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67th birthday low-key for President Bush

Republican senators and some Cabinet members sang Happy Birthday to President Bush Wednesday on his 67th birthday. The president celebrated his birthday in low-key fashion with no special festivities planned. Reporters overheard the serenade to Bush while waiting outside the Cabinet Room, where the president was lobbying Republican leaders in the Senate for their support on his efforts to maintain most-favored-nation trade status for China. "You didn't miss much music, but the sentiment was fantastic," Bush told reporters once they were led inside the room.Report says HUD still has problems

The administration and Congress were congratulating each other Wednesday on cleaning up the mess at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) when a report said the problems weren't over. "The underlying causes of HUD's problems .

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. remain largely unresolved, leaving the agency susceptible to future fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement," the General Accounting Office (GOA) said. The report was delivered at a hearing at which Housing Secretary Jack Kemp and House members were heaping praise for their handling of HUD scandals disclosed two years ago. "If I had to give a grade to Secretary Kemp, it would be an A plus," said Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., chairman of the House Government Operations subcommittee that investigated HUD. Kemp was a bit more modest. "I think it's probably closer to a B plus," he said. In its latest report, the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said the department needed better organization, improved computers, better internal control and better financial management.

Senate hands victory to billboard industry

In a major victory for the outdoor advertising industry, the Senate on Wednesday refused to ban construction of new billboards along major U.S. highways or to make it easier for states to force the removal of existing signs. By 60-39, the Senate adopted an amendment by Harry Reid, D-Nev., that deleted the billboard language from pending legislation to restructure the federal highway program. Reid had called the provisions "punitive and destructive to the outdoor advertising industry" and "a dangerous virus against private property rights." The vote reaffirmed a decision by Congress in 1978, when it amended the 1965 Highway Beautification Act in a way that made it much harder for states and localities to force removal of billboards along interstate and primary highways.

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