Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • Obama budget office lowers economic growth forecast for 2012

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton listens at left as President Barack Obama speaks to members of the media during a Cabinet meeting on Thursday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

    President Barack Obama's budget office on Friday revised downward its previous forecasts for economic growth in 2012 and 2013 and projected a $1.211 trillion deficit through the end of the year, slightly down from earlier predictions.

    "The economy is not growing fast enough and there are still too many people out of work. Most troubling, the pace of improvement in the labor market slowed in the second quarter of this year," according to the Mid-Session Review (MSR) from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

    Obama's hopes for re-election hang on voters' perceptions of how he has handled the economy, which is still sputtering three and a half years after he took office. Polls show Republican challenger Mitt Romney is seen as a better candidate for creating jobs, though the president outscores him on which candidate would be a better champion for the middle class.

    The MSR cut projected growth from 2.7 percent to 2.3 percent in 2012 and 2.7 percent from 3 percent relative to its previous forecasts in February. That came after the Commerce Department reported that the gross domestic product rose at a 1.5 percent annualized rate in the second quarter of the year, a tepid pace. 

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  • Obama signs Israel military aid bill on eve of Romney visit

    President Barack Obama signs the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act. From left: Richard Stone, chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.: Howard Friedman, past chair of the board, AIPAC: Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif. (Susan Walsh/AP)

    On the eve of Mitt Romney's visit to Israel, President Barack Obama signed into law a military aid bill for that staunch American ally at a much-publicized White House ceremony that highlighted the political advantages of incumbency.

    "What this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen, really, at an unprecedented level between our two countries that underscore our unshakable commitment to Israel security," Obama said as he signed the measure at his desk in the Oval Office.

    The president also announced he would speed another $70 million to Israel to advance the so-called "Iron Dome" short-range missile defense system, a response to sustained rocket fire from Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

    "This is a program that has been critical in terms of providing security and safety for the Israeli families," he said. "We are standing by our friends in Israel when it comes to these kinds of attacks."

    The signing ceremony, a relatively uncommon event in the Obama White House, fit a pattern this week of the administration trumpeting relations with Britain, Israel and Poland—the three countries on Romney's trip overseas to polish his diplomatic credentials.

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  • Obama to make Olympics ad pitch: ‘I believe’

    Looking for a little bit of that Olympics magic, President Barack Obama's reelection campaign will run an ad highlighting his middle class-focused economic pitch during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Games in London.

    "We're a nation of workers and doers and dreamers. We work hard for what we get. And all we ask for is that our hard work pays off," Obama says in the 33-second commercial.

    "I believe that the way you grow the economy is from the middle, out. I believe in fighting for the middle class, 'cause if they're prospering, all of us will prosper. That's the idea of America, and that's why America is the greatest nation on Earth!"

    The ad centers on Obama's core economic message: That he will champion the middle class. But it omits one of his stump speech staples: The charge that Republican challenger Mitt Romney mostly cares about the very wealthiest. The Democrats' campaign hopes that message will help cast the November election as more of a choice between two visions

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  • Obama welcomes Romney to Israel with new security bill

    (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks out of 10 Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London, Thursday, July 26, 2012. President Barack Obama is signing a new U.S.-Israel security pact on Friday -- a move that could steal some of the headlines there even as Republican challenger Mitt Romney opens a visit to the close U.S. ally a day later.

    Obama signs the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act -- a bill that clears the way for the United States to provide more military equipment to Israel -- at 10:15 a.m.

    With the former Massachusetts governor visiting Britain, Israel, and Poland this week to polish his foreign policy credentials, the Obama Administration has been playing up its cooperation with those staunch American allies.

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  • White House plays down prospect of new gun laws

    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

    The White House signaled Thursday that President Barack Obama would not be seeking new gun control laws in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. But press secretary Jay Carney said Obama would try to find ways to work around the "stalemate" in Congress to keep firearms out of the wrong hands.

    During a brief photo-op with his Cabinet, Obama himself sidestepped a reporter's question about how he would proceed without seeking new legislation.

    "I'm sure we'll have more opportunity to talk about this," the president said.

    Obama had called late Wednesday for tighter background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. He called for "common sense" and repeated his support for the lapsed Assault Weapons Ban.

    But he also acknowledged the difficult politics of the issue — especially in an election year — and asserted that he was a believer in individual gun rights.

    Carney returned to the political problem on Thursday.

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  • Obama: Hey Romney, Europe and I go way back

    President Barack Obama speaking to the National Urban League Conference in New Orleans on Wednesday (Bill Haber/AP)Dear Britain: The White House wants you know that even if Mitt Romney may harbor doubts about your ability to pull off the Olympics, President Barack Obama "has the utmost confidence" in you. In fact, the Obama administration would also like Israel and Poland—the two countries the Republican standard-bearer will visit next—to know it has their back, too.

    White House press secretary Jay Carney kicked off his daily briefing Thursday by describing in some detail how Obama's top homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, had led a discussion with key security officials "to take stock of our efforts, working with the United Kingdom, to prepare for the London 2012 Olympic Games."

    Brennan then discussed the issue with Obama, who "directed that we continue to ensure that we are doing everything possible to keep the American people safe and to continue close cooperation with our British counterparts," Carney said. "In keeping with our special relationship, the president also made it clear that he has the utmost confidence in our close friend and ally the United Kingdom as they finalize preparations to host the London Olympics," Carney told reporters.

    That none-too-subtle message came after Romney, who often cites his experience running the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ruffled feathers in Britain by telling NBC in an interview Wednesday he wasn't sure London was ready.

    "You know, it's hard to know just how well it will turn out," Romney told NBC. "There are a few things that were disconcerting. The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials … that obviously is not something which is encouraging."

    On Thursday, in apparent damage-control mode, Romney emerged from a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron with a different message. "What I see shows imagination and forethought and a lot of organization, and I expect the Games to be highly successful," Romney said.

    So was the White House announcement of Brennan's security briefing linked to Romney's trip?

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  • Obama slumps among business owners: Gallup

    President Barack Obama waves upon arriving at the White House late Wednesday (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

    If the November election were held today, and only business owners could vote, President Barack Obama would lose in a landslide, according to a new Gallup poll. The survey, released Thursday, found that 35 percent of that relatively small minority of Americans approve of the job he's doing, while 59 percent disapprove.

    The figure slipped from 41 percent approval in the first quarter of 2012, Gallup said. The organization underlined that the decline came in March and April, well before the Republican onslaught on his remarks about small businesses owing some of their success to government investments in things like infrastructure and education.

    "Thus it is not yet clear whether those comments have led to further deterioration in Obama's standing among small-business owners," Gallup said.

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  • Obama urges tighter background checks on gun buyers after Aurora massacre

    President Barack Obama pauses as he talks about the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting as he addresses the National Urban League convention (Susan Walsh/AP)In his broadest remarks on gun control yet in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, President Barack Obama called late Wednesday for tougher background checks designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

    "A lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals -- that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities," the president, who has called for reimposing the Assault Weapons Ban, said in a speech to the National Urban League.

    "I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone's criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily," he said. "These steps shouldn't be controversial. They should be common sense."

    [Yahoo's complete coverage of the Colorado shooting]

    But Obama also offered a nod to the difficult politics of gun control, portraying himself as a believer in the individual right to bear arms, and acknowledging that calls to action after an incident like the one in Aurora often fade.

    "When there is an extraordinarily heartbreaking tragedy like the one we saw, there's always an outcry immediately after for action. And there's talk of new reforms, and there's talk of new legislation," Obama said in his speech.  "And too often, those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere."

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  • Report: White House, Obama campaign, tighten ties

    In this picture from November 2010, then-Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina (left) and Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro, right, listen as President Barack Obama speaks to reporters. To the right of Obama is Pete Rouse, then White House Chief of Staff. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

    With President Barack Obama in the fight of his political life against Republican challenger Mitt Romney, top White House aides are increasingly shuttling to the Democrat's campaign headquarters in Chicago, the Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday.

    Those making the trip from Washington to the Windy City includes senior advisor David Plouffe, who managed Obama's history-making 2008 campaign, and Pete Rouse, who has been with the president since his earliest days in the Senate, the daily said in a piece that cited unnamed officials at the White House and the campaign. Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer is expected to spend one day a week at the HQ through election day, the Journal said.

    Obama aides, the newspaper reported, denied that there was "discontent with the campaign's operations" and that the purpose was to improve coordination on things like schedules and messaging.

    "But others close to the campaign say Mr. Rouse in particular has been on hand to support campaign manager Jim Messina, who hasn't before run an organization as large and complex," the Journal said. The paper also reported that Messina asked Rouse to widen his role in order to enable the campaign chief to focus on swing-state strategy.

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  • White House: Aleppo attack shows Assad’s ‘depravity’

    Israeli Aviv Levy tries on a gas mask in a shopping mall near Jerusalem. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

    The White House accused Syria's Bashar Assad on Wednesday of unleashing helicopters, airplanes and tanks on civilians in the city of Aleppo, calling the assault evidence of his willingness to sink to "the depths of depravity."

    Press secretary Jay Carney, speaking aboard Air Force One, confirmed that Syria's ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus had defected from the regime.

    "This is another indication, we believe, that senior officials around the Assad inner circle are fleeing the government because of the heinous actions taken by Assad against his own people, and the recognition that Assad's days are numbered," Carney said.

    The spokesman highlighted Assad forces' onslaught on Aleppo and cited "credible" but unconfirmed reports that the regime in Damascus had deployed airplanes in the attack.

    "We condemn that. And it's just another indication of the depths of depravity that Assad has demonstrated himself capable of achieving," Carney said.

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