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News round-up, Wednesday, February 8, 2023 8 FEB. By GERMÁN & CO

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The surprise of the day…

Russia-Ukraine war live: Zelenskiy to address parliament and meet King Charles in surprise UK visit

Quote of the day…

Images posted on social media are analyzed by artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that decide what to amplify and what to suppress. Many of these algorithms, a Guardian investigation has found, have a gender bias, and may have been censoring and suppressing the reach of countless photos featuring women’s bodies.


Most read…

‘There is no standard’: investigation finds AI algorithms objectify women’s bodies

Guardian exclusive: AI tools rate photos of women as more sexually suggestive than those of men, especially if nipples, pregnant bellies or exercise is involved


Russia’s oil revenues plunge as EU’s oil war enters round 2

Dire Russian budget numbers signal a ‘bad start’ to the fiscal year, says an energy analyst.


In from the coal: Australia sheds climate pariah status to make up with Europe

Europe needs our energy and we’re happy to help, Australian Climate Minister Chris Bowen tells POLITICO.


Biden urges Republicans to help him 'finish job' of rebuilding economy

In his State of the Union address, marked by partisan division, the US president sought to portray a nation dramatically improved from the one he took charge of two years ago.


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Cooperate with objective and ethical thinking…

AI_Platform GTG.gif

What is Artificial Intelligency?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer or a robot controlled by a computer to do tasks that are usually done by humans because they require human intelligence and discernment. Although there are no AIs that can perform the wide variety of tasks an ordinary human can do, some AIs can match humans in specific tasks.

‘There is no standard’: investigation finds AI algorithms objectify women’s bodies

Guardian exclusive: AI tools rate photos of women as more sexually suggestive than those of men, especially if nipples, pregnant bellies or exercise is involved

by Gianluca Mauro and Hilke Schellmann

Wed 8 Feb 2023 11.00 GMT

Images posted on social media are analyzed by artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that decide what to amplify and what to suppress. Many of these algorithms, a Guardian investigation has found, have a gender bias, and may have been censoring and suppressing the reach of countless photos featuring women’s bodies.

These AI tools, developed by large technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, are meant to protect users by identifying violent or pornographic visuals so that social media companies can block it before anyone sees it. The companies claim that their AI tools can also detect “raciness” or how sexually suggestive an image is. With this classification, platforms – including Instagram and LinkedIn – may suppress contentious imagery.

Objectification of women seems deeply embedded in the system

Leon Derczynski, IT University of Copenhagen

Two Guardian journalists used the AI tools to analyze hundreds of photos of men and women in underwear, working out, using medical tests with partial nudity and found evidence that the AI tags photos of women in everyday situations as sexually suggestive. They also rate pictures of women as more “racy” or sexually suggestive than comparable pictures of men. As a result, the social media companies that leverage these or similar algorithms have suppressed the reach of countless images featuring women’s bodies, and hurt female-led businesses – further amplifying societal disparities.

Even medical pictures are affected by the issue. The AI algorithms were tested on images released by the US National Cancer Institute demonstrating how to do a clinical breast examination. Google’s AI gave this photo the highest score for raciness, Microsoft’s AI was 82% confident that the image was “explicitly sexual in nature”, and Amazon classified it as representing “explicit nudity”.

Microsoft’s AI was 82% confident that this image demonstrating how to do a breast exam was ‘explicitly sexual in nature’, and Amazon categorized it as ‘explicit nudity’. Photograph: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash

Pregnant bellies are also problematic for these AI tools. Google’s algorithm scored the photo as “very likely to contain racy content”. Microsoft’s algorithm was 90% confident that the image was “sexually suggestive in nature”.

Images of pregnant bellies are categorized as ‘very likely to contain racy content’. Photograph: Dragos Gontariu/Unsplash

“This is just wild,” said Leon Derczynski, a professor of computer science at the IT University of Copenhagen, who specializes in online harm. “Objectification of women seems deeply embedded in the system.”

One social media company said they do not design their systems to create or reinforce biases and classifiers are not perfect.

“This is a complex and evolving space, and we continue to make meaningful improvements to SafeSearch classifiers to ensure they stay accurate and helpful for everyone,” a Google spokesperson said.

Getting shadowbanned

In May 2021, Gianluca Mauro, an AI entrepreneur, advisor and co-author of this article, published a LinkedIn post and was surprised it had just been seen 29 times in an hour, instead of the roughly 1,000 views he usually gets. Maybe the picture of two women wearing tube tops was the problem?

He re-uploaded the same exact text with another picture. The new post got 849 views in an hour.

Mauro’s LinkedIn post showing two women in tube tops received only 29 views in one hour compared to 849 views when a different image was used. Composite: Gianluca Mauro/The Guardian

It seemed like his post had been suppressed or “shadowbanned”. Shadowbanning refers to the decision of a social media platform to limit the reach of a post or account. While a regular ban involves actively blocking a post or account and notifying the user, shadowbanning is less transparent - often the reach will be suppressed without the user’s knowledge.

The Guardian found that Microsoft, Amazon and Google offer content moderation algorithms to any business for a small fee. Microsoft, the parent company and owner of LinkedIn, said its tool “can detect adult material in images so that developers can restrict the display of these images in their software”.

Another experiment on LinkedIn was conducted to try to confirm the discovery.

The photo of the women got eight views in one hour, while the picture with the men received 655 views, suggesting the women’s photo was either suppressed or shadowbanned. Composite: Gianluca Mauro/The Guardian

In two photos depicting both women and men in underwear, Microsoft’s tool classified the picture showing two women as racy and gave it a 96% score. The picture with the men was classified as non-racy with a score of 14%.

The photo of the women got eight views within one hour, and the picture with the two men received 655 views, suggesting the photo of the women in underwear was either suppressed or shadowbanned.

You cannot have one single uncontested definition of raciness

Abeba Birhane

Shadowbanning has been documented for years, but the Guardian journalists may have found a missing link to understand the phenomenon: biased AI algorithms. Social media platforms seem to leverage these algorithms to rate images and limit the reach of content that they consider too racy. The problem seems to be that these AI algorithms have built-in gender bias, rating women more racy than images containing men.

“Our teams utilize a combination of automated techniques, human expert reviews and member reporting to help identify and remove content that violates our professional community policies,” said LinkedIn spokesperson Fred Han in a statement. “In addition, our feed uses algorithms responsibly in order to surface content that helps our members be more productive and successful in their professional journey.”

Amazon said content moderation is based on a variety of factors including geography, religious beliefs and cultural experience. However, “Amazon Rekognition is able to recognize a wide variety of content, but it does not determine the appropriateness of that content,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “The service simply returns labels for items it detects for further evaluation by human moderators.”

Digging deeper

Natasha Crampton, Microsoft’s chief responsible AI officer, and her team began investigating when journalists notified her about the labeling of the photos.

“The initial results do not suggest that those false positives occur at a disproportionately higher rate for women as compared with men,” Crampton said. When additional photos were run through the tool, the demo website had been changed. Before the problem was discovered, it was possible to test the algorithms by simply dragging and dropping a picture. Now an account needed to be created and code had to be written.

Screenshots of Microsoft’s platform in June 2021 (left), and in July 2021 (right). In the first version, there is a button to upload any photo and test the technology, which has disappeared in the later version. Composite: Gianluca Mauro/The Guardian

But what are these AI classifiers actually analyzing in the photos? More experiments were needed, so Mauro agreed to be the test subject.

When photographed in long pants and with a bare chest, Microsoft’s algorithm had a confidence score lower than 22% for raciness. When Mauro put on a bra, the raciness score jumped to 97%. The algorithm gave a 99% score when the bra was held next to me.

“You are looking at decontextualized information where a bra is being seen as inherently racy rather than a thing that many women wear every day as a basic item of clothing,” said Kate Crawford, professor at the University of Southern California and the author of Atlas of AI.

Abeba Birhane, a senior fellow at the Mozilla Foundation and an expert in large visual datasets, said raciness is a social concept that differs from one culture to the other.

“These concepts are not like identifying a table where you have the physical thing and you can have a relatively agreeable definition or rating for a certain thing,” she said. “You cannot have one single uncontested definition of raciness.”

Why do these systems seem so biased?

Modern AI is built using machine learning, a set of algorithms that allow computers to learn from data. When developers use machine learning, they don’t write explicit rules telling computers how to perform a task. Instead, they provide computers with training data. People are hired to label images so that computers can analyze their scores and find whatever pattern helps it replicate human decisions.


Margaret Mitchell, chief ethics scientist at the AI firm Hugging Face and former co-head of Google’s Ethical AI research group, believes that the photos used to train these algorithms were probably labeled by straight men, who may associate men working out with fitness, but may consider an image of a woman working out as racy. It’s also possible that these ratings seem gender biased in the US and in Europe because the labelers may have been from a place with a more conservative culture.

Don't like it?

Why not?

Ideally, tech companies should have conducted thorough analyses on who is labeling their data, to make sure that the final dataset embeds a diversity of views, she said. The companies should also check that their algorithms perform similarly on photos of men v women and other groups, but that is not always done.

“There’s no standard of quality here,” Mitchell said.

This gender bias the Guardian uncovered is part of more than a decade of controversy around content moderation on social media. Images showing people breastfeeding their children and different standards for photos of male nipples, which are allowed on Instagram, and female nipples, which have to be covered, have long garnered outcries about social media platforms’ content moderation practices.

Now Meta’s oversight board - an external body including professors, researchers and journalists, who are paid by the company – has asked the tech giant to clarify its adult nudity and sexual activity community standard guidelines on social media platforms “so that all people are treated in a manner consistent with international human rights standards, without discrimination on the basis of sex or gender”.

Meta declined to comment for this story.

‘Women should be expressing themselves’

Bec Wood, a 38-year-old photographer based in Perth, Australia, said she’s terrified of Instagram’s algorithmic police force.

I will censor as artistically as possible any nipples. I find this so offensive to ... women

Bec Wood

After Wood had a daughter nine years ago, she started studying childbirth education and photographing women trying to push back against societal pressures many women feel that they should look like supermodels.

“I was not having that for my daughter,” she said. “Women should be expressing themselves and celebrating themselves and being seen in all these different shapes and sizes. I just think that’s so important for humanity to move forward.”

Wood’s photos are intimate glimpses into women’s connections with their offspring, photographing breastfeeding, pregnancy and other important moments in an artful manner. Her business is 100% dependent on Instagram: “That’s where people find you,” Wood said. “If I don’t share my work, I don’t get work.”

Google and Microsoft rated Wood’s photos as likely to contain explicit sexual content. Amazon categorized the image of the pregnant belly on the right as ‘explicit nudity’.

Since Wood started her business in 2018, for some of her photos she got messages from Instagram that the company was either taking down some of her pictures or that they were going to allow them on her profile but not on the explore tab, a section of the app where people can discover content from accounts they don’t follow. She hoped that Instagram was going to fix the issue over time, but the opposite happened, she said. “I honestly can’t believe that it’s gotten worse. It has devastated my business.” Wood described 2022 as her worst year business-wise.

She is terrified that if she uploads the “wrong” image, she will be locked out of her account with over 13,000 followers, which would bankrupt her business: “I’m literally so scared to post because I’m like, ‘Is this the post that’s going to lose everything?’” she said.

To avoid this, Wood started going against what made her start her work in the first place: “I will censor as artistically as possible any nipples. I find this so offensive to art, but also to women,” she said. “I almost feel like I’m part of perpetuating that ridiculous cycle that I don’t want to have any part of.”

Running some of Wood’s photos through the AI algorithms of Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, including those featuring a pregnant belly got rated as racy, nudity or even explicitly sexual.

Wood is not alone. Carolina Are, an expert on social media platforms and content moderation and currently an Innovation fellow at the Centre for Digital Citizens at Northumbria University said she has used Instagram to promote her business and was a victim of shadowbanning.

Are, a pole dance instructor, said some of her photos were taken down, and in 2019, she discovered that her pictures did not show up in the explore page or under the hashtag #FemaleFitness, where Instagram users can search content from users they do not follow. “It was literally just women working out in a very tame way. But then if you looked at hashtag #MaleFitness, it was all oily dudes and they were fine. They weren’t shadowbanned,” she said.

Carolina Are, a pole dance instructor, found that some of her photos were not showing up on social media. Photograph: Rachel Marsh/Courtesy of @ray.marsh

For Are, these individual problems point to larger systemic ones: many people, including chronically ill and disabled folks, rely on making money through social media and shadowbanning harms their business.

Mitchell, the chief ethics scientist at Hugging Face, these kinds of algorithms are often recreating societal biases: “It means that people who tend to be marginalized are even further marginalized – like literally pushed down in a very direct meaning of the term marginalization.”

To secure a safer future for AI, we need the benefit of a female perspective

John Naughton

It’s a representational harm and certain populations are not adequately represented, she added. “In this case, it would be an idea that women must cover themselves up more than men and so that ends up creating this sort of social pressure for women as this becomes the norm of what you see, ” Mitchell said.

The harm is worsened by a lack of transparency. While in some cases Wood has been notified that her pictures were banned or limited in reach, she believes Instagram took other actions against her account without her knowing it. “I’ve had people say ‘I can’t tag you,’ or ‘I was searching for you to show my friend the other day and you’re not showing up,’” she said. “I feel invisible.”

Because she might be, said computer scientist Derczynski: “The people posting these images will never find out about it, which is just so deeply problematic.” he said. “They get a disadvantage forced upon them and they have no agency in this happening and they’re not informed that it’s happening either.”

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center.


Russia’s oil revenues plunge as EU’s oil war enters round 2

Dire Russian budget numbers signal a ‘bad start’ to the fiscal year, says an energy analyst.


FEBRUARY 6, 2023

The EU’s energy war with Russia has entered a new phase — and there are signs that the Kremlin is starting to feel the pain.

As of Sunday, it is illegal to import petroleum products — those refined from crude oil, such as diesel, gasoline and naphtha — from Russia into the EU. That comes hot on the heels of the EU’s December ban on Russian seaborne crude oil.

Both measures are also linked to price caps imposed by the G7 club of rich democracies aimed at driving down the price that Russia gets for its oil and refined products without disrupting global energy markets.

Those actions appear to have bitten into the Kremlin’s budget in a way other economic penalties levied in retaliation for Russia's invasion of Ukraine have not.

The Kremlin’s tax income from oil and gas in January was among its lowest monthly totals since the depths of COVID in 2020, according to Janis Kluge, senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

Kluge noted that while Russia’s 2023 budget anticipates 9 trillion rubles (€120 billion) in fossil fuel income, in January it earned only 425 billion rubles from oil and gas taxes, around half compared to the same month last year.

It's only one month's figures and the income does fluctuate, but Kluge called it "a bad start."

Russia’s gas sales to Europe have also collapsed — in part as a result of Moscow's own energy blackmail — with its share of imports declining from around 40 percent throughout 2021 to 13 percent for November 2022, according to the latest confirmed European Commission monthly figure.

But it’s oil that matters most to Kremlin coffers.

On Friday, EU countries struck a deal on two price caps which will come into full force later this year following a 55-day transition period. A cap of $100 will apply to “premium” oil products, including diesel, gasoline and kerosene. A cap of $45 will be enforced on “discount” products, such as fuel oil, naphtha and heating oil.

The EU ban and the G7 price caps are meant to work in tandem. While the EU bans Russian oil, cutting off a vital market, the price caps ensure that insurance and shipping firms based in the EU and other G7 countries aren’t completely blocked from facilitating the global trade in Russian oil. They still can, but it must be under the price caps. This way — so the theory goes — Russia’s fossil fuel revenue will take a hit without disrupting the global oil market in a way that could endanger supply and drive up the price for everyone.

Squeezing the Kremlin

Russia is selling more crude to China and India to make up for the lost trade with the EU | iStock

So far, EU leaders think, it’s working.

Buyers in China and India and other countries are hoovering up more Russian crude, making up for the lost trade with Europe. But knowing that Russia has few alternative markets, buyers have been able to drive down the price. “The discounts that Russia has to give, that its partners can demand, are strong and are here to stay,” said one senior European Commission official. Russian Urals crude is trading at around $50 per barrel, around $30 below the benchmark Brent crude price.

“I think in general the EU and the G7 can be quite happy with how things have unfolded with regards to the oil embargo and the price cap up to now," said Kluge. “There has been no turbulence on global oil markets and at the same time Russia’s revenues have gone down considerably. The key reason here is that the price which Russia receives for its crude has gone down."

The question is whether the EU can keep up the economic pressure on Russia without harming itself in the process.

So far, at least as far as oil is concerned, it’s been plain sailing. Oil markets have proved remarkably flexible since the EU’s crude ban in December, with export flows simply shifting: Asia now takes more Russian crude — often at a discount — while other producers in the Middle East and the U.S. step in to supply Europe.

So far, it is looking likely that a similar “reshuffle” of global trade will take place with oil products like diesel, said Claudio Galimberti, senior vice president of analysis at Rystad Energy.

The nature of the oil product sanctions means that there’s nothing to stop Russian crude from being exported to a third country, refined, and then re-exported to the EU, meaning that India and other countries are becoming more important oil product suppliers to the West.

China and India, as well as others in the Middle East and North Africa, also look likely to snap up Russian oil products that are no longer going straight into Europe, freeing up their own refining capacity to produce yet more product that they can sell into Europe and elsewhere.

"There is a reshuffle of product the same way there was a reshuffle of crude,” Galimberti said.

There could still be problems, however. “Europe is not going to import Russian diesel, so it needs to come from somewhere else,” Galimberti said, pointing to two major refineries in the Middle East — Kuwait’s Al-Zour and Saudi Arabia’s Jazan — upon which European supply will now be increasingly dependent.

“If you had a blip in one of these refineries you could see a price response in Europe,” said Galimberti. But for now, after a glut of imports in advance of Sunday’s ban, “inventories of distillates are full,” he added.

“Europe is in good shape.”


In from the coal: Australia sheds climate pariah status to make up with Europe

Europe needs our energy and we’re happy to help, Australian Climate Minister Chris Bowen tells POLITICO.


FEBRUARY 1, 2023

Europe loves the Aussies again. 

Australia was, until recently, an international pariah on climate change and a punchline in Brussels. But a new government in Canberra coupled with Europe’s energy and economic woes mean a better relationship is now emerging — one that could fuel Europe’s transition to a clean economy, while enriching Australia immensely.

“Europe is energy hungry and capital rich, Australia's energy rich and capital hungry, and that means that there's a lot that we can do together,” said Australia’s Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen.

A little over a year ago, relations between Australia and the EU were in a parlous state. The government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison had reneged on a nuclear submarine contract — a decision the current government stands by — incensing the French and by extension the EU. Equally as frustrating for many Europeans was Australia’s climate policy, which was viewed as outstandingly meager even in a lackluster global field.

The election of Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese — whose father was Italian — last May brought a change in tone, as well as a new climate target and a trickle of policies designed to cut greenhouse gas pollution that heats up the planet.

Those moves were "the entry ticket” to dealings with Europe, Bowen told POLITICO in Brussels, the second-last stop on a European tour. “Australia's change of climate positioning, climate policy, has changed our position in the world.”

That's been most notable in progress on talks on a free trade agreement with the EU. Landing that deal would be a “big step forward,” said Bowen. Particularly because when it comes to clean energy, Australia wants to sell and Europe wants to buy.

Using the vast sunny desert in its interior, Australia could be a “renewable energy superpower,” Bowen argued. Solar energy can be tapped to make green hydrogen and shipped to Europe, he said.

European governments are listening closely to the pitch. Bowen was in Rotterdam on Monday, inspecting the potential to use the Netherlands port as an entry for antipodean hydrogen. He signed a provisional deal with the Dutch government to that end. Last week, Bowen announced a series of joint investments with the German government in Australian hydrogen research projects worth €72 million.

It's not just sun, Australia has tantalum and tungsten and a host of minerals Europe needs for building clean tech, but that it currently imports. In many cases those minerals are refined or otherwise processed in China, a dependency that Brussels is keen to rapidly unwind — not least with its Critical Raw Materials Act, expected in March.

According to a 2022 government report, Australia holds the second-largest global reserves of cobalt and lithium, from which batteries are made, and is No. 1 in zirconium, which is used to line nuclear reactors.

Asked whether Australia can ease Europe's dependence on China, Bowen said: “We want to be a very strong factor in the supply chains. We're a trusted, reliable trading partner. We have strong ethical supply chains. We have strong environmental standards.”

But Australia has its own entanglements.

Certain Australian minerals, notably lithium, are largely refined and manufactured in China. Bowen said he was keen on bringing at least some of that resource-intensive, polluting work back to Australia.

While its climate targets are now broadly in line with other rich nations, the rehabilitation of Australia’s climate image jars with its role as one of the biggest fossil fuel sellers on the planet.

Australia's coal exports, when burned in overseas power plants, generate huge amounts of planet-warming pollution — almost double the amount produced annually by Australians within their borders. Australia is also the third-largest exporter of natural gas, including an increasing flow to the EU. At home, the government is facing calls from the Greens party and centrist climate independents to reject plans for more than 100 coal and gas developments around the country.

But how many of Bowen's counterparts raised the issue of Australia's emissions during his travels around Europe? “Nobody,” he said. "We are here to help."

  Image: Germán & Co

Biden urges Republicans to help him 'finish job' of rebuilding economy

In his State of the Union address, marked by partisan division, the US president sought to portray a nation dramatically improved from the one he took charge of two years ago.

Le Monde with AP

Published on February 8, 2023

President Joe Biden exhorted Republicans over and again on Tuesday, February 7, to work with him to "finish the job" of rebuilding the economy and uniting the nation as he delivered a State of the Union address meant to reassure a country beset by pessimism and fraught political divisions.

The backdrop for the annual address was markedly different from the previous two years, with a Republican speaker sitting expressionless behind Biden and newly empowered GOP lawmakers in the chamber sometimes shouting criticism of his administration and policies.

In his 73-minute speech, Biden sought to portray a nation dramatically improved from the one he took charge of two years ago: from a reeling economy to one prosperous with new jobs; from a crippled, pandemic-weary nation to one that has now reopened, and a democracy that has survived its biggest test since the Civil War.

"The story of America is a story of progress and resilience. Of always moving forward. Of never giving up. A story that is unique among all nations," Biden said. "We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it. That is what we are doing again." "We’re not finished yet by any stretch of the imagination," he declared.

'Unbowed and unbroken'

From the start, the partisan divisions were clear. Democrats – including Vice President Kamala Harris – jumped to applause as Biden began his speech. New Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, though he had greeted the president warmly when he entered the chamber, stayed in his seat.

Rather than rolling out flashy policy proposals, the president set out to offer a reassuring assessment of the nation’s condition, declaring that two years after the Capitol attack, America’s democracy was "unbowed and unbroken." "The story of America is a story of progress and resilience," he said, highlighting record job creation during his tenure as the country has emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Biden also pointed to areas of bipartisan progress in his first two years in office, including on states’ vital infrastructure and high-tech manufacturing. And he said, "There is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress."

"The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere," Biden said. "And that’s always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of America – the middle class – to unite the country." "We’ve been sent here to finish the job!"

Parents of Tyre Nichols

With Covid-19 restrictions now lifted, the White House and legislators from both parties invited guests designed to drive home political messages with their presence in the House chamber. The parents of Tyre Nichols, who was severely beaten by police officers in Memphis and later died, are among those seated with First Lady Jill Biden. Other Biden guests included the rock star/humanitarian Bono and the 26-year-old who disarmed a gunman in last month’s Monterey Park, California, shooting.

Biden drew bipartisan applause when he praised most law enforcement officers as "good, decent people" but added that "when police officers or police departments violate the public’s trust, we must hold them accountable."

Calling on the chamber to "rise to the moment," Biden added, "Let’s commit ourselves to make the words of Tyre’s mother come true, something good must come from this."

Rodney Wells and RowVaughn Wells, parents of Tyre Nichols, are applauded by Brandon Tsay, hero of the Monterey, California, shooting, and Irish singer-songwriter Bono during US President Joe Biden's State of the Union address in the House Chambers of the US Capitol on February 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. CHIP SOMODEVILLA / AFP

Tension between Biden and Republicans

Addressing Republicans who voted against the big bipartisan infrastructure law, Biden said he'd still ensure their pet projects received federal support. "I promised to be the president for all Americans," he said. "We’ll fund these projects. And I’ll see you at the ground-breaking."

Though he pledged bipartisanship where possible, Biden also underscored the sharp tensions that exist between him and House Republicans: He discussed GOP efforts to repeal Democrats' 2022 climate change and healthcare law and their reluctance to increase the federal debt limit, the nation’s legal borrowing authority that must be raised later this year or risk default.

"Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years," Biden said. "Other Republicans say if we don’t cut Social Security and Medicare, they’ll let America default on its debt for the first time in our history. I won’t let that happen."

Biden's comments on entitlement programs prompted an outcry from Republicans, as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and others jumped to their feet, some yelling "Liar!" The president answered back, "Stand up and show them: We will not cut Social Security! We will not cut Medicare!" As Republicans continued to protest his accusations, he said, "We’ve got unanimity."

'Finish the job'

In fiery refrains, Biden said the phrase "finish the job" 13 times, challenging lawmakers to complete the work of his administration on capping insulin costs for all Americans, confronting climate change, raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations and banning assault-style weapons. But on all of those fronts, the divided government is even less likely to yield than the Congress under sole Democratic control.

The speech came days after Biden ordered the military to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew brazenly across the country, captivating the nation and serving as a reminder of tense relations between the two global powers. "Make no mistake: As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country," Biden said. "And we did."

Last year’s address occurred just days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and as many in the West doubted Kyiv’s ability to withstand the onslaught. Over the past year, the US and other allies have sent tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance to bolster Ukraine’s defenses.

Biden said the invasion was "a test for the ages. A test for America. A test for the world." "Together, we did what America always does at our best," Biden said. "We led. We united NATO and built a global coalition. We stood against Putin’s aggression. We stood with the Ukrainian people."


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