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First a question: As we march on towards New Year's Eve, how do you plan to spend it?

Today I have posted some pictures that I took at the White House last week of the room where the first lady portraits are hung. The room is on the bottom floor of the White House and is a very elegant room, as you will see.

Today is the anniversary of the tsunami, which took more than 200,000 lives. The number is so large that for many the event must seem a fantasy. How could 200,000 die at once? Of course it is far from a fantasy. Mother Nature has been particularly violent the last 12 months and I hope she spares us in the coming year.

Incidentally, I remain in awe of the way Houston responded to Hurricane Katrina. I've never seen anything like it. I spent the first few days after Katrina hit — and before our trek to New Orleans to see first hand the destruction — at the Astrodome in Houston. I was amazed how efficient Houston was at making a temporary home for the 20,000-plus who were homeless. They needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, etc., and needed it fast — very fast. They also needed a communication system to help locate family members from whom they were separated.

Houston did what I never thought a city could do... and did it so quickly and so graciously. Without hesitation, they opened their arms to people who were desperate. The work was 24/7 and full speed ahead. It makes you wonder why we can't always be as magnanimous and as capable as Houston was. Houston — and the surrounding county — simply jumped into action. We owe a big thanks to them and they should be our model. (Yes, many, many other communities helped, but of course I praise Houston since that is where I was and I saw it first hand in huge numbers... so my apologies to all the others who helped and who I have failed to mention.)

Here is something you might have a thought or two about: On January 17, California plans to execute a 76-year-old man (his birthday is January 16) who is legally blind and in a wheelchair. He was convicted of a brutal crime in 1980. Any thoughts? He is in the same prison — San Quentin — where Scott Peterson is and where Tookie Williams was recently executed.

Now some randomly selected e-mails:

E-mail No. 1

Senator Landrieu said to you that there would be a public outcry to help if a natural disaster destroyed San Francisco. After they way they have treaded our military, their disregard of state laws over gay marriages and their stand on the 2nd Amendment, I for one would not be willing to help San Francisco. I was in favor of helping New Orleans. Perhaps it would be worth having a poll on such a question.
Thanks,
Robert Megee
Plano, TX

E-mail No. 2

Greta,
First off, Merry Christmas to you and yours. I have a beautiful daughter and I don't even want to think about what life would be like without her. The agony of losing her, not knowing what happened to her, if she is still alive — all of those questions would make life unbearable and I don't know how anybody gets through it. What loving parent would not want to find answers? Natalee's mother is such a brave woman. Look who she has taken on. I hope you do keep covering this story until questions are answered and someone is held accountable. If viewers don't like it, let them get their own news show and do the stories they are interested in. I applaud you Greta for not relenting. Take care.
Christine Barney
Edmonds, WA

ANSWER: Christine, thanks for the note. It is hard to decide how much or how little to do on any given topic. There will be some who want more, some who want less, some who want none, and some who just criticize.

E-mail No. 3

Dear Greta,
From the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma we wish you a Tsisa Udenv Gohiiga (Merry Christmas!) Thank you for a great year 2005, and best wishes for an even greater year 2006.
Regards,
Glenn
University of Oklahoma
Norman, OK
(Home for Christmas in Tahlequah — the capitol of the Cherokee Nation)

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