The best part of last night's health care debacle was this senator's heartfelt speech.

"I am probably the only senator here who was not born in a hospital," Sen. Mazie Hirono said.

Hirono (D-Hawaii) was on the floor of the Senate last night to vote against the last-minute "skinny repeal" of the Affordable Care Act. While there, she gave an impassioned speech about the importance of health care.

She started with her own history, occasionally pausing to collect herself as she recounted growing up in rural Japan, losing her sister to pneumonia at a very young age, and watching her working-class mom struggle with illness in Hawaii. You can hear the emotion in her voice.


Her family's story is moving, but Hirono's most important point came when she opened up about how people reacted to her own health crisis.

"I am fighting kidney cancer," Hirono said. She announced her diagnosis in May and, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who cast one of the deciding votes against repeal, returned from recovering post-surgery to be part of the historic vote last night.

"When I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and facing my first surgery, I heard from so many of my colleagues — including so many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle — who wrote me wonderful notes, sharing with me their own experience," Hirono said.

But Hirono wondered where all that compassion went last night. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the "skinny repeal" plan would have booted 16 million people off their insurance within 10 years and increased premiums by 20%.

"You showed me your care. You showed me your compassion. Where is that tonight?" she said, her fist pounding the lectern.

GIF via Sen. Mazie Hirono/Twitter.

It's easy to be compassionate when it's someone you know — a friend, family, a coworker. It's a different matter when it's someone you don't. In this case, "someone" means millions of Americans.

The state of health care in this country leaves a lot to be desired. But as Hirono pointed out, health care reform needs to be built in the light of day, not rushed through in the dark hours of the night.

Though the "skinny repeal" plan failed last night, there are likely to be more debates and votes in the future. At no point should we forget that our first priority should be compassion.

"We are better than that," said Hirono.

Watch her full impassioned speech below:

Canva

As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

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The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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