Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • George H.W. Bush wearing socks with his face on them

    When last we checked in on former President George H.W. Bush, he was being straight-up awesome, shaving his head in sympathy with the cancer-stricken tot of one of his Secret Service detail members.

    Now, in what is surely a fashion misstep but a huge whimsy win, here is Bush accepting the LBJ Foundation’s “Liberty and Justice for All” award while wearing socks with a picture of his face on them.

    Even by the former president’s standards for famously eye-catching socks, this is pretty amazing. A spokesman for Bush, Jim McGrath, told Yahoo News that "the socks came from a Canadian citizen in Markham, Ontario."

    The award, which Bush formally accepted on Tuesday, honored him for “his leadership in public service and commitment to civil rights.”

    The women behind Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush are Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson.

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  • Is the U.S. confirming it spied on Germany's chancellor?

    Reimagine the old George Washington myth in which the future president, as a lad, is confronted with the famously hatcheted cherry tree and asked about his role in it. Now imagine that Washington’s answer had been, “I am not currently chopping down and will not chop down that cherry tree.”

    You see the problem, right?

    That’s essentially what’s happening in a deepening trans-Atlantic feud over alleged American spying on allied world leaders.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel complained to President Barack Obama that U.S. intelligence tapped her mobile phone, with her government publicly calling the alleged behavior “a serious breach of trust” if true.

    Obama responded on Wednesday with a telephone call to Merkel. And here’s the interesting part of the White House readout of that conversation:

    “The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel,” the statement said.

    “Is not”? “Will not”? They're a far

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  • Obama: U.S. wary but ‘encouraged’ by Iran’s new tone

    President Barack Obama told world leaders gathered in New York on Tuesday that he was “encouraged” by Iran’s new, less confrontational tone and had ordered a new diplomatic push to defuse the volatile standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

    “The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested,” Obama said in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

    “But to succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable,” he said.

    In addition to the Iranian nuclear dispute, the president also vowed to redouble efforts to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

    “While these issues are not the cause of all the region's problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace,” he said.

    And he bluntly warned the United Nations that it must threaten — and enforce — consequences on Syria if President

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  • Obama OKs anti-chemical weapons gear for Syrian rebels

    President Barack Obama on Monday formally cleared the way for the U.S. to send equipment and training to vetted Syrian rebels, enabling them to resist a chemical weapons attack, the White House said.

    Obama issued a memorandum to Secretary of State John Kerry saying that such assistance “is essential to the national security interests of the United States.”

    The announcement came in the aftermath of an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb. The U.S. and its allies say Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces were behind the attack and have placed the death toll at over 1,000, including hundreds of children.

    The president’s decision to equip the rebels seems to indicate that U.S. officials worry Assad might be tempted to use chemical weapons against those fighting to oust him even as the U.S. and Russia work out a plan to place the Syrian arsenal under international control to be destroyed.

    But U.S. officials underlined that the decision had been in the works before last

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  • U.S. ready to go it alone on Syria after stinging British defeat

    The United States reserves the option to go it alone on a possible military strike against Syria, the White House signaled late Thursday, after Britain’s parliament rejected going to war.

    “As we’ve said, President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. “He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”

    The statement came after Britain’s Parliament dealt Prime Minister David Cameron a stinging defeat, beating back a measure that could have set the stage for London to join Washington in military action against Syria.

    "It is very clear tonight that while the House has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action,” Cameron

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  • Past comments dog Obama, Biden as Syria response looms

    In 2007, two Democratic presidential candidates came out forcefully against unleashing America’s military might without explicit authorization from Congress. Today, Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama see things in a different light.

    Six years ago, Biden vowed to impeach President George W. Bush if the Republican bombed Iran without first getting congressional approval.

    "The president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach," Biden said at the time.

    Meanwhile, Obama flatly told the Boston Globe in 2007 that no president can use military force absent an “actual or imminent threat to the nation” without getting Congress' approval.

    The Libya intervention stretched Obama’s commitment to the breaking point. The PolitiFact organization, which rates politicians’ claims for accuracy, ruled that his decision to commit American forces to that effort was a “full flop” from his previous position.

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  • White House denies report it secretly froze Egypt aid

    The White House on Tuesday denied a news report that it has secretly frozen aid to Egypt’s military, effectively treating the ouster of democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi as a coup despite publicly refusing to say so.

    “The report that we have suspended assistance to Egypt is incorrect,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said. “As the president has said, we are reviewing all of our assistance to Egypt. No policy decisions have been made at this point regarding the remaining assistance.”

    That “no policy decisions” line leaves ample room for what amounts to an aid freeze by another name. The Obama administration has said it is reviewing the overall U.S.-Egypt relationship and could decide not to release all or part of the remaining funds in the annual aid package.

    In terms of aid to the military, “approximately $585 million remains unobligated,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday. “It would be inaccurate to say that a policy decision has

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  • U.S. got ‘heads up’ before Greenwald’s partner Miranda was detained

    The White House revealed on Monday that Britain had given the United States a “heads up” that it planned to detain NSA leaks journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, at Heathrow Airport over the weekend.

    “There was a heads up that was provided by the British government,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. “This is something that we had an indication was likely to occur.”

    Greenwald has written several major exposes of National Security Agency activities based on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Greenwald reported that British authorities cited an anti-terrorism law in justifying their decision to hold Miranda.

    “Before letting him go, they seized numerous possessions of his, including his laptop, his cellphone, various video game consoles, DVDs, USB sticks, and other materials. They did not say when they would return any of it, or if they would,” Greenwald said.

    Earnest refused to say whether Washington tried to discourage the headline-grabbing move or

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  • U.S. closes embassies, alerts Americans overseas to terrorist threats in August

    The State Department on Friday put Americans worldwide on notice for possible terrorist threats, citing the Middle East and North Africa as particular danger spots and suggesting strikes could take place or originate in the Arabian Peninsula.

    The department also confirmed a list of 21 diplomatic missions across the Middle East, North Africa and reaching as far as Afghanistan that will be closed on Sunday — President Barack Obama's birthday — because of a credible security threat

    "Current information suggests that al-Qa'ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August," the department warned.

    The diplomatic missions affected include those in Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Dhaka, Bangladesh; Amman, Jordan; Muscat, Oman; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Algiers, Algeria; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Sana'a, Yemen; Djibouti; Doha,

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  • Obama: Trayvon Martin ‘could have been me 35 years ago’

    President Barack Obama, making his first public remarks on the George Zimmerman acquittal, said on Friday that many African-Americans believe that “both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different” if Trayvon Martin had been white.

    “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,” Obama said somberly during a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room. “Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

    In searingly personal terms, Obama described his experience with race-based prejudice. “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store—that includes me,” he said.

    “There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me—at least before I was a senator,” he said. “There are very few

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