OUSTED MINISTER TO APPEAL HER CASE IN CHURCH COURT\ A Methodist minister who was defrocked for declaring that she's a lesbian living with her partner is taking her case to a church appeals court.

The Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud, of Philadelphia, was ousted Dec. 2 for violating the United Methodist Church's law against "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" in the clergy.She decided last week to appeal but delayed the announcement until after Christmas weekend. Notice of appeal must be filed this week.

Stroud said she hesitated to appeal because she's tired and dislikes being in the spotlight, but "there are questions the larger church needs to discuss and wrestle with."

She said one factor in her decision was something retired Bishop Joseph Yeakel, the judge who presided at her church trial, said to her after the verdict. Yeakel told Stroud "the day will come when the church apologizes for this decision."

Stroud was tried by her own Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. The case now goes to an appeals panel of the Northeastern Jurisdiction, which covers 12 states and the District of Columbia.


HOUSTON - An online casino that bought a cheese sandwich said to bear the Virgin Mary's image and a cane sold to banish a young boy's fear of ghosts has struck again - this time paying a man $5,300 for his naughty children's Christmas gifts.

The Pasadena man said last week that he decided to auction the three Nintendo DS game systems because his sons, ages 9, 11, and 15, had misbehaved.

The family's decision made national headlines, intriguing GoldenPalace.com, casino spokesman Monty Kerr said.

"Everybody knows Santa doesn't come to naughty kids," Kerr said Sunday.

The Antigua-based casino agreed to bid on the game systems as long the family promised to donate the proceeds to charity, he said. The family told him it will buy a new heater for its church and do other renovations.

The casino plans to donate the game systems to a needy Houston family, Kerr said.

The father, who has been identified only by his eBay seller name magumbo-2000, could not be reached for comment.

The casino has paid about $108,000 for eBay oddities in just more than a month.


TOKYO - The Japanese government will distribute to each household in fiscal 2007 pamphlets that describe evacuation procedures to follow in the event of an attack by ballistic missiles or biological or chemical weaponry, according to government sources.

The pamphlets would serve as a survival manual for citizens if such an attack or natural disasters including earthquakes happened, the sources said.

Local governments will formulate plans to protect citizens and provide procedures for the evacuation and rescue of residents in the event of an armed attack on the nation.

Prefectural governments will compile such plans in fiscal 2005, while municipal governments will do so in fiscal 2006.

"It's technologically impossible to predict which areas will be attacked, even if the launch of a missile is immediately apparent," an official of the Cabinet Secretariat said.

The government decided to produce pamphlets containing procedures people should follow in the period before the central and local governments can dispatch assistance.


KEY WEST, Fla. - A 132-passenger Delta Air Lines flight from Colombia to Atlanta was abruptly diverted to a military airfield near Key West on Sunday after the name of a passenger was found to be the same as that of someone on a federal security "watch list."

About five hours later, federal agents determined that the Colombian man was a victim of "identity theft" by another person on a list that several sources said was issued by an intelligence agency.

The man - whose name authorities declined to reveal - was released late Sunday.

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