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Losing points in Yemen


Despite the indignities of serving in a conflict-mired country and living in a decaying hotel, U.S. diplomats posted to Yemen have had one major perk to look forward to: Starwood points. Lots and lots of them, entitling them to dozens of free nights at Sheraton, W Hotels and Westin properties worldwide.

Alas, that’s about to end, our colleague Ernesto Londoño reports. The hotel chain is expected to yank the Sheraton logo from the heavily fortified property — home to the diplos since political unrest broke out in Sanaa last year — by Jan. 1.

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

“They want their name off,” lamented a diplomat, who estimates he has racked up enough points to never again have to pay for a hotel stay. It will henceforth be run by the State Department as a housing complex.

On its Web site, the Sheraton Sana’a boasts of its excellent location, a five-star rating and a friendly staff. There’s no sign that it’s now off-limits to the traveling public and guarded by U.S. Marines.

“Make time for a little relaxation as you stroll through our valley of green gardens,” the Web site urges. “Dive into our stunning indoor pool or bask in the sunshine in one of our lounge chairs.”

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, said the diplomat: “It’s a dump. It screams 1959.”

The U.S. Embassy took over the hotel last year as the demonstrations leading up to the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh turned violent. Diplomats are now shuttled from the hotel to the embassy, which is nearby, and otherwise don’t get out much unless they’re on official business.

One man’s spoils

President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina , who’s credited with putting together the most stunning national field operation — in both size and sophistication — ever seen, has signed on with the Harry Walker Agency speakers bureau.

Messina, who had been deputy chief of staff in the Obama White House, began working on the Hill just after college, as chief of staff for Democratic Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.) and Byron Dorgan (N.D.) and for Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.). He then worked on the Obama 2008 campaign.

Messina is now on a somewhat extended post-election tour of Italy to prepare for his temporary job as head of the inaugural parade. The speaking gig, which probably will offer him somewhere around mid-five figures for a bit of chatter, is a good start for entry into private-sector work.

The fees should be enough to allow a stop at the spectacular Don Alfonso 1890 restaurant in the hills above Sorrento or at La Gazza Ladra in Modica, Sicily.

Later on, we’ll conspire

Looking for a truly special gift for that someone who has everything? Then look no further than WorldNetDaily’s WND Superstore.

The conservative media outfit’s gifts are unique, and even better, lots of stuff is on steep discount — not just after Christmas, but right now!

Where else can you find business leader and former presidential candidate Herman Cain’s excellent book “This Is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House,” originally $25 but now 99 cents? (Amazon, by the way, charges more than $2 for a used copy.)

Many other fine books are 30 to 50 percent off. Jerome Corsi’sWhere’s the Birth Certificate?” — originally $25.96 — is available for the incredible low price of $9.99.

There’s a wide variety of birther-themed bumper stickers, also steeply discounted. You might give these to folks to spark discussion of a brave woman’s amazing journey halfway across the globe just so her child could be born in Kenya rather than the United States — a journey perhaps unprecedented in the history of the world.

There doesn’t seem to be much on the site for kids — no toy black helicopters or anything — but there is an excellent board game for teenagers and adults called “The Constitution Quest.” It sells for a rather pricey $47.95, but it looks like fun.

The WND store might appear to lean heavily right and anti-Obama, but it turns out to be a bit more eclectic.

For example, one highly recommended book is “Boss Rove,” a rather negative view of top Bush II adviser Karl Rove. (Seems everyone’s ganging up on Rove these days.)

The book, written by journalist Craig Unger , calls Rove “a prime suspect in the two biggest political scandals of the decade: the Valerie Plame Wilson affair and the U.S. attorneys scandal,” who “left the White House in 2007 . . . barely escaping indictment.”

So there is truly something for everyone at the WND Superstore!

West-by-God . . .

Move over, Snooki: There’s a new reality show that traffics in regional stereotypes: MTV’s forthcoming “Buckwild,” which features the hillbilly antics of West Virginia’s finest 20-somethings.

And just as New Jersey’s delegation was none too pleased with “Jersey Shore,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is giving the new show a thumbs-down, reports our colleague Ed O’Keefe .

Manchin wrote to MTV President Stephen Friedman last week asking that the network “put a stop to the travesty called ‘Buckwild,’ ” complaining that it inaccurately portrays his beloved Mountain State — and shattering our innocent ideas about reality TV (you mean those Real Housewives are encouraged to chug chardonnay and start catfights?). “Instead of showcasing the beauty of our people and our state, you preyed on young people, coaxed them into displaying shameful behavior — and now you are profiting from it. That is just wrong,” he wrote.

Quote of the day

“If I get any stronger than that, [Obama] won’t nominate him.”

— Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), to the newspaper the Hill, after singing the praises of former senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as a possible choice for a second-term defense secretary.

With Emily Heil

The blog: Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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