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Bay Area doctor selected as White House Fellow

A Bay Area physician has been selected as one of 16 White House Fellows for 2015-16.

Teeb Al-SamarraiDr. Teeb Al-Samarrai of Oakland is a physician and epidemiologist who has served since October 2012 as deputy health officer and tuberculosis controller at the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. Her work has focused on immigrant and refugee health issues, particularly tuberculosis and hepatitis B.

The White House Fellows program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson to give promising American leaders “first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.”

Fellows spend a year working as full-time, paid aides to senior White House staff, cabinet secretaries and other top-ranking government officials. But they also take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation, and current affairs, and take part in community service projects throughout their year in Washington, D.C.

Al-Samarrai earlier was a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemic intelligence service officer stationed at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; in 2010, she participated in CDC’s emergency response to the Haiti earthquake. She completed her internal medicine residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she partnered with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services to establish a multidisciplinary, patient-centered refugee clinic.

She graduated as a Regents and Alumni Scholar from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience; she earned her Master of Science in neuroscience and her M.D. at Yale University.

Posted on Monday, August 24th, 2015
Under: Obama presidency | No Comments »

Donald Trump wins a South Bay GOP straw poll

Billionaire businessman and reality television star Donald Trump topped the presidential straw poll at the South Peninsula Area Republican Coalition picnic Sunday at the Morgan Estate in Los Altos Hills.

Out of 144 votes cast, Trump got 39 votes, or 27 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush came in second with 27 votes (18 percent), followed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (20 votes, 13 percent); U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (16 votes, 11 percent); and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (13 votes, 9 percent). Notably absent from among the poll’s top finishers: former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who used to live less than two and a half miles from the site of Sunday’s picnic.

Poll participants were given the opportunity to mark a second choice as well. Of those whose first choices didn’t finish in the top five, five picked Rubio as their second choice, four picked Bush, four picked Trump, three picked Walker and two picked Kasich.

“The field is still pretty wide open, but there seems a trend in favor of more conservative candidates,” SPARC president John McDonnell said. “The results belie the conventional wisdom that Trump’s appeal will fade among party regulars, but the results also suggest strong support for Jeb Bush, the ‘establishment’ candidate. We can expect some considerable ebb and flow between now and the hard results in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.”

SPARC is affiliated with the California Congress of Republicans, a mainstream conservative grassroots group that’s chartered as part of the state GOP. The keynote speaker at Sunday’s picnic was Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, the Bay Area’s only Republican voice in Sacramento.

Trump holds an 11-point lead over Bush in the latest average of recent national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics, followed by neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson; Walker; Rubio; U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; and Fiorina. In Iowa, Trump leads Bush by about 8 points; in New Hampshire, Trump leads Kasich by 14.

Posted on Monday, August 24th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, Republican Party, Republican politics | 4 Comments »

Where Bay Area lawmakers stand on the Iran deal

As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continues rolling out Democratic supporters one by one, almost half of the Bay Area’s House delegation has not yet committed to support or oppose the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran.

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have said they’ll vote for the agreement, as have Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and representatives Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.

Most recently on the bandwagon are Swalwell and Farr, both Wednesday, and then Speier on Friday. Speier said in her statement that this is “one of the most important votes I will ever cast.

Jackie Speier“To come to this decision I attended scores of hearings, classified briefings, and met with U.S. allies, my Republican and Democratic colleagues, foreign policy experts, nongovernmental groups, the military and intelligence communities, and my constituents. I also met with the President for over two hours to discuss this deal,” she said.

“As President Kennedy once urged, we must pursue ‘a more practical, more attainable peace, based… on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned.’ This deal, like those Kennedy pursued with the Soviet Union, is a first step away from catastrophe,” Speier said. “So as he said, ‘Let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable and war need not be inevitable.’ ”

No Bay Area members of Congress have come out against the deal, but five still aren’t ready to say where they stand: Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

“It’s my first big, consequential foreign policy vote, so I wanted to avail myself to learn as much as I could,” DeSaulnier said Friday, adding that while he sees no need to rush the decision during this month-long recess, “I’m leaning very much to support the president’s agreement.”

Mark DeSaulnierHe said has met both with President Obama in Washington, and then with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his recent trip to Israel with other Democratic House freshmen. “I promised both sides I would listen to them.”

And he said he’s reserving final judgment until after he completes five town-hall meetings he has scheduled for constituents over the next few weeks. In fact, he’s dedicating the second half of his first such meeting – 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18 in the community room at Pleasant Hill Middle School, 1 Santa Barbara Road in Pleasant Hill – to this issue.

Honda spokeswoman Lauren Smith said Thursday her boss “is continuing to meet with people and get input and feedback, as well as fully considering all of the details of the deal. He will make a decision once he has collected all pertinent information.”

Lofgren’s chief of staff, Stacey Leavandosky, said Thursday her boss “is currently studying the agreement, meeting with constituents about it as well as hearing from Administration officials.”

McNerney spokesman Mike Naple said Thursday his boss “is still reviewing the agreement and hasn’t made a decision yet.”

And Huffman spokesman Paul Arden referred to his boss’s July 15 statement, in which he had said that “while I will vote based on the merits of the agreement, Iran’s credibility and trustworthiness are also considerations.”

UPDATE @ 1 P.M. THURSDAY 8/20: Mike Honda has just announced that he supports the deal.

UPDATE @ 2:55 P.M. THURSDAY 8/20: And now Jerry McNerney is on board, too.

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M. FRIDAY 8/21: Lofgren now says she will vote in favor of the deal.

Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iran, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 12 Comments »

Hillary Clinton is in the Bay Area today

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be in the Bay Area on Wednesday and Thursday for fundraisers, but no public events.

Hillary Clinton 5-27-2015 (AP photo)The former U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady is scheduled to attend a reception Wednesday evening at the Atherton home of investor and former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly and his wife, Galavantier co-founder Jennifer Carrico. Tickets start at $2,700, but co-hosts are being asked to raise $27,000 and hosts are being asked to raise $50,000.

On Thursday morning, Clinton will attend a fundraiser in San Francisco hosted by Mayor Ed Lee, Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma, and Melissa Ma; the same ticket prices and hosting requirements apply.

Then she’s headed to Los Angeles for another fundraiser later Thursday at the home of Scooter Braun – Justin Bieber’s manager – and his wife, Yael; and to La Jolla for a fundraiser Friday at the home of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan. Some tickets for the Los Angeles and La Jolla events went for $1,000 each.

Clinton does have one non-fundraising event planned on this California swing. She’ll hold a roundtable discussion Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles with home-care providers and consumers including members of the Service Employees International Union, which will livestream the event on its website.

“Once again Hillary Clinton proves that she’s more interested in hosting high-dollar fundraisers than discussing the issues that matter to everyday Californians,” Republican National Committee spokesman Ninio Fetalvo said in an emailed statement. “And as she continues dodging questions on key issues and the mishandling of classified information on her secret email server, it’s no surprise that voters continue to find her not honest or trustworthy.”

Clinton raised money in the Bay Area in May and June.

Posted on Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, campaign finance, Hillary Clinton | 3 Comments »

Black Caucus members seek Silicon Valley diversity

Rep. Barbara Lee will join Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries on a Silicon Valley junket aimed at increasing African Americans’ representation in the tech industry.

lack of diversityLee, D-Oakland; Butterfield, D-N.C.; and Jeffries, D-N.Y., will spend this Sunday through Tuesday meeting with tech executives and local organizations as part of the caucus’ TECH 2020 initiative, a five-year diversity launched in May. The lawmakers will visit companies including Apple, Bloomberg, Google, Intel, Kapor Capital, Pandora, and SAP.

“Our goal for this trip is to encourage and partner with these organizations to implement a diversity plan that will place more African Americans in the tech pipeline,” Butterfield said in a news release. “This will potentially lead to a wide range of opportunities, from student internships to positions on the boards of tech companies. Building a coalition of leaders from the public and private sectors ensures greater diversity and full representation of African Americans at every level of tech by 2020.”

Lee said she’s pleased to welcome her peers to the Bay Area.

“This visit is another step toward opening doors of opportunity for African Americans in the booming tech sector,” she said in the release. “Increasing diversity and inclusion within the tech sector is not only a moral imperative, it’s good for business and vital to continue economic growth. As we work to advance the TECH 2020 initiative and achieve full representation of African Americans in the tech sector, I look forward to continuing to work with these companies. We must all play a role in finding innovative solutions that bring diversity to Silicon Valley.”

As part of its TECH 2020 plan, the caucus has outlined diversity principles, best practices, and resources for African American students and entrepreneurs, and has introduced legislation focused on increasing STEM education.

Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2015
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

Bush, Carson & Fiorina are Bay Area-bound

As the Republican presidential field keeps on expanding, the Bay Area continues to attract candidates in search of campaign cash.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will hit Los Angeles on Tuesday and Pasadena and Santa Barbara on Wednesday before arriving in the Bay Area.

In San Francisco, he’ll attend a reception Wednesday evening at the home of Cavalry Asset Management founder John Hurley and his wife, Kamilla. Tickets cost $2,700, but co-hosts can pay $10,000 to gain access to a separate photo reception while co-chairs can pay $27,000 for both events plus two tickets to a private VIP event with Bush in Los Angeles on Aug. 11.

And in Silicon Valley, Bush will attend a luncheon reception at midday Thursday in the Village Pub in Woodside; tickets for this cost the same as for the San Francisco event.

Politico’s Playbook says Bush’s Bay Area visit also will include hailing a ride with Uber in order to underscore the importance of innovation and disruptive technology to create jobs, as well as a tour of San Francisco-based Thumbtack, a startup that helps users connect with local professionals from disc jockeys to house painters.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is scheduled to have a late-afternoon fundraiser next Thursday, July 23 at an undisclosed home in Alameda County, hosted by the Frederick Douglass Foundation of California. Tickets cost $250 per person.

And Carly Fiorina – no stranger to the Bay Area, as a former Los Altos Hills resident and former Hewlett-Packard CEO – will attend a fundraising reception on Monday, Aug. 10 at the Piedmont home of real estate brokerage founder Bill Cumbelich and his wife, Sara. Tickets start at $250; $1,000 buys entry into a private reception with a photo opportunity; and $2,700 admits the contributor to a host-committee roundtable.

Posted on Monday, July 13th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, campaign finance | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers urge $$$ disclosure, LGBT protection

Bay Area House Democrats are demanding action on disclosure of government contractors’ political contributions and on protecting LGBT people from assault in immigration detention centers.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, led 104 House members while U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., let 26 senators in urging President Barack Obama to issue an executive order requiring companies that do business with the federal government to fully disclose their political contributions.

“Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is spent and you have the power to ensure that the American people can obtain this information,” the House members wrote. “With public funds come public responsibilities, and any company receiving federal tax dollars should be required by executive order to fully disclose their political spending in a timely and accessible manner.”

Among the top 15 recipients of federal contracting dollars, a recent analysis by Public Citizen found that only 47 percent fully disclose their contributions to non-disclosing 501(c)(4) organizations. This is the fourth time since 2011 that Eshoo has led her colleagues in calling on President Obama to issue such an executive order. All Bay Area House members signed the letter except Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., signed the senate version, but Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., did not.

honda.jpgAlso Tuesday, Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., led 33 House members in writing a letter to the Department of Homeland Security to express concerns over the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrants while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

“Detention should almost never be used for vulnerable groups such as LGBT immigrants facing immigration proceedings,” they wrote. “Recent surveys of jails and prisons by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that non-heterosexual detainees experience sexual assault at up to 10 times the rate of heterosexual men. The situation is starker for transgender detainees. According to the BJS survey, one in three will be sexually abused within 12 months in custody.”

The lawmakers asked that DHS and ICE consider an LGBT person’s detention to be “not in the public interest” per the department’s November 2014 enforcement memo, and that they work with LGBT and civil rights groups “to develop additional community-based alternatives to detention.”

Bay Area Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, were among those signing the letter.

Posted on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, campaign finance, Immigration, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

Bay Area lawmakers OK medical device tax repeal

Three Bay Area House members were among the 46 Democrats who joined with Republicans on Thursday to approve repealing the medical-device tax enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act.

As the Associated Press reports, the tax took effect two years ago and was designed to help pay for expanded coverage for millions of people. It’s levied on equipment like artificial hearts and X-ray machines but not on items used by individuals, like eye glasses. Foes of its repeal say that this and other taxes the law imposed on the health care industry were outweighed by added customers the law has created, and that repealing it means paying that $24 billion, 10-year cost with bigger federal deficits.

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, which passed on a 280-140 vote. Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton voted for it, while the rest of the Bay Area delegation was opposed.

“I support the Affordable Care Act and policies that improve our ability to conquer illnesses and diseases before they conquer us,” Swalwell said in a statement emailed later Thursday. “Today’s vote will help more start-up bio-innovation companies create devices that have the potential to make us healthier.”

McNerney emailed a statement saying that “medical research and technology contribute significantly to California’s economy with more than 75,000 jobs, and advancements in the field are resulting in new treatments and cures that improve the lives of people across the country.

“We should be doing everything to encourage further innovation by removing unnecessary barriers that hinder new research and job growth – especially in California, the home to more medical device companies than any other state in the nation,” he said. “As I’ve said before, this law is not perfect and we should continue to look at ways to improve it. Doing so will not only benefit medical innovation, but lower costs and improve care for individuals and families as well.”

Speier’s office said she was on a plane Thursday afternoon and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2015
Under: Eric Swalwell, healthcare reform, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, taxes, U.S. House | No Comments »

Bay Area presidential bits and pieces

An East Bay Democratic club has endorsed a presidential candidate other than their party’s apparent frontrunner, while a Peninsula Republican committee’s unscientific straw poll finds a GOP insurgent neck-and-neck with a more establishment candidate.

The Dublin-based TriValley Democratic Club announced Friday that it has endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for president in 2016 – possibly the first California club to do so.

Sanders, who’s running well to the left of frontrunner Hillary Clinton, acknowledges he’s an underdog. TriValley Democratic Club members agree, according to a statement sent by club president Ellis Goldberg, but feel “it is more important to back someone who speaks for us rather than someone who can attract the money it takes to get elected. When Bernie Sanders speaks out on income & wealth inequality, getting big money out of politics, climate change and the environment, he speaks for us.”

Meanwhile, the San Mateo County Republican Party did a straw poll of attendees at the Foster City Arts and Wine Festival this past weekend, asking which of 20 (!!!) possible GOP contenders they prefer. John McDowell, the county committee’s second vice chair, said most of the 165 participants were Republicans (as most Democrats and nonpartisans declined to take part).

Tied for first with 15 percent each were U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, McDowell reported. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came in third with just shy of 11 percent, while U.S. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took fourth place and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson tied for fifth.

“We’re blessed with a number of good, qualified candidates for the 2016 presidential race,” county committee chairman Chuck McDougald said in a news release. “The fact that no one candidate dominated the straw poll shows the voters are interested in all of our potential candidates and that those candidates offer positive, solutions oriented agendas,” he continued.

The San Mateo GOP plans to sponsor more straw polls during the Menlo Park Connoisseurs’ Marketplace and the Pacifica Fog Fest later this summer.

Posted on Monday, June 1st, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election | No Comments »

Catharine Baker returns tobacco industry money

The Bay Area’s only Republican lawmaker won praise Friday for returning a campaign contribution from the tobacco industry.

Catharine BakerAssemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, gave back a $4,200 contribution from Altria, parent company of Philip Morris USA and other tobacco companies. In doing so, Baker “serves as a model for other elected officials by returning dirty money and refusing to let Big Tobacco exert undue influence in the political process,” said Jim Knox, vice president of California government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“Her prompt actions should be recognized because we do not often see politicians willingly giving back tobacco money let alone make a statement publicly to set an example for other elected officials who don’t want to be beholden to cancer-causing cigarette makers,” Knox said in a news release.

Baker said Friday that “everyone has to make his or her own choices about tobacco products. For me, I choose not to accept contributions because tobacco is just something I prefer my own kids not ever use.”

Knox’s organization recently wrote to politicians and political action committees that accepted tobacco-industry money in this year’s first quarter, asking them to give it back. Altria and its affiliates reported making more than a dozen contributions totaling $175,700 in 2015’s first three months.

Other recipients included Assembly Republicans Rocky Chavez, Don Wagner and Travis Allen, as well as state senators Isadore Hall, D-Compton; Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga; and Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster. Political action committees taking tobacco money in the first quarter included the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC; in fact, tobacco was the biggest industry sector contributing to JobsPAC in the 2014 election cycle.

Baker will host a community coffee from 9 to 10:30 a.m. this Saturday, May 30 in the Robert Livermore Community Center, 4444 East Ave. in Livermore, at which constituents can share their thoughts and Baker will present a legislative update. To RSVP for this free event, please contact Baker’s district office at 925-328-1515.

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Catharine Baker | 7 Comments »