Macy's Parade Is Lighthearted,

Unlike 2001's Patriotic Display

Americans marked Thanksgiving with parades full of music and color, a helping hand for the poor, and the comfort and joy of gathering with family and friends.

The 76th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York featured a dozen marching bands, the debut of a Charlie Brown balloon and the return of Kermit the Frog after a 12-year absence.

The lighthearted tone was in contrast with the more patriotic display last year, weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Detroit's parade had as its grand marshal longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who retired this year. Riding in a float called Cinderella's Carriage, he met with boisterous cheers from the crowd.

But fun and pageantry were only part of the holiday scene.

In Wisconsin, U.S. Cellular employees visited homeless shelters throughout Wisconsin, bringing cellular phones so people could call their loved ones for free.

For American Muslims, the Thanksgiving holiday this year fell in the middle of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, when people fast from dawn until dusk.

Ramadan ends Dec. 6.

* SAN FRANCISCO -- A judge has rejected a slander suit that a monsignor filed against a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct in statements she made after winning a $1.2 million settlement from the Roman Catholic Church. A San Francisco judge on Wednesday dismissed Monsignor Lawrence Baird's lawsuit, saying it was meant to discourage Lori Haigh from talking, according to her lawyer, Katherine Freberg.

* ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A lawsuit accusing the Vatican of covering up worldwide sexual abuse is prohibited because the statute of limitations has run out, a judge ruled. In April, former Tampa resident Rick Gomez, 29, filed suit against the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, the Salesians of Don Bosco religious order and Brother William Burke. Gomez said Burke molested him as many as 30 times in 1987 when Gomez was 14. He accused the church of covering up a police investigation.

* LOS ANGELES -- The return home of twin girls formerly connected at the head has been delayed, but they could be back in their native Guatemala by Christmas, doctors say. Maria de Jesus and Maria Teresa Quiej Alvarez, who are 16 months old, were expected to leave Los Angeles late last month, but medical complications have delayed their departure. The latest setback came Wednesday, when doctors at the University of California at Los Angeles's Mattel Children's Hospital announced that Maria de Jesus's scalp hadn't healed fully. The girls were born in rural Guatemala but will live in Guatemala City once home. There, the girls face follow-up surgeries to gradually stretch their scalps, eliminate skin grafts and allow them to grow full heads of hair.

-- From News Services

A Kermit the Frog balloon makes its way down Broadway in New York during the 76th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Kermit returned after a 12-year absence, while Charlie Brown debuted.