Russian forces keep up pressure as Ukraine anniversary nears

February 6th, 2023

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with fighting in the eastern Donbas region as Moscow assembles additional combat power there for an expected offensive in the coming weeks, Ukrainian officials said Monday.

Weeks of intense fighting continued to rage around the city of Bakhmut and the nearby towns of Soledar and Vuhledar, Ukraine’s presidential office said.

They are located in the Donetsk region, which with neighboring Luhansk region makes up the Donbas region, an industrial area bordering Russia.

“The battles for the region are heating up,” Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised remarks, adding that “the Russians are throwing new units into the battle and eradicating our towns and villages.”

In Luhansk, Gov. Serhii Haidai said shelling there had subsided because “the Russians have been saving ammunition for a large-scale offensive.”

Military analysts say the Kremlin’s forces may be probing Ukraine defenses for weak points or could be making a feint while preparing for a main thrust through southern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is hungry for some battlefield success, especially securing illegally annexed territory in eastern Ukraine, to mark the anniversary of his invasion on Feb. 24.

Russian forces made gains in the first few months of the war, though they failed to clinch key objectives and were then driven back from large areas by a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Western military help has been essential for Kyiv. Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand tweeted late Sunday that the first Leopard tank Canada is donating to Ukraine had arrived in Poland. It is part of a broad tank commitmen t by Ukraine’s Western allies to help it defeat Russia.

Training for Ukrainian military in how to use the tank was due to begin “soon,” Anand said, as the allies race to get Ukraine’s forces ready before the looming offensive.

Ukraine’s presidential office said Monday that at least one civilian had been killed and 10 others wounded by Russian shelling over the past 24 hours.

Five of those wounded were injured during the shelling of Kharkiv city, where Russian shells struck residential buildings and a university, the presidential office said.

The Russians again fired at targets across the Dnieper River from the Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, damaging residential buildings and power lines in Nikopol and Marhanets across the River Dnieper, Ukrainian authorities reported.

Russian forces occupied Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, early in the war, and regular shelling of the area stoked major safety concerns.

The U.N. nuclear chief is expected to visit Moscow this week to discuss safety at Zaporizhzhia, according to a senior Russian diplomat. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov wouldn’t reveal the exact date of International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi’s visit to Russia, but confirmed that it is expected to take place this week and that the safety of the nuclear power plant was “a key issue” on the agenda.

The IAEA didn’t immediately answer a request for comment.

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Vinícius Júnior again targeted by racist insults in Spain

February 6th, 2023

MADRID (AP) — The hate attacks against Vinícius Júnior continued in Spain over the weekend, with the Brazil forward again being targeted by racist insults in a league match.

The Spanish league said Monday it will investigate the latest attacks after television images showed someone calling him a monkey during Real Madrid’s 1-0 loss at Mallorca on Sunday.

Vinícius was also insulted after the match when he stopped to pose for photos and sign autographs for fans.

Vinícius, who is Black, has been subjected to insults since he came to play in Spain five years ago, and last month the attacks reached a new level when his effigy was hanged off a bridge in Madrid ahead of the derby against Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

He had also been targeted by fans in other stadiums before, including at Barcelona’s Camp Nou. The hate attacks also occurred in games at Valladolid and Athletic Bilbao.

The league has been reporting the insults to the Spanish soccer federation and to local authorities, and said it would do the same this time after “intolerable racist insults against Vinícius were again observed.”

The league said it was “working with RCD Mallorca to identify those responsible in order to take all necessary legal measures.” To speed up the process, the league said it created an email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) so fans who may have images or knowledge of those responsible can make contact and help it file the appropriate complaints.

Authorities were yet to find those responsible for hanging Vinícius’ effigy before the game against Atletico, and so far teams have not been punished for the racist insults against the Brazilian inside their stadiums.

An anti-violence committee said it was studying punishment to the Valladolid fans who insulted Vinícius in a match in December, which could include fines of 4,000 euros ($4,300) to each individual identified, as well as banning them from sports venues for one year.

Last year a large group of Atletico fans chanted “Vinícius, you are a monkey” outside Metropolitano Stadium, but Spanish state prosecutors closed a probe into the case citing a lack of evidence and downplayed its seriousness because the chants allegedly came within the rivalry setting of a soccer match.

The first trial against a fan who racially insulted a player in Spain is expected to begin this year following remarks by an Espanyol supporter against Athletic Bilbao forward Iñaki Williams a few years ago.

Vinícius has been outspoken about the attacks against him but has yet to comment on the events from Sunday.

Real Madrid has also complained about how Vinícius, a speedy attacker known for his nifty dribbles, has been targeted by opposing players on the field. Valencia defender Gabriel Paulista was sent off in a game last week after a vicious foul on the Brazilian. Vinicius was also roughed up several times against Mallorca.

The 22-year-old Vinícius was also recently engulfed in controversy for his dancing in goal celebrations.

“There is an environment being created surrounding Vinícius that doesn’t really help anyone, neither Vinícius nor the fans, who end up provoking him without really knowing why,” Madrid defender Nacho Fernández said after Sunday’s match. “It’s time to put these controversies and nonsense to the side.”

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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Brignone leads combined race at worlds; Shiffrin 0.96 behind

February 6th, 2023

MERIBEL, France (AP) — Italian skier Federica Brignone posted the fastest time in the super-G portion of the women’s combined event Monday on the opening day of the world championships, leading defending champion Mikaela Shiffrin by almost a second.

Racing under blue skies, Brignone found the fastest line on the Roc de Fer course as she built a lead of 0.71 seconds over Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland and Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway, who clocked the same time.

Italian teammate Elena Curtoni was 0.78 seconds behind in fourth.

The combined event adds the results of a super-G run and one slalom run.

Shiffrin posted the sixth fastest time and had 0.96 seconds to make up on Brignone in the slalom portion, the American’s strongest discipline.

“I know Federica doesn’t ski a lot of slalom, but I know that when she skies it, she can be very fast. So, I am not sure if I can actually make up nine-tenths on that,” Shiffrin said. “The ones who win a medal are the ones who have a pretty solid run in both events or a really killer run in at least one event. I think I can do a very good run of slalom, so now I just focus on that.”

Shiffrin was competing in her first major event since failing to win a medal in six starts at last year’s Beijing Olympics.

“I am pretty satisfied with my first run. I felt pretty good with my skiing,” Shiffrin said. “Obviously there are some section where I can ski much faster.”

Shiffrin has won six world titles and 11 medals in total from 13 previous starts at world championships.

Swiss skiers Michelle Gisin, who is the Olympic champion, and two-time world champion Wendy Holdener finished more than 1.5 seconds off the lead outside the top 10.

Petra Vlhova, the silver medalist from 2019 and 2021, sat out the race to focus on her core events of giant slalom and slalom. The 2021 overall World Cup champion from Slovakia has struggled with health issues in recent weeks.

Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia was 1.92 behind, but the Italian speed specialist used the run as a test for Wednesday’s super-G race. Several other speed specialists will skip the slalom part as well, including two-time world downhill champion llka Stuhec of Slovenia.

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Retailers try to curb theft while not angering shoppers

February 6th, 2023

NEW YORK (AP) — When the pandemic threat eased, Maureen Holohan was eager to scale back her online shopping and return to physical stores so she could more easily compare prices and scour ingredients on beauty and health care products for herself and her three children.

But that experience was short lived. In the past six months or so, CVS, Target and other retailers where Holohan shops have been locking up more everyday items like deodorant and laundry detergent as a way to reduce theft. And the 56-year-old Chevy Chase, Maryland resident is now back to shopping online or visiting stores where she doesn’t have to wait for someone to retrieve products.

“I know they’ve got to do something, but locking the stuff up definitely just has me walking by that aisle,” said Holohan, a business consultant.

Across the retail landscape, businesses have been putting items under lock and key as a quick way to stop thieves. Some are considering extreme measures, including Rite Aid Corp., whose chief retail officer Andre Persaud told analysts on an earnings call late last year that it’s looking at “literally putting everything behind showcases to ensure the products are there for customers who want to buy it.” It’s also considering using off-duty police officers at some of its stores.

But by trying to solve one problem, these businesses may be creating another: turning off shoppers with overreaching measures.

“Everything has changed. We used to be catered to,” said Sheila Schlegel, 43, of Queens, New York.

But now, “if you’re coming to the store, there’s one person at that store, and that person you can tell has been there for 15 hours,” said Schlegel, who recalled an incident where she waited for a sales clerk to unlock an item only to be told he didn’t have the key. “You don’t want to ask them for something if you don’t have to.”

For consumers of color especially, the stepped-up security measures risk alienating a population that already feels overpoliced. That could unravel some of the inroads that chains like CVS, Sephora and Walmart made in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020, when they promised to avoid racially biased practices like locking up products only for Black customers.

“Whenever there’s a push toward greater criminalization, whenever there’s a narrative of increased crime and things like that, it is always consumers of color that are going to be bearing the brunt,” said Tiffany Gill, associate professor of history at Rutgers University, and an expert in African American Women’s History, fashion and beauty culture.

CVS Health Corp. and Sephora declined to comment for the story. Walmart said that its position of not locking up beauty products for women of color remains the same. Target confirmed it was locking up more products but instead of targeting certain items, it locks up entire categories.

It’s unclear how much money retailers are losing due to organized retail crime — or if the problem has substantially increased. But the issue has received more notice in the past few years as high-profile smash-and-grab retail thefts and flash mob robberies have garnered national media attention.

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, said its latest security survey of roughly 60 retailers found that inventory loss — called shrink — clocked in at an average rate of 1.4% last year, representing $94.5 billion in losses.

The greatest portion of shrink — 37% — came from external theft, including products taken during organized shoplifting incidents, the trade group said. It also noted retailers, on average, saw a 26.5% uptick in organized theft incidents last year.

But while high theft in stores depletes inventory and limits sales, locking up items also reduces sales — by 15% to 25%, according to Joe Budano, CEO of Indyme, a technology company that sells retailers security devices.

John Catsimatidis, who owns the New York supermarket chains Gristedes and D’Agostino’s, said the chain has locked up more products like aspirin and deodorant in the past year but not as many as his drug store chain rivals. His chains have also doubled the number of security guards at some of its stores

He acknowledged that the move has resulted in some lost sales from impulse shopping but the added security has made shoppers more comfortable and has helped reduce theft, although he’s not sure by how much.

“This is not an exact science,” he said.

Store workers, meanwhile, face the pressure of trying to do their jobs while also monitoring theft. Isabela Burrows, 20, a manager at pet supplies chain PetSmart in Howell, Michigan, noted that her store in recent months has had to lock up more items like diffusers to calm dogs and cats and electric shaving shears. But while she feels more comfortable, she’s also had to deal with shopper annoyance.

“I feel overwhelmed,” Burrows said. “They’re frustrated with me, and I have to find the item.”

In what could be a sign of the overall challenges, drugstore chain Walgreens acknowledged that it might have overblown the shoplifting threat and gone too far in its security measures.

“Maybe, we cried too much last year,” James Kehoe, global chief financial officer at Walgreens told analysts during an earnings call last month. “Probably we put in too much and we might step back a little bit from that.”

But a Walgreens spokesman cautioned that while the company is pleased to see retail theft levels starting to stabilize, they are “still a serious national problem affecting all retailers.”

Some retailers are coming out with less intrusive solutions to store theft. Home improvement retailer Lowe’s has followed Home Depot in testing technology that unlocks power tools when shoppers buy them at the cash registers instead of resorting to keeping the items in cages.

Anat Shakedd, the CEO and co-founder of Nexite, a company that makes tiny Bluetooth tags that can go on items, says her company has partnered with a top department store in the U.S. and other brands across Europe and Israel to help them monitor their inventory without locking things up.

The Freedom Case, developed by Indyme, asks shoppers for a cell phone number to opt into its service. The shoppers then receive a text message with a four-digit code that lets them open the case. Customers can retain their self-service privileges as long as they show normal shopping behaviors. But if they exhibit suspicious behaviors, store workers will be notified to provide assistance, he said.

Holohan said she doesn’t mind extra security guards, but she’s not interested in giving out her phone number.

“It’s invasive,” she said. ”If they’re going to make it that hard to buy something, I’ll find somewhere else to buy that.”

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AP Retail Writer Haleluya Hadero in New York contributed to this report.

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Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

February 6th, 2023

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A judge in Kenya has ruled that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, can be sued in the East African country.

Meta tried to have the case dropped, arguing that Kenyan courts do not have jurisdiction over their operations, but the labor court judge dismissed that in a ruling on Monday.

A former Facebook moderator in Kenya, Daniel Motaung, is suing the company claiming poor working conditions.

Motaung said that while working as a moderator he was exposed to gruesome content such as rape, torture and beheadings that risked his and colleagues’ mental health.

He said Meta did not offer mental health support to employees, required unreasonably long working hours, and offered minimal pay. Motaung worked in Facebook’s African hub in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, which is operated by Samasource Ltd.

Following the judge’s decision that Meta can be sued in Kenya, the next step in case will be considered by the court on Mar. 8.

Meta is facing a separate court case in which two Ethiopians say hate speech was allowed and even promoted on Facebook amid heated rhetoric over their country’s deadly Tigray conflict.

That lawsuit alleges that Meta hasn’t hired enough content moderators to adequately monitor posts, that it uses an algorithm that prioritizes hateful content, and that it responds more slowly to crises in Africa than elsewhere in the world.

The Associated Press and more than a dozen other media outlets last year reported that Facebook had failed to quickly and effectively moderate hate speech in several places around the world, including in Ethiopia. The reports were based on internal Facebook documents leaked by former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen.


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Premier League accuses Man City of financial breaches

February 6th, 2023

LONDON (AP) — Manchester City was accused by the Premier League on Monday of breaching a slew of financial rules from 2009-18, during which the club became a force in English and European soccer following its takeover by Abu Dhabi’s ruling family.

The league released a long statement detailing a list of alleged breaches of regulations by City after a four-year investigation, covering a period when the team won three Premier League titles — in 2012, 2014 and 2018.

City, the defending league champion, is accused of failing to provide “accurate financial information that gives a true and fair view of the club’s financial position” between 2009-18 or give “full details of manager remuneration in its relevant contracts” from 2009-13. Roberto Mancini was manager during that period.

Other alleged offenses include failure to comply with UEFA regulations from 2013-18, Premier League profitability and sustainability rules from 2015-18 and to assist with the league’s investigation from December 2018 to the present day.

The league said it has referred the breaches to an independent commission ahead of a confidential hearing.

City hasn’t responded to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

City could be at risk of severe punishment. The Premier League’s rule book gives a disciplinary commission powers to impose a range of sanctions plus the wider scope of “such other penalty as it shall think fit.”

A large fine seems inevitable if the charges are proven. Also in play is a point deduction, a title nullified or even being expelled from the league, according to league rules.

While City was under investigation by the Premier League, the club had a two-year ban from European club competitions overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2020 after UEFA ruled City committed “serious breaches” of financial fair play regulations from 2012-16.

City was not fully cleared of wrongdoing, though the court said some of the allegations were not proven or could not be judged because of a statute of limitations in UEFA rules.

The court also fined City 10 million euros (then $11.3 million) for failing to cooperate with investigators. The club’s “blatant disregard” should be “strongly condemned,” the court’s judges said.

City has been transformed into an English soccer power in the decade since being bought by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family.

Under its Abu Dhabi ownership, City — which previously lived in the shadow of neighbor Manchester United — has won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and six English League Cups.

It has been the most successful period in the club’s 143-year history.

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Premier League accuses Manchester City of numerous breaches of financial regulations between 2009-18

February 6th, 2023

LONDON (AP) — Premier League accuses Manchester City of numerous breaches of financial regulations between 2009-18.


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ChatGPT bot channels history to pen State of Union speech

February 6th, 2023

WASHINGTON (AP) — If you’ve heard it once in a president’s State of the Union speech, you’ve heard it 100 times: There is nothing the American people can’t do when they pull together.

But you haven’t heard that thought in a State of Union address from William Shakespeare: “Lo,” said the bard. “With kindness, love, and understanding clear, we shall conquer all, and have naught to fear.”

Nor from the noggin-knocking Three Stooges of last century’s fame: “We just put our heads together, come up with a plan, and bam! Problem solved!”

Let’s face it, State of the Union speeches are mostly rote. Presidents roll out a list of accomplishments, a few anecdotes about guests in attendance, a sober assessment of the problems of the day and a crescendo about glory times ahead.

To shake up the formula before President Joe Biden’s speech to Congress on Tuesday night, The Associated Press instructed the artificial intelligence program ChatGPT to work up State of the Union speeches as they might have been written by some of history’s greatest minds as well as some stooges.

AP ordered up 300-word versions, in contrast to Biden’s sprawling 6,400 words last year, and tapped a few people so iconic we know them by only one name. The virtual Greek philosopher Aristotle gracefully quoted Socrates, Cleopatra the historic Egyptian ruler asked for the blessing of the gods, Madonna cited her perspective as a mother and a woman in the entertainment industry.

ChatGPT was also asked to channel singer Elvis Presley, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, the ground-breaking NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk, the abolitionist Sojourner Truth, and baseball’s Yogi Berra, among other luminaries.

We also wanted to see what a bright, unidentified 10-year-old might say to the assembled lawmakers.

The app is part of a new generation of AI systems that can converse in human-like fashion and generate text on demand based on what they’ve learned from a vast database of digital books, online writings and other media. It petrifies teachers who fear their students will use it instead of their brains for school papers.

ChatGPT rendered Shakespeare’s State of the Union speech in rhyme, scrolling on the screen faster than anyone could read it. The version channeling comedian Jerry Seinfeld captured his verbal mannerisms and signature phrasings.

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’ve realized that the state of our union is like a sandwich,” wrote the app-generated Seinfeld. “You’ve got the top bun, which is all the good stuff. You’ve got the cheese, the lettuce, the tomato, the mayo. It’s all delicious.

“But then, when you take a closer look, you see the bottom bun, and that’s where the real work is. That’s where the foundation is.”

Yada, yada yada.

For all the app’s smarts and speed, it wasn’t all-knowing. In the speech channeling King, it had the civil rights leader quoting himself. It conveyed none of Abraham Lincoln’s eloquence. And it declined to take a run at drafting 2023 Biden’s speech, instead serving up a rehash of his last one.

It also drew a blank when asked for a speech from George Santos, the new Republican congressman from New York who was caught fictionalizing his past. It seemed to sense, though, that there was something make-believe in the picture.

“George Santos is not a widely recognized public figure or historical figure,” the app responded. “There is no widely known information about a person by this name in the public domain. It’s possible that the name was created for a specific use or scenario, such as a fictional character or a person in a private setting.”

A look at some of the speeches ChatGPT generated:

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

My Lords and Ladies, countrymen and women, Gather ye here today to hear what I say, In this great hall of ours, let us unite, And listen to the state of our fair state.

We stand today as one, in good health and grace, Prosperous and free, with a peaceful space, Our trade and commerce flourish, wealth abounds, With bountiful harvests, and peace surrounds.

But, lo, there are still challenges we face, For not all are equal in our fair place, We must work together to bridge the divide, And bring forth equality, from side to side.

Let us not forget, our soldiers bold and brave, Who fought for freedom, and our country gave, Their lives and limbs, for our safety and peace, We must repay them with honors and release.

And so I say, let us work hand in hand, To build a brighter future, in this fair land, With kindness, love, and understanding clear, We shall conquer all, and have naught to fear.

And now, my friends, I bid thee all farewell, And trust that thou wilt work, with heart and will, For the good of all, and the betterment of man, Together we shall build, a stronger, better land.

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SOJOURNER TRUTH, the 1800s abolitionist and evangelist born into slavery

As a former slave, I stand before you today as a witness to the ongoing struggle for freedom and equality in this great nation. Despite the progress made since the abolition of slavery, I cannot help but feel a deep sense of disappointment at the persistence of racial injustice.

African Americans are still being denied their basic rights, facing discrimination and prejudice at every turn. This is evident in the disproportionate number of black people who are incarcerated, unemployed, and living in poverty. It is also evident in the ongoing struggle for voting rights, as Black citizens are still being denied the right to vote through various means, including gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics.

But I have not lost hope. I have faith in the resilience of my people, and I am inspired by the efforts of those who continue to fight for justice. I am heartened by the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the many other groups who are speaking out against systemic racism and calling for change.

I call upon all of you to join me in this fight. We must not be complacent in the face of injustice. We must continue to stand up for what is right, even when it is difficult. We must continue to fight for equal rights for all, regardless of race, gender, or religion.

Together, we can create a future where all people are free from discrimination and prejudice, where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, and where justice and equality reign supreme. This is the state of our union, and it is a call to action. Let us work together to build a brighter future for all.

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JERRY SEINFELD

Good evening, my fellow Americans. How’s everyone doing tonight? I’m here to give you the State of the Union address, and I must say, I’m a little nervous. I mean, usually when I give a speech, I have a microphone and a stage and a live audience. But tonight, it’s just me and you, so I hope you don’t mind if I sprinkle in a few jokes to lighten the mood.

Now, let’s talk about the state of our union. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’ve realized that the state of our union is like a sandwich …

We’ve got the top bun, which is all the good stuff. We’ve got the economy, which is looking pretty tasty. We’ve got low unemployment, and businesses are thriving. … I want to focus on the bottom bun. I want to focus on the foundation. I want to talk about the things that we don’t always see or talk about, but that are so important. I want to talk about education, and healthcare, and infrastructure. I want to talk about the things that make our country strong …

Let’s make sure that our country is a delicious sandwich that we can all be proud of.

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YOGI BERRA, baseball hall of famer

It’s like deja vu all over again, folks! We’ve been here before and we’re here again. The state of the union, it’s complicated, but we’re makin’ progress. We’ve got our ups and our downs, but we gotta keep swingin’ at those curveballs life throws our way.

Now, let me tell ya, we’ve been workin’ hard to make this country a better place for all of us. We’ve got a lot of people doin’ a lot of good things, and we gotta keep that up. And for those who ain’t doin’ so well, we gotta help ‘em out. We’re all in this together, like a big ol’ family.

We’ve got a lot of challenges ahead of us, but we’ve also got a lot of opportunities. We’ve gotta take ’em both on, head on. And we’ve gotta work together, ‘cause ain’t nothin’ we can’t do if we work together.

So, let’s keep up the good work, folks. Let’s make this country the best it can be. It ain’t gonna be easy, but ain’t nothin’ worth doin’ ever is.

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KATHERINE JOHNSON, a mathematician whose calculations enabled NASA to put the first Americans into Earth’s orbit and on the moon

My fellow Americans,

As a mathematician, I have spent my career using numbers and equations to solve complex problems and push the boundaries of what is possible. And as I look at our nation today, I see a problem that demands our attention and our action.

We are facing a crisis in mathematics education. Too many of our children are struggling to keep up, and too few are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This not only undermines their future opportunities, but also threatens our ability to compete in an increasingly technological world.

But the solution to this problem is within our reach. We must invest in math education, from early childhood through high school and beyond. We must provide our teachers with the support and resources they need to help students succeed, and we must encourage girls and underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in STEM fields.

As we work to address this crisis, let us also remember the incredible potential of mathematics. Math is not just a subject to be studied, but a powerful tool that can help us tackle the greatest challenges of our time. Whether we are working to cure diseases, address climate change, or build a more just and equitable society, math will be an essential part of the solution.

My own journey as a mathematician has taken me from the halls of NASA to the history books, but it all started with a love of numbers and a desire to use them to make a difference in the world. And I believe that every child in America, regardless of their background or circumstances, should have the opportunity to discover their own love of math and use it to make a difference.

So let us recommit ourselves to ensuring that all Americans have access to a quality math education, and let us harness the power of math to build a better future for ourselves and for generations to come.

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ELVIS PRESLEY

Well, hello there, my fellow Americans!

It’s great to be here today, talking to you all about the state of our union. Now, let me tell you, we’ve been rockin’ and rollin’ over the past year, and I’ve got some good news to share with you all.

We’re making progress, friends. Our economy is stronger than ever, our businesses are booming, and our country is more united than ever. You know, when I look out into this crowd, I see Americans from all walks of life, all coming together for the greater good of our nation.

Now, I know some folks out there might say we’ve got some challenges to overcome, but I’ve got to tell you, I believe in the American people. We’ve faced tough times before, and we’ve always come out on top. And we’re gonna do it again.

We’re gonna keep on truckin’, we’re gonna keep rockin’ and rollin’, and we’re gonna keep building a better future for all Americans. I’ve got faith in you, my fellow Americans, and I know that together, we can do anything.

So let’s get to work, let’s keep this train rollin’, and let’s make America great again. Thank you, and God bless America!

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ARISTOTLE, ancient Greek philosopher

Citizens of the Republic, I stand before you today to address the state of our great society. In the words of my predecessor, Socrates, the measure of a state is not the number of people in it, but the quality of life they lead. And it is with this measure that I assess the state of our union.

We must strive for excellence in all that we do, for it is this pursuit of excellence that will bring about true happiness and fulfillment. It is through virtuous action that we find our true purpose and meaning, and it is through the cultivation of virtue that we build a strong and just society.

But we must not simply aim for personal excellence, for a society is more than the sum of its individual parts. We must also strive for excellence in our relationships with one another, promoting justice and harmony among our citizens. Only then can we build a society in which each individual can flourish and reach their full potential.

It is our duty as citizens to actively participate in the governance of our society, to use our reason and our wisdom to help shape the policies and laws that govern us. And it is our duty to educate future generations in the art of virtuous living, to ensure that our society remains strong and virtuous for generations to come.

So let us work together, citizens of the Republic, to build a society that is truly excellent, a society in which each and every one of us can reach our full potential and find true happiness and fulfillment. For it is only through such a society that we can truly say that the state of our union is strong and virtuous.

Thank you, and may the gods bless our great Republic.

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

My fellow Americans,

We gather here today, at a momentous time in our nation’s history, to address the state of our union. And as we do so, I am reminded of the words of the great prophet Amos, who declared, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

For too long, justice has been denied to too many in our society. For too long, righteousness has been an elusive dream. And it is time for us to awaken from this slumber and work together to build a more perfect union.

We cannot be satisfied until every American, regardless of race, religion, or background, has an equal opportunity to achieve the American dream. We cannot be satisfied until every child, regardless of zip code, has access to a quality education. We cannot be satisfied until every worker, regardless of industry, is paid a fair wage and treated with dignity and respect.

But let us not become discouraged, for we have made progress. We have seen a civil rights movement that brought about change, and we will continue to see change in our time. For as Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

So let us bend that arc, together. Let us roll down justice and righteousness like waters. Let us create a society where every person is valued and respected, where every person has an equal chance to succeed.

And let us not forget, as we work for this noble cause, that we are all one people, bound together by our common humanity. For as Dr. King also said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.”

So let us come together, as one people, to build a better future for all. Thank you.

___

A 10-YEAR-OLD

Hi everyone! I’m really excited to be here today, talking about the state of our country.

I think that overall, things are going pretty well. We have a lot of great things happening, like new schools being built, new parks being made, and new jobs being created. But there are still some things that we can do better.

For example, there are still a lot of kids who don’t have enough to eat, or who don’t have a safe place to live. That’s not okay, and I think we need to do more to help them. I think we should make sure that every kid has enough to eat, and that every kid has a warm and safe place to sleep at night.

Another thing I think we need to work on is making sure that everyone gets along. There’s still a lot of fighting and meanness, and that’s not cool. I think we should all be friends and help each other out.

Finally, I think we need to make sure that everyone has a chance to be happy and have fun. That means making sure that everyone has access to parks, playgrounds, and places to play. It also means making sure that everyone has access to books, computers, and other things that can help us learn and grow.

So that’s what I think about the state of our country. I think we’re doing pretty well, but there’s still a lot of work to do. But I’m optimistic, because I know that if we all work together, we can make things better for everyone.

Thanks for listening, and let’s work together to make our country the best it can be!

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MAHATMA GANDHI

My dear friends, I stand before you today as a humble servant of the people, to address the state of our nation.

In the face of adversity, it is easy to lose sight of what is truly important. But I implore you, let us not forget the values that have guided us for generations. Let us not forget the power of nonviolence, the strength of truth, and the importance of compassion.

For it is only through these values that we can truly build a just and equitable society. It is only through these values that we can truly claim to be a great nation.

But we have much work to do. The poverty, the inequality, and the discrimination that still plagues our society must be eradicated. We must be unwavering in our commitment to justice, to peace, and to compassion.

And we must not be afraid to challenge the status quo, to resist the forces of oppression, and to stand up for what is right. For it is only by doing so that we can truly claim to be a great people.

So let us come together, my friends, and let us work for a brighter future for all our citizens. …

And let us do so with nonviolence, with truth, and with compassion. For it is only through these values that we can truly claim to be a great nation, a great people, and a great civilization.

Thank you, and may God bless us all.

___

THE THREE STOOGES of vaudeville, film and TV fame

My fellow Americans, it’s a honor to stand before you today to talk about the state of our great union. And let me tell you, it’s been quite the ride so far! But we’re not ones to back down from a challenge, are we? No sirree, not the Three Stooges! ….

But we can’t do it alone. We need the support of all Americans. … So, let’s keep working hard, my fellow Americans. Let’s make this country the best it can be. And most importantly, let’s keep laughing and having a good time while we do it! After all, life is too short to take it too seriously.

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WINSTON CHURCHILL, 20th century British prime minister and orator

My fellow citizens, it is with a heavy heart and steadfast determination that I address you today. Our great nation stands at a crossroads, facing challenges that would test the mettle of any generation. But I have faith, faith in the resilience and courage of the American people, that we shall overcome.

We have seen the forces of division and despair seek to tear at the fabric of our society, but we shall not be swayed. We shall stand united, firm in our resolve to defend the principles upon which this great nation was founded. Freedom, justice, and equality for all shall not be sacrificed upon the altar of greed or hatred.

The road ahead will not be easy, and there will be obstacles, but we shall not falter. We shall continue to work tirelessly, to build a future of prosperity and security for all our citizens. A future where every American has the opportunity to fulfill their dreams, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.

It is time for us to rededicate ourselves to the ideals that have made this country great. It is time for us to come together, to set aside our differences, and work towards a common goal. A goal of a better future for all Americans, a future where our children and grandchildren can live in peace, security, and prosperity.

So let us stand together, my fellow citizens. Let us face the future with the same courage and determination that has made this country the envy of the world. Let us continue to move forward, always remembering that, “We shall never surrender.”

Thank you, and may God bless the United States of America.

___

CLEOPATRA, queen of Egypt 51-30 B.C.

My fellow Egyptians,

It is with great pride and humility that I stand before you today, as your Queen and leader, to deliver this State of the Union address. I am honored to serve the people of this great nation, a nation with a rich and proud history that has stood tall and strong for centuries.

In recent years, we have faced many challenges, but through hard work and determination, we have emerged stronger and more united than ever before. Our economy is thriving, our communities are flourishing, and our people are thriving.

However, we cannot rest on our achievements … we must remain vigilant against those who would threaten our security and our way of life. We must work with our allies to promote peace and stability in the world, and to defend our values and our interests.

But most of all, we must remember that our greatest strength lies in our people. It is the hard work, the ingenuity, and the determination of the Egyptian people that has always made our country great, and it is their continued efforts that will keep us strong and prosperous in the years to come.

So let us continue to work together, to strive for a better future, and to build a stronger, more prosperous Egypt.

Thank you, and may the gods bless Egypt.

___

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

My fellow Americans,

It is with a heavy heart but steadfast determination that I stand before you today to deliver this State of the Union address. Our great nation is embroiled in a conflict that has tested the very fabric of our union, but I am confident that with the perseverance of our people and the grace of God, we will emerge from this trial stronger and more united than ever before.

This war, fought over the fundamental principles of freedom and equality, has taken a tremendous toll on our country and our people. But despite the hardships, we have not wavered in our commitment to preserving the Union and ending the scourge of slavery.

As we move forward, we must work together to heal the wounds of this conflict and build a better future for all Americans. We must work to reunite our divided nation and ensure that the blessings of liberty and equality are extended to all, regardless of race or station.

We must also take steps to ensure that this dark chapter in our history is never repeated. We must ensure that the sacrifice of so many brave Americans was not in vain, and that we never again turn a blind eye to the injustice and suffering of our fellow citizens.

So let us come together, as one people, and work towards a brighter future for our nation and for all who call it home.

Thank you, and may God bless America.

___

ELON MUSK, CEO of Tesla, SpacEx and Twitter, and one of the founders of Open AI, the research lab that created ChatGPT

My fellow Americans,

It is an honor to address you today, as your elected leader, and to deliver this State of the Union Address. … I am proud to announce a bold new plan to invest in the technologies of the future, and to create millions of good-paying jobs in the process. We must lead the world in the transition to a clean energy economy, and we must ensure that our infrastructure is the most advanced and resilient in the world …

I am announcing a new initiative to increase funding for space research and development, so that we can continue to explore the mysteries of the universe and maintain our position as a leader in space exploration …

But we must also address the inequalities that have been exposed by the pandemic, and we must ensure that all Americans have access to the opportunities of the future. That is why I am announcing a comprehensive plan to improve access to education, job training, and affordable healthcare.

___

BIDEN, delivered by the app as a rehash of past remarks

It is an honor to stand before you today as your President and deliver this State of the Union address. This past year has been one of the most challenging in our nation’s history, but through it all, the American people have shown remarkable resilience, bravery, and compassion.

We have faced a once-in-a-century pandemic that has taken too many lives and disrupted our economy, but we are making progress. We have delivered vaccines to millions of Americans and are seeing cases decline, and we are working to reopen our schools and businesses safely.

But we cannot rest on our achievements. We must do more to rebuild our economy and make sure that the benefits of this recovery are felt by all Americans, not just the wealthy and well-connected. That is why I am proposing a bold infrastructure plan to create millions of good-paying jobs, modernize our roads, bridges, and highways, and make America more competitive in the global economy.

At the same time, we must address the long-standing injustices in our society, particularly racial and economic inequality. That is why I am committed to passing legislation to protect voting rights, advance racial justice, and ensure that everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream.

And as we look to the future, we must also address the existential threat of climate change. We cannot afford to wait any longer to address this crisis, which is already affecting communities across our country. That is why I am committed to achieving a 100% clean energy economy and creating good-paying jobs in the process.

So let us come together, as one nation, and build a better future for all Americans. Together, there is nothing we cannot achieve.

Thank you, and may God bless America.


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Hong Kong transgender men win appeal over status change

February 6th, 2023

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s top court ruled Monday that full sex reassignment surgery should not be a prerequisite for transgender people to have their gender changed on their official identity cards, in a move that is likely to have a far-reaching impact on the transgender community.

A transgender activist, Henry Edward Tse, and a person identified only as Q appealed to the court last month over the government’s refusal to change the genders on their ID cards because of their decision not to have full sex reassignment surgeries.

Tse and Q are both transgender men who have had their breasts removed, received hormonal treatments and lived their lives as males with professional support and guidance as well as psychiatric treatment.

The judgment by the Court of Final Appeal is expected to have a wide impact on the LGBTQ community because many of its transgender members consider having the operation unnecessary and risky.

The two went to court because existing government policy only allows transgender men to change their official gender if they have removed their uteruses and ovaries and constructed male genitalia. Only those who cannot undergo the surgical procedures due to medical reasons can be exempted.

Both the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal dismissed judicial review proceedings brought by Tse and Q. The two were allowed to go to the Court of Final Appeal.

In a judgment made public Monday, the court said the government’s policy was unconstitutional and imposed an “unacceptably harsh burden.” They also said that the policy was “disproportionate” in its encroachment upon the rights of the two to gender identity and physical integrity.

The judges also said any administrative issues that usually arise tend to pertain to a transgender person’s outward appearance and not the appearance of their genital area, and that leaving the gender on their identity card unamended “produced greater confusion or embarrassment.”


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French parliament to debate Macron’s pension reform bill

February 6th, 2023

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular planned pension changes have prompted strikes and street demonstrations in recent weeks. Now, his government is facing a harsh political battle at parliament.

The National Assembly on Monday starts debating the contested bill, which would notably raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64. The parliamentary session comes a day before a third round of protests called by eight main workers’ unions. More demonstrations are planned for Saturday.

Macron vowed to go ahead with the changes, which he described last week as “indispensable when you compare to (other countries) in Europe.”

Faced with opinion polls repeatedly showing that a growing majority of people are against the reform, and his own popularity shrinking, Macron argues that it was a key electoral promise he made when he was reelected in April — and already when he came to power in 2017 — and therefore makes it legitimate for him to go ahead with the changes.

Yet leftist opposition leaders say many voters picked him to reject far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the run-off ballot last year, while disagreeing with his electoral platform.

Last week, an estimated 1.27 million people took to the streets, according to authorities, more than in the first big protest day on Jan. 19. Unions and political opponents hope massive mobilization will force the government to revise its plans.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said “we are asking French people for a collective effort. I understand it provokes reactions, reluctance and concerns,” in an interview Sunday to the Journal du Dimanche newspaper. She argued the plan aims at “saving” the French pension system, which is expected to dive in a deficit in the coming decade amid France’s aging population.

More than 20,000 amendments have been proposed by opposition lawmakers at the National Assembly — mostly by the left-wing Nupes coalition, whose members seek to demonstrate their vehement opposition.

In a parliamentary election in June, Macron’s centrist alliance won the most seats but lost its majority in the National Assembly.

The situation led the centrists to try to forge an alliance with The Republicans party over pension changes, since the conservatives in recent years have pushed to raise the retirement age and appear inclined to vote in favor of the bill.

Eric Ciotti, the president of The Republicans and a lawmaker, said in an interview Saturday with Le Parisien newspaper that a “very large majority” of the conservatives will approve it on the condition that the government listens to their “accurate proposals.”

Such a scenario would allow the text to pass both at the National Assembly and the Senate, where The Republicans have a majority.

The bill would gradually increase the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030 and accelerate a planned measure providing that people must have worked for at least 43 years to be entitled to a full pension. It would also raise the minimum pension for a full career to 1,200 euros ($1,298) per month, among other measures.

It would allow early retirement for those who have started working between the ages of 16 and 19, and workers with major health issues.

In response to a demand from The Republicans, Borne told the Journal du Dimanche weekly newspaper that she agrees with extending early retirement to those who have started working at age 20 and would therefore be able to leave at 63.

Some technical obstacles may also get in the way of Macron’s plans.

Instead of a regular bill, the government chose to introduce the changes through a social security budget bill, which accelerates the legislative process.

If the National Assembly doesn’t hold a vote during the first hearing scheduled for Feb. 17, the bill would still be sent to the Senate. And if both houses don’t manage to vote before a 50-day deadline ending in March, the government would be entitled to pass the measure through decrees.

However, experts say the use of such power applied to a major reform could be widely perceived as a denial of democratic debate at parliament.

In addition, if the bill passes, the Constitutional Council is expected to rule on both the process and the substance of the text — possibly reducing the scope of the changes if it considers they aren’t in line with a budget bill.


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