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President Bush visited the hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast region Thursday for the first time in three months for a first-hand look at the progress being made in recovery efforts. According to a White House spokesman, Bush's overarching message is that the federal government is committed to going the distance to help affected areas rebuild.

Military officers who met with the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss the body-armor needs of troops said the Marine Corps is supplying soldiers in Iraq with ceramic plates to protect their sides and that the Army is gearing up to provide thousands of such plates this year. The meeting grew out of a Pentagon study that suggested improved body armor might have prevented or minimized many fatal torso injuries.

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Investigators of the Jan. 2 West Virginia coal mine explosion that killed 12 men should be able to enter the mine for the first time as soon as early next week, said the chief executive of International Coal Group Inc. By then, Ben Hatfield said, toxic gases should have been sufficiently vented. He also defended the company against reports of negligence, saying it had spent heavily on safety improvements in recent months.

The Republican Governors Association said it would donate $500,000 received from an associate of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff to Red Cross chapters for Gulf Coast hurricane-recovery efforts.

Four Navy aviators, killed in a mysterious crash of their training plane in northwest Georgia, were found late Wednesday in the wreckage by the Civil Air Patrol after a 24-hour search. The Florida-bound flight vanished shortly after takeoff Tuesday from Chattanooga, Tenn.

Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who says he was sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest 60 years ago, offered support at a Columbus, Ohio, news conference for an Ohio bill that would remove time limits for suing the church in such cases. Other church officials, however, said that time limits for lawsuits had served society well in "protecting the rights of everyone, especially after a long passage of time."