Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., the most senior member of the Senate, agreed to relinquish his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, as Democrats and President-elect Barack Obama prepare to grapple with the economic crisis. Byrd, who will be 91 later this month, is a revered figure in the Senate. But his Democratic colleagues increasingly feared that he was no longer up to the task of running the Senate's most powerful committee on a daily basis. Persuading him to step aside was an extraordinarily delicate task.


Obama promised his daughters a puppy after the election, but finding one is proving to be a bit of a challenge. "This is a major issue," he said. It's generated more interest on his website than any other topic, he joked. "We have two criteria that have to be reconciled," he said. Ten-year-old daughter Malia has allergies, so the family is looking for a low-allergy breed. The family's second criteria may be more difficult to fulfill. Obama said the family would prefer to adopt a puppy from an animal rescue shelter. "But obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me," said Obama, in an apparent self-deprecating reference to his mixed-race heritage.


Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin fired back at the unidentified McCain campaign aides who have been maligning her, saying that their criticism was "cruel and it's mean-spirited ... and those guys are jerks." She particularly lashed out at the anonymous sources cited in a Fox News report who said she did not know Africa was a continent, not a country, and could not name the three countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement: Canada, the United States and Mexico. GOP lawyers are still trying to determine exactly what clothing was purchased for Palin, what was returned and what has become of the rest. The RNC spent at least $150,000 on designer clothing , accessories and beauty services for her.


Italy's Premier Silvio Berlusconi, 72, was visibly annoyed when reporters questioned him Friday about the possibility of political fallout from comments he made about America's first black president. The Italian leader, known for his impolitic remarks, appeared to have been joking Thursday when he said Obama "has everything needed in order to reach deals with him: He's young, handsome and even tanned." On Friday, Berlusconi told reporters that the remark was meant to be complimentary and "cute," and he called those who disagreed "imbeciles, of which there are too many."



President-elect Obama has a new website,, that gives people a chance to say what they think his priorities should be, track the transition, tell their stories and even apply for jobs.