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CHICAGO (AP) — President-elect Barack Obama was staying in Chicago for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday Thursday and squeezing in some holiday shopping, a day after trying to reassure Americans about the ailing economy as stores braced for a rough season.

“Help is on the way,” he proclaimed Wednesday at his third news briefing on the economy this week. Fifty-five days away from taking office, he declared he would have an economic plan ready for action “starting day one.”

To help with ideas from outside the White House, Obama also announced he was forming a new team of advisers with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker as the head.

“There is no doubt that during tough economic times family budgets are going to be pinched,” Obama said. “I think it is important for the American people, though, to have confidence that we’ve gone through recessions before, we’ve gone through difficult times before, that my administration intends to get this economy back on track.”

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WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama has named a team of high-profile executives and fundraisers to oversee his inauguration and imposed limits on who can contribute to it and how much they can give.

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The group leading the Jan. 20 celebrations includes Chicago Bears part-owner Patrick Ryan, former Commerce secretary William Daley, and Penny Pritzker, a billionaire Chicago businesswoman who helped Obama raise record sums as his campaign’s finance chairwoman.

No budget has been set. Fundraising for President Bush’s inauguration in 2004 surpassed $42 million, federal records show.

While presidential candidates can collect no more than $2,300 in campaign contributions from individuals per primary and general election, federal law sets no limits on inaugural fundraising.

Obama, who vowed during the campaign that special interests would not yield undue influence in his White House, is limiting inaugural contributions to $50,000 each and will not accept money from corporations, unions, political action committees, or federal lobbyists, inaugural spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Individuals who raise money on behalf of the inaugural committee cannot collect more than $300,000 each, he said. Obama, however, still will accept donations from corporate executives, wealthy individuals and former federal lobbyists.

“While this isn’t a perfect solution, it’s a clear indication that he’s taking serious steps to change business as usual in Washington,” Earnest said.

Sheila Krumholz of the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics said Obama’s move marks the tightest restrictions on inaugural giving. But wealthy donors still can try to use their contributions to gain access to the president-elect, she added. “If you have the means, you can essentially buy elite status … you may even get prime seats for the parade and (inaugural) ball tickets in the process.”

Earnest said big donors will not have an inside track in the new administration. The committee also plans a grass-roots fundraising campaign to collect money from a broad cross-section of Americans, he said.

Other members of the inaugural team: Obama fundraiser John Rogers, CEO of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, and Julianna Smoot, who served as Obama’s national finance director.

The federal government provides $1.2 million in public funds to pay for the swearing-in and a luncheon. Private donations pay for most other activities — from the splashy Inaugural Balls to installing jumbo television screens on the National Mall, where spillover crowds will watch the ceremony.

Bush imposed a $250,000 cap on inaugural donations in 2004 but did not bar corporate contributions.

Source: USA Today

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The Vatican, the world’s smallest sovereign state, has stepped up its fight against global warming by installing a huge rooftop solar energy system.

More than 2,000 photovoltaic panels have been fixed to the roof of one of the city state’s main buildings, enabling the Holy See to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by about 225 tonnes a year, saving the equivalent of 80 tonnes of oil annually.

Looming over them is the imposing bulk of St Peter’s Basilica, but the panels will not be visible from ground level, leaving the Vatican’s impressive skyline unblemished.

The solar energy system covers the massive roof of the “Nervi Hall”, where Pope Benedict XVI holds general audiences.

The 2,400 panels, designed by a Germany company, will heat, light and cool the hall and several surrounding buildings, producing 300 kilowatt hours (MWh) of clean energy a year.

The hall, built in 1971 and one of the Vatican’s newest buildings, has a sweeping, wave-shaped roof which made the project feasible.

The Vatican’s official mouthpiece, the daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial that “the gradual exhaustion of the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect have reached critical dimensions.”

Pope Benedict, like his predecessor John Paul II, has made several appeals for greater efforts to protect the environment.

Last year the Holy See announced that it would become the world’s first carbon-neutral state by planting trees in a national park in Hungary in order to offset its carbon-dioxide emissions.

This latest initiative puts the Vatican at odds with Italy. The Italian government said this week that it would veto new European Union limits on greenhouse gas emissions unless it won concessions.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said a plan proposed by France’s President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, was unrealistic.

Italy’s greenhouse gas emissions are around 13 per cent above 1990 levels – one of the worst performances in the EU.

Analysts believe that Italy may be dragging its heels in order to secure a better deal for its industry and that the government would not dare risk the stigma of sabotaging the EU’s self-declared role as the world leader in tackling climate change.

Source: Telegragh

AP Raw Video: Obamas Hand Out Turkeys

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