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Bush aide: Former president improving

In this June 12, 2012 file photo, former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, arrive for the premiere of HBO's new documentary about his life in Kennebunkport, Maine. AP Photo|Charles Krupa

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By The Associated Press
Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 7:10 p.m.

HOUSTON — Former President George H.W. Bush remained in intensive care at a Houston hospital on Friday but aides tried to reassure Americans that his condition continues to improve.

“The president is alert and, as always, in good spirits — and his exchanges with doctors and nurses now include singing,” family spokesman Jim McGrath said in a brief statement.

The 88-year-old Bush, the nation's oldest-living former president, was admitted at Methodist Hospital in Houston on Nov. 23 because of a bronchitis-related cough.

On Thursday, a longtime Bush aide tried to quell concern about Bush's condition by saying the former president probably would advise well-wishers to “put the harps back in the closet.”

Jean Becker, Bush's Houston chief of staff, said Bush was expected to be in the hospital for a while, noting his age and that “he had a terrible case of bronchitis which then triggered a series of complications.”

Becker said “most of the civilized world” contacted her after word spread that Bush had been placed in ICU.

“Someday President George H.W. Bush might realize how beloved he is, but of course one of the reasons why he is so beloved is because he has no idea,” Becker said.

He was moved to intensive care on Sunday for treatment of a fever.

The former president has been visited by family and friends, including longtime friend James Baker III, his former Secretary of State. Bush's daughter, Dorothy, arrived Wednesday from her home in Bethesda, Md. Other visitors have included his sons George W. Bush, the 43rd president, and Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor.

Bush, who served as vice president, ambassador to China and CIA director, suffers from a form of Parkinson's disease that forced him in recent years to use a motorized scooter or wheelchair.

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