Friday, July 31, 2009

Dramatic increase in diversity among American electorate

.


About 131 million people reported voting in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, an increase of 5 million over 2004. Of that increase, almost all were ethnic minorities, according to a new table package released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The increase included about 2 million more black voters, 2 million more Hispanic voters and about 600,000 more Asian voters.

These figures are in line with electorate trends over the past quarter century, during which white share of the electorate has fallen 15 points, while the rate of voting among voters of color has doubled since 1992. (NYT) According to the Census Bureau, voter turnout among blacks, Asians and Hispanics each increased by about 4 percentage points over the 2004 election. Conversely, the voting rate for non-Hispanic whites decreased by 1 percentage point over 2004. (See chart).

The Nonprofit Voter || July 2009
.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Congressional Caucus urges Vietnam to Release Prisoners of Conscience

.

Thursday July 30th: Press Conference with Congressional Caucus on Vietnam

Rep. Sanchez to Join Congressional Caucus in Urging Vietnam’s President to Release Country’s Political, Religious Prisoners

WHAT: Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA-47) and the other Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam will hold a press conference calling on Nguyen Minh Triet, President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, to release the country’s prisoners of conscience on Thursday, July 30th from 10:30am to 11:30am in room, 1539 Longworth House Office Building.

Based on information from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and international human rights advocacy organizations, the Caucus has identified at least 100 individuals who are currently being detained in Vietnam for the peaceful expression of political or religious views. Many of these individuals were arrested under vague national security laws which do not conform to international human rights standards. The release of these prisoners of conscience would be an important gesture of global leadership as Vietnam prepares to assume the Presidency of the UN Security Council.

If you have any questions, please contact Annie Yea at annie.yea@mail.house.gov or (202) 225-2965.

WHO: Speakers include:
• Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA)
• Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ)
• Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
• Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-LA)
• Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA)
• Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
• Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA)
• Representatives from various human rights advocacy organizations

WHEN: Thursday, July 30, 2009
10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. (EST)

WHERE: 1539 Longworth
Washington, DC

** Media please RSVP and arrive by 10:00 AM EST **

.

"Just have fun following our passion" VVA Picnic on July 26 at Burke Lake Park

.


On Sunday July 26th, Voice of Vietnamese Americans had a picnic at Burke Lake Park, Fairfax, to share our passion of civic engagement among members, friends, and interns. The picnic also was to say farewell to Cindy Dinh and the interns, after all the good works they put in during the summer 09 in the DC Metropolitan area. Cindy is the Liaison for Voice of Vietnamese Americans at Rice University in Texas, and we wish her every success in promoting VVA mission.

There were about 35 attendees, mostly around early 20s, with the support of some parents and older generation in their 60s. We were honored to have the presence of Mr. Duc Dinh and Mrs. Khanh Dinh, who are parents of Cindy. Mr and Mrs. Dinh came from Texas and were very kind to attend the picnic. Mr. Thuan Nguyen and Mrs. Tuyet Ngoc from the Vietnamese Community of Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia also came with special "Xoi" to support the group. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Thuan Nguyen.

There were interns from Seattle, Texas, Massachusetts, California, Michigan, Boston, ... There were friends from MAUVSA, MVMA, CAMSA, Ket Doan, AA-Success.

We had lots of fun and good exchanges with a very diverse group. Yen Nhi just graduated from UVA and is taking a year off to study MCAT while working with VVA. Phuong Mai (founding president of MAUVSA) joined VVA. Cindy is VVA liaison at Rice and in Texas. Hoan Dang, Long Nguyen, Nam Phuong, will be coming to the nNAVSA in Georgia this coming weekend. Many Asian American Interns from OCA joined VVA Picnic, and we are talking about forming Voice of Asian Americans in the future, especially to promote Census 2010.

The special cake had picture of a football to kick-off this new spirit of engagement.

After cutting the cake, a group (Danh, Cindy, Van Anh, Yen Nhi, Vel, Minh) took off to join the special training by Trinh Nguyen from Georgetown University to lobby for "Internet Freedom for Vietnam" on the Hill. Good news received today that the lobbying efforts have brought about the sponsorship of Rep. Wolf and Rep. Connolly. Our sincere thanks to all who have worked hard in this ".INTERNET FREEDOM for Vietnam" Movement.

This coming Sunday August 2nd, Voice of Vietnamese Americans is collaborating with the Vietnamese Medical Society of Northeast America and many Vietnamese American Organizations to serve the community in a "Health and Community Resource Fair", at Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus. We will be doing Voter Registration, promoting Census Awareness, helping with Financial Literacy, Foreclosure Preventions, together with free health care services. Please circulate this news widely to all friends and our community members.

Summer Health Fair 2009 - Free Community Medical & Welfare Services

FORECLOSURE PREVENTION COUNSELING AND FINANCIAL LITERACY

So much inspiration.

Thank you all!

Stay cool and be in touch!

.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Dialogue with China

.

MONDAY, JULY 27TH, 2009 AT 12:02 PM
A Dialogue with China
Posted by Jesse Lee




This morning the President laid out a framework of his vision for yet another critical aspect of American foreign policy – our relationship with China, which he called "as important as any bilateral relationship in the world." The President addressed the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, with Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner chairing the dialogue with the Chinese Vice Premier and State Counselor.

The President opened his remarks, as he often does, putting the relationship in a historical context:

One hundred years ago -- in the early days of the 20th century -- it was clear that there were momentous choices to be made -- choices about the borders of nations and the rights of human beings. But in Woodrow Wilson's day, no one could have foreseen the arc of history that led to a wall coming down in Berlin, nor could they have imagined the conflict and upheaval that characterized the years in between. For people everywhere -- from Boston to Beijing -- the 20th century was a time of great progress, but that progress also came with a great price.

Today, we look out on the horizon of a new century. And as we launch this dialogue, it's important for us to reflect upon the questions that will shape the 21st century. Will growth be stalled by events like our current financial crisis, or will we cooperate to create balanced and sustainable growth, lifting more people out of poverty and creating a broader prosperity around the world? Will the need for energy breed competition and climate change, or will we build partnerships to produce clean power and to protect our planet? Will nuclear weapons spread unchecked, or will we forge a new consensus to use this power for only peaceful purposes? Will extremists be able to stir conflict and division, or will we unite on behalf of our shared security? Will nations and peoples define themselves solely by their differences, or can we find common ground necessary to meet our common challenges, and to respect the dignity of every human being?

We can't predict with certainty what the future will bring, but we can be certain about the issues that will define our times. And we also know this: The relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world. That really must underpin our partnership. That is the responsibility that together we bear.
Identifying President Nixon’s visit as a pivotal moment, he described how the Cold War era had limited the relationship between the two countries to a narrow set of issues, but that it was now time to seek cooperation on mutual interests on a much broader scale.



(President Barack Obama addresses the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2009. Listening at left are Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, center, and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, left. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Again, as he often does, the President proceeded to move into specific examples of issues where progress can be made in the future:

Let me name some of those challenges. First, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in a lasting economic recovery. The current crisis has made it clear that the choices made within our borders reverberate across the global economy -- and this is true not just in New York and Seattle, but in Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well. That is why we must remain committed to strong bilateral and multilateral coordination. And that is the example we have set by acting aggressively to restore growth, to prevent a deeper recession and to save jobs for our people.

Going forward, we can deepen this cooperation. We can promote financial stability through greater transparency and regulatory reform. We can pursue trade that is free and fair, and seek to conclude an ambitious and balanced Doha Round agreement. We can update international institutions so that growing economies like China play a greater role that matches their greater responsibility. And as Americans save more and Chinese are able to spend more, we can put growth on a more sustainable foundation -- because just as China has benefited from substantial investment and profitable exports, China can also be an enormous market for American goods.

Second, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interest in a clean, secure, and prosperous energy future. The United States and China are the two largest consumers of energy in the world. We are also the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. Let's be frank: Neither of us profits from a growing dependence on foreign oil, nor can we spare our people from the ravages of climate change unless we cooperate. Common sense calls upon us to act in concert.

Both of our countries are taking steps to transform our energy economies. Together we can chart a low carbon recovery; we can expand joint efforts at research and development to promote the clean and efficient use of energy; and we can work together to forge a global response at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and beyond. And the best way to foster the innovation that can increase our security and prosperity is to keep our markets open to new ideas, new exchanges, and new sources of energy.

Third, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. Make no mistake: The more nations acquire these weapons, the more likely it is that they will be used. Neither America nor China has an interest in a terrorist acquiring a bomb, or a nuclear arms race breaking out in East Asia. That is why we must continue our collaboration to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and make it clear to North Korea that the path to security and respect can be traveled if they meet their obligations. And that is why we must also be united in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and urging the Islamic Republic to live up to its international obligations.

This is not about singling out any one nation -- it is about the responsibility of all nations. Together, we must cooperate to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world, which will be a focus of our Global Nuclear Summit next year. And together, we must strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by renewing its basic bargain: countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament; countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them; and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy. A balance of terror cannot hold. In the 21st century, a strong and global regime is the only basis for security from the world's deadliest weapons.

And fourth, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in confronting transnational threats. The most pressing dangers we face no longer come from competition among great powers -- they come from extremists who would murder innocents; from traffickers and pirates who pursue their own profits at the expense of others; from diseases that know no borders; and from suffering and civil wars that breed instability and terror. These are the threats of the 21st century. And that is why the pursuit of power among nations must no longer be seen as a zero-sum game. Progress -- including security -- must be shared.

For more, read this morning’s op-ed from Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner, read Secretary Geithner’s opening remarks, or take part in the discussion at the State Department’s blog.



(Chinese officials listen as President Barack Obama speaks at the opening session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington Monday, July 27, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/A-Dialogue-with-China/

Friday, July 24, 2009

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the ASEAN-US Conference

.

Clinton Forges Strong Ties With ASEAN



Opening Remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the ASEAN-US PMC



ASEAN Ministers Discuss Cooperation and Security

ASEAN Meetings End With Promises of Closer Integration
By Daniel Schearf, VOA
Phuket, Thailand
23 July 2009


The annual gathering of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its dialogue partners has ended with host Thailand saying it will lead to greater regional integration. But on two regional issues - Burma and North Korea - very little was accomplished.

At the end of four days of meetings between ASEAN and its key partners, Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the delegates agreed on key issues.


Thailand's FM Kasit Piromya delivers the speech during the closing ceremony in Phuket, southern Thailand, 23 Jul 2009
He said the agreements would pave the way for a more effective and rules-based ASEAN and better regional cooperation.

"Cooperation will continue to be enhanced so that ASEAN can respond more effectively to all pressing challenges, be it in financial and economic crisis, food and energy security and pandemic diseases," said Kasit.

He said ASEAN welcomed the renewed American commitment to the region after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation.

Kasit also said the ASEAN's agreement to form the group's first human rights body would serve as a platform to promote and protect rights.

The rights body will have no power to punish violators, but is expected to develop more authority in the future.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said many of the 27 governments represented at the meetings brought up concerns about North Korea and Burma, also known as Myanmar.

Burma has put democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on trial for breaking the terms of her house arrest and may jail her for up to five years. The military government has more than 2,000 political prisoners.

North Korea is refusing to negotiate an end to its nuclear programs.

Smith said although both countries stubbornly ignore the international community's wishes, the foreign ministers made their message clear.

"This international community pressure adds weight and does put pressure on both those countries," said Smith. "And, what we now want to see on both fronts is a response to that, both in terms of North Korea engaging in the six-party talks and the Myanmar authorities allowing Aung San Suu Kyi to take part fully in an election process."

China's Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi said the six-party talks, which involve China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S., should not be ruled out entirely.

"Although the talks have come across some difficulties, one must not ignore the fact that major progress was achieved some time ago so one should take a long-term and strategic point of view and work for the early resumption of the Six Party Talks," said China stays in close touch with all the parties concerned because this is a good cause, this is a very important cause," said Yang.

North Korea's spokesman at the meetings declared the talks to end its nuclear programs "dead" and blamed Washington for what it called a "hostile" policy.


http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-07-23-voa16.cfm

Thursday, July 23, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA TALKS ABOUT HEALTH CARE REFORM

.
THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
___________________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release July 23, 2009

NEWS CONFERENCE
BY THE PRESIDENT

East Room
July 22,2009

8:01 P.M. EDT



THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Please be seated. Before I take your questions, I want to talk for a few minutes aboutthe progress we're making on health insurance reform and where it fits into our broader economic strategy.

Six months ago, I took office amid the worst recession in half a century. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month and our financial system was on the verge of collapse.

As a result of the actions we took in those first weeks, we've been able to pull our economy back from the brink. We took steps to stabilize our financial institutions and our housing market. And we passed a Recovery Act that has already saved jobs and created new ones; delivered billions in tax relief to families and small businesses; and extended unemployment insurance and health insurance to those who've been laid off.

Of course, we still have a long way to go. And the Recovery Act will continue to save and create more jobs over the next two years -- just like it was designed to do. I realize this is little comfort to those Americans who are currently out of work, and I'll be honest with you -- new hiring is always one of the last things to bounce back after a recession.

And the fact is, even before this crisis hit, we had an economy that was creating a good deal of wealth for those folks at the very top, but not a lot of good-paying jobs for the rest of America. It's an economy that simply wasn't ready to compete in the 21st century -- one where we've been slow to invest in clean energy technologies that have created new jobs and industries in other countries; where we've watched our graduation rates lag behind too much of the world; and where we spend much more on health care than any other nation but aren't any healthier for it.

That's why I've said that even as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis, we must rebuild it stronger than before. And health insurance reform is central to that effort.

This is not just about the 47 million Americans who don't have any health insurance at all. Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It's about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive. And it's about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

So let me be clear: If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we don't act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate that we're having right now.

I realize that with all the charges and criticisms that are being thrown around in Washington, a lot of Americans may be wondering, "What's in this for me? How does my family stand to benefit from health insurance reform?"

So tonight I want to answer those questions. Because even though Congress is still working through a few key issues, we already have rough agreement on the following areas:

If you have health insurance, the reform we're proposing will provide you with more security and more stability. It will keep government out of health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your insurance if you're happy with it. It will prevent insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get too sick. It will give you the security of knowing that if you lose your job, if you move, or if you change your job, you'll still be able to have coverage. It will limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay for your medical costs out of your own pocket. And it will cover preventive care like check-ups and mammograms that save lives and money.

Now, if you don't have health insurance, or you're a small business looking to cover your employees, you'll be able to choose a quality, affordable health plan through a health insurance exchange -- a marketplace that promotes choice and competition. Finally, no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a preexisting medical condition. I've also pledged that health insurance reform will not add to our deficit over the next decade. And I mean it. In the past eight years, we saw the enactment of two tax cuts, primarily for the wealthiest Americans, and a Medicare prescription program -- none of which were paid for. And that's partly why I inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit.

That will not happen with health insurance reform. It will be paid for. Already we've estimated that two-thirds of the cost of reform can be paid for by reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs. This includes over $100 billion of unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare -- subsidies that do nothing to improve care for our seniors. And I'm pleased that Congress has already embraced these proposals. While they're currently working through proposals to finance the remaining costs, I continue to insist that health reform not be paid for on the backs of middle-class families.

In addition to making sure that this plan doesn't add to the deficit in the short term, the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health care costs in the long run. Our proposals would change incentives so that doctors and nurses are free to give patients the best care, just not the most expensive care. That's why the nation's largest organizations representing doctors and nurses have embraced our plan.

We also want to create an independent group of doctors and medical experts who are empowered to eliminate waste and inefficiency in Medicare on an annual basis -- a proposal that could save even more money and ensure long-term financial health for Medicare. Overall, our proposals will improve the quality of care for our seniors and save them thousands of dollars on prescription drugs, which is why the AARP has endorsed our reform efforts.

Not all of the cost savings measures I just mentioned were contained in Congress's draft legislation, but we're now seeing broad agreement thanks to the work that has done over the last few days. So even though we still have a few issues to work out, what's remarkable at this point is not how far we have left to go -- it's how far we've already come.

I understand how easy it is for this town to become consumed in the game of politics -- to turn every issue into a running tally of who's up and who's down. I've heard that one Republican strategist told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it's better politics to "go for the kill"; another Republican senator that defeating health care reform is about "breaking" me.

So let me be clear: This isn't about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings. This is about the woman in Colorado who paid $700 a month to her insurance company only to find out that they wouldn't pay a dime for her cancer treatment -- who had to use up her retirement funds to save her own life. This is about the middle-class college graduate from Maryland whose health insurance expired when he changed jobs and woke up from the emergency surgery that he required with $10,000 worth of debt. This is about every family, every business, and every taxpayer who continues to shoulder the burden of a problem that Washington has failed to solve for decades.

This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they can't afford to wait any longer for reform. They're counting on us to get this done. They're looking to us for leadership. And we can't let them down. We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice, and provides coverage that every American can count on. And we will do it this year.

With that, I'll take your questions. And we are going to start off with Ben Feller of Associated Press.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Congress, as you alluded to, is trying to figure out how to pay for all of this reform. Have you told House and Senate leaders which of their ideas are acceptable to you? If so, are you willing to share that stand of yours with the American people? And if you haven't given that kind of direction to congressional leaders, are you willing to -- are you willing to explain why you're not stepping in to get a deal done, since you're the one setting a deadline?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, before we talk about how to pay for it, let's talk about what exactly needs to be done. And the reason I want to emphasize this is because there's been a lot of misinformation out there.

Right now premiums for families that have health insurance have doubled over the last 10 years. They've gone up three times faster than wages. So what we know is that if the current trends continue, more and more families are going to lose health care, more and more families are going to be in a position where they keep their health care but it takes a bigger bite out of their budget, employers are going to put more and more of the costs on the employees or they're just going to stop providing health care altogether.

We also know that with health care inflation on the curve that it's on we are guaranteed to see Medicare and Medicaid basically break the federal budget. And we know that we're spending on average, we here in the United States are spending about $6,000 more than other advanced countries where they're just as healthy. And I've said this before -- if you found out that your neighbor had gotten the same car for $6,000 less, you'd want to figure out how to get that deal. And that's what reform is all about: How can we make sure that we are getting the best bang for our health care dollar?

Now, what we did very early on was say two-thirds of the costs of health care reform -- which includes providing coverage for people who don't have it, making it more affordable for folks who do, and making sure that we're over the long term creating the kinds of systems where prevention and wellness and information technologies make the system more efficient -- that the entire cost of that has to be paid for and it's got to be deficit-neutral. And we identified two-thirds of those costs to be paid for by tax dollars that are already being spent right now.

So taxpayers are already putting this money into the kitty. The problem is they're not getting a good deal for the money they're spending. That takes care of about two-thirds of the cost. The remaining one-third is what the argument has been about of late. What I've said is that there may be a number of different ways to raise money. I put forward what I thought was the best proposal, which was to limit the deductions, the itemized deductions, for the wealthiest Americans -- people like myself could take the same percentage deduction that middle-class families do and that would raise sufficient funds for that final one-third.

Now, so far we haven't seen any of the bills adopt that. There are other ideas that are out there. I continue to think my idea is the best one, but I'm not foreclosing some of these other ideas as the committees are working them through. The one commitment that I've been clear about is I don't want that final one-third of the cost of health care to be completely shouldered on the backs of middle-class families who are already struggling in a difficult economy. And so if I see a proposal that is primarily funded through taxing middle-class families, I'm going to be opposed to that because I think there are better ideas to do it.

Now, there are -- I have not yet seen what the Senate Finance Committee is producing. They've got a number of ideas, but we haven't seen a final draft. The House suggested a surcharge on wealthy Americans, and my understanding, although I haven't seen the final versions, is, is that there's been talk about making that basically only apply to families whose joint income is a million dollars.

To me, that meets my principle that it's not being shouldered by families who are already having a tough time, but what I want to do is to see what emerges from these committees, continuing to work to find more savings -- because I actually think that it's possible for us to fund even more of this process through identifying waste in the system, try to narrow as much as possible the new revenue that's needed on the front end, and then see how we can piece this thing together in a way that's acceptable to both Democrats and I hope some Republicans.

Q Is it your job to get a deal done?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely it's my job. I'm the President. And I think this has to get done. Just a broader point -- if somebody told you that there is a plan out there that is guaranteed to double your health care costs over the next 10 years, that's guaranteed to result in more Americans losing their health care, and that is by far the biggest contributor to our federal deficit. I think most people would be opposed to that. Well, that's the status quo. That's what we have right now.

So if we don't change, we can't expect a different result. And that's why I think this is so important, not only for those families out there who are struggling and who need some protection from abuses in the insurance industry or need some protection from skyrocketing costs, but it's also important for our economy.

And, by the way, it's important for families' wages and incomes. One of the things that doesn't get talked about is the fact that when premiums are going up and the costs to employers are going up, that's money that could be going into people's wages and incomes. And over the last decade we basically saw middle-class families, their incomes and wages flatlined. Part of the reason is because health care costs are gobbling that up.

And that's why I say if we can -- even if we don't reduce our health care costs by the $6,000 that we're paying more than any other country on Earth, if we just reduced it by $2,000 or $3,000, that would mean money in people's pockets. And that's possible to do.

But we're going to have to make some changes. We've got to change how health care is delivered to -- the health care delivery system works so that doctors are being paid for the quality of care and not the quantity of care. We've got to make information technology more effective. We've got to have the medical system work in teams so that people don't go through five different tests. Those are all critical to do, and we can do them.

Now, I understand that people are feeling uncertain about this, they feel anxious, partly because we've just become so cynical about what government can accomplish, that people's attitudes are, you know, even though I don't like this devil, at least I know it and I like that more than the devil I don't know. So folks are skeptical, and that is entirely legitimate because they haven't seen a lot of laws coming out of Washington lately that help them.

But my hope is, and I'm confident that when people look at the costs of doing nothing they're going to say, we can make this happen -- we've made big changes before that end up resulting in a better life for the American people.

David Alexander, Reuters.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You've been pushing Congress to pass health care reform by August. Why the rush? Are you worried that if you don't -- there's a delay until the fall, the whole effort will collapse?

THE PRESIDENT: A couple of points. Number one, I'm rushed because I get letters every day from families that are being clobbered by health care costs. And they ask me, can you help? So I've got a middle-aged couple that will write me and they say, our daughter just found out she's got leukemia and if I don't do something soon we just either are going to go bankrupt or we're not going to be able to provide our daughter with the care that she needs. And in a country like ours, that's not right. So that's part of my rush.

The second thing is the fact that if you don't set deadlines in this town things don't happen. The default position is inertia. Because doing something always creates some people who are unhappy. There's always going to be some interest out there that decides, you know what, the status quo is working for me a little bit better. And the fact that we have made so much progress where we've got doctors, nurses, hospitals, even the pharmaceutical industry, AARP, saying that this makes sense to do, I think means that the stars are aligned and we need to take advantage of that.

Now, I do think it's important to get this right. And if at the end of the day I do not yet see that we have it right then I'm not going to sign a bill that, for example, adds to our deficit; I won't sign a bill that doesn't reduce health care inflation so that families as well as government are saving money. I'm not going to sign a bill that I don't think will work. And my measure of whether things work or not are listening to the American people but also listening to health care experts who have shown that in some communities, health care is cheaper and delivers a better result. I think we can achieve that.

So I'm confident that if we just keep at it, we keep working, we're diligent, we're honest, if we take criticisms that are out there and modify whatever plans are already working through Congress so that it meets those concerns and those criticisms, that we can arrive at a bill that is going to improve the lives of the American people.

And I'll give you one specific example. I think that there was legitimate concern that we had not incorporated all of the measures that could reduce health care inflation over the long term in some of the versions of health care reform that were coming out of the committee. Well, over the last week, working with not only health care experts but also members of Congress who are concerned about this, we actually have now gotten a commitment to incorporate an idea that has a panel of doctors and health care experts advising on how we can get a better value for our money in Medicare. And every expert out there says this can be a valuable tool to start reducing inflation over the long term.

So can I say this, though -- if we hadn't had any kind of deadline, that change probably would have never surfaced until who knows when. And so I want to do this right, but the American people need some relief.

Chuck Todd.

Q Thank you, sir. You were just talking in that question about reducing health care inflation, reducing costs. Can you explain how you're going to expand coverage? Is it fair to say -- is this bill going to cover all 47 million Americans that are uninsured, or is this going to be something -- is it going to take a mandate, or is this something that isn't -- your bill is probably not going to get it all the way there? And if it's not going to get all the way there, can you say how far is enough -- you know, okay, 20 million more, I can sign that; 10 million more, I can't?

THE PRESIDENT: I want to cover everybody. Now, the truth is that unless you have a what's called a single-payer system in which everybody is automatically covered, then you're probably not going to reach every single individual, because there's always going to be somebody out there who thinks they're indestructible and doesn't want to get health care, doesn't bother getting health care, and then unfortunately when they get hit by a bus end up in the emergency room and the rest of us have to pay for it.

But that's not the overwhelming majority of Americans. The overwhelming majority of Americans want health care, but millions of them can't afford it. So the plan that has been -- that I've put forward and that what we're seeing in Congress would cover -- the estimates are at least 97 to 98 percent of Americans.

There might still be people left out there who, even though there's an individual mandate, even though they are required to purchase health insurance, might still not get it, or despite a lot of subsidies are still in such dire straits that it's still hard for them to afford it, and we may end up giving them some sort of hardship exemption.

But -- I'm sorry, go ahead -- so I think that the basic idea should be that in this country, if you want health care, you should be able to get affordable health care.

And given the waste that's already in the system right now, if we just redesign certain elements of health care, then we can pay for that. We can pay for it in the short term, but we can also pay for it in the long term. And, in fact, there's going to be a whole lot of savings that we obtain from that because, for example, the average American family is paying thousands of dollars in hidden costs in their insurance premiums to pay for what's called uncompensated care -- people who show up at the emergency room because they don't have a primary care physician.

If we can get those people insured, and instead of having a foot amputation because of advanced diabetes they're getting a nutritionist who's working with them to make sure that they are keeping their diet where it needs to be, that's going to save us all money in the long term.

Q Back to the politics of it. You mentioned two Republicans in your opening statement, but you have 60 Democratic seats, a healthy majority in the House. If you don't get this, isn't this a fight inside the Democratic Party, and that Republicans really aren't playing -- you can't really blame the Republicans for this one?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, you haven't seen me out there blaming the Republicans. I've been a little frustrated by some of the misinformation that's been coming out of the Republicans, but that has to do with, as you pointed out, politics. You know, if you've got somebody out there saying -- not that let's get the best bill possible but instead says, you know, let's try to beat this so we can gain political advantage -- well, that's not I think what the American people expect.

I am very appreciative that people like Chuck Grassley on the Finance Committee in the Senate, people like Mike Enzi, people like Olympia Snowe, have been serious in engaging Democrats in trying to figure out how do we actually get a system that works. And even in those committees where you didn't see Republican votes, we've seen Republican ideas. So, for example, in the HELP Committee in the Senate, 160 Republican amendments were adopted into that bill because they've got good ideas to contribute.

So the politics may dictate that they don't vote for health care reform because they think, you know, it'll make Obama more vulnerable. But if they've got a good idea we'll still take it. And in terms of Democrats, the fact of the matter is that because this is a big issue, I think that a lot of Democrats have a lot of different ideas -- some of them have to do with regional disparities. For example, you've got some Democrats who are concerned that the Medicare reimbursement rates in their communities are too low and so they'd like to see the bill incorporate higher rates for doctors and providers in rural communities to incentivize good care in those communities. That's a legitimate concern. But the minute you bring up that concern then that adds money, which means that we then have to find additional dollars.

So this is part of just the normal give-and-take of the legislative process. I'm confident at the end we're going to have a bill that Democrats and some Republicans support.

Jake.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said earlier that you wanted to tell the American people what's in it for them, how will their family benefit from health care reform. But experts say that in addition to the benefits that you're pushing there is going to have to be some sacrifice in order for there to be true cost-cutting measures, such as Americans giving up tests, referrals, choice, end-of-life care. When you describe health care reform you don't -- understandably you don't talk about the sacrifices that Americans might have to make. Do you think -- do you accept the premise that other than some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans, the American people are going to have to give anything up in order for this to happen?

THE PRESIDENT: They're going to have to give up paying for things that don't make them healthier. And I -- speaking as an American, I think that's the kind of change you want.

Look, if right now hospitals and doctors aren't coordinating enough to have you just take one test when you come in because of an illness, but instead have you take one test; then you go to another specialist, you take a second test; then you go to another special, you take a third test -- and nobody's bothering to send the first test that you took -- same test -- to the next doctors, you're wasting money.

You may not see it because if you have health insurance right now it's just being sent to the insurance company, but that's raising your premiums, it's raising everybody's premiums, and that money one way or another is coming out of your pocket -- although we are also subsidizing some of that because there are tax breaks for health care. So not only is it costing you money in terms of higher premiums, it's also costing you as a taxpayer.

Now, I want to change that. Every American should want to change that. Why would we want to pay for things that don't work, that aren't making us healthier? And here's what I'm confident about: If doctors and patients have the best information about what works and what doesn't, then they're going to want to pay for what works. If there's a blue pill and a red pill and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half price for the thing that's going to make you well?

But the system right now doesn't incentivize that. Those are the changes that are going to be needed -- that we're going to need to make inside the system. It will require I think patients to -- as well as doctors, as well as hospitals -- to be more discriminating consumers. But I think that's a good thing, because ultimately we can't afford this. We just can't afford what we're doing right now.

And just to raise a broader issue that I think has colored how we look at health care reform, let me just talk about deficit and debt, because part of what's been happening in this debate is the American people are understandably queasy about the huge deficits and debt that we're facing right now. And the feeling is, all right, we had the bank bailout, we had the recovery package, we had the supplemental, we've got the budget, we're seeing numbers -- trillions here and trillions there. And so I think legitimately people are saying, look, we're in a recession, I'm cutting back, I'm having to give up things -- and yet all I see is government spending more and more money. And that argument I think has been used effectively by people who don't want to change health care to suggest that somehow this is one more government program. So I just want to address that point very quickly.

First of all, let's understand that when I came in we had a $1.3 trillion deficit -- annual deficit that we had already inherited. We had to immediately move forward with a stimulus package because the American economy had lost trillions of dollars of wealth; consumers had lost through their 401(k)s, through their home values, you name it, they had lost trillions of dollars. That all just went away. That was the day I was sworn in, it was already happening. And we had 700,000 jobs that were being lost.

So we felt it was very important to put in place a recovery package that would help stabilize the economy. Then we had to pass a budget, by law. And our budget had a 10-year projection -- and I just want everybody to be clear about this: If we had done nothing, if you had the same old budget as opposed to the changes we made in our budget, you'd have a $9.3 trillion deficit over the next 10 years. Because of the changes we've made it's going to be $7.1 trillion. Now, that's not good, but it's $2.2 trillion less than it would have been if we had the same policies in place when we came in.

So the reason I point this out is to say that the debt and the deficit are deep concerns of mine. I am very worried about federal spending. And the steps that we've taken so far have reduced federal spending over the next 10 years by $2.2 trillion. It's not enough. But in order for us to do more, we're not only going to have to eliminate waste in the system -- and by the way, we had a big victory yesterday by eliminating a weapons program, the F-22, that the Pentagon had repeatedly said we didn't need -- so we're going to have to eliminate waste there, we're going to have to eliminate no-bid contracts, we're going to have to do all kinds of reforms in our budgeting -- but we're also going to have to change health care. Otherwise we can't close that $7.1 trillion gap in the way that the American people want it to change.

So to all -- everybody who's out there who has been ginned up about this idea that the Obama administration wants to spend and spend and spend, the fact of the matter is, is that we inherited a enormous deficit, enormous long-term debt projections. We have not reduced it as much as we need to and as I'd like to, but health care reform is not going to add to that deficit; it's designed to lower it. That's part of the reason why it's so important to do, and to do now.

Chip Reid.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. On Medicare, there are obviously millions of Americans who depend on Medicare, and when you talk about bending the long-term cost down, or when you talk about cuts in the current proposal on Capitol Hill, you talk about cuts in Medicare and they talk about cuts in Medicare, but there are never many specifics. Specifically, what kind of pain, what kind of sacrifice, are you calling on beneficiaries to make? And even if not right away, aren't future beneficiaries going to be getting less generous benefits than today's?

THE PRESIDENT: No. No.

Q And a subsidiary question, what do you think about taking it out of the political realm and giving it to an outside body of experts to take the politics out of Medicare?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, on the second point, that's exactly what our proposal is. It -- called the MedPAC program. By the way, it was originally a Republican idea. I want to give credit where credit is due. The Republican Congress passed a bill that created a panel of health care experts to make recommendations to Congress on how we could get better quality, lower cost. The problem is every year it would just go on a shelf, and nobody would act on it.

So what we've said is let's give that body some power. Let's require Congress to vote on the proposals that they're making every year. Congress can still reject them, so it's not completely removing it from politics, but they have to reject or accept it as a package. And that I think would incentive and empower important changes.

But here's the thing I want to emphasize, Chip. It's not going to reduce Medicare benefits. What it's going to do is to change how those benefits are delivered so that they're more efficient.

Let me give you a very specific example. You've heard that as a consequence of our efforts at reform, the pharmaceutical industry has already said they're willing to put $80 billion on the table. Now, why is that? Well, the reason is, is because there's probably even more waste than $80 billion, in terms of how the drug plan in Medicare is administered. We might be able to get $100 billion out or more, but the pharmaceutical industry voluntarily said, here's $80 billion.

You know what that means? That means that senior citizens who right now have a so-called doughnut hole in their plan where after spending a certain amount on prescription drugs suddenly they drop off a cliff and they've got to pocket the entire cost, suddenly half of that is filled. That's a hard commitment that we already have.

So that's a change in how we are delivering Medicare. But you know what, it turns out that it means out-of-pocket savings for seniors. That's why AARP has endorsed this.

Christi Parsons.

Q Thank you. During the campaign you promised that health care negotiations would take place on C-SPAN, and that hasn't happened. And your administration recently turned down a request from a watchdog group seeking a list of health care executives who have visited the White House to talk about health care reform. Also, the TARP inspector general recently said that your White House is withholding too much information on the bank bailouts. So my question for you is, are you fulfilling your promise of transparency in the White House?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, on the list of health care executives who've visited us, most of the time you guys have been in there taking pictures, so it hasn't been a secret. And my understanding is we just sent a letter out providing a full list of all the executives. But frankly these have mostly been at least photo sprays where you could see who was participating.

With respect to all the negotiations not being on C-SPAN, you will recall in this very room that our kickoff event was here on C-SPAN, and at a certain point you start getting into all kinds of different meetings -- Senate Finance is having a meeting, the House is having a meeting. If they wanted those to be on C-SPAN then I would welcome it. I don't think there are a lot of secrets going on in there.

And the last question with respect to TARP. Let me take a look at what exactly they say we have not provided. I think that we've provided much greater transparency than existed prior to our administration coming in. It is a big program. I don't know exactly what's been requested. I'll find out and I will have an answer for you.

Julianna.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You've said the recent bank profits indicate that there's been no sense of remorse on Wall Street for risky behavior, that we haven't seen a change in culture there. Do you think that your administration needs to be taking a harder line with Wall Street? And also, would you consider going a step further than your regulatory reform proposals and supporting a fee on risky activities that go beyond traditional lending?

THE PRESIDENT: We were on the verge of a complete financial meltdown. And the reason was because Wall Street took extraordinary risks with other people's money, they were peddling loans that they knew could never be paid back, they were flipping those loans and leveraging those loans and higher and higher mountains of debt were being built on loans that were fundamentally unsound. And all of us now are paying the price.

Now, I believe it was the right thing to do -- as unpopular as it is, it was the right thing for us to do to step in to make sure that the financial system did not collapse, because things would be even worse today had those steps not been taken. It originated under the Bush administration. We continued it because whether you're on the left or the right, if you talk to economists, they said that this could have the kinds of consequences that would drop us into a deep depression and not simply a very severe recession.

Now, one of the success stories of the past six months is that we really have seen a stabilization in the financial system. It's not where it needs to be, but people are no longer talking about the financial system falling off a cliff. We've stepped away from the brink. And that's important, because what it means is there are a lot of companies right now that can go into the marketplace and borrow money to fund inventory, fund payroll, and that will help the economy grow as a whole.

The problem is, now that the financial system has bounced back, what you're seeing is that banks are starting to make profits again. Some of them have paid back the TARP money that they received, the bank bailout money that they received. And we expect more of them to pay this back. That's a good thing. And we also think it's a good thing that they're profitable again, because if they're profitable that means that they have reserves in place and they can lend. And this is America, so if you're profitable in the free market system then you benefit.

But what we haven't seen I think is the kind of change in behavior and practices on Wall Street that would ensure that we don't find ourselves in a fix again where we've got to bail out these folks while they're taking huge risks and taking huge bonuses.

So what do I think we need to do? We've got to pass financial regulatory reform. And this is an example of where folks say, well, should the Obama administration be taking on too much? The fact of the matter is that if we don't pass financial regulatory reform then banks are going to go back to the same things that they were doing before. In some ways it could be worse because now they know that the federal government may think that they're too big to fail and so if they're unconstrained they could take even more risks. And so there are a number of elements of financial regulatory reform.

With respect to compensation I'd like to think that people would feel a little remorse and feel embarrassed and would not get million-dollar or multimillion-dollar bonuses. But if shame does not work then I think one proposal that I put forward is to make sure that at least shareholders of these companies know what their executives are being compensated -- and that may force some reductions.

For banks that are still receiving taxpayer assistance we have a set of rules that gives us some control on reducing unwarranted compensation.

And in terms of the last point that you made, which is the possibility of fees for transactions that we want to discourage, that is one of the ideas that is going to be working its way through the process. I think at minimum what we want to do is to make sure that to the extent the federal government is going to have to be a backstop, just like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, what everybody is familiar with, FDIC, the reason that when you put your deposits in your bank you can have confidence that they're insured -- that's paid for through bank fees. We may need to make sure that there is a similar mechanism in place for some of these other far-out transactions. So if you guys want to do them, then you got to put something into the kitty to make sure that if you screw up it's not taxpayer dollars that have to pay for it, but it's dollars coming out of your profits.

Steve Koff, the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Q Thank you. To follow up on Jake's question earlier, sir, so many Americans are concerned that this plan, particularly the government insurance, the public option, would lead to reduced benefits or reduced coverage.

Two questions. One, can you guarantee that this legislation will lock in and say the government will never deny any services; that that's going to be decided by the doctor and the patient, and the government will not deny any coverage? And secondarily, can you, as a symbolic gesture, say that you and the Congress will abide by the same benefits in that public option?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, number one, not only the public option but the insurance regulation that we want to put in place will largely match up with what members of Congress are getting through the federal employee plan. That's a good example of what we're trying to build for the American people -- the same thing that Congress enjoys, which is they go -- there is a marketplace of different plans that they can access, depending on what's best for their families.

Now, one of the plans that we've talked about is a public option. And part of the reason we want to have a public option is just to help keep the insurance companies honest. If the insurance companies are providing good care -- and as it is, they're going to be more regulated so that they can't deny you care because of a preexisting condition or because you change jobs or because they've decided you're too sick and not a good risk -- with regulation there's already going to be some improvement in the insurance industry.

But having a public plan out there that also shows that maybe if you take some of the profit motive out, maybe if you are reducing some of the administrative costs, that you can get an even better deal, that's going to incentivize the private sector to do even better. And that's a good thing. That's a good thing.

Now, there have been reports just over the last couple of days of insurance companies making record profits -- right now. At a time when everybody is getting hammered, they're making record profits, and premiums are going up. What's the constraint on that? How can you ensure that those costs aren't being passed on to employers or passed on to employees, the American people, ordinary middle-class families, in a way that over time is going to make them broke? Well, part of the way is to make sure that there's some competition out there. So that's the idea.

Now, to get to your original question, can I guarantee that there are going to be no changes in the health care delivery system? No. The whole point of this is to try to encourage changes that work for the American people and make them healthier. The government already is making some of these decisions. More importantly, insurance companies right now are making those decisions.

And part of what we want to do is to make sure that those decisions are being made by doctors and medical experts based on evidence, based on what works -- because that's not how it's working right now. That's not how it's working right now. Right now doctors a lot of times are forced to make decisions based on the fee payment schedule that's out there.

So if they're looking -- and you come in and you've got a bad sore throat, or your child has a bad sore throat or has repeated sore throats, the doctor may look at the reimbursement system and say to himself, you know what, I make a lot more money if I take this kid's tonsils out. Now that may be the right thing to do, but I'd rather have that doctor making those decisions just based on whether you really need your kid's tonsils out or whether it might make more sense just to change -- maybe they have allergies, maybe they have something else that would make a difference.

So part of what we want to do is to free doctors, patients, hospitals to make decisions based on what's best for patient care -- and that's the whole idea behind Mayo, that's the whole idea behind the Cleveland Clinic. I'm going to be visiting your hometown tomorrow to go to the Cleveland Clinic to show -- to show why their system works so well. And part of the reason it works well is because they've set up a system where patient care is the number-one concern, not bureaucracy, what forms have to be filled out, what do we get reimbursed for. Those are changes that I think the American people want to see.

Q And what about yourself and Congress? Would you abide by the same benefits package?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I would be happy to abide by the same benefit package. I will just be honest with you -- I'm the President of the United States so I've got a doctor following me every minute. (Laughter.) Which is why I say this is not about me. I've got the best health care in the world. I'm trying to make sure that everybody has good health care -- and they don't right now.

Lynn Sweet. Oh. (Laughter.) Well, I said Steve Koff -- but he just stood up, huh?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's not fair. Shame on you. (Laughter.) All right, get in there real quick.

Q -- got the Cleveland connection, so I appreciate that. You cited the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinics as models for the delivery of health care in the past. The Mayo Clinic, though, has some problems with the House proposal saying they're not focused enough on patients and on results. What do you expect to achieve tomorrow by going to the Cleveland Clinic -- which hasn't stated an opinion -- and are you expecting some form of endorsement from the Cleveland Clinic?

THE PRESIDENT: I am not expecting an endorsement. The Cleveland Clinic is simply a role model for some of the kind of changes that we want to see. I think it's important to note that the Mayo Clinic was initially critical and concerned about whether there were enough changes in the delivery system and cost-saving measures in the original House bill. After they found out that we had put forward very specific mechanisms for this MedPAC idea, this idea of experts getting the politics out of health care and making decisions based on the best evidence out there, they wrote in their blog the very next day that we actually think this would make a difference. Okay?

All right, I tried to make that short so that Lynn Sweet would get her last question in.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Recently Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge. What does that incident say to you and what does it say about race relations in America?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I should say at the outset that "Skip" Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here. I don't know all the facts. What's been reported, though, is that the guy forgot his keys, jimmied his way to get into the house, there was a report called into the police station that there might be a burglary taking place -- so far, so good, right? I mean, if I was trying to jigger into -- well, I guess this is my house now so -- (laughter) -- it probably wouldn't happen. But let's say my old house in Chicago -- (laughter) -- here I'd get shot. (Laughter.)

But so far, so good. They're reporting -- the police are doing what they should. There's a call, they go investigate what happens. My understanding is at that point Professor Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in, I'm sure there's some exchange of words, but my understanding is, is that Professor Gates then shows his ID to show that this is his house. And at that point, he gets arrested for disorderly conduct -- charges which are later dropped.

Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that, but I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge Police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact.

As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois, we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in this society. That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made.

And yet the fact of the matter is, is that this still haunts us. And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently and oftentime for no cause casts suspicion even when there is good cause. And that's why I think the more that we're working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody is going to be.

All right, thank you, everybody.

END 8:56 P.M. EDT

http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing_room/pressreleases/

Obama Makes Case for Health Care Reform and Comments on Skip Gates Arrest

Obama Makes Case for Health Care Reform and Comments on Skip Gates Arrest
Associated Press
July 22


http://www.bet.com/onblast/default.html?chan=4&id=3363&i=76&sub=&itype=e



President Barack Obama said Wednesday night that Medicare and Medicaid are the "biggest driving force behind" massive federal deficits, and must be tamed as part of any health care legislation.

At a prime-time news conference marking six months in office, Obama said health care legislation was key to a strong economic recovery, and he added, "If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit."

See Full Video Coverage: Watch President Obama's Entire News Conference

The president noted he took office with the economy in the worst recession in half a century. "As a result of the action we took in those first weeks, we have been able to pull our economy back from the brink," he said.

The president stepped to the microphone as Congress labored over his call for sweeping legislation to expand health care to millions who lack it, as well as control the costs of medical care generally.

In his opening statement, he stressed the second of those two goals.

"In the past eight years, we saw the enactment of two tax cuts, primarily for the wealthiest Americans, and a Medicare prescription program, none of which were paid for."

He vowed anew that he wouldn't sign health care legislation that wasn't paid for, although his administration has exempted from that pledge an estimated $245 billion to raise Medicare fees for doctors.

"This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait for reform any longer," Obama said. "They are looking to us for leadership. And we must not let them down."

The stakes are huge not just for everyday Americans, but also for Obama, who is putting much of his credibility on the line to gain passage of congressional legislation. His stepped-up public role comes as he faces rising criticism from Republicans, sliding public approval ratings and divisions within his party.

Holding his 10th extended news conference, Obama was renewing a message that the White House says he cannot pound enough: making health coverage affordable and sustainable is so vital that anything less will erode the economic stability of families, businesses and even the government.

The complex work of getting bills through the House and Senate is proving difficult. Republican leaders contend Obama's effort and the emerging bills are rushed and risky, and members of Obama's own Democratic Party are split on how to structure and pay for a daunting overhaul.

Obama sought to get beyond that and connect with Americans — and, in turn, the White House hopes, to pressure Congress. "I understand how easy it is for this town to become consumed in the game of politics, to turn every issue into a running tally of who's up or who's down," he said.

His words came as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats have the votes to pass a massive health care bill in that chamber, prompting surprise and some criticism from conservatives within her party.

Congress is struggling to figure out how to pay for adding millions to the ranks of the insured and slowing the long-term costs of health care in the U.S.

In his comments, Obama reiterated his pledge that any bill he signs will not add to the nation's soaring deficit. "And I mean it," he said.

Meanwhile, a nervous public is being hit by TV ads and claims from all sides.

And other issues haven't gone away as Obama steps before the cameras. Still looming are an economy that keeps losing jobs, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Obama's January deadline to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The timing is critical as Obama appeals Wednesday night to a national viewing audience.

He wants the House and Senate to vote on comprehensive health care bills before they break for the summer, a window that is scheduled to shut by the first week in August. That timetable is growing tenuous, though, with up-and-down developments by the day.

So Obama is everywhere on health care: giving Rose Garden statements, visiting health clinics, talking to bloggers, granting interviews.

"He's prepared to do this as many times as he has to," said Michael Traugott, a University of Michigan professor who specializes in political communications. "The president has a special advantage because he's readily identifiable. The Congress is a less well known institution, and less popular in the public's eye."

Obama's approval rating stands at 55 percent, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, down from 64 percent in late May and early June. Some 50 percent approve of his handling of health care, but 43 percent disapprove, and that number has risen sharply since April.

With public opinion still waiting to be shaped on health care, and with the legislative details in flux, what's clear is that people care.

Nearly 80 percent of those polled say health care is an important issue to them. Obama is seeking to extend coverage to millions who don't have it and to hold down the long-term costs of health care. How to pay remain a complex political question.

It didn't help the White House when the Congressional Budget Office last week said the bills moving through Congress would add to the nation's long-term costs, not reduce them. Obama has been emphatic that he will not sign a bill that adds to the government's deficit.

Meanwhile, unemployment is at 9.5 percent and rising.

Talk of Obama inheriting an economic mess from George W. Bush is fading, and the American public is now grading the new president. His approval rating on handling the economy has been slipping as impatience grows.

Obama says the country is moving in the right direction, and he points to legislation from his first half-year in office: a massive economic stimulus bill that is ultimately designed to work over two years, a law to overhaul the credit card industry, and another to keep tobacco companies from marketing to kids.

Still, he told CBS News on Tuesday: "As long as the economy is still shedding jobs and people don't feel confident about a recovery, then, you know, I think there's going to continue to be frustration. And rightfully so."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday that Obama is "feeling optimistic that he's on track, after his first six months in office, to fulfill his promise to sign a health care reform bill before the end of the year."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Water for the World

.

THANKS FROM MATT DAMON
Jul 22nd, 2009 2:41 PM EST
By Emily.Stivers
WWW.ONE.ORG


As part of his advocacy work for clean water and sanitation around the world, actor and advocate Matt Damon recently visited new water projects in India (and also took part in some cultural activities, thus the Bindhi mark on his forehead). While there, he took a few minutes to thank the more than 100,000 ONE members who signed our petition to senators asking them to cosponsor the Durbin-Corker Water for the World Act, and show us an example of the kind of projects this bill will support.

Check out the video:



Thanks in part to the efforts of ONE members and our partners, support for the Water for the World Act is growing in the Senate. Since we began our campaign in early June, 8 senators have signed on as cosponsors. And just since our last update, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) has signed on, bringing the total count to 14 cosponsors:

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Bob Corker, Bob (R-TN)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Sen. Byron Dorgan D-ND)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT)

Our legislative experts estimate we need 20 cosponsors to get the bill a hearing and move it through the Senate, so we’re going to keep our campaign open in the hope of accumulating even more grassroots support — hoping to meet our goal of 150,000 petition signers — for the Water for the World Act. If you haven’t already, you can sign the petition here. And be sure to share it with your friends, here.

In addition to his thanks to ONE members, Matt Damon invites us all to check out the website of his new organization, water.org.

Water.org is a non-profit organization that has transformed hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America by providing access to safe water and sanitation. Founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, water.org works with local partners to deliver innovative solutions for long-term success. Their microfinance-based WaterCredit Initiative is pioneering sustainable giving in the sector. You can learn more at water.org.

And thanks to everyone who took action on behalf of the Water for the World Act. Slowly but quite surely, our voices are making a difference.

-Emily Stivers

http://www.one.org/blog/2009/07/22/thanks-from-matt-damon/?id=1074-4232173-Jf8dxGx&t=4

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hillary Clinton on Suu Kyi: "We have condemned the way that she has been treated"

.

http://voiceofvietnameseamericans.blogspot.com/2009/07/un-chief-calls-for-burma-releases.html



Hillary Clinton on Suu Kyi: "We have condemned the way that she has been treated"

Burma-N Korea ties 'of concern'

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said Washington is "very seriously" concerned about military co-operation between North Korea and Burma.

Arriving in Thailand ahead of a forum on regional security, she said the relationship was a threat to stability.

She also condemned Burma's treatment of jailed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Foreign ministers from the Asean grouping, as well as EU and US envoys, are meeting on Wednesday in Thailand.

"We know there are also growing concerns about military co-operation between North Korea and Burma, which we take very seriously," Mrs Clinton said after meeting Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

"It would be destabilising for the region, it would pose a direct threat to Burma's neighbours," she said.

'Unacceptable treatment'

Asean leaders have expressed satisfaction that a figure as senior as Mrs Clinton is attending the regional forum. In recent years more junior US officers have been sent, leaving the delegate from China - a growing influence in the region - as the key figure at the talks.

This year's forum, being held on the resort island of Phuket, is expected to focus on North Korea and Burma.

Burma, a member of Asean, is likely to face some awkward questions

Mrs Clinton is expected to put pressure on North Korea to return to the six-party talks on its nuclear disarmament.

US officials have said she is to meet with her counterparts from the other parties to the six-nation talks: South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.

It is not clear if Mrs Clinton will meet any North Korean delegates. Pyongyang has refused to send its foreign minister to Phuket but will send a "roving ambassador".

Speaking on the issue of Burma, Mrs Clinton the US expected "fair treatment" of Aung San Suu Kyi.

"We have condemned the way that she has been treated by the regime in Burma, which we consider to be baseless and totally unacceptable."

Ms Suu Kyi has been jailed or under house arrest for about 14 of the last 20 years. She is currently in a Rangoon prison on trial for allegedly breaking the conditions of her house arrest.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) has a policy of non-interference in members' affairs, but Burma has provoked widespread censure.

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda said elections that Burma's military rulers have promised for next year could not be free and fair unless Ms Suu Kyi was freed.

A new human rights body created by Asean, lambasted by regional activists as lacking any enforcement power, was almost scuttled over the weekend when an increasingly assertive Indonesia sought to strengthen its provisions.


.

INTERNET FREEDOM

.

INTERNET FREEDOM
Inform, connect, and empower the people with information on a free Internet.



http://www.internetfreedom.org/

ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION:

Free Speech
Email allows groups to grow from a dozen friends to a hundred hobbyists to a huge, national organization. Meanwhile, blogging is transforming journalism, and websites like Wikipedia and the Internet Archive are part of a new Library of Alexandria being built online.

In countless ways, the Internet is radically enhancing our access to information and empowering us to share ideas with the entire world. Speech thrives online, freed of limitations inherent in other media and created by traditional gatekeepers.

Preserving the Internet's open architecture is critical to sustaining free speech. But this technological capacity means little without sufficient legal protections. If laws can censor you, limit access to certain information, or restrict use of communication tools, then the Internet's incredible potential will go unrealized.

The government has time and again tried doing just that—indeed, censorship laws have often aimed at speech that could not be similarly restricted offline. And when old laws are not properly adapted to this medium, it's all too easy for the government, companies, and individual litigants to undermine your rights.

EFF defends the Internet as a platform for free speech and believes that when you go online, your rights should come with you. Learn more below and consider supporting our efforts.

http://www.eff.org/issues/free-speech

.

Friday, July 17, 2009

FORECLOSURE PREVENTION COUNSELING

CONFIDENTIAL
FORECLOSURE PREVENTION COUNSELING


Date: August 2nd, 2009
Time: 0900am - 02:00pm

Northern Virginia Community College
Ernst Community Cultural Center
8333 Little River Turnpike
Annandale, VA 22003-3796


HUD-approved counselors and lenders on site to provide
FREE services for all customers

Please Come Prepared. Bring these important documents:

1. Income Documentation
- Two (2) most current pay stubs
- Two (2) most recent years’ W2s
- Self-employed individuals must provide 4 months of the most recent
bank statements & most recent tax returns, and an audited or
reviewed YTD income statement for corporations & LLCs
2. Your most recent mortgage statement and any other related
correspondence
3. Your most recent two (2) years tax returns
4. A list of your monthly expenses

Participating Partners: Voice of Vietnamese Americans, AREAA, and Chase.

.

DỊCH VỤ MIỄN PHÍ - GIÚP ĐỒNG BÀO KHÔNG BỊ TỊCH THU NHÀ

DỊCH VỤ MIỄN PHÍ
GIÚP ĐỒNG BÀO KHÔNG BỊ TỊCH THU NHÀ


KÍN ĐÁO
Tư vấn giúp ngừa việc nhà bị tịch thu

Chủ Nhật, 02 tháng 08, 2009
9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Northern Virginia Community College
Ernst Community Cultural Center
8333 Little River Turnpike
Annandale, VA 22003-3796

Các nhà tư vấn đã được Tổng Cục Gia Cư chuẩn nhận
Với sự hiện diện của các Cơ quan Tài Chánh
để Tư Vấn MIỄN PHÍ cho đồng bào

Xin Chuẩn Bị Trước
Mang theo các giấy tờ quan trọng sau đây khi tham dự:


1. Giấy tờ chứng minh lợi tức.
 Hai (2) cuống phiếu tiền lương gần đây nhất
 Hai (2) mẫu W-2 của 2 năm gần nhất (2007 và 2008)
 Cá nhân làm việc cho chính mình phải mang theo 4 tháng “Bank statements” và hồ sơ thuế năm 2007, 2008, cùng với hồ sơ lợi tức của hãng mình đã được sở thuế kiểm kê.
2. Your most recent mortgage statement and any other related correspondence
3. Giấy nợ nhà với con số tài khoản mới nhất, cùng các trao đổi với ngân hàng.
4. Hồ sơ khai thuế của hai năm 2007, 2008.
5. Tờ kê khai tất cả các chi phí trong tháng.

.

Summer Health Fair 2009 - Free Community Medical & Welfare Services

.

Summer Health Fair 2009
Free Community Medical & Welfare Services



In order to provide useful medical information, diseases prevention, free health screenings, and information on community welfare resources for the Vietnamese Americans in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area, the Vietnamese Medical Society of Northeast America will organize a Summer Health Fair in collaboration with: AA Success, Boat People SOS, Vietnamese American Community of Washington D.C.-MD-VA, Gia Long Association, Go Cong Association, Hope For Tomorrow, Thang Long Boy Scout, Quang Da Association, Saigon Arts Culture & Education Institute )SACEI), Thien Tam Association, Vietnamese-American Dental Study Club, Voice of Vietnamese Americans, World Health Ambassador, Vietnamese Photographic Society of Washington D.C., Zecontech Company.

Time: Sunday, August 2nd, 2009 from 9:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.
Location: the Ernst Cultural Community Center of Northern Virginia Community College
8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003
(From Beltway 495, exit 52A Little River Turnpike West, pass 3 traffic lights, turn left on Wakefield Chapel, left on Lake Drive then follow the signs to the parking lot B)

Community Medical, Dental & Pharmaceutical Services
• Blood sugar, cholesterol, hepatitis B&C
• Vital signs, body mass index( BMI), Bone density screening
• Education on prevention/Exam/Test on skin disease, breast cancer, uterine cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer
• Eye exam and eye disease prevention. Ear exam and audiometry.
• Education on common important diseases: diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, coronary disease, stroke,
asthma, allergy, rheumatism, screening for colon, prostate cancers, hepatitis B and vaccination, etc…
• Dental & oral cancer screenings, patient education on preventive & dental services
• Education on chiropractic services, therapeutic massage and acupuncture.
*In order to obtain accurate screening, please do not eat anything for 8 hours prior to blood test


Community Welfare Services
• Immigration services
• Information on how to rent or buy a house, health insurance & free clinic for low income families
• Small Business assistance (startup and development)
• Job seeking assistance
• Senior citizen programs (Meal on wheels, healthcare, nursing home & home health care)
• Information on Medicare (Part A, B, and D), Medicaid, and social security benefits (SSA and SSI)
• Community Security Program
• Foreclosure prevention program


All of the above services are provided free of charge. The goal of medical services here is to educate, prevent and screen, not to treat patients. Please follow up with your family physicians. Make sure to bring all the necessary documents related to the services: driver’s license/ID card.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Đỗ Hồng Anh 703-373-9333 Mr, Đoàn Hữu Định 703-475-6186 Mr. Lê Hữu Em 703-237-5404 Mr. Đỗ James 703-533-5471
Dr. Nguyễn ĐứcVinh 703-209-3423 Dr. Trần Văn Sáng 703-241-8811 Dr. Văn Sơn Trường 703-548-4300
Dr. Nguyễn Bích Lộc 703-430-9317 Mr. Nguyễn Trường Phát 703-829-2838 Mr. Lê Văn Tua 703-338-7425

.

Hội Chợ Sức Khỏe Hè 2009 - Phục vụ miễn phí về Y Tế và An Sinh Cộng Đồng

Hội Chợ Sức Khỏe Hè 2009
Phục vụ miễn phí về Y Tế và An Sinh Cộng Đồng


Trong tinh thần phục vụ quý đồng hương để bảo tồn sức khỏe toàn diện, Y Tế và An Sinh Xã Hội, Hội Y Tế Miền Đông Bắc Hoa Kỳ sẽ tổ chức một ngày hội chợ sức khỏe với sự hợp tác của các hội: AA Success, Boat People SOS, Cộng Đồng Việt Nam vùng Washington DC, MD & VA, Liên Hội Cựu Chiến Sĩ Việt Nam Cộng Hòa, Hội Cựu Sinh Viên Quốc Gia Hành Chánh, Hội Gia Long, Hội Gò Công, Hope For Tomorrow, Liên Đoàn Hướng Đạo Thăng Long, Hội Nhiếp Ảnh VN HTĐ, Hội Quảng Đà, Saigon Arts Culture & Education Institute (SACEI), Hội Thiện Tâm, Vietnamese-American Dental Study Club, Voice of Vietnamese Americans, World Health Ambassador (WHA), Hãng Zecontech Inc.


Thời gian: Ngày Chủ Nhật 2 tháng 8 năm 2009 từ 9 giờ sáng đến 2 giờ chiều
Địa Điểm: Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA)
Ernst Community Cultural Center
8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003
(Lấy Beltway 495, exit 52A Little River Turnpike West, đi qua ba đèn, quẹo trái vào
đường Wakefield Chapel, quẹo trái vào Lake Drive và theo bảng chỉ dẫn đến chỗ đậu xe lot B)

Phục Vụ Y Tế Cộng Đồng
(do các bác sĩ, nha sĩ, dược sĩ và chuyên viên y tế phụ trách)
• Thử nghiệm máu: viêm gan B và C, đường, mỡ cholesterol
• Đo độ loãng xương (Bone density screening)
• Đo áp huyết và mạch tim, đo phổi, chỉ số về bệnh béo mập (BMI)
• Khám nghiệm các bệnh ngoài da
• Khám mắt và chỉ dẫn phòng ngừa các bệnh về mắt. Khám tai và đo độ thính tai
• Hướng dẫn và giải thích về các bệnh quan trọng như bệnh tiểu đường, áp huyết cao, mỡ cao, nghẹt tim,
tai biến mạch máu não, ung thư phổi, ung thư ruột già, ung thư nhiếp hộ tuyến, suyển, dị ứng, phong thấp,
bệnh viêm gan, chích ngừa viêm gan B, v.v...
• Hướng dẫn và giải thích về phòng ngừa ung thư vú, ung thư tử cung và chủng ngừa ung thư tử cung
• Hướng dẫn chích ngừa trẻ em và người lớn
• Khám tổng quát răng và lợi, nha khoa phòng ngừa
• Hướng dẫn về nắn xương, xoa bóp và châm cứu.

Phục vụ An Sinh Xã Hội
• Chỉ dẫn, nhận khiếu nại về di trú. Giúp điền đơn xin vào quốc tịch, thẻ xanh. Nhận huấn luyện thi quốc tịch
• Mua hoặc mướn nhà cho người có lợi tức thấp
• Chương trình cho người già (thức ăn, y tế, nhà và viện dưỡng lão)
• Chỉ dẫn tìm kiếm việc làm và nạp đơn xin việc tại trường học công trong quận Fairfax
• Chương trình xin bảo hiểm sức khỏe cho người có lợi tức thấp
• Chương trình trợ giúp thủ tục mở hoặc mở rộng một cơ sở thương mại
• Trả lời thắc mắc về tiền trợ cấp xã hội (SSI), tiền hưu (SSA), Medicaid và Medicare phần A, B, và D
• Chương trình phòng ngừa bị tịch thu bất động sản (foreclosure prevention)
• Chương trình an ninh cộng đồng.

Ghi chú: 1. Phục vụ y tế chú trọng về hướng dẫn, ngừa bệnh, khám nghiệm và thử nghiệm chứ không trị bệnh tại chỗ. Xin quý vị nhịn đói 8 tiếng trước khi thử máu. Khi có kết quả, xin quý vị tiếp tục theo dõi với bác sĩ gia đình. Về các phục vụ an sinh xã hội, xin quý vị đem theo các hồ sơ cần thiết nếu cần sự giúp đỡ.
2. Để tiện việc ghi danh, xin quý vị mang theo bằng lái xe, thẻ an sinh xã hội hoặc thẻ căn cước (ID card).

Muốn biết thêm chi tiết, xin quý vị liên lạc với các số điện thọai sau đây:
Ô. Đỗ Hồng Anh703-373-9333 Ô. Đoàn Hữu Định703-475-6186
Ô. Lê Hữu Em 703-237-5404Ô. Đỗ James 703-533-5471
BS Nguyễn ĐứcVinh703-209-3423 BS TrầnVănSáng 703-241-8811
BS Văn Sơn Trường 703-548-4300 NS Nguyễn Bích Lộc 703-430-9317
Ô. Nguyễn Trường Phát 703-829-2838 Ô. Lê Văn Tua 703-338-7425

WEBB AND WARNER ANNOUNCE SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVAL OF $476 MILLION IN KEY MILITARY CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS IN VIRGINIA

.





Press Releases
July 17, 2009

Washington, DC—Today, U.S. Senators Jim Webb and Mark R. Warner announced that the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 contains $476.1 million for key military construction projects in Virginia.

Reported out by the Senate Committee on Appropriations July 13, the bill incorporates two projects the senators specifically requested —a $3.66 million project for the expansion of an electromagnetic research and engineering facility at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dalghren, VA., and an $8.9 million project to upgrade the marshalling area at Ft. Eustis, requests supported by the Navy and Army, respectively.

Committee passage clears the way for the bill to be considered by the full Senate later this year.

“The committee’s funding support for these military construction projects is an important step forward in our efforts to provide uniformed service members and civilian employees with the modern facilities they need to perform their critical missions,” said Senator Webb, who serves on the Senate Committees on Armed Services and Veterans Affairs.

“These projects will upgrade training capabilities and invest in important infrastructure improvements at military facilities across Virginia, which will better prepare our servicemen and women as they work and train to defend our nation,” said Senator Warner.

The senators also supported the following military construction projects in Virginia for which the Committee appropriated funds in line with the administration’s budget request:

Dalghren Naval Surface Warfare Center AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense Facility expansion: $24.5M
Dam Neck Special Operations Forces Operations Facility (Increment III): $15.967M
Fort A.P Hill Automated Infantry Platoon Battle Course: $4.9M
Fort A.P. Hill Field Training Area: $9M
Fort A.P. Hill Training Aids Center: $9.1M
Fort Belvoir Flight Control Tower: $8.4M
Fort Belvoir Road and Access Control Point: $9.5M
Fort Pickett Regional Training Institute (Phase II): $32M
Langley Air Force Base West & LaSalle Gates Force Protection/Access: $10M
Little Creek Special Operations Forces Activity Operations Facility: $18.669M
Little Creek Naval Construction Division Operations Facility: $13.095M
Norfolk E-2D Trainer Facility: $11.737M
Norfolk Facility Upgrades for E-2D Program: $6.402M
Oceana Naval Air Station C-40 Hangar: $30.4M
Pentagon Electrical Upgrade: $19.272M
Pentagon Secondary Uninterruptible Power Raven Rock: $8.4M
Portsmouth Ship Repair Pier Replacement: $126.969M
Quantico Student Quarters – The Basic School (Phase IV): $32.06M
Quantico Marine Security Guard Battalion Training Facility: $10.34M
Quantico Marine Corps Information Operations Center: $29.62M
Quantico Aircraft Trainer: $3.17M
Quantico Dining Facility – The Basic School: $14.78M
Quantico South Mainside Electrical Substation: $15.27M

The Committee’s press release provides a more comprehensive description of the bill’s provisions and is available at: http://appropriations.senate.gov/military/2009_07_06_Summary_of_FY_2010_Military_Construction_and_Veterans_Affairs_Appropriations.pdf



.