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Athens News Courier (Newspaper) - December 26, 2009, Athens, Alabama Family pleads with captors after video of soldier released PAGE 9AThe News CourierServing Athens ¿ind Limestone County: A Coininunity of Tradition and Future 50 cents Saturday, December 26, 2009 Visit us online www.enewscourierxom Inside Today Al-Qaida linked to attack A Northwest Airlines passenger from Nigeria, who said he was acting on instructions from al-Oaida, set off an explosive device Friday in a failed terrorist attack on the plane as it was landing in Detroit. PAGE 2A Trojans not where they expected This was the year Southern California actually wanted to stay home for a bowl game. Instead, the Trojans spent the holidays a few hundred miles north in San Francisco, where they will take on Boston College tonight in the Emerald Bowl while the BCS championship will be held in their backyard at the Rose Bowl. SPORTS, PAGE IB Subscribe (Jet (he news with your iiioriiin^ coilce SUBSCRIBE TO THE NEWS COURIER BY CALLING 232-2720 Index Classifieds..... 4B Comics........ 3B Ledger........ 5A Lottery........ 3A Obituaries..... 2A Jeanette Caler Sports......... IB Weather....... ..2A 7    69847    00001 Storm snarls holiday travel OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A fierce Christmas storm dumped more snow and ice across the nation’s midsection Friday after stranding travelers as highways and airports closed and leaving many to celebrate the holiday just where they were. Meteorologists predicted the slow-moving storm would glaze highways in the East with ice through Cliristmas night and that gusty thunderstorms would hamper the South. An ice storm warning was issued for parts of West Virginia and the Blue Ridge mountains in North Carolina and Vii^ginia, vriiile a wind chill advisory cautioned of temperatures as low as 30 below zero in Montana. The National Weather Service warned that bUzzards would hit parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Wiscon sin on Christmas Day and into the evening. A sheriiTs deputy in central Iowa’s Guthrie County, where 6 inches of snow fell since Thursday night, said he saw only snowplows on his way to worfc Friday. “It’s going to be one of them days,” Deputy Jesse Swenson said. “Everybody wanted a white Christmas — and they got it.” In Minnesota, Mike Ruhland, who was shoveling his driveway in Mirmeapolis on Friday morning, said he hadn’t made much progress after two hours. “I waited too long to start shoveling. For two days, it was the white powdery snow, and now it’s the heavy, thick stuff,” he said. “It’s a pain in the See Storm, page 3A AP PHOTO A snow plow works Friday to clear Interstate 70 near Lawrence, Kan. Faster tickets for speeders NEWS COURIER/KIM RYNDERS Athens Police Officer Thomas Allen shows off one of the new swipe card readers, in foreground, being added to some patrol cars. The device allow the officer to slide a driver's license through the machine to view license data and driving record on the laptop computer in his patrol car. In-car device wiU let police view license data oh laptop By Jean CJc)i.e i(‘iuii{l'iithrnsn(‘\\s-c<)urkr.c()jti Athens Police may be able to give you a speeding ticket even taster with a new device that allows them to read your Ucense just like a store clerk reads your debit card. That may seem like a bummer, but at least it will be a quicker one. The local department has installed card readers in some patrol cars equipped with laptop computers, said Lt. Floyd Johnson. The device, which looks like the debit-card machines you see in stores, reads data on the magnetic strip on the back of a driver’s Ucense. It quickly sends the infor-. mation to the laptop computer screen in the patrol car, which allows the officer to quickly see your Ucense information and driving records and scan for a fake Ucense. A computer voice also reads aloud the data, including your weight, which might trigger laughter if you haven’t changed that figure since high school. “When the officer has a driver’s Ucense, he or she can scan it and the information will automatically appear in the computer, whether for a citation, for a victim or for a suspect,” Johnson said. “We are hoping it will allow us to take a statement or traffic information and not have to write all of the information down,” Johnson said. “And that saves the drivers and officers a lot of time. It should also improve accuracy.” Officers currently must manually enter the information from a driver’s Ucense. Merchants hoping gift cards wUl provide lift NEW YORK (AP) - As merchants look to this weekend and the rest of the Christmas aftermath, they’re counting on droves of gift card-toting customers to return to mails. But those numbers may be smaller as the industry braces for what some analysts beUeve will be a secodd consecutive hoUday season of declines in gift card sales. Hie final word on hoUday gift card sales is not out. Mall of America is seeing gift cards flat through this week compared with a year ago. Mall operator Taubman Centers cited lukewarm sales heading into the final week before Christmas, but saw a rebound in recent days as threadbare shelves have left last-minute shoppers no other choice. Overall, the recession has stolen gift cards’s steam. Reduced consumer spending has extended to gift cards, but fi-ugal shoppers are also turning to buying discounted gifts so they can stretch their budgets. Also troubUng is that recipients will Ukely be stingy when they redeem them, focusing only on deeply discounted items, as they did last year. ' That poses challenges for the critical week after Christmas and for 2010 as consumers typically spend more than the card’s value. Gift card sales also are a key way for stores to drive traffic in the first quarter, traditionally a quiet time for the industiy. This holiday season, merchants were pulling out all the stops to put them in the hands of consumers. Catalog retailer L.L Bean, for example, offered a fijee $10 gift card with purchases of $25 or more; last year, shoppers had to spend $50. But Cindee Weiss, 41, who works in magazine publishing, hasn’t bitten. In Christmas seasons past, she would spend ' a total of $100 on gift cards at Gap or Anthropologie for four fiiends, but this year, she’s baking cookies and brownies for them. “In this economy, I have to be a litde more aware,” said the Manhattan resident, citing an uncertain job market. She also noted that in tough times, she wanted to do something personal. See Cards, page 2A Athens builder donates foundation for Habitat for Humanity residence By JtL\N /(-ainPatlh ‘iisitt *vi s-itmrif r. o >in An Athens homebuilder gave the local Habitat for Humanity chapter a big boost Tuesday by supplying about $2,000 worth of concrete and workers to lay the foundation for the organiza-tign’s latest home. Keith Griffin of Keith Griffin Contractors Inc., sent his workers to the home site at 313 Adell Place early 'Ibes-day so they could pour and finish the concrete for the foundation, said Garth Lowom Jr. of the local Habitat. “He is paying his guys but we are not paying him,” Lowom said. Griffin is a state-licensed builder and an active member of the Limestone County Homebuilders Association. He could not be reached for comment Tliesday. Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, international organization working to eliminate substandard housing in communities by renovating or building homes and selling them to those in need at no interest and for no profit. Volunteers provide most of the labor, See Habitat, page 2A Wendy's gets major redo The Wendy's restaurant at 1603 U.S. 72 East is undergoing a major facelift ahead of a planned reopening for late February or early March. The establishment - across from Raceway -closed July 2 after a grease fire destroyed the building's interior and part of the roof. Wendy's officials say the facelift includes a major redo and design. ;