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Tai Shan, the prized panda and star of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., peers out during his press debut in November 2005. Tai Shan, who was born at the Smithsonian Institution park, will be sent to China, his ancestral home, in early 2010. Pandas born at the zoo belong to China, according to an agreement, and a two-year extension given to Tai Shan is now up.

Newscom/Ide




August 30, 2005: An infant Tai Shan is examined by National Zoo staff. The giant panda was conceived through an artificial insemination process. His parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are on a 10-year, $10 million loan to the zoo until 2010.

Newscom/Smithsonian National Zoo/Jessie Cohen/MCT




February 12, 2006: His first time in the snow, the young cub plays with his mother, Mei Xiang.

Newscom/Ann Batdorf/Smithsonian National Zoo




February 14, 2006: During her stay, Tai Shan has been no stranger to visiting luminaries. First Lady Laura Bush looks in on the seven month-old.

Newscom/Shealah Craighhead/The White House/KRT




July 3, 2006: Nearly a year old, the giant panda has become quite comfortable with his surroundings. His first birthday was celebrated with big public bash at the Zoo.

Newscom/Ann Batdorf /Smithsonian National Zoo




July 9, 2009: Tai Shan celebrates his fourth birthday with a giant bamboo "cake."

Newscom/Zhang Yan



December 4, 2009: Tai Shan will now move to the Sichuan Province in China to participate in a breeding program run by the Chinese government.

Newscom/Xinhua/Zhang Yan


In a press conference, First Lady Michelle Obama annouced that this year's White House Christmas theme is "reflect, rejoice and renew." "For the Obama family, Christmas and the new year has always been a time to reflect on our many blessings, to rejoice in the pleasure of spending time with our family and our friends, and to renew our commitment to one another and to the causes that we believe in. And I wanted to continue that part of the tradition during our first holiday season here at the White House," she explained.

Photo: Newscom/Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT




Oh Christmas Tree! Delivered from Shepherdstown, West Virginia, this year's White House Christmas tree arrived via horse and carriage on November 27. It now adorns the Blue Room of the White House.

Photo by Christina Bellantoni




In light of the 'renew' theme, each of the 800 ornaments throughout the White House and on the Christmas tree have been repurposed from past administrations. Community groups personalized each ornament with their favorite local landmarks.

Photo by Christina Bellantoni




It took Chef Bill Yosses six weeks to design and craft the traditional White House gingerbread house, a masterpiece he describes as a "pet project of the whole house."

Photo by Christina Bellantoni




A new addition to the traditional gingerbread house is a Bo Obama figure made out of marzipan.

Photo by Christina Bellantoni




Another new addition is the White House kitchen garden on the South Lawn, with soil made from chocolate cake and the vegetables -- crafted with the help of local schoolchildren -- made out of marzipan.

Photo by Christina Bellantoni




A scene from the East Room.

Photo by Christina Bellantoni





The red room of the White House has become ablaze with festive Christmas trees and decor.

Photo by Christina Bellantoni



The state dining room.


Photo by Christina Bellantoni


December 3: The first family attends the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. There, they press a button to light the tree, an annual tradition since the 1920s. During the ceremony, President Obama jokes: "I'm technologically challenged and I might not get this right."

Newscom/Carrie Devorah / WENN.com




First Lady Michelle Obama reads "The Night Before Christmas" during the ceremony.

Newscom/Dennis Brack




Newscom/Carrie Devorah / WENN.com




Sheryl Crow (fourth from left) performs "Jingle Bell Rock" at the ceremony.

Newscom/Carrie Devorah / WENN.com




Obama meets America's second most powerful couple: Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Newscom/Dennis Brack/Pool/Sipa Press




American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and host Randy Jackson (both on far right) are also present.

Newscom/Carrie Devorah / WENN.com




Sadly, Bo Obama was left to enjoy Christmas lights on his own at the White House.

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton

It's crunch time! In a rare face-to-face meeting between conservative and liberals members, a number of key Democrats huddled behind closed doors tonight to discuss the public option in the hopes of reaching some sort of compromise in time to salvage the health care bill.

On hand were Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--who's been trying to broker a compromise between competing factions for months--Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)--who's been floating a potential compromise modeled on Olympia Snowe's trigger--and Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Ben Nelson (D-NE).

According to Rockefeller, the range of views is an indication that things are coming down to the wire.

"There's no question about that," Rockefeller told reporters. "This should have started a long time ago and thankfully Harry Reid caught it in time to put us together."

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Under a new system set up by Sprint, law enforcement agencies have gotten GPS data from the company about its wireless customers 8 million times in about a year, raising a host of questions about consumer privacy, transparency, and oversight of how police obtain location data.

What this means -- and what many wireless customers no doubt do not realize -- is that with a few keystrokes, police can determine in real time the location of a cell phone user through automated systems set up by the phone companies.

And while a Sprint spokesman told us customers can shield themselves from surveillance by simply switching off the GPS function of their phones, one expert told TPM that the company and other carriers almost certainly have the power to remotely switch the function back on.

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The White House has long been saying President Obama wants a health care bill on his desk this year.

That's the messaging used by the DNC's Organizing for America, pro-health reform groups and, as Brian reported this week, the Democratic leadership is prepared to work "right through Christmas."

A reporter today asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the lag as the Senate debates its version of the bill.

"Given that it took four days to vote on the first two amendments in the health care bill do you think realistically you're looking at a date closer to the state of the union for a bill?" the reporter asked in the morning gaggle.

"I'm not going to wiggle on a date," Gibbs said.

TPMDC followed up asking Gibbs about the First Family's annual Hawaiian vacation. The dates aren't public yet, but Obama will be in the Aloha state for a good chunk of time in late December.

"If the bill is passed the president would be happy to sign it in Hawaii - I could think of any number of picturesque locations," Gibbs said.

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The New Jersey state senate is scheduled to vote on legalizing gay marriage next week.

Sen. Ray Lesniak (D) announced Thursday on the Statehouse steps that the Judiciary Committee will take up the bill on Monday. The full senate will vote on the measure Thursday.

Coming just days after the New York state senate defeated a gay marriage bill, the New Jersey votes present a big risk. It's not clear if the votes are there.

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President Obama was all set to go to Copenhagen for the global climate change talks next week, but the White House has announced a change of plans.

Environmental experts and other nations questioned the effectiveness of the president's decision to attend the conference at the beginning instead of at the end when other world leaders were gathered there.

One reason for the shift is that Obama intended to get things kicked off. Before the conference has even started China and India announced major carbon reduction plans for the first time ever, and Europe and Australia have settled on a $10 billion per year to help developing countries meet whatever is established as the new framework.

The White House says Obama always wanted to attend the talks when his presence would be most meaningful, and given the early positive signs, it made sense for him to delay the trip.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs just released a statement saying that Obama will do just that.

"Based on his conversations with other leaders and the progress that has already been made to give momentum to negotiations, the President believes that continued US leadership can be most productive through his participation at the end of the Copenhagen conference on December 18th rather than on December 9th," Gibbs said.

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At least one computer containing undercover recordings from the investigation of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has been stolen from the offices of Blago's lawyer, reports a Chicago news outlet.

The theft reportedly took place last night at the law offices of Sam Adam and his son, Sam Adam Jr. There are said to be no suspects.

It's possible the theft could delay Blago's trial, which is scheduled for June. He has been charged with seeking to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat, among other transgressions.

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