons as a failure and attack him as insufficiently supportive of Israel.

    Asked about the prime minister's comments, Obama's deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Ben Rhodes, told reporters on a conference call that "it is certainly the case that Iran has not yet decided to come in line with their international obligations."

    But "we believe the sanctions have had an impact on the Iranian program insofar as they have denied the Iranian government access to revenue that they otherwise would have," said Rhodes. And sanctions have been "making it much more difficult for Iran to procure technology that would be directly relevant to their program."

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  • Obama gives first donation to his own campaign

    President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign fundraiser in Portland, Ore., July 24 (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

    Five grand. That's how much President Barack Obama gave to his own campaign on Monday—his first donation to his re-election effort. And with Team Romney now romping over Team Obama in the fundraising department, the president is asking his supporters (again) to open their wallets.

    "Yesterday, I made my first donation to support this campaign," Obama said in an email solicitation. "On its own, what I gave won't be enough to surmount the unprecedented fundraising we've seen on the other side, both from our opponent's campaign and from the outside groups and special interests supporting him."

    "But we have always believed that there's nothing we can't do when we all pitch in. That includes me," the president continued. "Today, on one of the most important deadlines we've had yet, I'm asking you to do the same."

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  • San Antonio Mayor Castro to deliver Democratic Convention keynote

    San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro will deliver the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Democrats announced Tuesday in a move showcasing the weight of the Latino vote in the hard-fought 2012 campaign.

    Castro, 37, will be the first Latino keynote speaker at a Democratic National Convention. He and first lady Michelle Obama will address the gathering on its opening night, Sept. 4.

    In a video message, Castro called the high-profile mission "an honor I don't take lightly" and quipped "I've got some big shoes to fill"—a direct reference to the 2004 Democratic Convention, where a little-known Senate candidate from Illinois delivered the keynote speech. Four years later, Barack Obama was president.

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