Biden’s State of the Union and bill threatening to ban TikTok advances: Morning Rundown

President Joe Biden portrayed a nation on the upswing in an energized State of the Union address. Why some economists have dubbed an emerging employment trend “The Great Stay.” Plus, take our quiz to see if you can discern real audio from an AI-generated clip.

Here’s what to know today.

Analysis: Biden’s fiery speech answers questions about his fitness for office

It’s too soon to tell whether President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address last night will make an enduring impression on voters who may have been watching. But, for now, he seems to have delivered on his goal to show America that he’s fit to lead the country for four more years, senior political reporter Peter Nicholas writes in an analysis. 

In last night’s address in the House, the 81-year-old president delivered a feisty speech, sparring with Republican critics and swiping at former President Donald Trump, referring to him only as “my predecessor” and never by name. He forcefully voiced his support for Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion, declaring “I will not bow down” to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also spoke out against the Capitol riot and admonished the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, while touting his economic successes and laying out his plans to secure the southern border. Toward the end of his speech, he also responded to critiques of his age.

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In between, Biden flubbed a few prepared lines and stumbled a bit during ad-libs. During a response to Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s heckling, he appeared to confuse the name of Laken Riley — a University of Georgia student whose recent killing has been attributed to an undocumented immigrant — by calling her “Lincoln.”  

Nicholas writes: “While Biden was unlikely to ever sway Republicans with a speech, it may help coalesce Democrats — for a moment at least — who are alternatingly panicky and dismissive of polls showing Trump leading Biden in key swing states.”

But whether Biden’s speech will be remembered in the fall during the general election isn’t as certain. “It’s the greatest platform a president has and it often becomes the least memorable speeches of his presidency,” a speechwriter for former President Barack Obama said. 

Read the full story here.

More highlights from the State of the Union: 

  • Watch key moments from Biden’s speech in under four minutes.
  • Six takeaways from the night, from all those mentions of “my predecessor,” to a careful stance on Israel and a sharper message on abortion.
  • The Republican response, given by Alabama freshman Sen. Katie Britt, lambasted Biden on the border crisis, reckless spending and leaving the country more dangerous than it was four years ago. (You can also watch her full speech here.) 
  • Topic tracker: See the issues Biden mentioned during his speech and how much time he spent talking about them.

As the job market cools, ‘The Great Stay’ sets in

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest job numbers, to be released in a report today, is expected to show slower, yet still steady, job growth of 198,000 for February, compared with 353,000 in January. Mixed with other factors, these statistics are giving way to a new work trend that economists are calling the “great stay.” 

Three years ago, during the “great resignation,” millions of workers left low-paying jobs for more promising ones or ones that provided more flexibility. Now, economists say, workers are increasingly staying at their jobs while hiring for new jobs is cooling. In addition, cuts among temporary jobs have also picked up, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. 

Despite experts’ uses of phrases such as “weird” and “feels all over the place” to describe the current era of employment statistics, they’re not yet sounding the alarm.

Michigan school shooter’s dad loses jail communication privileges

The father of the teenager who fatally shot four students at his Michigan high school had his jail communication privileges limited because he made “threatening statements,” the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said. The restrictions against James Crumbley, who is on trial on four counts of involuntary manslaughter in the killings, were enacted in response to a prosecutor’s desire to discuss an unspecified issue in open court. Instead, his defense attorney and the prosecution reached an agreement to revoke Crumbley’s jail communications

The trial for Crumbley opened yesterday, with prosecutors saying the Oxford High School shooting was “preventable” and “foreseeable.” Crumbley’s attorney, however, said the 47-year-old father was unaware of the attack. Crumbley’s wife, Jennifer Crumbley, who was also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, was found guilty in a separate trial last month — a rare case of a parent of a school shooter being held criminally responsible.

Downed power lines caused massive Texas wildfire

The Texas A&M Forest Service said two wildfires in the Texas Panhandle, including the largest in the state’s history, were caused by downed power lines. The announcement from the state agency came hours after Xcel Energy said its facilities “appear to have been involved” in the Smokehouse Creek Fire, which has burned more than 1 million acres. But the forest service did not say whether the power lines that ignited the fires belonged to Xcel Energy.

Meanwhile, more than 150 fires have been smoldering in parts of western Canada since Feb. 20 — an earlier-than-expected kickoff to the fire season, which typically begins March 1. Scientists say the early season blazes both in Canada and Texas are signs that fire seasons are starting earlier and lasting longer.

Food drops over Gaza criticized as ineffective

On Thursday, 16 pallets with 52,700 meals were dropped into Gaza as part of a joint Jordanian-United States operation. An NBC News crew aboard a Jordanian Royal Air Force C-130 Hercules was given a rare look at the food distribution process, as well as the enclave where hundreds of thousands of people are “one step away from famine,” according to the United Nations and other aid agencies.  

But some international aid organizations have criticized the U.S. airdrops as too little to make a dent, especially after five months of war. One reason is “you don’t really know” where the pallets will land, said Melanie Ward, CEO of the U.K.-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. Also, people could put themselves in dangerous situations to try and get the food, she said. A Gaza-based worker with the charity also pointed out that some of the food requires microwaving, but “we don’t even have electricity right now.” Read the full story.

TikTok sics its users on Congress

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted unanimously to pass a bipartisan bill that would force TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, to divest the popular social media company or risk the app being banned in the U.S. This legislation comes almost a year after TikTok’s CEO testified before Congress about the app’s connection to the Chinese government, during which Shou Zi Chu maintained that the Chinese government has no access to or control of the app. However, lawmakers remain skeptical and have raised concerns about data privacy and national security.

In response to the legislation, TikTok is putting up a fight. The social media platform rallied users to its defense yesterday with a push notification encouraging users to call their representatives and ask them to vote against the bill. As a result, many lawmakers, including ones who co-authored the bill, were flooded with phone calls ahead of the vote.

Politics in Brief

Congress: Former Rep. George Santos announced in a social media post during Biden’s State of the Union address that he will run for Congress again, challenging a Republican who voted to expel him. 

Border security: Sen. John Tester is asking congressional appropriators to approve the money needed to install fentanyl scanning equipment at the border after NBC News reported this week that many of them are sitting idle.

Trump trials: The judge in Trump’s classified documents case will hear arguments on two motions to dismiss the case against him. If Trump wins the GOP presidential nomination, U.S. intelligence agencies plan to provide briefings, despite the pending trial over charges he mishandled classified information after he left office.

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Staff Pick : Can you tell real audio from AI? Take our quiz.

Illustration of sound waves coming from a person and a robot

Fake sound clips of Biden, Jennifer Aniston and Selena Gomez have put the topic of artificially generated audio in the news recently. And as artificial intelligence tools improve, it’s going to be harder to tell what’s real and what’s a computer. But don’t take our word for it; put your ears to the test— Nigel Chiwaya, senior data viz editor

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