The Washington Post

Washington’s finest head to Swiss Alps mega-gabfest

A member of Swiss special police stands on the roof of the Kongress Hotel next to the Congress Center in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 21, 2014. (Michel Euler/AP)

It’s Davos! The ultimate in networking and elbow-rubbing. Welcome to the 2014 World Economic Forum, which brings together a few thousand people each year to the ultra-tony ski resort of Davos, Switzerland — world leaders, corporate titans, royalty, entertainment celebs  and media folk — plus thousands of staff and security and your usual smattering of protesters.

The theme this year? Wait for it . . . wait for it . . . Income Inequality!! Yes, the heavy breathing will focus on this issue —  just days after a stunning report was issued by Oxfam saying that the 85 richest people in the world are as wealthy as the poorest half of the global population, or about 3.5 billion people. A good chunk of those 85 will likely be fretting this week on the slopes about this horrible state of affairs.

By day, the agenda is panel discussions, speeches and such, focusing on the main theme but also on many other vexing international issues.

For example, an excellent panel of extremely knowledgeable insiders will be talking Mideast issues Friday afternoon. We’re told the scheduled panel members are:  Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region, Iraq; Turkey foreign affairs minister Ahmet Davutoglu; and Iran minister of foreign affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif.

After absorbing so much info during the day, evenings are your usual party scene devoted to celebrity-spotting, night skiing and such and apparently a fair amount of alcohol consumption. We’re advised, however, that lawmakers’ and administration officials’ schedules will run past the dinner hour, so they may get a late start on the fun.

An all-Republican House delegation is being led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and includes Reps. Darrell Issa (Calif.), Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), Kay Granger (Tex.), Patrick McHenry (N.C.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.). While Davos participants usually are given free airline tickets, the Cantor codel is going to be flying over on a super-comfy military jet, because some members  and staff will be heading to other events, including visiting troops and getting briefings in Stuttgart, Germany. The Jerusalem Post reported that Cantor and other members will also travel to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland for International Holocaust Remembrance Day next week.

Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is leading a Senate delegation and speaking on a panel on technology and “Big Brother,” according to the schedule. (Leahy is co-author with Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) of legislation to end dragnet collection of phone metadata and rein in NSA snooping operations.) Others on that delegation, we hear, include Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). 

Secretary of State John Kerry’s plane will be arriving Thursday after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speech. Kerry’s speaking on Friday. We’re hearing you may be able to spot Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy over there.

[Full Disclosure: One of those “media folk" over there is Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron.]

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.



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Al Kamen · January 17, 2014

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