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By Compiled from wire service reports by Ross Atkin, Christa Case, and Robert Kilborn / January 4, 2005



Two former presidents, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, were named Monday at the White House to head a nationwide charitable fundraising effort for victims of the Asian tsunamis. President Bush enlisted his predecessors to encourage individuals and businesses to support relief and reconstruction efforts through nongovernmental avenues. The president also signed condolence books at the embassies of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand, the nations hardest hit. Meanwhile, the Associated Press, citing unnamed Pentagon officials, said the US was sending the 1,000-bed hospital ship, USNS Mercy, to assist in relief efforts.

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The FBI is investigating another suspicious laser-beam sighting in an airline cockpit, the agency said after the latest incident - a green laser seen by pilots of United Airlines on a flight that departed Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, headed for Chicago. Lasers conceivably could temporarily blind or disorient pilots. Half a dozen similar cases, scattered across the US, are also under investigation.

As a precaution, about 1,500 people were evacuated from their homes in El Dorado, Ark., after a fire Sunday at a hazardous waste incineration plant. No one was injured. Many residents were allowed to return to their homes. The cause of the blaze has not been determined.

Faith-based organizations were awarded $1.17 billion or about 8 percent of the $14.5 billion spent on social programs in five federal departments, according to the first detailed tally of the dollars behind the Bush administration's "faith-based initiative."

Rep. Robert Matsui (D) of Calif., who died Saturday in Bethesda, Md., recently was reelected to his 14th term in Congress. The Japanese-American native of Sacramento, Calif., said his career was motivated by his family's forced stay in US internment camps during World War II. He was the third-ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, where he was his party's point man on Social Security legislation.

Former lawmaker Shirley Chisholm, who died Saturday in Miami, was the first black woman elected to Congress and, in 1972, the first black person to seek a major party's nomination for president. The daughter of Caribbean immigrants, she represented New York's Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in Congress from 1969 until retiring in 1983. A champion of women and minorities, Chisholm was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

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