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Indonesia calls for Saudi decision on Mecca pilgrimage

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Indonesia on Tuesday called for Saudi Arabia to decide if it will allow the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, after the coronavirus pandemic plunged the ritual into doubt.

Last year around 2.5 million faithful travelled to Saudi Arabia from across the world to take part in the “hajj”, which all Muslims must perform at least once in their lives if able.

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The year-round “umrah” pilgrimage was suspended in March, while Saudi Arabia asked Muslims to temporarily defer preparations during the COVID-19 outbreak.

But Saudi authorities have yet to announce whether they will proceed with this year’s hajj, which takes place at the end of July.

Indonesia’s religious affairs ministry said a decision should be made before the fasting month of Ramadan ends this weekend.

“We hope the official decision on whether hajj will go ahead or be cancelled will be announced soon,” ministry spokesman Oman Fathurahman told AFP Tuesday.

Indonesia is the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation and at least 231,000 of its citizens were registered to take part in this year’s pilgrimage — the largest contingent of any nation.

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But Indonesia has held off confirming housing, transportation and other contracts with Saudi travel authorities, Fathurahman said.

“Until now the Ministry of Religious Affairs has yet to sign any contracts or pay the down payment for hajj services in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

The pilgrimage is a key revenue earner for the kingdom but risks becoming a major source of contagion if pilgrims flock to Mecca’s religious sites.

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Trump seems determined to destroy us all

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Useful ways to pass the quarantine time: Since April, in response to the pandemic, I've been involved with a series of Zoom webinars examining a number of issues through the lens of COVID-19. So far, we've covered everything from mental health and addiction and recovery to the search for a vaccine.

The sessions are organized by Hollywood Health & Society which, as per their website, "is a program of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center that provides the entertainment industry with accurate and up-to-date information for storylines on health, safety and security." The Writers Guilds of America East and West have been co-sponsoring the webinars; as immediate past president of the Writers Guild East, I’ve had the pleasure of moderating several of them.

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The coronavirus pandemic has exposed what the GOP’s anti-tax rhetoric is really all about

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Newt Gingrich is usually, and rightly, blamed for destroying American politics, even more than Donald Trump. The former House Speaker didn’t go to Washington in the 1970s to strike deals. He went there to wage soft civil war against the United States.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

But if there’s a close second to the title of America’s Worst Person, it probably goes to someone you never heard of. He’s not a politician. He’s not a pundit or bureaucrat. When it comes to influencing the GOP’s attitude toward taxing, spending and budgets, however, it would be hard to find someone more influential than Grover Norquist.

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Missouri Christian camp shuts down due to COVID — and it’s been linked to infections in 10 other states

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A Christian summer camp in Missouri has been shut down for the season after dozens of its staff members and campers became infected with the novel coronavirus.

NPR reports that the Kanakuk K-2 camp on the Missouri-Arkansas border was shut down after 41 people at the camp tested positive.

Just four days after its closure, another 41 people at the camp have been identified as infected after they had already returned back to their homes across ten different states.

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