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Rep. Eric Swalwell attended Ebola hearing in Dallas

Rep. Eric Swalwell was in Dallas on Friday for a House Homeland Security Committee field hearing on the Ebola virus.

The only person so far to be diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, Thomas Eric Duncan, died Wednesday in Dallas. People with whom he came into contact are being watched carefully for signs of the disease.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, and other members of Congress at Friday’s hearing discussed with health officials how the federal government is working to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and prevent a serious outbreak in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security will be implementing enhanced security procedures at the five international airports in the U.S. that account for over 90 percent of travel to the U.S. from areas affected by Ebola.

“As we respond to the Ebola crisis overseas, I called on health officials to aggressively address the situation in West Africa, prepare local hospitals and clinics, and to bust the myths that threaten to cause unnecessary panic,” Swalwell in a statement issued after the hearing.

Swalwell will hold a conference call Tuesday with East Bay hospital officials and the Centers for Disease Control about the Ebola virus and how his office can help to ensure local hospitals and clinics are prepared to screen, diagnose and treat potential Ebola patients.

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Tough House hearing for high-speed rail project

It looks like supporters of the California High Speed Rail project took a verbal beating Tuesday as the U.S. House Transportation Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials held a field hearing in Madera.

“Since Prop 1A was approved by California voters in 2008, the project has more than doubled in cost, and, after more than $3 billion from the federal tax payer, not one shovel has hit the ground,” subcommittee chairman Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, said afterward. “Until I see a viable business plan for high speed rail in California that is fiscally sound and supported by private dollars, I will continue to hold the rail authority accountable to the voters and ensure their taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.”

Here’s some of the questioning:

The panel, also including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, grilled witnesses including California High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard; Preserve Our Heritage Chairman Kole Upton; Kings County Board of Supervisors Chairman Doug Verboon; Madera County Farm Bureau Executive Director Anja Raudabaugh; Lou Thompson, chairman of the Peer Review Group for the California High-Speed Rail Project; and Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Al Smith.

The witnesses’ prepared testimony, and Denham’s opening statement, are available on Denham’s website.

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Hearing on improving life for boys & men of color

Lawmakers will gather in Oakland this Friday to take testimony on ways to improve the life chances for young men of color through successful education, employment and juvenile justice programs.

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, will chair a field hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday in the first-floor auditorium of the Elihu Harris State Office Building, 1515 Clay St. Other committee members include Luis Alejo, D-Salinas; Steven Bradford, D-Gardena; Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego; Warren Furutani, D-Gardena; Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park; Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield; Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco; Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia; Henry Perea, D-Fresno; Manuel Perez, D-Coachella; and Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge.

Among those testifying will be Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Alex Briscoe; Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth Executive Director Fania Davis; Alameda County Social Services Agency Director Lori Jones; East Bay Asian Youth Center Executive Director David Kakishiba; Alameda County Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad; and many others.

Research funded by the California Endowment has found African-American and Latino boys and young men are more likely to have poor heath outcomes than white boys and young men, with most of the differences directly related to their neighborhoods.

This will be the second in the committee’s year-long series of field hearings around the state.

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Today’s Congressional odds and ends

Eshoo recovering from surgery: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, underwent a successful laparoscopic appendectomy at Stanford Hospital yesterday and is making a full recovery, her office reported this morning. There were no complications from the surgery, performed by Dr. Karen Whang. Eshoo, 68, will be working from home for the rest of the week, her office said.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee praises flights to Cuba: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, announced that Oakland International Airport has received authorization by the United States Customs and Border Protection to become the first Bay Area airport offering direct charter passenger flights to Cuba. The decision to allow scheduled flights to Cuba is part of a broader effort by President Barack Obama to reach out to the Cuban people for academic, religious, humanitarian and news-gathering purposes. “This new charter is another important step in moving beyond the outdated Cold War era policies of the past and turning to a new, productive page in U.S.-Cuba relations and hopefully will lead to more travel and exchange with Cuba,” Lee said in a news release. “I have always believed that people-to-people diplomacy is the one of the most effective ways for strengthening ties between two nations. I am hopeful that today’s announcement will lead to many more Bay Area residents taking advantage of the opportunity to directly engage with the Cuban people.”

Miller strikes back on health care: Republicans from the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee held a field hearing yesterday in Evansville, Ind., on “The Recent Health Care Law: Consequences for Indiana Families and Workers,” and Rep. George Miller – the committee’s ranking Democrat – fired back with a column published today in the local paper. “Unfortunately, the hearing was more of the same and ignored the positive impacts the Affordable Care Act will have on Hoosiers,” Miller, D-Martinez, wrote in Evansville’s Courier & Press. “This is unfortunate. The new law has begun to deliver real benefits for Hoosier businesses, families and seniors. You deserve the truth on what the law does. Despite all of the heated rhetoric, health reform succeeded and the sky has not fallen.”

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Bay Area House members to meet the masses

You’ve got some opportunities for face time with your member of Congress coming soon:

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will host a Women and Minority-owned Business Forum in California State University, East Bay’s Oakland Center Campus, at 1000 Broadway, from 9 a.m. to noon this Saturday, Oct. 18; she’ll talk about access to state and federal contract opportunities, and resources and agencies will be on hand to meet directly with attendees. Later the same day, Lee will host a $75-per-head Women’s Tea campaign fundraiser in Scott’s restaurant, at 2 Broadway in Oakland’s Jack London Square, from 2 to 4 p.m.; she’ll be joined by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who’ll join Lee in discussing their efforts to stop the war in Iraq, as well as by NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan, who’ll discuss the campaign to defeat Proposition 4, the proposed state constitutional amendment which would require doctors to inform the parent or guardian of a minor 48 hours before providing an abortion to that minor.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, will hold forum from 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday, Oct. 18th in the lecture hall of the San Leandro Public Library, at 300 Estudillo Ave., to discuss the state of the economy and what government can or should do now; he’ll be joined by representatives from the banking, labor, and business communities. Stark was the only Bay Area member of Congress to vote against the $700 billion financial-markets bailout both times it came before the House.

And House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, will lead a field hearing at 9:30 a.m. next Wednesday, Oct. 22, in the Board of Supervisors’ chamber of San Francisco City Hall, at 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, examining how the current financial crisis is impacting Americans’ retirement security, including pension funds and workers’ directed retirement accounts like 401(k) plans; at a hearing last week on the same topic, the Congressional Budget Office testified American workers have lost at least $2 trillion in retirement savings over past 15 months. Among those scheduled to testify Wednesday are UCLA Anderson School of Management Professor Shlomo Benartzi;
investment advisor Mark Davis, a partner at Kravitz Davis Sansone; and University of California, Berkeley Professor Jacob S. Hacker.

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House panel to probe mortgage mess in Stockton

Congressmen Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, announced yesterday that, at their invitation, the House Committee on Financial Services will hold a field hearing at noon Saturday, Sept. 6 in the Stockton Arena to examine the effects of the foreclosure crisis on neighborhoods in California’s Central Valley.

Witnesses including local elected officials, mortgage brokers, realtors, and HUD-approved housing counselors will testify on federal, state and local efforts to address foreclosure rates.

“Being in the Central Valley, it’s hard to avoid evidence of the foreclosure crisis, especially in Stockton and San Joaquin County. The number of foreclosures is startling and serves as an indication of the hardships many families are facing and the destabilizing effect in our communities,” said McNerney said in a news release. “I am happy to join with my colleague, Dennis Cardoza, in welcoming Chairman Frank and the Financial Services Committee for what I anticipate will be a productive and useful hearing about the effect of the foreclosure crisis and solutions moving forward.”

Among confirmed witnesses who’ll testify:

    State Senate Banking, Finance and Insuance Committee Chairman Mike Machado, D-Linden

Freshman Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, is the House Financial Services Committee’s only Bay Area member.