Obama to name Nobel winner as Energy secretary

CHICAGO -- President-elect Barack Obama plans to tap a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and three former Clinton administration officials to lead his environment-and-energy policy team, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The wire service said the picks are:

• Steve Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and 1997 Nobel Prize winner for physics, as his Energy secretary.

• Lisa Jackson, a former New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection commissioner, as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator.

• Former EPA chief Carol Browner as "energy czar."

• Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor in Los Angeles, to run the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The AP cited unnamed Democratic officials who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal appointments that have not been made public by Obama or his transition office.

Jackson would be the first African American to head the federal environmental agency. Sutley would be Obama's first prominent openly gay appointee. Jackson, Sutley and Browner worked at the EPA during the Clinton administration.

Obama will discuss the nation's health care system today at a news conference. Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle has accepted Obama's offer to be secretary of Health and Human Services, according to two Democratic officials with direct knowledge of the appointment. They asked for anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about Cabinet posts.

Obama will also meet with former secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced plans Wednesday for four days of events, including a day of service to mark the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on the eve of the swearing in. Other activities include a public kickoff on Jan. 18 to welcome visitors to the nation's capital and a prayer service on Jan. 21, the day after Obama takes the oath.

He has chosen "Renewing America's Promise" as the theme for the swearing- in, as he seeks to tie his inauguration to the tone he struck during the campaign.

Nearly 50 groups — including a 135-member marching band from Obama's high school alma mater, the Punahou School in Honolulu — have been invited so far to march in the parade.

The inaugural committee also will open the full length of the National Mall to the millions expected to come to Washington. And this week, members of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of black World War II pilots, were invited to the inauguration of the nation's first black president.

Retired lieutenant colonel Herbert Carter, 89, who flew 77 combat missions over Europe, said Obama and the airmen share a common belief, that the "antidote to racism is excellence in performance."

Carter, however, doubted he would attend the inauguration because the invitation doesn't come with a hotel room. "I hear that there is no room at the inn."

Schouten reported from Washington