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In the Nation

New flash for ball in Times Square

NEW YORK - The New Year's Eve crystal ball that drops in Times Square will have a new kind of sparkle when it descends at the stroke of midnight Thursday, and revelers will be able to toast 2010 without popping a cork.

Organizers of the celebration unveiled a new design yesterday for nearly 300 Waterford crystal triangles to be installed on the 12-foot ball. The crystals feature an interlocking ribbon pattern, woven into a Celtic knot, to illustrate the theme for 2010, "Let There Be Courage."

They also demonstrated a new "Clink-Clink" iPhone application for virtual toasts, which Waterford helped design. It enables two people make a toast with images of Waterford champagne flutes and cocktail glasses displayed on the screens. - AP

Tugboat is home after Valdez spill

VALDEZ, Alaska - A crippled tugboat that spilled fuel into Alaska's Prince William Sound after hitting the same reef that caused the Exxon Valdez oil-spill disaster 20 years ago reached port early yesterday morning, a spokesman for the tug's owner said.

The Pathfinder arrived under tow at Valdez, and crews will work to determine how much diesel fuel spilled after the tug ran aground on Wednesday, Crowley Maritime Services spokesman Jim Butler said.

The Coast Guard said that two of the tug's tanks - containing an estimated 33,500 gallons of diesel fuel - were damaged. - AP

Suspicious fires in Mass. town

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. - Authorities say nine fires that left two people dead in a western Massachusetts town are "suspicious" and they're treating them as potential crimes.

Federal, state, and local fire and police investigators are trying to determine what caused the fires, which District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel said are suspicious.

Scheibel said the fires broke out in the downtown area of Northampton, Mass., between 2 a.m. and 3:15 a.m. yesterday. She said five fires were in buildings, and the rest in cars. - AP

In kidnapping capital, a decline

PHOENIX - Abductions in Phoenix, known as America's kidnapping capital, were on track to decrease modestly in 2009, said police who attributed the expected decline to better efforts at targeting the drug and immigrant smugglers who are committing a majority of those crimes.

The latest figures show Phoenix had 302 kidnappings in the first 11 months of 2009, when the city recorded an average of 27 abductions each month. The city had reached a 10-year high in 2008 with 359 kidnappings. The expected decline in 2009 would mark the first decrease since 2005, when the city had 228 kidnappings.

"I am cautiously optimistic that we are making an impact," said Sgt. Tommy Thompson, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department, which didn't yet have kidnapping figures available for the month of December. - AP


Kentucky lottery

officials said there was a single $128.6 million winning Powerball ticket sold in Georgetown, 65 miles east of Louisville, making it the largest jackpot won in the history of the Kentucky lottery. The winning numbers were: 32-36-37-41-53 with a Powerball of 30. The largest jackpot won in Kentucky previoously was $89.3 million in January 1996.