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Bush uses radio speech to note tsunami aid

/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush on Saturday offered a long list of ways the United States is trying to help victims of the deadly tsunami in South Asia.

“In this time of grief for so many around the world, Americans have come together to pray for the victims and families of the tsunami disaster,” Bush said in his weekly radio address.

“We think especially of the children who have been lost, and the survivors searching for their families. And we offer our sustained compassion and generosity as the people of the devastated region begin to rebuild.”

The administration’s pledge of $350 million — which Bush called only an “initial commitment” and is essentially a line of credit that can be spent as American relief officials identify needs — ranks fourth behind Australia, Japan and Germany.

Other U.S. government contributions to the effort include a massive showing by the military that has sent ships, planes and helicopters to the region to ferry aid and supplies to the suffering.

“We are rushing food, medicine, and other vital supplies to the region,” Bush said. “We are focusing efforts on helping the women and children who need special attention, including protection from the evil of human trafficking.”

Powell to recommend next step
On Monday, Bush is to hear Secretary of State Colin Powell’s in-person report from his damage-inspection tour of the Indian Ocean region. Powell was to recommend what the United States should do next.

After that White House briefing, Bush was to visit the Washington headquarters of the U.S. Agency for International Development, to thank workers at the U.S. aid agency as well as representatives from other international organizations, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Bush’s brother has already given the president an initial readout of the trip, which Florida Gov. Jeb Bush led along with Powell at Bush’s request. The brothers met when Gov. Bush returned ahead of Powell to attend an anniversary party at the White House on Thursday night for their parents’ anniversary.

“Our military is flying chopper lift after chopper lift after chopper lift to get needed supplies to help alleviate the incredible suffering that has gone on,” Bush said, during a lawsuit reform event in Michigan on Friday, of the report he heard from Gov. Bush.

“I am proud of the efforts we have made. I will be proud of the efforts we will make, because this compassionate country will help those around the world who hurt as a result of these natural disasters.”

Tax deductions encourage donations
In his radio remarks, Bush also encouraged Americans to continue giving generously out of their own pockets to private relief organizations — singling out charities such as the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, the Salvation Army, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, CARE and AmeriCares as particularly reputable. He referred people to a White House Web site — — for other suggestions.

“I urge all Americans to contribute as they are able,” the president said.

As part of the effort to boost private donations to the relief effort, Bush has tasked former Presidents Bush and Clinton with leading a nationwide charitable donation drive. On Friday, the White House released television public service announcements taped by the two former presidents asking Americans to give.

“No one can change what happened,” former President Bush says in one ad. “But we can all change what happens next,” Clinton says.

Bush also has signed legislation aimed at inspiring individual check-writing. The new law, which he signed Friday, allows people who donate to the tsunami relief effort to claim deductions on their 2004 tax returns, if they contribute before end of the month.