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The National Scene

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By Linnie Frank Bailey --

Health care reform continues to be front and center on the President’s radar screen, and this week he went to somewhat hostile territory—the annual conference of the American Medical Association—to pitch his ideas. The Administration continues to address America’s economic situation, while keeping abreast of troubling events abroad, particularly North Korea’s nuclear threats, and the disputed election in Iran.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Banks Return Bailout Funds: “A Positive Sign”

The Administration announced that several of the financial institutions, which received bailouts from the federal government, are ready to repay the funds. While acknowledging that the economic crisis is by no means over, the President applauded the return of the funds, saying, “Several financial institutions are set to pay back $68 billion to taxpayers. And while we know that we will not escape the worst financial crisis in decades without some losses to taxpayers, it’s worth noting that in the first round of repayments from these companies the government has actually turned a profit.” Obama went on to say, “This is not a sign that our troubles are over—far from it….But it is a positive sign. We’re seeing an initial return on a few of these investments.  We’re restoring funds to the Treasury where they’ll be available to safeguard against continuing risks to financial stability. And as this money is returned, we’ll see our national debt lessened by $68 billion—billions of dollars that this generation will not have to borrow and future generations will not have to repay.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

President Comments on Holocaust Museum Shooting

President Obama issued the following comment on the shooting at the National Holocaust Museum, where African-American security guard Stephen Johns was killed by an alleged white supremacist: “I am shocked and saddened by today’s shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms.  No American institution is more important to this effort than the Holocaust Museum, and no act of violence will diminish our determination to honor those who were lost by building a more peaceful and tolerant world. Today, we have lost a courageous security guard who stood watch at this place of solemn remembrance.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this painful time.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The President Hits the Road for Health Care Reform

President Obama spoke at a town hall meeting on health care reform at Southwest High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The President continued to drive home his vision for health care reform, which includes what the Administration calls three core principles:

Reduce costs — Rising health care costs are crushing the budgets of governments, businesses, individuals, and families, and they must be brought under control.  Guarantee choice — Every American must have the freedom to choose their plan and doctor – including the choice of a public insurance option.  Ensure quality care for all — All Americans must have quality and affordable health care.

Obama went outside the beltway to bring his position to the American people, however he has made it clear to lawmakers in Washington that he expects legislation on this issue to be on his desk this year.

Friday, June 12, 2009

United Nations Sanctions North Korea’s Nuclear Testing

UN Ambassador Susan Rice, (the first African-American female to hold the post), joined world leaders in condemning recent actions by North Korea and imposing sanctions against the country. She described the unanimous resolution as “a very robust, tough regime with teeth that will bite North Korea.” Secretary Rice continued, “It would be unwise for the United States or other members of the Security Council to fail to take strong action in response to a very provocative and illegal action on the part of North Korea out of concern that they may take strong action.  I mean, the point is that we needed to demonstrate—and today we have demonstrated -- that provocative, reckless actions come at a cost and that North Korea will pay a price for its actions.”

Obama Meets with Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister

President Obama met with the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, and discussed humanitarian aid to the country. Tsvangirai shares the leadership of Zimbabwe with President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power almost 30 years. Obama addressed human rights concerns over Mugabe’s leadership saying, “President Mugabe has not acted oftentimes in the best interest of the Zimbabwean people and has been resistant to the kinds of democratic changes that need to take place…I’ve committed $73 million in assistance to Zimbabwe. It will not be going to the government directly because we continue to be concerned about consolidating democracy, human rights, and rule of law, but it will be going directly to the people in Zimbabwe and I think can be of assistance to the Prime Minister in his efforts.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama Addresses Doctor’s Group

President Obama took his health care vision directly to one of the special interest groups most associated with health care – the American Medical Association. The group warmly received the President although some bristled at his suggestion of not reducing malpractice payments to deserving beneficiaries. There was general agreement however on his description of what will happen if we fail to act on health care reform. Obama stated, “If we fail to act—and you know this because you see it in your own individual practices—if we fail to act, premiums will climb higher, benefits will erode further, the rolls of the uninsured will swell to include millions more Americans—all of which will affect your practice. If we fail to act, one out of every five dollars we earn will be spent on health care within a decade.  And if we fail to act, federal spending on Medicaid and Medicare will grow over the coming decades by an amount almost equal to the amount our government currently spends on our nation’s defense. It will, in fact, eventually grow larger than what our government spends on anything else today. So to say it as plainly as I can, health care is the single most important thing we can do for America’s longterm fiscal health. That is a fact. That’s a fact.”

The President suggested reforming the way doctors and hospitals are compensated, telling the doctors, “We need to bundle payments so you aren’t paid for every single treatment you offer a patient with a chronic condition like diabetes, but instead paid well for how you treat the overall disease. We need to create incentives for physicians to team up, because we know that when that happens, it results in a healthier patient. We need to give doctors bonuses for good health outcomes, so we’re not promoting just more treatment, but better care. So one thing we need to do is to figure out what works, and encourage rapid implementation of what works into your practices.  That’s why we’re making a major investment in research to identify the best treatments for a variety of ailments and conditions.” President Obama concluded by asking for unity in reforming the health care system, reminding the providers, “We are not a nation that accepts nearly 46 million uninsured men, women and children.”

The White House Jazz Studio

First Lady Michelle Obama, hosted both jazz greats and students of jazz at what was called, “The White House Jazz Studio.” Invited performers included jazz greats Paquito D’Rivera, Zach Brown, Kush Abadey, Elijah Easton, and child protégé Tony Madruga. Jazz students from across the country, many from New Orleans, participated in the event.

Election Violence in Iran

As the world watches the reaction to the election in Iran, America’s President reassured the nation by saying he is deeply troubled by the “violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting.” However, he made it clear, “It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be; we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran….having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I’ve been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process—free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent—all those are universal values and need to be respected.  And whenever I see violence, and whenever the American people see that, I think they’re, rightfully, troubled.”

Obama said the United States will “continue to pursue a tough, direct dialogue between our two countries, and we’ll see where it takes us.”

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