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US nuclear plant avoids shutdown after Missouri River rises near facility

OMAHA, Neb. – The Missouri River rose to within 18 inches (50 centimetres) of forcing the shutdown of a nuclear power plant in Nebraska but stopped and ebbed slightly, a plant spokesman said Monday.

The river has to hit 902 feet (275 metres) above sea level at Brownville before officials will shut down the Cooper Nuclear Plant, which sits at 903 feet (275 metres).

Nebraska Public Power District spokesman Mark Becker said the river rose to 900.56 feet (274.49 metres) on Sunday, then dropped to 900.4 feet (274.44 metres) later in the day and remained at that level Monday morning.

The plant was operating at full capacity, Becker said.

The utility sent a “notification of unusual event” to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when the river rose to 899 feet (274 metres) early Sunday morning. The declaration is the least serious of four emergency notifications established by the federal commission.

“We knew the river was going to rise for some time,” Becker said Sunday. “It was just a matter of when.”

The plant has been preparing for the flooding since May 30. More than 5,000 tons of sand has been brought in to construct barricades around it and access roads, according to NPPD.

A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the NRC thinks OPPD managers have “done everything that they need to do to respond to the current conditions” at the nuclear plant.

Flooding remains a concern all along the river because of the massive amounts of water released by the Army Corps of Engineers. The river is expected to rise as much as 5 to 7 feet above flood stage in much of Nebraska and Iowa and as much as 10 feet (3 metres) over flood stage in parts of Missouri.

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Associated Press writer Nelson Lampe contributed to this report.

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Questions and answers about the debt crisis in Greece

Is Greece on a path to stability or just delaying an inevitable disaster?

The answer won’t come for weeks or months, but financial analysts are not optimstic.

Greece is in talks with international creditors about a second package of rescue loans similar in size to the $157 billion bailout it received last year. The aim is to keep Greece from defaulting on its crushing national debt.

But to get the new loans, Greece will probably be forced to adopt new austerity measures, such as tax hikes and pension cuts, and the prospect of new cuts has already led to unrest in Athens.

Financial indicators, such as what it costs to insure Greek debt, suggest a default is extremely likely. Here are some questions and answers about the Greek debt crisis.

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Q: What happened Sunday?

A: The prime minister of Greece, George Papandreou, confirmed that his nation was talking with world lenders about a second financial rescue package “roughly equal” to what Greece received last year.

In Luxembourg, European finance ministers were meeting to consider whether to release about $17 billion to Greece from the first rescue package.

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Europe and the International Monetary Fund say new loans for Greece are contingent on Greece’s passing budget cuts before the end of the month. Those measures have already led to angry protests and forced the prime minister to reshuffle his government.

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Q: Who is paying for the Greek bailout?

A: Other European nations and the International Monetary Fund. Germany had demanded that the private sector, primarily international banks that hold Greek government bonds, share some of the pain by waiting longer to be repaid. Germany softened its demands on Friday by agreeing that any burden-sharing by private bondholders be strictly voluntary, calming the financial markets.

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Q: How likely is it that Greece will default on its debt?

A: Bond traders are betting a default is almost certain. It now costs more than ever to insure Greek debt. At prices quoted Friday, the insurance contracts suggest an 80 per cent chance that Greece will default in the next five years, according to data from Markit, a financial information provider.

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Q: Why is a potential Greek default such a big deal?

A: Greece has an economy roughly the size of Washington state, but the real worry is about a domino effect. Or, to use a better analogy, says Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Capital Markets, think of it as a spider web – pluck one string and the whole thing shakes.

Banks lend money to governments and to each other to make sure everyone has enough cash to operate every day, and banks insure each other’s debt. If Greece defaults, banks will charge more money to make loans or stop lending altogether. At the same time, they’ll have to raise at least $300 billion to cover insurance contracts on Greek debt.

That’s why many analysts are drawing comparisons to what happened after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the storied investment bank, in 2008. Lending froze up around the world, all the way down to small businesses and individual borrowers in the United States. The credit crunch deepened the worldwide recession.

At the least, bond investors would demand higher borrowing rates from other deeply indebted European countries, including Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Belgium. Borrowing costs for Ireland and Portugal have already jumped to record highs, with 10-year interest rates topping 10 per cent. The U.S. rate is about 3 per cent.

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Q: What is Greece doing about all this?

A: The Greek government wants to enact further austerity measures, such as raising taxes, cutting public wages and selling state assets. And it will probably have to before it gets a fresh bailout package. But the public has reacted angrily, staging violent protests in central Athens. The union that represents employees in the state-run electric system has threatened a strike and blackouts.

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Q: How would a wider European crisis hurt the U.S.?

A: It’s difficult to say. American banks say they could handle a crisis. All told, they were exposed to about $43 billion in Greek debt at the end of September 2010, compared with $113 billion tied to Ireland and $187 billion to Spain.

But the investments are opaque. It’s impossible to tell which banks are holding more Greek debt than the others.

“It would be naive to think their banking crisis wouldn’t affect us after what we saw in the last financial crisis,” warns Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics.

When credit begins to freeze or it gets more expensive to borrow, other European countries could end up in a similar situation to Greece’s – saddled with rampant debt and unable to borrow more money to pay it off.

Many of the economies in Europe are under that cloud, raising fears of a massive, even unprecedented, chain of defaults that slows the world economy.

Banks in the United States could end up with bad bonds on their books, just as they’re working off bad loans from the mortgage crisis a few years ago. American money market funds are heavily invested in European bank debt, too.

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Q: What about the dollar?

A: Even if a wider crisis is averted, a prolonged slump in Europe would probably make the dollar stronger compared with the euro. For foreign customers, a stronger dollar makes American goods more expensive. Companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index get 20 per cent of their profits from Europe. Sustained strength in the dollar could hit profits of large corporations like Boeing and DuPont because they rely on selling to foreign customers, who might not be able to afford the markup.

Prada tees off for next summer, using golf as inspiration for eccentric, offbeat collection

MILAN – Golf inspired Prada’s offbeat, whimsical menswear collection for next spring and summer.

“I was using golf as an excuse to make it eccentric. Even if I hate golf and don’t play, it is completely international,” designer Miuccia Prada said backstage after the preview menswear show Sunday evening.

The motif, she said, allowed her to merge ideas and cultures, although the basic theme of the spring-summer 2012 collection was “Americana.”

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Prada laid artificial turf for the show inside a cavernous industrial space in central Milan, just the thing for the riveted soles of the fringed golf shoes worn by the models – or were they caddies? Several carried floral printed or studded golf bags, with Prada-branded golf clubs.

Sporting cocky golf hats, the models seemed to enjoy themselves as they snaked down the grassy runway, to a lively remix of Cole Porter’s “Summertime.”

Prada said she had a good time putting together the colorful show. “It’s international and crosses all cultures, I mean completely crazy,” the designer told The Associated Press, laughing at her own enthusiasm.

And yet the collection was perfectly balanced featuring whimsical comic book figures on shirts, trousers and jackets. A rodeo-style shirt with studded yolk featured cowboys on bucking broncos, teepees and dancing couples. Some trousers showed a miniature golfing tableau. A jacket was printed with musical figures, including a Rockabilly guitarist and a conductor in boxer shorts.

Crisp days call for quilted jackets that fit at the waist, some in the comic book prints, others in bold floral patterns.

The backbone of the collection came in the well-tailored jackets, trousers and sweaters in neutral colours, from tan to black, that became the blank canvas for Prada’s whimsy.

Prada said her motto for the collection was “no design.” Instead, the magic was in combining the elements.

The pieces, according to Prada’s mission, are not just conversation pieces. They are about finding ways to have fashion influence life.

“It is always political for me,” she said.

Ferragamo’s new, young designer steeps tradition with fresh modern energy

MILAN – Sometimes an obsession is a good thing. At least if your name is Massimiliano Giornetti and you design clothes for the steeped-in-tradition Ferragamo label.

“I am obsessed with elegance and beauty,” said the new creative director of the Florentine brand famous for its shoes and scarves, after a much-applauded show.

His goal is to reinvent the classic Ferragamo silhouette and give it a fresh modern energy “step by step.”

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The designer is certainly headed in the right direction with his spring-summer 2012 menswear collection unveiled Sunday.

Inspired by the compelling nonchalance of a 1930s artist – Pablo Picasso fits the picture – Giornetti creates a wardrobe that is elegant, but never stuffy.

His summer man sports a double-breasted suit with a shirt in the same material and high-waisted trousers with pleats. He strolls through life wearing a frayed raffia hat, vintage shades, and classic Derby shoes that allow him to escape into his romantic world.

Styles flow one into the other. A jacket resembles a shirt, a dressing gown morphs into a loose-knit cardigan, and a pair of canvas shoes double as slippers.

Materials range from hemp to washed fabrics with a sun-bleached effect. Colors are quiet beige and ivory, pastel greys, and eclectic navy blue.

“My dream is to create a new lifestyle with each collection where beauty and joy give new energy to the hectic world we live in,” the 37-year-old designer said.

We’re with you, Massimiliano.

Cairo’s two-run homer helps Reds beat Blue Jays 2-1 for first win over AL team

CINCINNATI – Miguel Cairo got the pitch he expected, right where he thought it would be.

Cairo hit a two-run homer in the sixth off Carlos Villanueva, stopping Cincinnati’s streak of 16 scoreless innings, and the Reds got their first win over an American League team this season, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 on Sunday.

The Reds had dropped their previous five interleague games against Cleveland and Toronto.

Bronson Arroyo (6-6) ended his streak of dismal days against the Blue Jays. The right-hander gave up five hits, including Aaron Hill’s homer, in a season-high eight innings. Arroyo had lost his last three starts and five straight decisions against Toronto.

“It feels good,” Arroyo said. “They’ve been beating me around pretty good, but that’s a totally different lineup.”

Villanueva (4-1) lost for the first time since Aug. 17, 2009, with Milwaukee, where he was a reliever the last two years.

Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth for his 15th save in 17 tries. He moved one ahead of Jeff Montgomery for sole possession of 19th on the career list with 305 saves. Hall of Famer Goose Gossage is next at 310.

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First baseman Joey Votto had three hits, after failing to reach base in the first two games of a special series. The Toronto native received the Lou Marsh Trophy before Saturday’s game honouring him as Canada’s top athlete for 2010.

He singled with one out in the sixth and came around on Cairo’s homer down the left-field line off a first-pitch fastball that was up and over the inside half of the plate – not where it was intended.

“It was supposed to go away there,” Villanueva said. “If I get it in the away lane, he’s not going to hit a home run to the opposite field. We had the right idea, it was just a little bit of a mistake.”

Cairo, who was playing third base while Scott Rolen rested for a day, wasn’t surprised when the ball came up and in.

“He got me out with a fastball in the last time up,” Cairo said, referring to his foulout. “I was looking for a pitch middle-in. I got a pitch and put a good swing on it.”

The homer ended a streak of 16 scoreless innings by the NL’s most prolific offence. The Reds lost the series opener 3-2, getting a pair of solo homers, and were blanked 4-0 on Saturday.

Villanueva gave up seven hits in seven innings. He ended a streak of 84 outings without a loss.

The Blue Jays have hit Arroyo hard. He gave up a career-high 10 runs while retiring a career-low three batters during a 14-1 loss at Toronto in 2008. A year later, he went back to Toronto and gave up seven runs in 3 2-3 innings of an 8-2 loss.

This time, he had only one shaky inning. Hill led off the fifth with a homer, and the Blue Jays got a runner thrown out at third to scuttle the rally.

Juan Rivera singled after Hill’s homer and took third on J.P. Arencibia’s single with none out. John McDonald popped up a squeeze bunt attempt. Votto caught it and threw to third to double up Rivera.

“I knew if he bunted that the runner might be off third,” Votto said. “They’d tried it earlier in the series, so I had an inkling that they might do it again. It worked out.”

The Reds knew it could wind up being the game’s pivotal defensive play.

“I told the guys on the bench, ‘That’s a game-saver right there,’” manager Dusty Baker said.

During their 4-0 win on Saturday night, Blue Jays outfielder Corey Patterson was tagged out at third after he incorrectly thought the ball had gone out of play, thwarting a rally.

NOTES: Blue Jays SS Yunel Escobar agreed to a two-year, US$10 million contract before the game. He gets $5 million each of the next two years. There are two club options for $5 million as well. … The Blue Jays go to Atlanta next for three games. The Reds have a three-game home series against the Yankees, making their first visit since 2003. … Arroyo is 3-5 against Toronto in 12 career starts.

Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez resigns with team on nine-game losing streak

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Through it all, Edwin Rodriguez kept his sense of humour. The Marlins’ manager talked about ghost stories and the team’s hotel. He joked about moving the calendar ahead to July in hopes of escaping an awful June.

As it turns out, his last-place team’s nine-game losing streak hurt more than he showed.

Rodriguez, the first Puerto Rican-born manager in major league history, unexpectedly resigned Sunday after less than one year on the job.

Bench coach Brandon Hyde managed the Marlins against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, but the club will begin a search for an interim manager. Potential candidates include Jack McKeon, the Marlins’ special assistant to the owner who led Florida to a World Series championship in 2003.

Rodriguez said it was difficult to leave, given the “positive way the organization is moving, a new ballpark next season and the young core of players.”

“I can’t say enough about the effort that this staff and these players have put into this season,” he said. in a statement released by the team. “I could tell that they continued to give 100 per cent effort each and every day on the field. I wish this organization and players nothing but success in their futures.”

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Rodriguez became interim manager June 23 of last year after Fredi Gonzalez was fired. He was given the job permanently five days later.

“It’s been extremely frustrating for everyone,” Florida president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. “I think everyone here knows what is going on – the way we’ve played, the way we’ve performed. It’s tough on everyone, especially him.

“He communicated with me early this morning that this was something he was thinking about, and when I got to the ballpark we accepted his resignation.”

Florida went 46-46 under Rodriguez, who had opened the season as the Marlins’ triple-A manager in New Orleans.

“This was an extremely frustrated, proud man,” Beinfest said. “This kind of caught us a little off guard. I know there’s been a lot of speculation, everything, but this is not something I thought was going to happen today.”

The Marlins fell to 1-17 in June with Saturday’s 7-4 loss to the Rays. They were 32-39 and last in the NL East, 12 1/2 games behind the Phillies.

Beinfest said the team would act quickly on an interim manager.

“So we can move ahead with the business of playing baseball and trying to win games,” he said. “When you have a change like this, with a popular person, I think it’s tough on a lot of people. You just need to go play baseball, and that’s first and foremost.”

Beinfest informed the players of Rodriguez’s decision during a team meeting before Sunday’s game.

Rodriguez was at the ballpark and talked with individual players in the manager’s office. He didn’t speak with reporters.

“It was surprising, I guess, but I think it’s more shocking,” Marlins infielder Wes Helms said. “Right now, nothing is going right for us. Right now, it’s all negative with the Marlins, that’s the way it is. It’s tough to swallow, it really is. I do know he did everything he could. We didn’t do our job as a team.”

“I’m sure he had a lot of sleepless night,” Helms added. “I can’t speak for him. … I’m sure it was just killing him or he wouldn’t have done it. There’s only so much you can take mentally and physically in anything in life. I’m just sure he had enough and couldn’t do it anymore.”

Florida first baseman Gaby Sanchez said the players have to respect the decision.

“It’s definitely difficult,” Sanchez said. “We have to continue to play hard, go out there and keep fighting. The season is not over. It’s just one of those things where we have to move forward.”

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon believes Rodriguez was thinking about what was best for his team

“He’s one of the nicest, most decent men I’ve met in this game, and it’s unfortunate that he has to feel the weight of this whole moment because it’s not his fault,” Maddon said. “He’s worked so hard to get to this point. They were doing so well a couple weeks ago. That’s the strange part about it. We just played them down there and they beat us two out of three. They were playing good baseball.”

Beinfest did not rule out additional changes.

“When you go the way we’ve been going, I think everything is on the table,” Beinfest said. “I’m probably on he table as well, and rightfully so. It’s been a very difficult period and I think when you go through these things you can’t rule anything out.”

Latest developments in Arab political unrest stretching from North Africa to the Persian Gulf

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SYRIA

Syrian troops combing through rebellious villages near the Turkish border set fire to homes and a bakery, cutting off a lifeline to thousands of uprooted people stranded in miserable open-air encampments. The military carries out mass arrests and throws up checkpoints in the village of Bdama and surrounding areas to block residents from fleeing across the frontier, as thousands of others have done. Turkey, whose leaders have denounced the Damascus regime’s deadly crackdown on dissent, begin distributing food to those encamped on the Syrian side of the border.

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LIBYA

Libya’s government says NATO warplanes struck a residential neighbourhood in the capital and killed nine civilians, including two children, adding to its accusations that the alliance is striking nonmilitary targets. NATO acknowledges its planes hit targets in Tripoli in the early hours of Sunday and says it is investigating whether it was responsible for the alleged strike on a heavily damaged building. Whether the airstrikes are eventually confirmed or not, the allegations provide supporters of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime a new rallying point against the international intervention in Libya’s civil war. The foreign minister calls for a “global jihad” on the West in response.

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EGYPT

Calls are growing in Egypt for a delay of September’s parliamentary elections to give parties formed in the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak’s ouster more time to organize. The push, which now has the prime minister’s backing, is aimed at keeping the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood from dominating the next legislature and exerting disproportionate Islamist influence over the drafting of a new constitution. The debate over the timing of the elections and the new constitution is a political novelty in a country where elections under the 29-year rule of Mubarak were routinely marred by widespread fraud and their results known before the first ballot was cast.

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YEMEN

Government artillery shelling of an area in southern Yemen kills 12 al-Qaida-linked militants and wounds three others. The shelling is concentrated on the Dufas area in Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province. Islamic militants are taking advantage of internal strife in Yemen to overrun parts of the country.

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TUNISIA

Tunisia’s former autocratic leader, whose downfall triggered uprisings in the Arab world, has condemned his upcoming trial in absentia in Tunis as a “shameful masquerade.” Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in exile in Saudi Arabia, also says in a statement from his French lawyer that he didn’t flee Tunisia but left to avoid “fratricidal and deadly confrontations.” It was the first public statement from the 74-year-old Ben Ali in the five months since he left Tunisia after a monthlong uprising.

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MOROCCO

Pro-government demonstrators in Morocco attack democracy activists protesting constitutional reforms recently unveiled by the king. Hundreds of youths pledging their support to King Mohammed VI scatter the pro-reform demonstrations taking place in a lower-income neighbourhood in Rabat, hunting protesters through the narrow streets. After pro-democracy protests swept Morocco in February, the monarch unveiled a series of constitutional reforms Friday. Activists complain they are insufficient and pledge to keep up their weekly demonstrations.

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BAHRAIN

Lawyers for three former editors of Bahrain’s main opposition newspaper tell a court that the journalists were tricked into publishing false news about the Sunni monarchy’s crackdown on Shiite-led protesters as part of a plot to undermine a key opposition voice. The trial of the former Al Wasat editors is part of a sweeping crackdown on the island nation’s Shiite-led opposition, which has been protesting for greater rights and political freedoms in the Gulf island kingdom. The editors were forced to resign from Bahrain’s most widely read newspaper after the government imposed emergency rule in March to quell dissent.

New consumer safety law gives Ottawa powers to recall unsafe toys, cribs

OTTAWA – New rules giving the federal government the power to remove unsafe products from store shelves take effect Monday after years of hold-ups.

Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Act was proclaimed into law a year ago after years of being stalled in the legislative process, including objections in the Senate, and because of the frequency of federal elections.

Starting Monday, when the law comes into force, federal ministers will be granted new powers to pull unsafe toys, sporting goods, cribs and some other household products off the shelves instead of just requesting producers do so.

The act does not affect products such as autos and their integral parts, food or drugs. They come under other legislation.

Under the old act, the government can only request that suppliers take action.

A government official said the new rules put Canada more in line with how other countries, particularly the United States, deal with unsafe products.

As well, Ottawa will be able to require that manufacturers and importers provide test and study results on their products, and report serious incidents.

The act also allows the government to prevent the importation of products believed to pose a danger to the public.

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Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has scheduled an event at a toy store in Ottawa on Monday to extol the changes to the 40-year-old act.

It took too long to make the changes said Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers Association of Canada, an organization that has lobbied incessantly for passage of the act.

“For consumers this is very much a good thing,” he said. “It’s long overdue and very welcome and I think this will be a great benefit to all Canadians.”

The inadequacy of the old law were brought home in 2009 with the recall of Canadian-made Stork Craft baby cribs following reports of more than a dozen incidents, including four child suffocations in the U.S. Canada only learned of the incidents from American regulators.

Some Methodist pastors flout ban on performing same-sex marriage despite threat of discipline

MILWAUKEE – A growing number of pastors in the United Methodist Church say they are no longer willing to obey a church rule that prohibits them from officiating at same-sex marriages, despite the potential threat of being disciplined or dismissed from the church.

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In some parts of the U.S., Methodist pastors have been marrying same-sex couples or conducting blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions for years with little fanfare and no backlash from the denomination. Calls to overturn the rule have become increasingly vocal in recent weeks, ratcheting up the pressure for the Methodist church to join other mainline Protestant denominations that have become more accepting of openly gay leaders.

While trials of pastors who conduct same-gender ceremonies have only occurred once every several years, the threat is indeed real. The Rev. Amy DeLong of Osceola in western Wisconsin faces a three-day trial starting Tuesday in Kaukauna on two charges: violating a church prohibition on the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” and marrying a lesbian couple.

The jury for the church trial will be selected from a pool of Wisconsin United Methodist clergy. A total of 13 clergy will be chosen to serve during the trial and penalty phase.

DeLong said she told her supervisors years ago that she was in a lesbian relationship and felt comforted by the support and caring she received in response.

While she avoided discussing her relationship in local church settings, she said her efforts to live halfway in the closet and halfway out took such a toll that she finally decided to break her silence. She agreed to marry a lesbian couple in the fall of 2009, and she didn’t mince words when she reported it in a required ministerial report a few months later. Eventually the two church charges were filed against her.

“I would be lying if I said this process hasn’t been difficult, but I also feel called to break the silence and tell my own truth regardless of the consequences,” said DeLong, 44. “When I entered (the ministry) I did not suspend my conscience. It’s incumbent on me not to perpetuate its unjust laws.”

The chances of getting the rule reversed within the Methodist church are far from certain, however. Rule changes must be approved by delegates at the church’s General Conference, held every four years. Because a growing number of delegates come from Africa, the Philippines and other theologically conservative regions, voting patterns reflect strong resistance to change.

That hasn’t stopped Methodist clergy in the U.S. from raising the stakes. Hundreds of pastors from areas including Illinois, Minnesota, New York and the northeastern New England states have signed statements in recent weeks asserting their willingness to defy the rule.

Those who do so could be charged with violating denominational law and forced to face a church trial. Penalties could include defrocking or suspension from the ministry.

At a conference this month in Minnesota, the Rev. Bruce Robbins of the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church invited clergy to sign a statement saying they’d be willing to conduct any wedding, not just heterosexual ones. He said more than 70 signed it.

Robbins said he was driven to a sense of urgency because efforts are under way to have Minnesota’s constitution limit civil marriages to heterosexual couples.

“One of the tragedies is, there are so many things we should be attending to: poverty issues, justice issues,” he said. “I wish this didn’t have to be at the centre of our efforts today. But it is because of the inequality, the unfairness of the policy.”

Similar efforts in New York this month drew signatures from more than 140 clergy and another 500 signatures of support from lay people, according to an organizer. Another 100 clergy did the same in New England, and at least a dozen there have actually conducted same-sex marriages with no complaints.

Organizers in northern Illinois gathered about 200 pastor signatures on June 10 but took an extra step, as well. Because the jurors in church trials come from a pool of clergy members within the same geographical region, the northern Illinois clergy members passed a nonbinding agreement that any jury that convicts a pastor recommend a penalty no stronger than a 24-hour suspension.

“It’s not something we can dictate to the jury but it’s a suggestion of how we can both honour rules of the church law and also honour Jesus’s teaching about inclusivity,” said Ermalou Roller, a retired pastor in the Northern Illinois Conference.

Theologically conservative Methodists believe that the Bible bars same-sex relationships and have been advocating for years to keep the prohibition against same-gender marriage in the Methodist’s Book of Discipline. Just last month, the Methodist Judicial Council, the denomination’s highest court, upheld the ban on same-gender marriage and clergy who are “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”

An executive with an advocacy group for conservative mainline Protestants said he didn’t expect the provision would be changed anytime soon. Mark Tooley, the president of The Institute on Religion and Democracy, said it would either have to be overturned by a vote of the whole worldwide delegation, or the delegation would have to allow the U.S. delegation to set rules specifically for itself. Neither option has historically gained much traction, he said.

Although DeLong’s case has been drawing widespread attention, it’s not the only reason that momentum has been building to overturn the prohibition. A number of Methodist clergy say it violates the church’s social-justice teachings, and they say they’re stepping up their efforts in part because national attitudes toward discrimination against gays and lesbians are becoming more enlightened. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

One retired pastor in Massachusetts has been defying the same-sex-wedding ban for more than 10 years without drawing any complaints and has no plans to stop. The Rev. Richard Harding, 85, said the church is only hurting itself by driving away both talented clergy and younger members who think the policy is out of touch.

“I’m getting on in years and I may not see the change but there’s definitely an uprising taking place,” he said. “There are signs that the pole of justice is beginning to lean the proper way. I think we’ll see even more of this. We aren’t going to go away.”

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Online:

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Amy DeLong trial news: 杭州桑拿按摩论坛loveontrial杭州夜网

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Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap杭州夜网.

Sask. dams may send more water towards flood-affected towns if rain continues

REGINA – Residents of a village in southeastern Saskatchewan say a dike on the Souris River has breached and that most of their community is under water.

“The hole got bigger and bigger and the water started coming in faster and faster, and now pretty much our whole street is under water,” said Rick Noble, a resident of Roche Percee who has taken refuge in a hotel in nearby Estevan.

The community issued an evacuation alert on Saturday following a warning from the province that it was forced to release extra water from dams upstream because a deluge of rain had filled their reservoirs.

Noble said that meant he and other residents were packed and ready to leave, but noted there was still a rush to get out and that one car that left right after him got stuck.

His mother-in-law, Joanne Willows, lives up the hill and says her house is fine but that the water level is deep in the community of about 160 people.

“There’s a playground that has a little building, and about all you can see is the top third of it, and you can see the top of the play structures,” said Willows, who was getting packed to leave.

Willows said she’s leaving because of concerns she wouldn’t be able to get in or out of her home.

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Mayor Reg Jahn said on Saturday that the decision to leave the town rather than erect more sandbags was made over concerns that if the water went any higher, there was a good chance the sandbags would channel water toward a railway bridge and cause it to collapse.

If that happened, Jahn said, the bridge would plug up the river and cause further flooding.

“We lose either way,” Jahn said on Saturday, noting people in the community were weary from weeks of battling floods.

Up to 75 millimetres of rain fell on the province’s southeast between Friday and Saturday, causing significant swelling of the Souris River. A mobile home park had to be evacuated by boat near Weyburn and the city’s waste sewage treatment facility was overwhelmed, prompting the municipality to issue a boil-water order.

The province explained it had to release water from several dams because the levels in their reservoirs were at near maximum allowable levels.

The Saskatchewan government said Sunday that it won’t likely need to increase flows from the reservoirs right away, but warned more rain could be on the way.

John Fahlman with the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority said some forecasts are calling for 35 to 50 millimetres of rain for sections of the province’s southeast.

Fahlman said the reservoirs are balancing now, but since they are full, the outflow at the dams may need to change if more rain falls.

The extra flow from the dams has prompted a number of communities downstream to issue evacuation alerts for some low-lying areas.

Premier Brad Wall has announced he will delay his departure for the Western Premiers Conference this week so that he can tour the flood-affected part of his province on Monday.

Twenty communities in Saskatchewan are under local emergency declarations.