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The sun shone brightly in Independence on Monday at a historic groundbreaking ceremony 20 years in the making: a hotel is being built on Independence Landing, 2.5 miles of riverfront property lining the Willamette River.

The Christmas carols have taken flight from the airwaves, and all of the department stores are no longer filled with sparkling lights and eye-catching displays. We're all busily writing thank you notes to friends and family, finishing the rest of the fudge, cookies and other treats of the season, and trying to find boxes to pack away dishes, lights and decorations that are only used at this time of year.

The following are excerpts from a March 17 e-mail update Salem resident and Monmouth Taiko drummer Kazue Suzuki sent to friends regarding her family and living conditions in Japan.

*Community makes 'Cheer' a success*Local 'Hair Harvest' makes a difference*Coat drive already helping the needy*FBS bowl system working just fine*Family touched by community support*New city councilor isn't above the law*Forced flouridation of water bad idea*Donation will aid all Dallas schools*Wrestlers thankful for monetary help

DALLAS - The proposal to add a 9-percent tax to room rates at Dallas hotels and motels passed its second reading at Monday's city council meeting.