WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 31-February 6, 2011)

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Conservative high-rollers gather to plot strategy; Koch brothers laying the groundwork for a major ‘grassroots effort’ to push GOP candidates.” By Michael Isikoff. NBC News/MSNBC. January 31, 2011. A phalanx of sheriff’s deputies with riot gear fended off protestors and blocked all access to one of southernCalifornia’s most luxurious resort hotels on Sunday as more than 200 conservative donors gathered inside to plot political strategy and raise an estimated $30 million for the 2012 election. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was among several members of Congress who flew in for the two-day event, a semi-annual meeting of political high-rollers sponsored by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, the giant, privately held oil firm based in Wichita, Kan. The Koch brothers, strong economic libertarians, have become two of the country’s biggest donors to conservative political groups and think tanks. Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa is the latest sign that the conservative spending blitz that helped propel GOP victories in last year’s election is likely to be continued at an even greater level next year when control of the presidency, as well as Congress, is at stake.
Related story:
Koch brothers now at heart of GOP power; The billionaire brothers’ influence is most visible in the makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where members have vowed to undo restrictions on greenhouse gases.” Los Angeles Times. February 6, 2011.

A Jewish Group Makes Waves, Locally and Abroad.” By Daniel Ming and Aaron Glantz. New York Times. February 3, 2011. Hundreds of people, mostly Arab-Americans, are expected to gather Saturday in downtown San Francisco to support anti-government protests in Egypt, and a large contingent of Jews representing a Bay Area peace-advocacy group will join them, one of its leaders says. “We are deeply inspired by their push for democracy and freedom,” said Cecilie Surasky, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, based in Oakland. Ms. Surasky said she hoped a new political order in Egypt would help speed the end of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, which her group opposes. The group’s views differ markedly from statements about the Egyptian protests coming from the Israeli government and many other Jewish-American organizations, which caution that the demonstrations in Cairo could ultimately threaten Israel. The unrest in Egypt is merely the latest issue to pit a number of Bay Area activists against prominent Jewish organizations, as well as against some Israelis who have come to see the Bay Area as a locus for Jewish opposition to Israel’s government. One prominent Israeli research organization, the Reut Institute, recently described the Bay Area as “one of the very few geographic locations that drive a global assault on Israel’s right to exist.” In October, the Anti-Defamation League placed Jewish Voice for Peace — which has called for an international boycott of companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories — among “the top 10 anti-Israel groups in America.”

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