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Ex-President George H.W. Bush remains hospitalized

HOUSTON -- President George H.W. Bush, who has been in a Houston hospital with a lingering cough since November, needs to "build up his energy" before he can be released, doctors said yesterday.

Methodist Hospital spokesman George Kovacik said in an emailed statement that doctors are still optimistic that Bush, 88, will fully recover, but are being "extra cautious." Bush's condition is stable, he said.

Bush was hospitalized Nov. 23 to be treated for a bronchitis-related cough. Hospital officials have said he has been receiving physical therapy to increase his strength.

Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said on Thursday that Bush could be released in time for Christmas.

However, Kovacik said yesterday that no discharge date has been set, and it remains unclear whether the 41st president will be able to spend the holiday at home.

Kovacik said that could be decided today, Christmas Eve.-- AP

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