USA

Gov. Brad Henry (D) of Oklahoma urged the White House to quickly approve a federal disaster declaration as grass fires, which burned 50,000 acres in Oklahoma and Texas last week, raged across those states and New Mexico over the weekend. Drought conditions and 50 m.p.h. wind gusts fueled the flames, which led to home evacuations in parts of Oklahoma City and the destruction of the tiny western Texas towns of Ringgold and Kokomo. There were some injuries, but no reported deaths from the wildfires.

President Bush, who began his week by visiting wounded soldiers at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, is scheduled to meet Tuesday with US attorneys and other officials at the White House to show support for those on the front lines of the war on terror. On Wednesday he will host a bipartisan group of former secretaries of State and Defense to discuss the war on terror.

The Pentagon will spend millions of dollars to improve language skills within the military during the next five years, the Baltimore Sun reported. The effort, which has grown out of lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, will include increased language instruction at military academies, pay incentives for service members with language skills, and the formation of a cadre of on-call civilian linguists.

Southern California braced itself Monday for heavy rains from the storms that earlier brought four to five inches to northern parts of the state, including nine inches in less than 24 hours to Napa County, where about 1,000 homes were flooded.

Televangelist Robert H. Schuller, who is familiar to millions of viewers for his sermons from the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., announced that his only son, Robert A., would succeed him as senior pastor on Jan. 22, according to the Los Angeles Times. Schuller began his worldwide ministry in a drive-in movie theater 50 years ago and is credited with being one of the inventors of the mega-church. the Times said.

Farris Hassan, a high school journalism student from Florida who traveled by himself to Iraq without telling his family, spent Sunday night in seclusion after being welcomed home at the Miami airport. Monday, his mother, who was born in Iraq, said she and her husband would be sitting down with the teenager to "discuss the consequences" of his three-week adventure. The US Embassy in Baghdad initiated his return home after he volunteered as a reporter at the Associated Press bureau there.

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