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Posts Tagged ‘activist

What Do You Want: Insurance or Health Care? (they’re not the same, you know)

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Quick question:

Do you want insurance or health care for yourself and your family? Before you answer that question, make sure you understand the difference because, make no mistake: the differences are huge.  

[pssst…. Are you already in favor of true universal health care? If so, forego reading tmy long-winded post below and, instead, spend the next few minutes doing something practical, like making your voice heard. This is an urgent matter. We have now until the end of February to:

  1. Urge your representatives to please co-sponsor H.R. 676 and actively work with Congressman John Conyers, as he reintroduces the bill in the 111th Congress.  (Here’s ane easy link to contact your Representative). The bill currently has 93 co-sponsors in the House, out of the 150 needed by the end of February. 
  2. There is still no companion bill to H.R. 676 in the Senate. Urge Sen. Edward Kennedy to sponsor a companion bill to HR 676 in the Senate. (Contact Sen. Kennedy via snail mail ).  The Senate is currently proposing a healthcare reform plan that will mandate health insurance coverage for every person in the United States. Forcing people to purchase insurance would be a real boon to the for-profit insurance industry, enriching CEOs and corporations, but it does nothing to address the needs of the millions of Americans in need of health care.   
  3. Let President Obama know how many of us are in favor of true universal health care (H.R. 676) as opposed to the watered-down versions currently being offered.  (Here’s an easy link to contact Obama).
  4. Lastly, if you’re not in favor of true universal health care, do yourself and the rest of us a favor by making sure you know the facts — beyond the insurance industry’s talking points — before permanently making up your mind.  A good place to start is at the source: Congressman John Conyers, the sponsorer of this bill. Here are some FAQs, from Conyers’ website.)]

QUICK ANSWER:

Health care.

 

LONGER ANSWER:

It’s a common myth in this country that insurance = health care. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. And this truth has only grown more perverse during the 8-year orgy we’ve just suffered, as our politicians have fallen, one by one, into bed with the giants of commerce (e.g. the banking, pharmaceutical, energy, media and insurance industries, etc.). This fellowship has compelled our lawmakers to turn a blind eye to the well-being of the average American citizen, as they paid deference, instead, to those lobbyists promising the biggest contributions to their campaign coffers. We need look no further than Wall Street to see both the evidence and the repercussions of our lawmaker’s selective blindness.  

This dynamic explains, in part, why the following news gem got lost in this week’s media shuffle (falling somewhere between the lack of coverage on Israel’s war crimes and Bush’s farewell speech):

According to a study released this past Wednesday by the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association, the universal health care plan (H.R. 676) that’s been collecting dust in a House of Representatives subcommittee for the past 2 years holds the potential to create over 2.6 million new and permanent “shovel ready” jobs (that’s just slightly over the total number of jobs lost in 2008).

What’s more, according to this same study, H.R. 676 would provide a major stimulus for the U.S. economy — not only by creating the said-2.6 million jobs equivalent to $100 billion in wages  — but by infusing $317 billion in new business and public revenues into the economy and infusing public budgets with  $44 billion in new tax revenues. 

Sound too good to be true? The insurance industry hopes you’ll think so

See, the reasons this news about this study slipped under this week’s rader are the same reasons it has slipped under the radar since the bill was introduced in January 2007. Specifically, H.R. 676 (the only true, universal health care plan that has been proposed on Capitol Hill) designs to cut out the middle man — the for-profit insurance industry, one of the most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill.

Make no mistake. By virtue of being a for-profit business, the insurance industry seeks to maximize profits, while minimizing expenses. And  their biggest expense, by far, is shelling out health care benefits to its members. To this end, the insurance industry fights tooth and nail against providing the very services they’re empowered to pay out: health care for its members. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the math, nor to understand that, under such a system, the for-profit insurance industry is inherently antagonistic to providing actual health care. Is it any wonder, then, that the insurance industry has also fought tooth and nail to convince us all that universal health care is the demon? And is it any wonder that so many Americans have become convinced of the horrors that would befall us all, should we be subjected to (sweet Lord, no!) guaranteed health care? 

The supporters of H.R. 676 have worked equally hard to educate the public on the benefits of a universal, single-payer health care plan. But, lacking the lobbying clout of the insurance industry, these folks can’t command the sort of power the insurance industry enjoys both on Capitol Hill and in our media. For the record, here are a few of the talking points we might have heard from the other side, regarding the benefits of universal, single-payer health care under H.R. 676: 

  • Every resident of the US will be covered from birth to death.
  • No more pre-existing conditions to be excluded from coverage.
  • No more expensive deductibles or co-pays.
  • All prescription medications will be covered.
  • All dental and eye care will be included.
  • Mental health and substance abuse care will be fully covered.(1)
  • Long term and nursing home services will be included.
  • You will always choose your own doctors and hospitals.
  • Costs of coverage will be assessed on a sliding scale basis.
  • Tremendously simplified system of medical administration
  • Total portability – your coverage not tied to any job or location.
  • Existing Medicare benefits for those over 65 will remain the same or be vastly improved in many cases.
  • No corporate bureaucrat will ever come between you and your Doctor to deny your care

 

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A CALL TO ACTION (see contacts info in steps 1 through 3 at the top of this post)

Congressman John Conyers will reintroduce HR 676, his single-payer healthcare bill in the 111th Congress. Please ask your representative to cosponsor the bill and actively work with Rep. Conyers to gain additional cosponsors. In order to ensure HR 676 is part of the healthcare discussion in Congress, we need 150 cosponsors by the end of February.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle, President-Elect Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, called for “a government-run insurance program modeled after Medicare” in testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions as part of the solution to our healthcare crisis. His plan also includes health insurance corporations. Only HR 676 would implement a sustainable, fair, and efficient solution to the healthcare crisis as well as providing economic stimulus.

While single-payer healthcare proponents have made good headway in the House, there is still no companion bill in the Senate. Urge Sen. Edward Kennedy to sponsor a companion bill to HR 676 in the Senate. And, while you’re at it, be sure Obama also knows where you stand. Lastly, bookmark this page at the Healthcare NOW! site to keep updated on activist work on H.R. 676 and consider joining forces with The Citizens Alliance for National Health Insurance HR 676 to get the word out to the media on this important bill.

 

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WHO ENDORSES H.R. 676? YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED

Along with millions of U.S. citizens from all age brackets and economic persuasions, there are (currently) 94 Representatives in the U.S. House who endorse H.R. 676, along with 480 union organizations in 49 states, including 117 Central Labor Councils, 20 international unions, plus AFL-CIO Federations in 35 states, the US Conference of Mayors, the Houses of Representatives in Kentucky, New Hampshire and New York, and hundreds more cities, counties, faith groups and medical and health care organizations that express the great hope and dire need of our people. 

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Dennis Kucinich: patriot or nut?

It depends on what (or who) you read. If you read only the talking points (propaganda) of the industry giants, you’d have little choice but to conclude he’s not only a nut, but an awfully, terribly short man, which is somewhat of a fatal flaw in our society. But if you look past his much-slandered physical stature and look into Kuchich’s body of work, reviewing the actual issues that Dennis Kucinich has consistently fought for on behalf of the American people (with many of these in defiance of the industry giants, his campaign coffers be damned), you’d be hard-pressed to not see that he’s one of Capitol Hill’s staunchest allies to the American people. A giant in his own right and, yes, an American patriot. Had there been more lawmakers like Dennis Kucinich on Capitol Hill over the past 8 years, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re now in. In the above video, the ever-foresighted Kucinich explains universal health care.  

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The tragic case of Aafia Siddiqui: How each of us can help

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NOTE: The post, below, is from October 2008. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see:  The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water

There are pitifully few answers to the flood of questions surrounding the case of Aafia Siddiqui and her three children. We know this much: their five-year disappearance began in April 2003, at precisely the same time the FBI announced (then quickly denied) arresting her.

Aafia Siddiqui’s family, attorneys, human rights groups and others charge that she spent at least some of these years imprisoned at Bagram, the U.S. detention prison in Afghanistan, notorious for its brutal treatment of prisoners. It is also alleged that Aafia Siddiqui was Prisoner 650, known as the Grey Lady of Bagram. If this is true, the fate of her children is, for some, too haunting to contemplate. At the time of their disappearance in 2003, her children were aged 7 years (son, Ahmed), 5 years (daughter, Miriam), and 6 months of age (son, Suleman). Her two younger children have not been seen since their disappearance in 2003. Her eldest child — Ahmed, now aged either 11 or 12 — was with Aafia at the time of her arrest last month.

The Story of Ahmed

Ahmed is a U.S. citizen, born in this country. According to the FBI, he is currently in the custody of the Afghan National Security Directorate (NDS), an agency that is, according to Human Rights Watch, “notorious for its brutal treatment of detainees.” The NDS is Afghanistan’s equivalent of the CIA, and is alleged to work in collaboration with the U.S. intelligence agencies in a system of secret detainee prisons and torture in Afghanistan. The FBI recently performed DNA testing to confirm Ahmed’s identity. They have also interrogated Ahmed several times. Ahmed is said to be confused about his identity and about his own whereabouts since 2003. Aafia’s attorneys, along with human rights groups throughout the world, are protesting the illegal detention of 12 year-old Ahmed, decrying his treatment as a criminal suspect, and demanding that Ahmed be freed and released to the custody of relatives. While the FBI has obviously had contact with Ahmed in recent weeks, they claim he is under the control of Afghan authorities, his whereabouts unknown.

“Something is really dirty here. Everything about the government’s story smells…. Whatever happened to this woman is terrible, and it’s incumbent on us to find out what it was.”  — Elizabeth Fink, U.S. attorneys for Aafia Siddiqui

The reports on the arrests of Aafia and Ahmed Siddiqui by U.S. and Afghanistan officials are contradictory, except in the fact that Aafia Siddiqui was shot twice during her arrest. The Bush administration alleges that she was involved in a terrorist plot, and that she was arrested on July 17, 2008 outside Ghazni governor’s compound in Afghanistan with manuals on explosives, maps to NY landmarks, and ‘dangerous substances in sealed jars’ on her person. She is alleged to have grabbed a gun and shot at U.S. officials during the interrogation, a scenario that contradicts the Afghan reports on her arrest. She is now charged with attempting to murder U.S. officials, and is currently being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Aafia Siddiqui’s Medical Condition

According to her attorney, Elizabeth Fink, Aafia’s condition has grown critical, as she has not received proper medical care for her gunshot wounds. Fink is demanding hospitalization for Affia’s physical and psychological injuries. Fink also charges that Aafia continues to be subjected to invasive strip searches in violation of international law, the U.S. Constitution, international human rights norms and standards of decency. The Pakistan National Assembly has issued a resolution demanding that the U.S. authorities provide urgent medical care, including hospitalization, and to provide a female doctor, in consideration of Affia’s religious beliefs.

Those of us following this case feel helpless. Where to direct our voices?  The following needs are vital:  (1) that Aafia Siddiqui receive proper medical attention for her wounds, and (2) due process that reflects the values of our pre-Bush system of justice in America, that conforms to international laws for the treatment of prisoners, and (3) a full investigation into the events surrounding her disappearance in April 2003, when the FBI announced (then denied) her arrest, and (4) a full investigation to determine where Aafia Siddiqui and her three children spent the past five years, (5) a full investigation into the current whereabouts of her 3 children.

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Here’s how each of us can help Aafia Siddiqui and her children:

(1) Demand an independent investigation into this case by calling your Capitol Hill representatives via the Capitol Hill switchboard at 800-828-0498. Ask for your representative, by name. You will be transferred to either voice mail or an aide. Leave a message that you, as a concerned American, want an independent Congressional investigation into the case of Aafia Siddiqui (pronounced AUF-ia    Sa-DEEK-ia) and her three children, and that you request that her current medical and legal needs be met according to U.S. and International law regarding prisoners.

(2) Sign and send the letters of protest at the Asian Human Rights Commission site. These letters are forwarded to President Bush, to NATO headquarters, and to various authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is important that these officials know the world’s eyes are focused on this case.

(3) Attend her court hearing in Manhattan on September 3rd, 2008. Protests are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Her hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. at the United States District Court (U.S.D.C.) for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y), located at 500 Pearl Street, Manhattan. It will be held in the Magistrates Court, 5th floor.

(4) Send mail, publications or money to Aafia Siddiqui. There are specific regulations regarding these, which can be found, along with contact information and addresses, at the muslimmatters.org website. There is also contact information for her attorney at this site.

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From the Asian Human Rights Commission statement on Aafia Siddiqui:
“We uphold supremacy of law, an independent judiciary and condemn in unequivocal terms all transgressions of law, abduction, illegal incarceration, and transfer of prisoners from one territory to another without due process. We demand a thorough investigation by independent UN- mandated agencies into the whole affair and that all the agents of injustice and law- breakers be brought to the International court of Justice at The Hague.”

ADDITIONAL LINKS ON THIS CASE:

cageprisoners.com page with updates on protests/campaigns to help with this case

dictatorshipwatch.com article containing the text of a Human Rights Watch letter to President Bush, regarding the illegal detention of Aafia Siddiqui and others in secret CIA prisons.

Human Rights Watch article on demands to free Aafia Siddiqui’s 11-year old son, too young to be treated as a criminal suspect.

Christian Science Monitor article, “The case against Aafia Siddiqui, who has been missing since 2003, raises questions about illegal detention centers across Pakistan”

muslimmatters.org article: The Grey Lady of Bagram: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

muslimmatters.org info from August 26, 2008 press conference on Aafia Siddiqui

AP news report: NY charges for womann in Afghan military shooting (Please note that Aafia Siddiqui is a neuroscientist, not a microbiologist, as often suggested in U.S. media reports. Also, note the discrepancy, in this story, between the Afghan and U.S. accounts of her arrest).

canarypapers post, August 25, 2008: What did the Bush Administration do with Aafia Siddiqui and her three children?