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In Chicago today, at Obama Transition HQ, President-elect Obama surprised the Vice President-elect, who will turn 66 tomorrow.

After their weekly lunch, Mr. Obama presented Mr. Biden cupcakes, Obama aides say.

Here is a picture from the Obama Transition Team:

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Obama lit the candles on the 12 cupcakes and brought them over to Biden.

“You’re 12 years old!” Obama joked, referring to the dozen cupcakes.

“Maybe in dog years!” Biden laughed.

Mr. Obama led the staff in singing him “Happy Birthday,” and then gifted his loquacious running mate with a Chicago White Sox Hat, a Chicago Bears Hat and a bucket of Garrett’s popcorn as gifts.

Source: ABCNewsBlog

I agree with those who are concerned that it would have been nice to see more women, said Kim Gandy.

I agree with those who are concerned that it would have been nice to see more women, said Kim Gandy.

Early indications that men might dominate the hierarchy of Obama administration have women’s groups worried, even as a growing chorus of advisers reportedly pushes Hillary Rodham Clinton for secretary of state.

“There’s definitely been a reaction to the few groups that have been named so far,” said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. “I agree with those who are concerned that it would have been nice to see more women.”

Women’s rights advocates acknowledge it’s still early in the transition process, but they say early staff picks and the lists of rumored Cabinet nominees send the wrong signal.

“It’s appropriate that Obama’s vetting Clinton, but she’s one women,” said Amy Siskind, co-founder of The New Agenda, a nonpartisan women’s rights group founded by former Clinton supporters. “We want to see parity in the representation of women in the Cabinet.”

Some women’s rights advocates believe the new administration is conducting a broad search across a diverse pool of candidates.

The Obama transition team asked NOW to send suggestions of qualified female candidates, according to Gandy.

“The transition team is going to take the time to look at and vet the people they don’t know,” she said. “Because frankly, the people who are already well-known in Washington tend to be men and tend to be white.”

The early teams released by the Obama administration have tended to be male-dominated. On Wednesday, four women and eight men were named to Obama’s transition advisory board. His agency review team is headed by seven women and thirteen men. And last week, Obama met with his key economic advisers — four women and 13 men.

So far, Obama has named four members of his top White House staff. Three are men – chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, press secretary Robert Gibbs and chief congressional liaison Phil Schiliro. And one is a woman – senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Additionally, Vice President-elect Joe Biden has named Ron Klain as his chief of staff.

The senior staff assisting with the transition is more evenly divided, with Jarrett, a mentor and close friend one of the three top aides overseeing it.

While Obama has not made any Cabinet appointments, the names that are circulating have worried some in the women’s rights community.

“I have been struck by how few women have been mentioned for high-level positions,” said former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, who worked on the Clinton transition. “It’s still very early, so I don’t want to reach conclusions yet. But the rumors are a flashing yellow light.”

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The Vatican has fired a warning shot over the bows of Barack Obama in response to the President-elect’s intention to lift the US ban on embryonic stem cell research.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, who acts as the Vatican health minister, said that stem cells taken from human embryos and involving the destruction of the embryos “serve no purpose”.

Asked whether the Vatican was concerned about reports that Mr Obama might reverse the Bush Administration’s ban, the cardinal said that embryonic stem cell research had not resulted in any significant health cure so far and was “good for nothing”.

Research on adult stem cells and umbliical cords had been shown to have “positive value”, by contrast, although even that was not “a panacea for everything.”

He said the Vatican would seek clarification of the new administration’s position on stem cells, and he himself was not “fully aware” what it was.

Aides to Mr Obama indicated this week that he will reverse Mr Bush’s stand on stem cell research. The US Senate voted in July to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, but the President vetoed the legislation the following day.

Mr Obama has supported stem cell research to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. His views are supported by Joe Biden, the Vice-President-elect, who is a Roman Catholic.

John Podesta, who is handling the President-elect’s preparations to take over in the White House on January 20, said Mr Obama wanted “all the Bush executive orders reviewed”.

He added: “I think across the board, on stem cell research, on a number of areas, you see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country.”

Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen, a leading American Vatican watcher, said the Vatican would have “deep differences” with the Obama administration over abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

These, however, must not be allowed to impede US-Vatican co-operation in promoting “religious freedom and human dignity worldwide” or on issues such as immigration, economic justice, peace, and environmental protection, he said.

Carinal Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, made the remarks at a press conference on childhood disease and illness and infant mortality.

He called for an intensive effort to improve “both medical and pastoral” aid to children, saying that four million babies in the world died each year in their first 26 days of life.

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The Presidential Transition Project is the enormous effort of hundreds of people coming together to lay out the agenda and priorities for the Obama Administration. Led by President-Elect Barack Obama, Vice-President Elect Joe Biden, a transition advisory board, and respected leaders from both the public and private sector, the transition is responsible for ensuring that the transfer of power from the current administration to the Obama Administration is smooth and that the continuity of leadership is preserved.

Key Staff
John Podesta
Valerie Jarrett
Pete Rouse

Board & Staff

The Transition Project is also tasked with reviewing hundreds of agencies and programs in the federal government and selecting new personnel to manage these important offices. Among the personnel that will be selected will be new Cabinet members, national security and federal law enforcement officials, non-career appointments, and other heads of agencies across the Executive Branch.

We will keep this transition process transparent, so that you will know which officials are being selected to serve in this administration and lead the country for the next four years. All staff appointments chosen for this administration will be committed to fulfilling Obama’s campaign promises, to rebuilding our government, and to serving the American people again.

Source: Change.gov