Entries in Gifts (2)


Saudi King Showered Obamas, Officials with Lavish Gifts in 2009

Photo Courtesy - The White House(WASHINGTON) -- During her husband’s first year in office, first lady Michelle Obama received a large number of gifts from foreign dignitaries, but perhaps none are more impressive than the ones she got from Saudi King Abdullah. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t get to keep them.

The first lady was the lucky recipient of a ruby and diamond jewelry set valued at $132,000 and a necklace made of 33 pearls with a sterling silver pendant, valued at $14,200, according to a State Department report on foreign gifts to U.S. officials during 2009 that was published Tuesday in the Federal Register.

The King also gave President Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, jewelry that including diamond earrings and necklaces valued at over $3,500 per set.

Given the lavish gifts given by the Saudi King to his family, President Obama could be excused for feeling shortchanged by the marble base featuring gold figurines and large gold medallion he received from the King, which were valued at only $34,500.

The King’s generosity also extended to senior White House officials, who received tens of thousands of dollars worth of watches and jewelry. A government interpreter received ruby and diamond jewelry and other items worth an estimated $23,400.

Such gifts are not unusual for top officials, though the Saudi King’s extravagance was notable. State Department officials are quick to point out that gift giving is a time-honored element of diplomacy and relationship building. In 2009 any gifts over $335, however, were required to be reported and cannot be retained for private use. In 2011 the minimum was increased to $350. While such gifts could be kept for official use, they must either be purchased for private use or transferred to the National Archive, in the case of the president and his family, or the General Services Administration in the case of lower officials.

President Obama has given gifts during his travels abroad, but they do not appear to be nearly as extravagant. When British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Washington in March 2009, President Obama gave him a box collection of 25 classic American films on DVD. Prime Minister Brown gave the president a black and gold pen made with wood from the HMS Gannet as well as a collection of rare books, valued together at around $16,510.

In all, the Saudi King’s gifts to American officials in 2009 topped $330,000. After the first lady’s ruby and diamond jewelry set, the next highest individual gift was a gold and diamond watch that the first ;ady received from the first lady of Ghana, valued at $48,000. All of the gifts, the report indicated, have been transferred over to the National Archives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rescued Miners Showered with Gifts, Trips

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(COPIAPO, Chile) -- Upon emerging from the underground vault where they were stuck for 69 days, the miners have been showered with gifts from around the world.

Employees of the Greek mining company Elmin are raising money to fund a trip for the Chilean miners to the Greek Islands, which will be quite a change for men who haven't seen sunshine for more than two months.

"Our miners who are underground for us support the [Chileans]," Elmin CEO Lyberis Polychronopoulos told ABC News.

The Chileans can have their choice of islands they'd like to visit, said Polychronopoulos, and the tab will be picked up by the miners' fundraising and the company.

In the U.S., electronic giant Apple has sent a new iPod touch, the portable media player, to each of the miners.

Elvis Presley Enterprises has extended an invitation to Edison Pena to come to Graceland, on them.  Pena is a Elvis fanatic who'd listened to music by "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" to pass the time.

"This was a terrible tragedy and we discreetly sent over a few items in mid-September once we learned Mr. Pena was an Elvis fan," said Kevin Kern, the director of public information at Elvis Presley Enterprises.  "Elvis was always generous with his fans and thankful, and part of our mission is to continue his good work and legacy.  It seemed fitting to help this fan in need by doing what we could to help him pass the time."

Kern said that DVDs, CDs, and even souvenir Elvis sunglasses were sent to Chile, and then down the mineshaft, to Pena.

"Now that this has ended happily, we thought it would be fitting to offer Mr. Pena and a family member a trip to Memphis to visit Graceland, where he will be treated like a rock star," said Kern.

Delta Airlines has offered to pay for Pena's flight, and his hotel room and meals will also be provided for him.

"We look forward to welcoming Edison to Memphis, the birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll and all things Elvis when he feels up to the trip," said Kern.  "Elvis fans are everywhere, and we all now know who is the biggest fan in Chile."

There are goodies for the non-music-loving miners, too.

Many of the 33 are big soccer fans and are likely delighted that famed British soccer player Sir Bobby Charlton, who comes from a family of miners, has invited all of the miners to attend a Manchester United soccer game at Old Trafford as soon as they have "medical clearance," according to a spokesman.

"A trip to the training ground to meet the players would definitely be in there, along with a game," said spokesman Philip Townsend.

Miner Franklin Lobos, the 27th miner to be rescued, was a professional soccer player before making his career underground, and was greeted Wednesday by a soccer ball from Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.  Lobos clutched the gift as he was wheeled into the medical facility for treatment.

Local reports say that a game will be organized later this month between the rescuers and the miners, with Lobos as the captain for the miners' team.

"This was the toughest match of my life," Lobos reportedly said when he came out of the rescue capsule.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio