Bush Flies In With a Line for Barbara’s Latest Chapter

The First Lady hopes her new project will be one for the books. Once again turning her attention to a longtime favorite cause, she announced the formation of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. The volunteer program, headed by Joan Abrahamson of Los Angeles’ Jefferson Institute, will raise money and distribute grants to existing literacy programs that involve not only children, but also their parents and grandparents. President Bush paid a surprise visit to the White House lunch at which the foundation plan was announced, labeling himself “a fly on the wall” who has “studied with Barbara Bush and learned a lot.” Among the 120 luncheon guests were women who are learning to read along with their children. Also attending were Education Secretary Lauro F. Cavazos and Labor Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole.

--Japan’s Empress Dowager Nagako, widow of Emperor Hirohito, observed her 86th birthday privately with her family at the imperial palace, a spokesman said. The empress dowager, who has made few public appearances since last year because of worsening health, lunched with her son, Emperor Akihito, his wife, Empress Michiko, and other family members, the spokesman said. No public ceremonies were scheduled because of continued mourning for Emperor Hirohito, who died Jan. 7.

--In another part of Asia, final preparations were under way for the coronation of a 43-year-old prince as the new Sultan of Jogjakarta. Prince Mangkubumi, who runs a construction company and heads local branches of the Chamber of Commerce and the ruling political party, will be crowned today in one of Indonesia’s last kingdoms. The prince is the eldest son of Hamengkubuwono IX, a hero of Indonesia’s struggle for independence and ruler of one of Java’s four remaining sultanates for 48 years before he died last October at age 76. He held national government posts, but “the new sultan will only reign over the family,” an official said. Hundreds of guards took up positions around the palace courtyard as retainers prepared a banyan tree to be planted by the new sultan to mark the start of his rule.