Freebies, right and left
Democratic congresswoman Susan Davis, already one of the most well-traveled members in House history, was off to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in February, courtesy of the liberal J Street Education Fund. Airfare from Washington to Israel for Davis and her husband Steve and other transportation items ran $9965 apiece, with meals for the pair totaling $1434 and lodging expenses for the couple pegged at $1859. The purpose of the weeklong junket beginning February 15 was to give Davis “a deeper perspective into the complexities related to Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. foreign aid, and other issues in the Middle East,” according to a March 11 disclosure filing.
Upscale dinner spots on the tour included Jerusalem’s Azzahra Restaurant, praised by the Lonely Planet website for “a range of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and French dishes, including pastas and filet mignon, but the real deal is the brick-oven, thin-crust Italian pizza.” Touro, another fine-dining venue in Jerusalem visited by the group, offers “stunning views of the Old City’s walls and an innovative menu of pasta, fish and meat dishes with seasonal and market-driven variations like the seven-hour short-rib casserole with white beans, pumpkin, mushrooms, and green beans.”
It’s far from the first time Davis has been to Israel to learn the local lore on someone else’s dime. The November 2009 tab for her excursion was paid for by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, which forked over $4580 for travel, $1055 for hotels, and $350 for food. Back in August 2014, she and her husband were down for a $17,908 trip, bankrolled by the American Israel Education Foundation, an offshoot of the hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee. And in 2003, the House member journeyed to the Holy Land, also thanks to AIPAC-related funding.
J Street, which styles itself as the “pro-Israel, pro-peace home for Americans,” is on the other side of the political spectrum. “By signing an executive order recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Trump is obviously seeking to hand Netanyahu an electoral boost and to pander to his own right-wing base,” says a March 25 J Street position paper. In addition to her most recent Israel itinerary, foundations and think tanks have provided Davis with tickets to worldwide destinations, including Tokyo, London, Vienna, Barcelona, Puerto Vallarta, and Whistler Resort in British Columbia.
Pradeep’s media strategy
As controversy continues to shadow UCSD chancellor Pradeep Khosla over an investigation into alleged bullying and abusive behavior, the school is searching for an online snooper and Internet cleanup maven. The new hire, per a job notice for the position of Senior Social Media Strategist, will be tasked with tracking would-be whistleblowers at the tax-funded institution “by monitoring social media for emerging areas of criticism or concern for the university.” Taking charge of “strategy and management of all central UC San Diego social media channels during crisis situations,” the incoming spin doctor is expected to guard the school’s “online reputation” by “applying judgment and discretion when working with highly sensitive and confidential information.”
Residential cram school
A so-called co-living outfit called Common, based in New York City, is behind what may soon become San Diego’s latest affordable housing controversy. “Common is teaming up with real estate developers in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and San Diego on $300 million worth of new properties in those cities over the next three years,” per an April 2 account in Fortune. “The projects will more than quadruple Common’s current footprint — adding more than 2200 beds for rent across the four new markets.” By packing more Millennials into radically less living space, notes the publication, rents can be shaved while preserving margins for Wall Street real estate investors who put up cash to build what are in essence adult dorms. “From the renter’s standpoint,” reports Forbes, “advantages include flexibility, the ease of renting fully-furnished spaces, smoother, technology-enabled renting experiences and the chance to live alongside others of similar age, experience and mindsets. A big negative is a more compact home, comparatively higher rental costs per square foot vis-a-vis apartments, and the fact that communal living may not be to the renter’s liking.”