Latter-Gay Saints: The Mormon Church Now Welcomes Homosexuals -- Sort Of

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On a sunny Saturday morning in April, more than two dozen men, women, and children march up Central Avenue, on the final stretch of the Pride parade. The pro-gay march has taken place in Phoenix every year since 1981, but it's the first time this particular group has joined the thousands of people celebrating. A Lady Gaga hit blasts from the speakers of a nearby multicolored VW bus, but this is not really a Lady Gaga kind of group. These people stand out mostly because of their outfits: The men wear slacks, shirts, and ties, and the women wear dresses.

In fact, they look as if they are on their way to church, and that would not be a bad guess. The crowd along the parade route gasps then hollers, reading the group's banner: "Mormons Building Bridges." Other signs declare that "God loves all His children" and "Mormons heart LGBT."

The members, friends and family of ALL Arizona -- a local support group for gay members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- reach the end of the parade route at Steele Indian School Park. It's there that they encounter another religious group.

Holding banners that condemn homosexuality and surrounded by a fence that separates them from festival-goers, the protesters hurl insults. ALL Arizona members Jon Abhau and his mother, Meg, are the first to notice the picketers. They approach them, and Jon, a tall, blond 14-year-old in a rainbow-colored bow tie, tries to hand one of the protesters a sign that reads "'Love one another' -- Jesus." The protester won't even look at the boy. The sign lands on the ground next to the protester's shoes.

As his mother looks on proudly, Jon Abhau simply smiles and walks away.

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Arizona's Execution of Joseph Wood on Hold

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Steven Depolo

UPDATE 4:13 p.m.: Wood has been executed, although the procedure took nearly two hours. His attorney actually prepared a motion to stop the execution after more than an hour. Read the latest at the end of this post.

The execution of convicted murderer Joseph Wood has been put on hold by the Arizona Supreme Court.

Wood was scheduled to be executed today at 10 a.m., but that didn't happen. The Arizona Supreme Court will consider Wood's case.

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Arizona Food Stamps and Unemployment Scammers Slapped With $2.1 Million in Fines

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Matthew Hendley

Arizona's Department of Economic Security is to be repaid $2.1 million by people caught gaming the food stamps and unemployment insurance programs.

The agency's investigative units, with help from law enforcement, found 87 people in the last year who abused the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), along with 122 people who defrauded the Arizona Unemployment Insurance Program.

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Arizonans Driving Less, and Using Public Transportation at Higher Rates

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Arizonans are driving less, and relying more on public transportation, according to a report from the Arizona Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

The shift is causing the Arizona PIRG Education Fund to recommend that public officials shift funding away from more highway projects, and more toward other transportation options."

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Pima County Health Director: Health Threat From Unaccompanied Children Very Low

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There's no merit to the hysterical claim that unaccompanied children from Central America are posing a health risk upon their arrival to the U.S., according to Pima County's health director.

Pima County Health Department Director Francisco Garcia has been investigating the claims made by politicians and others that some sort of serious health threat exists, such as diseases being carried over, but he hasn't seen any serious risk.

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Death Row Inmate's Execution on Hold as He Tries to Find Details on the Method

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CA Corrections
The lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison in California.

UPDATE July 22: The Supreme Court has lifted the stay of execution. Read the latest at the bottom of this post.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily halted the execution of an Arizona death-row inmate as he attempts to get information about the state's new lethal-injection method.

The state plans to execute Joseph R. Wood for the 1989 murders of his estranged girlfriend and her father, but the state just recently announced that it would be using a new combination of drugs for executions.

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Arizona's Rate of Children Not Being Vaccinated Climbs Yet Again

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Army Medicine

The percentage of Arizona kindergartners not getting vaccinated went up yet again this year.

The Arizona Department of Health Services released its annual report on how many children aren't getting vaccinated due to a parent's "personal belief" exemption, a rate that's up to 4.7 percent for kindergarten children.

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Plane Crash Near Sedona Kills Four, Causes Another Wildfire

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Coconino National Forest
Smoke from the Slide Fire that broke out near Sedona in May.

Another wildfire has broken out near Sedona, after a single-engine plane crashed, killing four people.

According to a Yavapai County Sheriff's Office spokesman, hikers reported the downed plane and fire around 4 p.m. yesterday, although it took another two hours to actually find the plane in Fay Canyon.

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Phoenix One of the Best Cities Attracting Small Businesses, NFIB Says

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Here's something you probably don't hear every day: Phoenix is a great place for small-business opportunities.

Good economic news seems rare around Phoenix in the aftermath of the recession, but the National Federation of Independent Business says Phoenix is one of the top cities "opening their doors to entrepreneurs."

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Less Than 4 Percent Approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Live in Arizona

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Of more than 500,000 young immigrants who have been given relief from deportation by the Obama Administration, less than 4 percent live in Arizona.

A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services report on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program shows only about 19,000 of the 500,000 immigrants approved for the program live in this state. Several other non-border states have larger populations approved for the program.

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