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Mexican troops cross into U.S.

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

San Antonio, Texas A Mexican army convoy of nearly 200 people crossed the border into the United States on Thursday to bring aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina, becoming the first Mexican military unit to operate on U.S. soil since 1846.

Mexico’s first disaster aid mission to the United States was greeted in San Antonio by honking car horns, welcome signs and cheering people wrapped in or waving Mexican flags.

“San Antonio is probably the most Mexican city in the entire United States,” councilman Richard Perez said. Of the city’s 1.2 million residents, roughly 500,000 identify themselves as being of Mexican descent, according to the Census.

Earlier, dignitaries from both Mexico and the United States greeted the soldiers at the Laredo border crossing.

The unarmed soldiers, physicians, nurses and dentists aboard the convoy wore green uniforms with yellow armbands that said “Humanitarian Aid” in Spanish.

First lady calls criticism ‘disgusting’

Washington Laura Bush described as “disgusting” comments by rapper Kanye West and Democratic chairman Howard Dean blaming her husband for the disproportionate number of black hurricane victims.

“I think all of those remarks are disgusting, to be perfectly frank, because of course President Bush cares about everyone in our country,” the first lady said Thursday in an interview with American Urban Radio Networks.

“And I know that. I mean, I’m the person who lives with him,” she said. “I know what he’s like and I know what he thinks and I know how he cares about people.”

The president has faced sharp criticism over federal relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina victims, who are disproportionally black and poor.

On a nationally televised telethon last Friday, broadcast live on NBC, West departed from the script to declare “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

Earlier this week, Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told the National Baptist Convention of America, a black religious group, that race played a role in the hurricane casualty numbers.

Most banks open in stricken areas

Washington Most of the 280 banks and savings and loans in hurricane-stricken areas are operating normally again, and they’re not expected to have financial problems in the long term, regulators said Thursday.

Some 420 of the 5,000 branch offices in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina were still closed as of Thursday, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Even in cases in which banking offices sustained very heavy damage, customers should be able to get their money by check or automated teller machine, the FDIC said. Some institutions have set up temporary offices and switched to backup computer systems.

FDIC officials say there could be problems for banks whose customers are unable to repay loans, but the effect would be mitigated when disaster relief kicks in. The banks in the area generally were in a strong financial condition before Katrina hit, they say.

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