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Supporting Obama's Push For a Public Health Option is AlterNet's Top Campaign of the Week

The time is now: Help Obama secure a reasonable option for the millions of Americans who don't have health care.

I -- A Public Health Care Option Is Within Reach! It’s Time For Americans to Step Up

On May 28, President Barack Obama told volunteers from Organizing For America that a public health care option needed to happen sooner than later. If the necessary legislation isn’t pushed through this summer, he warned, it will not happen at all during his presidency.

"We need health care reform legislation that works, that preserves what works about health care, that fixes the things that are broken," Obama said. "And I think the status quo is unacceptable."

Creating a viable public option is more than a political necessity, the president added. It is a symbolic gesture to Americans who voted for change in November.

"This is our big chance to prove that the movement that started during the campaign isn't over, we are just getting started," Obama said. "The election in November -- that didn't bring about change, that just gave us the opportunity for change. So now we are really going to have to remobilize. We had a chance to catch our breath after the election. We got a lot of things done in the first four months. But health care, that's a big push."

Continuing to make good on his campaign promise, Obama stood strong Monday in his address to the American Medical Association. In a speech directed toward members of the nation’s largest community of physicians, he targeted the tangled bureaucracy that prevents millions of Americans from gaining access to reasonably priced health care. He also attempted to quell concerns about forceful government involvement and cuts in doctors' pay.

"I understand that you are concerned that today's Medicare rates will be applied broadly in a way that means our cost savings are coming off your backs," Obama said. "These are legitimate concerns, but ones, I believe, that can be overcome."

He added, "What we seek is more stability and a health care system on a sound financial footing. And these reforms need to take place regardless of what happens with a public option."

Obama’s comments are an indication that a remedy to our broken health care system is within reach. But it’s also up to us to make sure the issue gets all of the attention it deserves. That’s why MoveOn.org's efforts to support a public health insurance option is our top Take Action campaign of the week. Tell your senators and representatives that a public health option is absolutely necessary. You can do it here.

Below are the rest of our Take Action campaigns for this week.

II -- Free Imprisoned Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two American journalists reporting from the China/North Korea border, have been sentenced to 12 years in a labor prison for what North Korean authorities called a "grave crime they committed against the Korean nation."

The legal process surrounding the women’s sentencing was a flagrant violation of due process, Amnesty International has said: "No access to lawyers, no due process, no transparency: the North Korean judicial and penal systems are more instruments of suppression than of justice," said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific deputy director.

In addition to accomplished journalists, Ling and Lee are sisters, friends, mothers and daughters to many. Their sentence is outrageous and should not be tolerated. Join thousands of others who have signed a petition urging North Korea to release them.

III -- Save California's State Parks

On July 1, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning to slice the state parks budget in half. Then, in 12 months, he's looking to eliminate funding for state parks altogether. This means that 220 state parks will shut down -- 80 percent of California's entire system.

The economic consequences of this move will be dire. In addition to sucking much-needed tourism revenues from local businesses, the decision will lay off thousands of state park employees, many of whom have put in years of service.

Join the Sierra Club in stopping this outrageous move. Tell the governor and state legislators you want to keep the parks open.

 

IV -- Tell Shell Oil Co. to Stop Gas Flaring

On June 8, Ogoni plaintiffs scored a major victory against Shell Oil Co., forcing the company to pay $15.5 million in a settlement. Shell had been accused of complicity in human rights abuses, including the slaying of resistance leader Ken Saro-Wiwa, in the oil-rich Niger Delta. The decision was a major turning point in the case.

But it is still only a chink in Shell’s armor. The company continues to engage in "gas flaring," burning off gas released by oil extraction. Flaring endangers human health, harms local ecosystems, emits large amounts of greenhouse gases, wastes tons of water and violates Nigerian law.

The people of Nigeria will not be granted true justice until Shell ends its dangerous practice of gas flaring once and for all. Urge Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer to stop the company’s campaign against the health and well-being of the Ogoni people.

V -- It’s Still Time to Defend Reproductive Freedoms

Thirty-six years after the passage of Roe v. Wade, "pro-life" right-wingers are still challenging women’s access to safe and legal abortion services. As the killing of Dr. George Tiller (and the subsequent closure of his clinic) earlier this month illustrates, the opposition to reproductive rights is becoming increasingly violent and militant. We cannot let aggressive bigots blot out hard-earned freedoms in our country. We must stand tall in our support for safe, legal reproductive health care.

VI -- Help Protect Dairy Farmers

Thanks to industry manipulations and increased importing of foreign milk protein concentrates, small U.S. dairy farmers are in serious trouble. The price they’re being paid for milk has dropped more than 50 percent since December 2008 -- the worst decrease since the Great Depression.

Banks across the country have also been denying farmers access to credit. If this continues, it could destroy the livelihood of more than 20,000 farmers by the end of the year -- one-third of the nation's total.

You can help: Join the many others who are asking Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to adjust the price of milk paid to farmers to "reflect the price of production." He can do this by invoking his authority under Section 608c (18) of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937. This legally mandated "floor price" should be at least $17.50 per cwt (a cwt -- hundredweight -- is the standard measure for milk producers).

VII -- End Big Coal’s Toxic Abuses

Obama announced on June 11 that he would work with the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Interior to end the streamlined permitting process for mountaintop-removal coal mining. Though an important step forward, this move is only a tug at the roots of a much more pressing problem.

The 2002 "fill rule," a piece of legislation handed down by the Bush administration, allows coal companies to dump their toxic mining waste into our nation’s streams. Reversing this rule is essential to reviving polluted communities around the United States. Tell your senators and representatives that we need Congress to pass the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1310) in the House and the Appalachia Restoration Act (S 696) in the Senate to end the worst abuses of Big Coal.

VIII -- Help Stop the Spread of Nuclear Weapons

Earlier this year, Obama announced that he would take steps during his presidency to reduce the creation and proliferation of nuclear weapons. His words mark a change in presidential politics of late, which have not done much to address the issue.

Obama wants to negotiate a new arms-reduction treaty with Russia. He's also seeking Senate approval for a treaty that bans the testing of nuclear weapons. If approved, these measures could be the first of several important steps necessary to reduce the world's terrifying cache of nukes.

But Obama's initiatives are likely to meet resistance from hawks in the Senate.Please write today and urge your senators to work toward reducing the threat posed by nuclear weapons.

 

IX -- Ensure Equal Pay for Hard-Working American Women

It's 2009, and women who work full time are still only making 78 cents for every dollar men earn. It's even worse for women of color: African American women make only 63 cents, and Latinas get a measly 52 cents. What can you do to put this to an end?

Join the ACLU in supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act, which makes some much-needed tweaks to the Equal Pay Act. The House of Representatives has already passed this legislation, now it's up to you to get the Senate to approve it. You can do it here.

X -- We Must Be Fearless in Our Opposition to Proposition 8

The California Supreme Court has announced its deeply disappointing decision to uphold Proposition 8. We don’t have time to mourn the failure of the state court to restore marriage equality to California. It’s time to go on offense and be fearless in our fight for equality. Will you join the Courage Campaign and stand up for what you know is right?