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The bad news: The death toll from the tsunami exceeded 225,000 people today after the Indonesian government confirmed that more than 50,000 people previously presumed missing are dead. Almost a quarter-million people have died, with thousands more casualties to come, due to disease, hunger and exposure.

The good news: Party's still on, dudes!

Later Wednesday, Bush was making a dash through three "candlelight dinners" with the heaviest donors to the inauguration. All were closed to journalists.

Tickets for the candlelight dinners were distributed to those who chipped in $250,000 or $100,000 to the inauguration. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their wives were attending the candlelight dinners.

Wednesday evening, he was to attend "A Celebration of Freedom," complete with musical performances and fireworks, scheduled for dusk on the Ellipse south of the White House. Bush's schedule was ending late Wednesday night with the first of the week's inaugural galas, the Texas State Society's Black Tie and Boots Ball.


Bush said Tuesday his second inauguration should serve as inspiration to fledgling democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Ed. note: Oh, I'm sure it will inspire them to something...)


The inaugural committee raised money from corporations and individuals to finance galas and other festivities during inauguration week. Through Friday, the committee had collected $25.5 million toward a goal of $40 million.

The biggest donors, those donating $250,000, also got four seats to Bush's swearing-in ceremony; 10 VIP seats at the inaugural parade; and two tickets to an underwriters' luncheon featuring Bush and Cheney.

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