Keep Up Pressure for a Public Option
In an extremely disappointing move, President Barack Obama on Saturday indicated that he would consider jettisoning a public option from his proposed health care overhaul. Addressing a town-hall-style meeting in Colorado, Obama called the public option just "one sliver" of his larger initiative.
"Whether we have it or we don't have it is not the entirety of health care reform," he said.
Then on Sunday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told CNN's John King that the Senate Finance Committee is more likely to favor nonprofit co-ops than a public option. These co-ops, Sebelius argued, would constitute an affordable middle ground between public and private control of health options.
"I think what's important is choice and competition," Sebelius said. "And I'm convinced at the end of the day, the plan will have both of those. But [the public plan] is not the essential element."
A public option's benefits have been exhaustively documented, as has the insurance lobby's toxic influence on policymakers. Seventy-two percent of America wants a public option, but that fact seems to have been forgotten amid a whirlwind of appeasements and pandering in Washington.
Still, the message from the Obama administration is not wholly apocalyptic. In an e-mail to Politico Sunday evening, White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass said "the president has always said that what is essential is that health insurance reform must lower costs, ensure that there are affordable options for all Americans and it must increase choice and competition in the health insurance market. He believes the public option is the best way to achieve those goals."
So the jury still seems to be out. But one thing is clear: We must demand that the Obama administration continue its push for a public option -- the only health care initiative that would benefit citizens, not corporations.
Here are the rest of our Take Action Campaigns this week:
II -- Tell Obama How DOMA Affects You
In what could be the most exciting announcement on the gay marriage front in the past few months, the Obama administration has issued a public challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal ban on same-sex marriage.
The only problem with this is that the administration has also upheld the constitutionality of certain statutes within the law. Join the fight to dissolve DOMA completely. Tell the Obama administration how you've been affected here.
III -- Pass the Offshore Aquaculture Is Not Fishing Act of 2009
Offshore aquaculture is a method of raising fish that's similar to factory farming on land -- fish are crowded into small areas, pumped full of antibiotics, and eventually harvested. The chemicals in their bodies are usually passed on to the humans that consume them and can cause serious health problems.
A bill proposed earlier this month by Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., called the Offshore Aquaculture Is Not Fishing Act of 2009 would bring aquaculture under closer scrutiny. It prevents regional councils, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Secretary of Commerce from allowing ocean fish farming in U.S. waters.
See that this bill passes. Tell policymakers that you want to keep the public safe from poorly farmed fish.
IV -- Unlock the Camps in Sri Lanka
Even though Sri Lanka's civil war ended recently, there are more than 300,000 people still living in military-run internment camps there. Around 50,000 of them are children, and many are dying every day from the lack of water and proper sanitation.
We need to urge Sri Lanka's government to grant freedom of movement to these refugees. Encourage the authorities to place control of the camps back in civilian hands and allow journalists and aid workers access.
You can do it here.
V -- Stop McBrutality
McDonald's' poultry providers employ some of the most brutal tactics possible when slaughtering chickens. The birds are hung upside down for days at a time. Their throats are slit. Some are even thrown into pots of boiling water alive.
McDonald's can stop these horrific practices (with no economic consequences) by pressuring its suppliers to use a method called controlled-atmosphere killing (CAK). But it's up to people like you to tell the fast-food giant that it must act more humanely.
VI -- Halt Wal-Mart's Assault on the Free Speech
Wal-Mart is at it again, putting legal pressure on a Web site critical of its Canadian business practices. The mega-megastore has filed an injunction against WalmartWorkersCanada.ca, forbidding it from using the word "Wal-Mart" altogether. In a turn of cruel irony, Wal-Mart is also trying to ban the use of any circular, ovular and oblong smiley faces on the site.
You can join thousands of others who have signed a petition urging Wal-Mart to respect the free-speech rights of its workers. Tell it to stop outlawing smiles. You can do it here.
VII -- Protect America's Medical Records
Obama's stimulus bill contained within it provisions that would do two things: demand that health care providers convert medical records from paper to computers; and implement a slew of privacy protections that would outlaw the sale of any such information to private insurance companies.
Now it's up to us to see that lawmakers prioritize our privacy. Tell the Department of Health and Human Services that computerized medical records with strong privacy protections are in the public's best interest. Do it here.
VIII -- Save the Dolphins
Illuminated most recently by a thrilling documentary called The Cove, Japan's abuse of dolphins stands out as one of the most shocking examples of animal cruelty in the world. Each year, more than 20,000 dolphins are slaughtered for meat, which is intentionally labeled as "whale." This meat contains dangerously high levels of mercury and poses a significant threat to human health.
It's time to let Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki know that such abuses will not stand. Write a letter that urges them to address the cruelty in Taiji. Stop the slaughter before it's too late.
IX -- Stop Violence In Schools
Every year, 350 million children attend school, only to encounter sexual abuse, corporal punishment and bullying. That's more kids than the entire population of the United States. Ensuring that children can learn in a safe environment is a cause warranting international attention.
With your help, the United Nations can urge its member states to pass legislation that would make school safer for kids. You can help make that possible here.
X -- Thank Bill Clinton for Negotiating the Release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee
On March 17, North Korean forces captured U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling. The two women, who had been reporting on human trafficking, were sentenced to 12 years hard labor.
After more than 90,000 people signed a petition sponsored by Care2.org, former President Bill Clinton was able to negotiate the journalists' release with North Korean authorities. The three of them returned safely to the United States on Aug. 5.
Clinton's efforts are worthy of recognition. Please join close to 10,000 people who have thanked him here.