Obama gives $80 million to Michigan for Flint

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Washington — President Barack Obama said Thursday his administration is giving $80 million in aid to Michigan mostly to help repair Flint’s water infrastructure and make the drinking water safe.

Speaking to a gathering of mayors at the White House, the president called the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint an “inexcusable” situation. He noted money recently secured in the bipartisan budget agreement helps cities build water infrastructure.

“We’re going to have that funding available to you by the end of next week, and that includes $80 million for the state of Michigan,” Obama said.

“Our children should not have to be worried about the water that they’re drinking in American cities. That’s not something that we should accept.”

A White House official later said the revolving fund money would be made immediately available. The state will decide how much of the $80 million will be directed to Flint.

In a six-hour Wednesday visit to Detroit, the president pledged that “we will have the backs of Flint’s people.”

“It was encouraging to hear President Obama say that $80 million will be coming to Michigan to help local governments, like the City of Flint, improve their water systems,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement from Washington, D.C. “The residents of Flint could benefit greatly from that type of money. We are waiting to see how much of the $80 million will be allocated to the City of Flint and how much of it will go elsewhere, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

The allocation appears to be separate from Gov. Rick Snyder’s Wednesday appeal of Obama’s rejection of Snyder’s $96 million request for major disaster assistance. Because the Flint water situation is a man-made problem, the president originally declared a federal emergency and extended $5 million in aid.

The Snyder administration welcomed the additional federal assistance.

“We are always grateful for resources from our partners in the federal government to help repair Michigan’s infrastructure,” Snyder spokesman Dave Murray said Thursday. “We remain focused on the people of Flint as we look for federal resources for our efforts to address immediate and long-term challenges the residents will face in a variety of areas.”

Michigan’s Legislature is fast-tracking $28 million in immediate state assistance for purchasing more bottled water and filters, and conducting a host of health, educational and nutritional services for children with lead in their bloodstreams.

“I want to thank President Obama for quickly responding to our request for federal assistance,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said in a Thursday statement.

“This is the type of leadership and action my community deserves,” Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said in a statement about the $80 million. “These resources will help with immediate health and safety needs while we continue to push for the long-term support the state must provide.”

The infusion of federal money into the state revolving fund allows Michigan to make low-cost loans to eligible municipalities for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure construction, a White House official said.

“States have significant freedom in how they prioritize projects and target assistance,” the official said, but the state of Michigan is expected to devote the money for eligible projects such as improving drinking water treatment and fixing publicly owned pipes.

Michigan has to submit a plan for how it intends to use the money to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5 office.

SOURCE

America by the numbers: Before and during Obama

How the United States has changed since President Obama first took office seven years ago: http://on.msnbc.com/1RWcs0L

Posted by MSNBC on Thursday, January 21, 2016

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America by the numbers: Before and during Obama

From the economy to the environment, here’s a look at how America has evolved since President Barack Obama first took office on Jan. 20, 2009.

The Beast: 10 Things to Know About the President’s Limo

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When President Barack Obama’s motorcade pilots its way through our nation’s capital today as part of his second inauguration, the world will get one of its best looks at the Cadillac limousine nicknamed “The Beast.”

But President Obama’s Cadillac isn’t really a Cadillac. In fact, about all it shares with the crested wreath sedans you can buy from your local dealership are some styling cues. Still, The Beast is definitely a sight to behold – and there are few times it is better showcased than during an inaugural.

Not much is actually known about The Beast since it falls under the Secret Service’s classified motor pool, but a few specifications and secrets have leaked out over the last few years. We pieced through what we could to provide you with this breakdown of 10 things worth knowing about Cadillac One, Limo One or… The Beast.

10 Things to Know About the President’s Limo
1. It isn’t a Cadillac. 
Unlike any presidential state car before it, The Beast shares little in common with a standard production car. Its chassis, diesel engine and transmission are based on those used in the Chevrolet Kodiak, a rugged commercial vehicle used as everything from a dump truck to a U-Haul truck.

Some standard trim pieces, like headlamps from an Escalade and tail lights from the now-discontinued STS keep it looking vaguely Cadillac-like.

2. It has its own airplane. The Secret Service makes use of a C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft to haul The Beast, a second limo and a heavily armored  Chevrolet Suburban communications vehicle, any time the President is traveling. The Suburban is nicknamed Roadrunner and it is said to be a rolling communications office directly linked to a military satellite – hence the SATCOM dome festooned to its roof

3. Calling it armored is an understatement. There is probably not a better-armored vehicle with windows on the planet than The Beast. Its armor plating is said to be 8 inches thick and its doors weigh as much as those on a Boeing 757 aircraft. Five-inch thick bulletproof windows contain at least five layers to put a damper on any effort by subversives. And those gigantic, nearly bus-size Goodyear tires are Kevlar-reinforced run-flats capable of keeping The Beast on the road for quite some distance if needed. The interior is sealed off from the outside world to reduce risks of a chemical attack, while a special foam surrounds the fuel tank to insulate it in the event of an impact.

4. It’s exceedingly well-equipped. Pop open The Beast’s trunk and it is said that you’ll find everything from firefighting equipment and oxygen tanks to a cache of the president’s blood type. There are tear gas canisters, shotguns and, supposedly, grenade launchers, integrated into The Beast. The Secret Service has learned a lot since President John F. Kennedy’s open-top Lincoln Continental was fired upon on Elm Street in Dallas.

5. It holds seven passengers. At the very least, The Beast has three passengers aboard – the driver, the president’s lead Secret Service protective agent in the front passenger seat and, of course, the president himself. However, four additional seats in the back are available – three rearward facing spots on a bench and one spot next to the president for a guest. A folding desk separates the president from his guest’s spot.

Somewhat surprisingly, the president’s bench is covered in a dark blue cloth rather than leather (although plenty of hide is on board). Shoulder belts that retract toward the center of the bench and buckle into the outboard corners – the reverse of a normal rear seat – are included.

6. The Beast is not alone. The Secret Service actually has a few Beast-like vehicles. Although it’s not known whether they’re all functionally identical, some look more like a Cadillac DTS than The Beast. The other limousines are used for high-ranking foreign officials and VIP guests when they’re in Washington, D.C. It isn’t known why the Secret Service rotates between presidential vehicles, however.

In addition, the President sometimes travels in a heavily-armored Chevrolet Suburban or a modified Prevost bus known as Ground Force One rather than The Beast.

7. It runs on diesel. The Beast is believed to use a Duramax diesel engine closely related to that featured under the hood of Chevrolet and GMC’s full-size heavy duty pickup trucks. Why diesel? Aside from the durability associated with diesel engines, the fuel has a low volatility that reduces the risk of it exploding – and it can be found everywhere in the world, unlike high quality unleaded fuel.

8. Its pilot is a heck of a driver. Even though The Beast has more in common with a school bus than a sports car, its highly-trained drivers can execute tight J-turns and other police-style evasion techniques in the event of a situation gone south. The Secret Service drivers have undergone extensive training on a secluded site (believed to be a military base) with input from GM engineers and test drivers.

9. Its specs will not impress you. Burdened with lugging a rumored 20,000 lbs. worth of Beast around, the diesel engine isn’t a rocket. Hitting 60 mph from a complete stop takes about 15 seconds, which is more than just about any new car we can think of, and the big car’s top speed is said to max out at 60 mph. In addition, all that weight makes it a guzzler, sipping fuel at a rate of 8 mpg.

10. This year, it will make a political statement. In a politically-motivated move, President Obama chose to have D.C.’s available Taxation Without Representation license plates installed on The Beast. The White House says that the decision “demonstrates the president’s commitment to the principle of full representation for the people of the District of Columbia and his willingness to fight for voting rights, home rule and budget autonomy for the District.”

However, it’s unlikely that D.C. will gain representation in Congress as long as Republicans are in control.

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Watch Obama Reveals What He Carries In His Pocket: VERY COOL ITEMS

President Obama carried out his annual YouTube interview on Friday and revealed what he carried around with him each and every day inside his pockets. While normally what’s in a person’s pockets might be self-explanatory (i.e.,. phone, wallet, etc.) the president is no ordinary person. And the items he carries around aren’t ordinary, either. There’s also an in-depth explanation for each one of them.

Here’s Obama in his own words:

“I stick these in my pocket to remind me of all the people I’ve met along the way and the stories they’ve told me. So, this is what I had in my pocket today: this is rosary beads Pope Francis gave me that obviously means alot to me cause I so admire him and it makes me think about peace and promoting understanding and ethical behavior. This is a little Buddha that a Buddhist monk gave me. This is a lucky poker chip that’s metal that this biker gave me. This is a Hindu statuette of the monkey God Hanuman that a woman gave me. And, I’ve got a coptic cross; this is from Ethipia. So, I’ve got a whole bunch of this stuff but the reason I showed you these is because I carry them around all the time.”

President Obama says he’s “not superstitious” and reiterated that the real reason he carries them around is because he likes to be reminded of the people who gave him the distinct privilege of being President of the United States.

Even though President Obama clearly carries around both a cross and rosary beads from the none other than the Pope himself, the only thing religious extremists can focus on is the Hindu monkey God and little Buddha. Why is that? They somehow think this is evidence that he really is the Antichrist, after all.

Pic via Twitter.

Pic via Twitter.

Now compare this to what George Bush is known to have had in his pockets. In November 2005, at a roundtable with Latin American reporters, Bush was asked what he carried around with him. Here is how he responded, according to the Associated Press:

“The president stood up, fished in his pockets, then dramatically pulled his hands out holding nothing but a white handkerchief that he waved playfully in the air. He said: ‘Es todo. That’s it. No dinero. No money. No mas. Nothing else. No wallet.’”

The joker that he was, he was also asked if he brought a watch, to which he replied:

“Si, Timex. But I’m not supposed to be endorsing products.”

It’s amazing how what’s in a president’s pockets can reveal what kind of commander-in-chief they are. Clearly, Obama has put a lot of thought into this, while Bush hadn’t.

 

SOURCE

How the media missed Bernie Sanders

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BURLINGTON, VERMONT Bernie Sanders, the man who is leading in New Hampshire and giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money in Iowa, is coming to terms with a new reality: The media is taking him seriously.

Since launching his campaign last May, Sanders has received vastly less media attention than his chief Democratic opponent, while his chances of becoming the party’s nominee were largely dismissed by pundits and commentators — despite the fact that, like a certain senator before him, he draws far larger crowds, boasts a remarkably enthusiastic volunteer base, and, though he doesn’t have as much money as Clinton, set an all-time record with more than 2.3 million campaign contributions last year.

Now, with Sanders climbing in the polls two weeks before the Iowa caucuses — and likely to maintain momentum after a strong debate performance on Sunday — the mainstream media is racing to catch up to a phenomenon that has been abundantly clear to backers, donors and the progressive media for nine months.

“Clearly, we were not getting coverage that was commensurate with our support among the electorate,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, said during an interview here at Hotel Vermont, where Sanders was preparing for Sunday’s debate, the last before the Iowa caucuses on February 1. “Is it a frustration? Of course it’s a frustration.”

The failure to anticipate Sanders’ rise points to a deep flaw with American political media, journalists and campaign strategists told CNN: Despite being proven wrong time and time again, many commentators and reporters continue to cling to an unshakeable faith in the conventional wisdom about the campaign while often ignoring realities on the ground.

In this case, conventional wisdom held that Clinton would waltz to the Democratic nomination without being seriously contested. The only thing that could possibly get in her way was Vice President Joe Biden (who ultimately decided not to run) or her own controversies. But a grumpy 74-year-old Democratic socialist from Vermont with a bag full of expensive left-wing policy nostrums? Not a chance.

Where the press went wrong

The presidential campaign has been rife with such examples of faulty establishment media-think, from the early insistence that Jeb Bush would be the Republican candidate to beat to the oft-repeated claim that Donald Trump’s latest incendiary claim was political suicide.

“Pundits and the press have been wrong about just about everything this cycle, and this falls into that category,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama who now serves as a CNN contributor, said of Sanders’ rise.

“People did not pay as much attention to him or take him seriously in the beginning because he is an older politician from a small state who they did not know much about,” said April Ryan, the Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.

The dismissal of Sanders, including on occasion by CNN as well as other outlets, is especially palpable for his supporters, who feel like the candidate was written off because of both his temperament and his political beliefs.

When Sanders announced his bid, a Washington Post profile described the “unlikely presidential candidate” as “an ex-hippie, septuagenarian socialist from the liberal reaches of Vermont who rails, in his thick Brooklyn accent, rumpled suit and frizzy pile of white hair, against the ‘billionaire class’ taking over the country.” The New York Times — which had afforded its front page to similar candidacy announcements from Clinton, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others — buried the Sanders story on page 21.

Sanders, however, immediately began drawing thousands of supporters, and then tens of thousands, to his rallies. The media acknowledged the large crowds, but the Sanders campaign felt that pundits came up with endless ways to dismiss their importance.

“At every stop, the media had an explanation for why the crowds weren’t significant,” Weaver said. “5,000 people here? ‘Oh, that’s Bernie’s home city.’ New Hampshire, ‘Oh, that’s next door.’ We went to Minneapolis and had 4,000 people — ‘Oh, well, that’s the Frost Belt. Frost Belt people like him.’ Then we went to Denver, and it was ‘college liberals.'”

“Wherever we went, there was always an explanation about why what we were doing seemed to be significant, but really wasn’t,” Weaver said.

It wasn’t that there weren’t reporters or cameras at these events, Weaver explained. It was that, very often, none of the coverage showed up on the front page or on television. If you looked to the mainstream media, he said, you would have no idea that Sanders would one day be running even in Iowa or leading New Hampshire.

Here’s what happens if Sanders wins IA & NH 03:29

Weaver noted two exceptions: Local media, which he said did a much better job of focusing on policy over process; and the progressive media — but neither of those could rival the overwhelming national narrative that Sanders was merely an also-ran.

Jonathan Tasini, a Sanders surrogate, called the coverage “a professional failure.”

“It’s both astonishing and understandable,” Tasini said. “The understandable part is, too many journalists are too enthralled with conventional wisdom and establishment thinking. They just repeat things without any notion of what’s happening on the ground.”

Many reporters, who asked to speak on background so as not to offend their news organizations or their colleagues, agreed.

“Among ‘big-time’ reporters, there’s an almost pathological fear of looking unsophisticated,” one veteran political reporter explained. “Journalists are supposed to look ‘wised-up’ and with it. I think this ingrained tendency often causes us to miss things that should be as plain as the noses on our faces — and that are apparent to ‘civilians.'”

Now that Sanders is a real contender in some early states, he is forcing the media to recognize the vast liberal base that exists to the left of the Democratic establishment, much as the rise of the tea party forced the press to focus on the vast conservative base to the right of the Republican establishment.

The media has not always been receptive to this wing of the Democratic party, the veteran journalist explained. “The media has an instinctive bias against ultra-liberals. The real hard liberals are not taken seriously by our tribe,” he said. “No socialist from Vermont is going to be president, in the same way Howard Dean was written off.”

The Clinton factor

Weaver also believes the media has an inevitable pro-Clinton bias because so many of the “Democratic consultants” who serve as pundits have relationships with the Clintons.

“Look at the political consultants on the air and Democratic pundits across the media. They’re often Hillary Clinton supporters, right? Or former employees,” he said. “That’s not an indictment of anybody, but that makes them more open to a message that says, ‘She’s going to be successful. Bernie is not going to be successful.'”

If there was a moment in 2015 when Sanders could have wrested control of the media’s narrative, Weaver said, it was in mid-October, when the Democrats met for their first debate, Biden was eyeing getting into the race, and Clinton was called to testify on the 2012 Benghazi attacks. But Clinton acquitted herself well in the debate and during the day-long congressional testimony and Biden decided not to run. Sanders, again, appeared an unworthy challenger.

“The Secretary had a very good October,” Weaver conceded. “The first debate she performed very well, she showed well at the Benghazi hearing, and the media viewed the Vice President’s decision not to run as favorable to her. That again created a narrative about Hillary’s inevitability, which all the pundits repeated.”

Several journalists on the campaign trail also conceded that the media had been too consumed by Donald Trump and the seismic Republican primary race that is dividing the GOP. Trump’s dominance, the establishment’s fear and disbelief, and the emerging fight for an alternative — coupled with the belief in Clinton’s inevitability as the Democratic nominee — drew much of the media’s attention away from the Democrats.

“The incredible and uncontrollable obsession with all things Trump has moved almost all of the scrutiny and focus to the GOP side of the equation once Clinton survived the Benghazi hearing and Biden dropped out,” Pfeiffer said.

When asked to explain why the media had failed to anticipate Sanders’ rise, one political editor at a Washington news outlet replied: “We knew Hillary was going to win, and we went chasing after Donald Trump.”

That disparity has not been lost on Sanders. “A recent study showed on ABC evening news, Trump over a period of time got 81 minutes of time. Bernie Sanders got 20 seconds,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo in December. “Now, you tell me why.”

Now that Sanders is giving Clinton a run for her money in Iowa and New Hampshire — although he still trails badly in national polls, including one by NBC released Sunday that found Clinton with a 25-point edge — things are changing.

At the Hotel Vermont, CBS’s John Dickerson was there to interview Sanders for “Face The Nation” — while Bloomberg’s John Heilemann was busy setting up cameras for his own interview.

“I’ve never been in an avalanche, but I’m beginning to think I know what it feels like,” Michael Briggs, Sanders’ spokesperson, said of the media requests he was receiving.

Still, many members of the media maintain that while Sanders may win Iowa and New Hampshire, he cannot amass enough support, particularly among minorities, in subsequent states to actually put up a real fight against Clinton. (Sanders is already trying to remedy that with a media blitz in South Carolina focused on African Americans.)

Pfeiffer argued that Sanders is still “a very long shot to win the nomination” and likened him not to Barack Obama but to Howard Dean or Bill Bradley: “Anti-establishment candidates with a strong base in the largely white, progressive community who can do very well in Iowa and New Hampshire with no clear path to expanding their base.”

But whether Sanders can win the nomination may be beside the point. The fact may be that, after being written off by the media, the 74-year-old Democratic socialist from Vermont is threatening to take both Iowa and New Hampshire from Hillary Rodham Clinton, a towering political figure with unparalleled experience, vast financial resources, and the backing of the Democratic establishment.

In other words, Sanders has come a long way from Page 21 and “the liberal reaches of Vermont” — and the media is finally taking note.

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President Obama prepares to clean up the republican mess in Flint Michigan

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LANSING President Barack Obama on Saturday declared a federal emergency in Flint, freeing  up to $5 million in federal aid to  immediately assist with the public health crisis, but he denied Gov. Rick Snyder’s request for a disaster declaration.

A disaster declaration would have made larger amounts of federal funding available more quickly to help Flint residents whose drinking water is contaminated with lead. But under federal law, only natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods are eligible for disaster declarations, federal and state officials said. The lead contamination of Flint’s drinking water is a manmade catastrophe.

presdident-obamaThe president’s actions authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate responses and cover 75% of the costs for much-needed water, filters, filter cartridges and other items for residents, capped initially at $5 million.  The president also offered assistance in finding other available federal assistance, a news release Saturday from the White House said.

Snyder, who on Thursday night asked Obama for federal financial aid in the crisis through declarations of both a federal emergency and a federal disaster, said in a news release Saturday he appreciates Obama granting the emergency request “and supporting Flint during this critical situation.”

“I have pledged to use all state resources possible to help heal Flint, and these additional resources will greatly assist in efforts under way to ensure every resident has access to clean water resources,” he said.

“I welcome the president’s quick action in support of the people of Flint after months of inaction by the governor,” Kildee said.  “The residents and children of Flint deserve every resource available to make sure that they have safe water and are able to recover from this terrible manmade disaster created by the state.”

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On Friday, Kildee led a bipartisan effort in support of the request for federal assistance. Kildee had long called for  Snyder to request federal aid.

Typically, federal aid for an emergency is capped at $5 million, though the president can commit more if he goes through Congress.

Snyder’s application said as much as $55 million is needed in the near term to repair damaged lead service lines and as much as $41 million to pay for several months of water distribution and providing residents with testing, water filters and cartridges.

In what’s become a huge government scandal, garnering headlines across the country and around the world, Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead after the city temporarily switched its supply source in 2014 from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to more corrosive and polluted Flint River water, treated at the Flint water treatment plant.

The switch was made as a cost-cutting move while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The state Department of Environmental Quality has acknowledged a mistake in failing to require the addition of needed corrosion-control chemicals to the water. That caused lead, which causes brain damage and other health problems in children, to leach into the water from pipes and fixtures.

Resident complaints about the taste, odor and appearance of the water, which began immediately after the switch, were largely ignored by state officials. The state also dismissed reports of elevated lead levels in the blood of Flint children from pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha before for the first time publicly acknowledging a problem in October 2015.

Snyder declared a state of emergency Jan. 5 and mobilized the National Guard Jan. 12 but has been widely and strongly criticized for not moving more quickly.

State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said federal assistance makes him “more confident … Flint families will begin receiving the help they deserve.”

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“We need to remain committed and ensure the state fully accepts responsibility in this crisis and does everything they can to correct the long-term impact on our community,” Ananich said in a news release Saturday.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said in a news release Saturday she appreciates “the president’s quick action in responding to the urgent needs of families in Flint.”

“I will continue to push for federal resources to address this crisis, and for a commitment of resources from the state to meet the immediate needs of the community and to set aside a future fund  to address the long-term needs of children and families,” Stabenow said.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, also welcomed the announcement and said he will work to support further federal support for Flint residents. However, “the State of Michigan and Gov. Snyder must step up and provide the necessary resources to deal with the long-term effect of water contamination,” Peters said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, praised Obama for moving “with unprecedented speed to respond, within 36 hours of receiving the request.”

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.

 

SOURCE

 

All Flint’s children must be treated as exposed to lead

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In order to address the public health crisis in Flint, every Flint child under 6 years of age — 8,657 children, based on an analysis of Census data — should be considered exposed to lead.

The direction came earlier this week from the doctor who forced the state to acknowledge Flint’s lead problem and the state itself.

The exposure began in April 2014 after the city switched from using Detroit’s water system, which pumps water out of Lake Huron, to its own treatment plant, which drew water from the Flint River.

In recommendations to the state on Monday, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha said all kids under the age of 6 should be treated with some kind of prevention actions.

Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical executive, said Monday that all children who drank the city’s water since April 2014 have been exposed to lead. “It is important when we think about a public health perspective that we consider the whole cohort … exposed to the drinking water, especially 6 years and under since April 2014,  as exposed, regardless of what their blood level is on Jan. 11.”

The state’s most recent report, based on  tests conducted between October and December 2015, shows that 43 people — only a small portion of the number exposed — had elevated blood lead levels. That’s because these tests measure only the amount of lead in a person’s blood, which decreases after about 30 days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That means testing done today does not represent past exposure. Once lead is present in the bloodstream, it is distributed throughout the body, primarily to bones, teeth and soft tissue. Lead accumulates in the body over time. Blood-lead tests used to identify recent or ongoing exposure to lead, do not measure the overall lead burden in the body.

There is no safe level of lead in the body, but the impacts of lead are considered most severe on the developing brains and nervous systems of children and fetuses. And even the 8,657 Flint children younger than 6 exposed to lead may be a low estimate; It doesn’t include unborn children whose mothers drank tainted water during their pregnancies, or children and pregnant women who reside outside Flint but were exposed while visiting relatives, childcare centers or hospitals inside city limits.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify the health experts recommend that all of Flint’s children be treated as though they have been exposed to lead. 

Using the app? Tap here to see a map of the number of Flint children less than six years of age by block group.

Source: Environmental Systems Research Institute, 2015 population estimates.

SOURCE 

To Those of You Who Feel the Bern

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To my progressive and liberal friends who support Bernie Sanders: I’m starting to get a little worried. You see, I see some of you spending a lot of time talking about Hillary Clinton as though she is the enemy. And I get why you’re concerned about her in the primary. I really do.

I understand why you prefer Bernie to her as president. In a better world, I would too. His values line up with mine better than Hillary’s do when it comes to economic issues. It should be pretty clear that I’m every bit the Democratic Socialist. We only disagree in how effective someone of Bernie’s temperament and self-identification could be in the job.

What has me worried is that there’s so much on which Bernie and Hillary agree and which I think we agree is important: education, reproductive issues, the Voting Rights Act, immigration, campaign finance reform, gay rights, gun control, equal pay, minimum wage hikes, protecting Social Security and Medicare, strengthening/improving the ACA, Affirmative Action, pursuing hate crimes, medical marijuana, climate change, Keystone, subsidized child care, TPP, NAFTA (yes, they were BOTH against it, check the record), Citizens United, veterans’ issues, the list goes on.

These are all issues on which these two are in agreement, but the gulf between them and the Republicans is vast. Much as the gulf between what you want and what the Republicans say they will do on these issues is vast. And yet, what I am hearing is that Hillary Clinton is the enemy and that she must be stopped at all costs.

Really?

Maybe that’s not what you mean when you talk about her as though she is single-handedly responsible for the abuses of Wall Street. As though she created a complex system of laws which protect the 1 percent and the corporate interests that chew the rest of us up to feed the gaping maw that is rampant capitalism.

As though she alone is responsible for the crimes committed against those who spoke out in the last decade. As though she is the only prop holding up the system of economic oppression that has been grinding away at us since… well, think about it. How far back would you trace it? Because as far as I can tell, its roots are prehistorical.

Am I apologizing for her positions on Wall Street? Hell, no. I don’t like them. I don’t support them. And I think having Bernie stand up and articulate in a clear voice what’s wrong with them is doing this country a public service for which I would like to thank him personally. I respect the man greatly for what he is doing and I do not have a single criticism of him. Not one. In fact, I will likely vote for him in the primary.

But he will likely lose that primary. (You may disagree, and that’s fine, that’s a different discussion, as you’ll see in a moment.)

And that’s why I’m worried.

Because throughout this campaign, Bernie and Hillary have been careful not to criticize each other too much, and there’s a reason for that. They understand that, regardless of who wins the primary, a Democrat — someone who will nominate Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Citizens United — must win the White House.

They know that whether it means Bernie’s outright, in-your-face-Democratic Socialism or Hillary’s too-lax oversight of the banks, one of them must be in the White House to stop the systematic disenfranchisement of black, Hispanic, and poor Americans. They get that one area of disagreement does not negate the many, MANY areas in which they have been working together for years and in which they have very similar visions for America — visions similar to your own.

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So when, instead of talking about why you like Bernie, you vilify Hillary and talk about why voting for her is just as bad as voting for Bush or Trump or some other Republican, I’m scared. Because not only do you seem to be misrepresenting both Hillary and the GOP’s very divergent stances, but you’re actually misrepresenting Bernie’s own stance.

He’s not attacking Hillary like that. He’s not saying the things you are about her. Not just because they largely aren’t true — but because he has already said that, if he loses the primary, he will not run as an independent. He will support whoever wins the Democratic nomination, and if it’s not him, it will be Hillary.

And every curse that Bernie’s supporters have hurled at Hillary during the primary will be used by the GOP to try to take her down. She’s weathered a lot. She might weather that.

What she will not survive is the thing that has me so frightened: that Bernie’s supporters — that you — will not follow Bernie’s example, and vote for the Democratic nominee. That you will believe all the rhetoric you have been spinning about how she’s no different than the Republicans. That it doesn’t make a difference if it’s her or another Bush in the White House for the next four or eight years.

Because, while I agree with you that our economic policies are of vital importance, they are not the only issues in this election. They are not the only things that create misery in this country. They are not the only injustices that have gone on too long. They are not the only things that need fixed and need fixed now.

So please, support your candidate. Sing his praises to the sky. Talk about his track record and his vision and what he could do for this country. But remember that the primary is not the whole game.

In fact, remember that this is not a game.

That this is not about your guy winning or taking your ball and going home. This is about making our country — all of it, in a lot of different arenas — a better place. And that either of them will be far better for the majority of this country than the alternative.

Giving Obama His Due

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I still hold onto a couple of magazine covers and newspaper front pages, despite their preservation in the digital afterlife, marking the moment when a nation that had embraced African-American slavery chose a black man to be its president.

Barack Obama’s election in 2008 swept “away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease,” The New York Times reported. The New Yorker, with its cover of a glowing Lincoln Memorial, heralded “the resurgence of America’s ability to astonish and inspire.” They sensed “the beginning of a new era.”

You couldn’t help thinking of these trumpets of hope while watching the graying head of the president on Tuesday night. As he walked to the exit, he turned to soak in the scene of his final State of the Union address. “Let me take one more look at this thing,” he said.

By any objective measurement, his presidency has been perhaps the most consequential since Franklin Roosevelt’s time. Ronald Reagan certainly competes with Obama for that claim. But on the night of Reagan’s final State of the Union speech in 1988, when he boasted that “one of the best recoveries in decades” should “send away the hand-wringers and doubting Thomases,” the economic numbers were not as good as those on Obama’s watch.

At no time in Reagan’s eight years was the unemployment rate lower than it is today, at 5 percent — and this after Obama was handed the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. Reagan lauded a federal deficit at 3.4 percent of gross national product. By last fall, Obama had done better than that, posting a deficit of 2.5 percent of G.D.P.

Still, Obama can shape only so much of his own legacy. A big part of the 44th president’s place in the national narrative will depend on what happens to the forces of darkness that were unleashed in his time — things that can’t be quantified by a government agency.

Much of the country is now more openly intolerant, quick to hate and nasty. One reaction to Obama has been the rise of an opposition party that is a home for xenophobes, defeatists and alarmists. They are the Eeyore Party with a snarl. As we heard again during the Republican debate on Thursday, Obama’s opponents are drawn to the “siren call of the angriest voices,” as Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina artfully put it. If the majority follows those voices, the Obama presidency will shoulder a sizable amount of the blame.

Is that really his fault? Did his presidency give rise to a bigoted billionaire with know-nothing followers? Part of the ugliness seems a reaction to the straitjacket of political correctness, which preceded Obama, and got worse in some corridors, mainly academia. But it may also be that the country was not ready for a transformational president; rather than sweep away the last racial barrier, his years in office showed just how deep-rooted the sentiment behind those barriers remains.

These are tricky questions, ones that cannot be answered with certainty. But give Obama, the rare politician who is prone to honest self-reflection, credit for raising the issues himself. One of the “regrets of my presidency,” he said on Tuesday, was that the “rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.”

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Could Obama, with that first-class intellect to go with a first-class temperament, with that pitch-perfect sense of humor, have been a better schmoozer and deal maker? Certainly. He was never very good at hiding his condescension for Republican leaders. But that party was united in a single goal — to defeat him at every turn.

Republicans who would not applaud the creation of 14 million jobs, an unemployment rate cut in half, 17 million people given health care, a global climate change pact, the strongest military in the world and a rousing call for a “moonshot” to cure cancer are incapable of taking a fair measure of Obama’s achievements.

This Congress is done with him. That was as clear as the blank prairie stare on the face of House Speaker Paul Ryan. What was a dysfunctional, bickering relationship is now a divorce. Call in the lawyers. Obama could propose Grandmother Appreciation Day and not get a single vote from Republicans because, well, he proposed it.

On policy, then, Obama has been a remarkable doer, though you wouldn’t know it from the curiously inept self-promotional apparatus of his White House. The swagger we saw from this president on Tuesday — saying, “anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” and “if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change have at it, you’ll be pretty lonely” — was absent most of the last seven years.

But on the mastery of changing hearts and minds, the “ability to astonish and inspire,” he falls short. His presidency, as of now, has not been transformational. He has 370 more days, or thereabouts, to make a dent in a hard history.

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SOURCE

State of the Union 2016: Full text

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As prepared for delivery

President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Tonight marks the eighth year I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union. And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.

I also understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we’ll achieve this year are low. Still, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families. So I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse. We just might surprise the cynics again.

But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients. And I’ll keep pushing for progress on the work that still needs doing. Fixing a broken immigration system. Protecting our kids from gun violence. Equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage. All these things still matter to hardworking families; they are still the right thing to do; and I will not let up until they get done.

But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to talk just about the next year. I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond.

I want to focus on our future.

We live in a time of extraordinary change — change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

America has been through big changes before — wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did — because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril — we emerged stronger and better than before.

What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation — our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery and innovation, our diversity and commitment to the rule of law — these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

In fact, it’s that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible. It’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations. It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.

But such progress is not inevitable. It is the result of choices we make together. And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?

So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that we as a country have to answer — regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.

First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?

Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?

Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?

And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ’90s; an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.

Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction. What is true — and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious — is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit and haven’t let up. Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.

All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing. It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to. And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.

For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works better for everybody. We’ve made progress. But we need to make more. And despite all the political arguments we’ve had these past few years, there are some areas where Americans broadly agree.

We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job. The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering. In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.

And we have to make college affordable for every American. Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We’ve already reduced student loan payments to ten percent of a borrower’s income. Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.

Of course, a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security. After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber. For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher. Americans understand that at some point in their careers, they may have to retool and retrain. But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build.

That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them. And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today. That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about. It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when we lose a job, or go back to school, or start that new business, we’ll still have coverage. Nearly eighteen million have gained coverage so far. Health care inflation has slowed. And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.

Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon. But there should be other ways both parties can improve economic security. Say a hardworking American loses his job — we shouldn’t just make sure he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him. If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills. And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him. That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everyone.

I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty. America is about giving everybody willing to work a hand up, and I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers without kids.

But there are other areas where it’s been more difficult to find agreement over the last seven years — namely what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations. And here, the American people have a choice to make.

I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut. But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts. In this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should work for them. And this year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers ends up being good for their shareholders, their customers, and their communities, so that we can spread those best practices across America.

In fact, many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative. This brings me to the second big question we have to answer as a country: how do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?

Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon.

That spirit of discovery is in our DNA. We’re Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. We’re Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. We’re every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better world. And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.

We’ve protected an open internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online. We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.

But we can do so much more. Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.

Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.

Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.

But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record — until 2015 turned out even hotter — why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?

Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy — something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.

Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.

Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.

None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve — that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.

Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world. And that’s why the third big question we have to answer is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.

I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us.

As someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time. But that’s not because of diminished American strength or some looming superpower. In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia. Economic headwinds blow from a Chinese economy in transition. Even as their economy contracts, Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine and Syria — states they see slipping away from their orbit. And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.

It’s up to us to help remake that system. And that means we have to set priorities.

Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies.

But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. That’s the story ISIL wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are — killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.

That’s exactly what we are doing. For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons. We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.

If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote. But the American people should know that with or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment — or mine — to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell. When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit.

Our foreign policy must be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there. For even without ISIL, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world — in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks; others will fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees. The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq — and we should have learned it by now.

Fortunately, there’s a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.

That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.

That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.

That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Our military, our doctors, and our development workers set up the platform that allowed other countries to join us in stamping out that epidemic.

That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products Made in America, and supports more good jobs. With TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do. You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.

Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, setting us back in Latin America. That’s why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and commerce, and positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people. You want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere? Recognize that the Cold War is over. Lift the embargo.

American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world — except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity. When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change — that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our children. When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend upon. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick, that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria — something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.

That’s strength. That’s leadership. And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example. That is why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo: it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.

That’s why we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith. His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.” When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.

“We the People.”

Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together. That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight.

The future we want — opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.

It will only happen if we fix our politics.

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task — or any President’s — alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.

We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections — and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution. We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do.

But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it. It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.

What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure. As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.

So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day.

It won’t be easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen — inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.

They’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.

I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you. I know you’re there. You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future. Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time.

I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board.

I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over — and the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.

I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ’til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.

It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.

I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.

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