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Obama Focuses on Future, Slams GOP Rivals, At State of the Union Address
In his seventh and final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama touted his accomplishments and focused on his vision for the future, in an optimistic speech that attempted to define his legacy as he enters his final year in office.
Addressing a packed House of Representatives chamber Tuesday in the U.S. Capitol, Obama appeared relaxed and his tone was largely positive as he focused on the need to heal the country's deep political divides.
But the president also took several swipes at his critics, on several occasions offering indirect but harsh criticisms of the Republican. In particular, Obama slammed "politics that targets people because of race or religion," a statement seen as a criticism of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
"When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is bullied, that doesn't make us safer. That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong," he said. "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."
Obama also hit out at his domestic opponents on economic issues, saying "anyone claiming that America's economy is in decline is peddling fiction."
On foreign policy, Obama acknowledged the threat posed by terrorist groups, including Islamic State. But he warned against those who say the world is sinking into "World War III."
The Republican response to Obama's speech was delivered by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Governor Haley accused the president of not living up to his "soaring words."
"As he enters his final year in office, many Americans are still feeling the squeeze of an economy too weak to raise income levels. We’re feeling a crushing national debt, a health care plan that has made insurance less affordable and doctors less available, and chaotic unrest in many of our cities," Haley said.
"Even worse, we are facing the most dangerous terrorist threat our nation has seen since September 11th, and this president appears either unwilling or unable to deal with it." she added.
Iran Official Expects US Sailors' Release Wednesday
An Iranian military official says 10 U.S. Navy sailors detained by Iran are expected to be released Wednesday, a day after they drifted into Iranian territorial waters.
State television quoted Gen. Ali Fadavi, the Navy chief of the Revolutionary Guard, saying a mechanical problem in the sailors' navigation system caused them to enter Iranian waters.
Fadavi said earlier that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call the U.S. should apologize for the incident.
The nine men and one woman were on two small vessels traveling in the Persian Gulf between Kuwait and Bahrain on Tuesday when U.S. controllers lost contact with them.
"There may have been mechanical failure on one of the vessels, but it is unclear at this time," a defense official told VOA. "My assumption is that they were in Iranian territorial waters when they were detained."