Washington has an unlikely night spot: team tennis in downtown D.C. Kastles CEO Mark Ein hosts tennis great Billie Jean King during Serena Williams debut match while some of Washington’s power players — Larry Summers, Judy Woodruff, Al Hunt, Luke Russert, Michelle Fenty, Debra Lee, and Ray and Nina Benton — look on.
Serena Williams played for the Washington Kastles last night, after after spending the afternoon at the White House.
She wowed the crowed, which included: NBC’s Betsy Fischer and Luke Russert, Bloomberg’s Al Hunt and Margaret Carlson, Newshour’s Judy Woodruff, Larry Summers from the White House NEC, and venture capitalist and Kastles’ co-founder Mark Ein (those are the Fenty boys next to Mark).
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And Serena showed everyone what they came to see — some great tennis. Serena won her Singles match 5-2 (against Marie Eve-Pelletier), she and Rennae Stubbs won their Doubles match 5-1, and Serena and Leander Paes ran away with the Mixed Doubles match 5-0.
Thursday morning: L’Aquila July 9, 2009 Gordon is off for his first breakfast meeting early, but I get an extra hour as we wait for the other spouses to arrive at the earthquake-hit town of L’Aquila. I did not know what to expect from the police barracks allocated for our accommodation but actually it is all very comfortable and all mod cons in full working order. All apart from one incident with a stuck lift for the events team (and a rapid response from the super efficient Italian staff), which has motivated us to be super-healthy and use the stairs. Once the rest of the spouses have arrived we are treated to coffee and pastries.
Everyone looks well-rested after a good night’s sleep. We are all assigned to buses for our journey to the area worst hit by the earthquake in April – I’m with my good friend Margarita Zavala from Mexico who remembers her country’s own devastating earthquake of 1985 We travel to the Piazza Duomo in the old town of L’Aquila. The full scale of the devastation really hits you when you see such beautiful buildings full of cracks and surrounded by crumbling stones. A glimpse inside a church revealed nothing but piles of rubble waiting to be sifted through during the coming months, to enable the restoration. We are then taken to the centre of the devastation where so many lost their lives and everybody lost their homes.
The emptiness of all the buildings was striking and you wonder how everyone is coping now with their displaced lives. The Director in charge of L’Aquila’s restoration explained that rebuilding the town will take many years. Michelle Obama and I are taken across to meet the emergency service team who have all been working so hard on the restoration. I know this is true of emergency services everywhere, especially in Britain
We are taken back to the G8 compound and run into Gordon and his team walking between meetings. We take the chance to make a call home and speak to our youngest son. Gordon goes off to his next session and now I head off to rejoin the spouses for a nice Italian lunch.
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Wednesday evening: Rome
July 8, 2009
I visit the Sant’Edigio Community, situated in a beautiful old monastery in the heart of Rome. A poignant moment on arrival to see a tiny little iron turnstile in the wall, where poor and desperate unmarried women in years long past had to tragically abandon babies without disclosing their own identity.
Today the 120,000 strong Sant’Edigio community across the world address new crises. With their hugely dedicated staff we talked about the work they are doing to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa aiming to offer a treatment in Mozambique and Malawi that matches the treatment you can find in Italy or the UK. In many of the poor countries I’ve visited, AIDS often has a female face. Pacem from Malawi has come to share with us her journey from her own HIV positive diagnosis to treatment and life now as an activist for Sant’Egidio, sharing the message of life after testing.
HIV is spreading fastest amongst women and young girls, and elderly women are often the ones left holding families and communities together in the epidemics wake. I am concerned that HIV-positive women are often denied health care, information and services. This can mean they pass the infection onto their baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding even though there are effective ways of preventing mother to child transmission. The DREAM programme created by Sant’Egidio works in partnership with communities to overcome these barriers to treatment and care and offers hope and dignity to thousands of vulnerable people across Africa.
I am with Margarita Zavala from Mexico and Margarida Barroso whose husband is the Presidient of the EU and has herself just returned from a visit to Mozambique. We all know that we will follow up on today’s meeting to learn more, and I hope to engage them in the maternal mortality campaign I support.
After the visit, I returned to the British Embassy for a short break and then back out to the final visit of the day with the spouse group. We are hosted by the Italian President’s wife at the Quirinale Palace with a fascinating tour and a drink at the end. We all left ready to meet in L’Aquila in the morning to visit the town and witness the effects of the terrible earthquake here. I have made my way to L’Aquila tonight to find Gordon after his meetings and hear how his day has gone.
More from me tomorrow.
Sarah Brown, the wife of Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, promised to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, when she began a blog about the “spouses’ summit”.
Sarah Brown and the other G8 spouses will be hosted at the three-day summit in L’Aquila by Clio, wife of Italian president Giorgio Napolitano Photo: PA
Mrs Brown and the other G8 spouses will be hosted at the three-day summit in L’Aquila by Clio, wife of Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, as PM Silvio Berlusconi is currently going through a divorce.
While the world leaders are tied up in meetings on the economy, climate change and aid, the wives – and one husband – will follow an alternative programme, including visits to people affected by the devastating earthquake which struck the town in April and an audience at lunchtime today with Pope Benedict XVI.
The two most glamorous spouses, Michelle Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy’s pop star wife Carla Bruni, are expected to miss the meeting with the Pope – Mrs Obama because she and her husband have a separate meeting and Ms Bruni because she is arriving at the summit late.
In her first post on the G8 blog Mrs Brown said she was looking forward to meeting up with the other “first ladies”.
“Up at the crack of dawn to set off for the G8 in Italy!” she wrote. “There’s a busy few days ahead for me as part of the spouses programme while Gordon is at the summit.
“But I’m really looking forward to meeting up with the ‘other halves’ – some of them I have met before from last year’s G8 and the G20 in London. They are all very interesting people and I’m hoping to get to know them better and to discuss some of the issues that we all feel strongly about.
“It looks like we have some interesting visits lined up. There is some time planned in L’Aquila, the venue for the G8, to meet people affected by the devastating earthquake there in April, as well as visits to some great organisations and historical sites in Rome.
“Hopefully I can give you a flavour of what we have been doing through this blog – and I’m planning to post plenty of pictures from the trip, so make sure you check back regularly.”
Very Cool New Program That Allows You To See Who is Connected To Whom
By Neil Grace and Catherine Hill
MSNBC threw a memorable Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner after-party that stood apart from parties past. Held directly across the street from the main event at the Washington Convention Center, MSNBC turned the traditionally staid Historical Society of Washington, D.C. into a brightly-lit fete of themed cocktails, glowing neon necklaces and comfort food.
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As guests walked down the blue carpet entrance, we asked them the question of the night: are you a nerd or a jock? Politico’s Mike Allen said he was “all of the above!” and Patrick Gavin thought he was a hybrid of the two. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell exclaimed she was a “total jock.” John “I’m a PC” Hodgman discussed the modern cultural divide at length during the dinner.
Inside the party, the scene downstairs included a Starbucks-sponsored coffee bar where guests ate ice cream sundaes and desserts. From the main bar, guests walked outside to a large outdoor patio, where dance music had the party-goers on their feet for “Don’t Stop Believing.” Faces and heads glowed in the light of neon necklaces and headbands.
Upstairs, special guest bartender Rachel Maddow was mixing up cocktails at her heavily-branded “Rachel Maddow’s Bar”– complete with MSNBC napkins and “Rachel’s Bar” menus. Maddow’s signature cocktail was listed as a Hearst: a mix of gin, sweet vermouth and bitters (though she told us she actually served more of her cava drink, “Airmail” which mixed rum, fresh lime juice, honey and the bubbly cava on top). Afterwards, Maddow relinquished her bar duties to catch up with Ana Marie Cox and John Hodgman.
Later in the night passed treats included mini-pancakes and mini-ham, bacon and cheese croissants. As the bars began to close, guests went out back. Among the last to leave at 3:00 a.m. were MSNBC Morning Joe’s Willie Geist, Luke Russert and many of the cable network’s junior staffers.
Media heavy-hitters spotted at the party: Steve Capus, Tamron Hall, Norah O’Donnell, Contessa Brewer with Matt Ackland, Joe Scarborough with Mika Brzezinski, David Shuster, Carlos Watson, Chris Matthews, Lynn Sweet, Margaret Carlson, and Eugene Robinson.
Politicos rounded out the guest list, including Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Obama economic adviser Larry Summers, as well as Hilary Rosen, Alex Castellanos, Brad Dayspring, and Kevin Madden.
Move it to a Friday night (for the first time), bring a celebrity bartender to the after-party, and the night is guaranteed to go long. The Radio-TV Correspondents’ dinner festivities didn’t break until several hours after midnight.
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The MSNBC-thrown after-party, attended by Obama advisers David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, among others, had a different vibe than Fox’s fondly remembered 2004 disco affair: more cocktails and comfort-food. Contessa Brewer’s black dress, with its open back, was one of the more daring of the evening and drew admirers; her lengthy conversation with NBC News president Steve Capus had some guessing. The special drinks that Rachel Maddow was mixing up behind the bar — including her “signature cocktail” the Hearst (gin, sweet vermouth and bitters) — must have been potent: The last of the NBC junior staffers trickled out after 3 a.m.
As for the dinner itself, the reviews are in: President Obama was pretty funny. Then again, it’s hard to know — it could be just another manifestation of that whole being-in-bed-with-the-press phenomenon that he poked fun at in his remarks last night. “Why bother hanging out with celebrities when I can spend time with people who make me one?” Obama said, comparing the RTCA event to the Hollywood celeb-studded White House Correspondents Association dinner in May.
Unlike the WHCD, there was no one line that everyone grabbed on to, but the papers, Twitterers and bloggers found plenty to like, although they appear to be tiring of his frequent jokes about chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s colorful vocabulary. (Last night’s: “In Egypt, we had the opportunity to tour the pyramids. And by now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the pictures of Rahm on that camel. I admit, I was a little nervous about the whole situation. I said at the time, ‘This is a wild animal known to bite, kick and spit. And who knows what the camel could do.’ “) [Read more…]