[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/CRIME/12/13/palin.church/art.palin.gi.jpg caption="Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin reportedly apologized for possibility that fire was related to her nomination."]
(CNN) - A "suspicious" fire devastated the church attended by Alaska Gov. and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Friday night in her hometown of Wasilla, the church's minister said.
"We have no idea what caused it," the Rev. Larry Kroon of the Wasilla Bible Church said Saturday, adding that investigators were considering arson and other possible causes.
A ladies' craft group was in the building when the fire broke out, but they got out safely, Kroon said.
"No one was hurt," he said.
Central Mat-Su Fire Department Chief James Steele said the department was "treating it as suspicious and as potential arson at this point" but did not elaborate, The Anchorage Daily News reported.
The newspaper said Palin released a statement after the fire in which she said she stopped by the church Saturday morning and offered an apology to the assistant pastor "if the incident is in any way connected to the undeserved negative attention the church has received since she became a vice presidential candidate."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/13/art.boclose1213.gi.jpg caption="The economic stimulus plan in the works by President-elect Obama's team could cost $500-$700 billion over two years."]
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama will meet next week with his economic team to discuss the economic stimulus package they are developing, a transition aide for the incoming administration confirmed to CNN on Saturday.
The aide said the team also met with Obama in Chicago on Thursday, the same day the president-elect picked former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle for two important roles - secretary of Health and Human Services and director of the White House Office of Health Reform.
The Obama team isn't putting a price tag on its economic stimulus plan, which Democratic leaders want to have ready for the new president to sign either on or very soon after Inauguration Day.
Currently, the initial package is expected to cost somewhere between $500 billion and $700 billion over two years.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/02/art.ap.bill.jpg caption=" The former President announced a new partnership between Arkansas and his foundation Saturday."]
(CNN) - As his wife begins her transition to becoming the nation's top diplomat in tumultuous times across the globe, former President Bill Clinton is also doing his part for the planet.
The Clinton Foundation announced Saturday that it is partnering with the State of Arkansas in an extension of the foundation's Clinton Climate Initiative. Through retrofit programs, the partnership will help the state where Clinton served as governor to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Arkansas is one of the first states to participate in the Clinton Climate Initiative. In 2006, the Clinton Foundation developed an exclusive partnership with the 40 largest cities in the world that have all pledged to engage in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"While urban areas account for more than three-quarters of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions, we need to work with rural states like Arkansas to make a difference in the fight against climate change in practical, measurable, and significant ways," said former President Clinton in the statement released by the foundation Saturday. "I'm confident that Arkansas will set an example for the rest of the country and the world," he added.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/12/13/gates.afghanistan/art.gates.gi.jpg caption="U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks to U.S. troops at Joint Base Balad in Iraq on Saturday."]
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who arrived in Iraq in a surprise visit Saturday, said he doubts U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan will reach the levels attained in Iraq.
The Soviets, who invaded Afghanistan in the 1970s but left in early 1989 after failing to control the country, had 120,000 troops but lost because they didn't have the support of the people, Gates told troops at Balad Air Base, just north of Baghdad.
The U.S. military has about 31,000 troops in Afghanistan, less than a quarter of its total strength in Iraq.
Gates' predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, made similar comments in a 2005 Senate hearing about the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. At the time, Rumsfeld was dealing with a conflict of a different nature, but the comments arose while he was defending what critics called insufficient U.S. troop strength in Iraq.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/12/gop.technology/art.blackwell.facebook.jpg caption="Ken Blackwell and other candidates for the GOP chairmanship have used Facebook to reach supporters."] (CNN) - When Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis decided to throw his hat in the ring to head the Republican Party, he announced his intentions on an unlikely forum: Twitter.
Not too long ago, the social networking Web site most popular among teenagers and 20-somethings was probably the last place you would expect to find a candidate for the Republican National Committee chairmanship.
But then Barack Obama's presidential campaign appeared to revolutionize the way technology could be integrated into every facet of a campaign - from fundraising to media outreach to voter mobilization.
The result was a Democratic Party that outpaced its rival in nearly every measure - in the process revealing how detrimental the GOP's apparent lack of tech fluency proved to be on Election Day.
The Republican Party is playing catch-up, hoping to compete with Democrats in the next two pivotal election cycles.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/13/hud.donovan/art.donovan.cabinet.nyc.jpg caption="Shaun Donovan has been chosen to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development."]
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Shaun Donovan, New York City's former housing commissioner, to be his secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Obama used his weekly radio address to announce the selection.
"As commissioner of housing preservation and development in New York City, Shaun has led the effort to create the largest housing plan in the nation, helping hundreds of thousands of our citizens buy or rent their homes," Obama said.
He said HUD is essential in the effort to address the mortgage crisis, which he said "not only shakes the foundation of our economy, but the foundation of the American Dream."
"To stem the rising tide of foreclosures and strengthen our economy, I've asked my economic team to develop a bold plan that will dramatically increase the number of families who can stay in their homes," Obama said. "But this plan will only work with a comprehensive, coordinated federal effort to make it a reality."
Donovan has experience working in business, academia and at HUD during the Clinton administration.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/12/jackson.jr.blagojevich/art.jackson.cnn.jpg caption="Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. says neither he nor any emissaries offered favors in exchange for a Senate appointment."]
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said Friday that he was fighting to get "my name back" after he was identified as "Senate Candidate 5" in a criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Jackson, the son of famed civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and a six-term Democratic congressman from Chicago, had publicly sought to succeed President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.
Jackson had talked to Blagojevich, the person with the sole power to make the appointment, on Monday, just one day before federal agents arrested the Illinois governor. Jackson said he only presented his credentials and polling information that suggests he could win re-election in 2010.
Jackson said he had fought corruption "since day one" but said he could not serve as Illinois senator until his name was cleared in the public eye.
"While I would be honored to serve the people of this state, it is clear to me that I am no capacity to serve them if there is a cloud over my head that seems to suggest that I am involved in some unscrupulous scheme to be a United States senator or anything else," Jackson told CNN's Don Lemon.