Clinton Readies Aid For Areas of Florida

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AMERICANS increasingly look to Washington for assistance after natural disasters, and this weekend's East Coast blizzard is no exception. President Clinton moved quickly to award federal assistance to 21 Florida counties that were pounded by ferocious winds of up to 100 m.p.h.

"We had people in every state yesterday so I think we'll be ready," Mr. Clinton said Sunday. "I called a number of other governors yesterday. I'm going back now to get a situation report from the other states, and we'll process them all immediately - as soon as they're ready and [the states] ask."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which came in for criticism for slow response to the devastation wrought by last year's Hurricane Andrew, got a jump on the latest storm, thanks to good weather forecasting, said White House Communications Director George Stephanopoulos. He said that FEMA sent two officials to every state likely to be affected by the storm. President salutes the military

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Clinton, who has had a rocky relationship with the Pentagon, tried to shore up his support in the armed services by visiting the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on Saturday. During his speech to crew members and in a later address broadcast worldwide by the Armed Forces Radio Network, the commander-in-chief repeatedly stressed his respect for the military. "Our armed forces are more than the backbone of our security. You are the shining model of our American values," he said.

Despite his glowing praise, Clinton's remarks drew only polite, unenthusiastic applause from the ranks. The president's relations with the military have been strained from the start over proposed budget cuts and his decision, temporarily on hold, to permit homosexuals to serve in the armed forces. Many servicemen are also less than happy with the fact that Clinton avoided military service during the Vietnam War. Senate salutes Thurmond

Sen. Strom Thurmond (R) of South Carolina appears determined to set a longevity record. Senator Thurmond joined the upper house in 1954 as the only successful write-in candidate in the Senate's history. At a birthday bash last week attended by virtually all of his colleagues, he said he would run for reelection in 1996 if he is healthy. Two months into another term, he would become the longest-serving US senator.

Thurmond first made a splash on the national scene as the 1948 presidential candidate of the States' Rights Party, or Dixiecrats, a group of pro-segregation Southerners. A former Democrat, Thurmond joined the Republican Party in 1964. Neither rain nor snow will stop him

Even when you're the president and leader of the free world, bad weather can be a major hassle. On Sunday, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton had to walk eight blocks through the snow to reach the Foundry Methodist Church. But on the return trip, the president exercised the prerogatives of office and took a four-wheel-drive vehicle back to the White House.

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