Workers, clutching brooms and disinfectant, were seen cleaning the area around the Kaaba, the structure at the center of the Grand Mosque draped in gold-embroidered cloth towards which Muslims around the world pray.Haj authorities have cordoned off the Kaaba this year, saying pilgrims will not be allowed to touch it, to limit the chances of infection.They also reported setting up multiple health facilities, mobile clinics and ambulances to cater to the pilgrims.The foreign press are barred from this year’s haj, usually a huge global media event, as the government tightens access to Mecca. “There are no security-related concerns in this pilgrimage, but [downsizing] is to protect pilgrims from the danger of the pandemic,” said Khalid bin Qarar Al-Harbi, Saudi Arabia’s director of public security.Pilgrims will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing during a series of religious rites that are completed over five days in the holy city of Mecca and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia.Those selected to take part in the haj were subject to temperature checks and placed in quarantine as they began trickling into Mecca at the weekend.State media showed health workers sanitizing their luggage, and some pilgrims reported being given electronic wristbands to allow authorities to monitor their whereabouts. Topics : Muslim pilgrims on Wednesday begin the annual haj, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage.The haj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.But this year only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will participate in the ritual, a tiny fraction of the 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world that attended last year. ‘Indescribable feeling’ Saudi authorities initially said only around 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom would be permitted for the haj, but local media reports say as many as 10,000 will be allowed to take part.Some 70 percent of the pilgrims are foreigners residing in the kingdom, while the rest will be Saudi citizens, authorities said. All worshippers were required to be tested for coronavirus before arriving in Mecca and will also have to quarantine after the pilgrimage as the number of cases in the kingdom nears 270,000 — one of the largest outbreaks in the Middle East.They were given elaborate amenity kits that include sterilized pebbles for a stoning ritual, disinfectants, masks, a prayer rug and the ihram, a seamless white garment worn by pilgrims, according to a haj ministry program document.”I did not expect, among millions of Muslims, to be blessed with approval,” Emirati pilgrim Abdullah al-Kathiri said in a video released by the Saudi media ministry.”It is an indescribable feeling… especially since it is my first pilgrimage.”The haj ministry said non-Saudi residents of the kingdom from around 160 countries competed in the online selection process but it did not say how many people applied.Some disappointed applicants have complained that the government-run lottery was not clearly outlined and that no reason was given for their rejection. Economic slump The haj ministry has fielded a deluge of anguished queries on Twitter from rejected applicants.But Haj Minister Mohammad Benten insisted the process was transparent, telling the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television that “health determinants” formed the basis of selection.Despite the pandemic, many pilgrims consider it safer to participate in this year’s ritual without the usual colossal crowds cramming into tiny religious sites, which make it a logistical nightmare and a health hazard.Even in a regular year, the haj leaves pilgrims exposed to a host of illnesses.The government scaled back the pilgrimage as it could be a major source of contagion, but the move will deepen the kingdom’s economic slump, analysts say.Saudi Arabia is already facing a sharp downturn in oil prices due to a collapse in global demand driven by national lockdowns, which triggered austerity measures, including the tripling of a value added tax and cuts to civil servants’ allowances.The virus has also battered pilgrimage-reliant businesses that support hundreds of thousands of jobs in Mecca, from travel agents to street barbers and souvenir shops.The haj and the year-round umrah pilgrimages together rake in some $12 billion annually.
Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny labelled Arsenal’s 5-1 hammering by Liverpool at Anfield as “f***ing embarrassing” and apologised for the result. The Gunners conceded after just 52 seconds and were 4-0 down inside 20 minutes after two goals from defender Martin Skrtel and one apiece from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge. Sterling added his second just after half-time and Mikel Arteta’s later penalty was no consolation for the side who began the weekend as Barclays Premier League leaders. “That was f***ing embarrassing,” wrote Szczesny – who also conceded six at Manchester City in December – on his official Facebook page. “Apologies to anyone who sat through 90mins of that game.” Manager Arsene Wenger was less blunt but just as forthright on his side’s performance, and he knows there needs to be a big improvement for Wednesday’s match against Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium. “What is important is that we respond to that result, especially respond with a different performance because our performance overall was poor,” Wenger said. “On the concentration level, on pace, on defensive stability, it was very poor and we always looked vulnerable. “If you concede two early goals from set-pieces then you are in a position where you always have to come out. “I just think the whole team have failed to turn up with the right performance. We know that you need to be better focused at this kind of level. “Overall our performance was just not good enough and I include myself in that performance. “For me it is maybe better I don’t talk too much, go home and respond better on Wednesday night. “Congratulations to Liverpool. They were the best team today and we were very poor – only our fans were good for 90 minutes.” Press Association
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The series finale between the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Angels was postponed Wednesday because of weather and rescheduled for Thursday. It rained at Angel Stadium two hours before Wednesday’s game, causing puddles to form in both left and right field. The grounds crew worked for over an hour to remove water from the outfield, but conditions remained unplayable. They’ll try to play the game at 3:05 this afternoon, with the pre-game at 2:30 on AM-1300 KGLO IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa has hired former Lehigh and Ball State head coach Billy Taylor to be an assistant on Fran McCaffery’s staff. The Hawkeyes say that Taylor, who spent three years as the director of basketball operations in Iowa City from 2014-16, will replace Andrew Francis. Francis left Iowa for a position with California. MASON CITY — Top-ranked in Class 1A Newman started out the baseball season last night with a 10-0, five-inning win at home over North Iowa. 8th-grader Doug Taylor went four innings, striking out eight. Josh Fitzgerald had a two-run homer in the third. Newman travels to Charles City tonight before getting back into conference play tomorrow hosting Garner-Hayfield-Ventura. — Boys substate semifinal soccer== 1A Substate 2Humboldt 2, Clear Lake 0== 2A Substate 3Hudson 10, Hampton-Dumont-CAL 0 — high school softball last nightNewman 12, North Iowa 2Central Springs 10, Eagle Grove 0North Butler 12, Osage 6Rockford 20, Lake Mills 1 CLEAR LAKE — The Clear Lake softball team used a seven-run second inning on their way to a 13-5 win over Waverly-Shell Rock to open up their season at Lions Field last night. Clear Lake is off until next Wednesday when they host Iowa Falls-Alden. IOWA CITY — Iowa basketball player Joe Wieskamp has withdrawn his name from the 2019 NBA Draft and will return for his sophomore season.“I am excited to announce that I will be returning to the University of Iowa for my sophomore season,” said Wieskamp. “I learned a lot of valuable information going through the NBA Draft process that will help me continue to grow now, and in the future when I decide to take that next step. But for now, my focus is helping this Iowa team be the best that we can be. The future is bright! Go Hawks!”Wieskamp was second in the Big Ten Conference in 3-point accuracy (.424, 59-of-139), and ranked third on the Hawkeyes in scoring (11.1 ppg) and steals (32), and second in rebounding (4.9 rpg) last season as a freshman. The native of Muscatine, Iowa, twice earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors and tied Iowa’s single-game 3-point percentage record when he made all six 3-point attempts in Iowa’s 24-point win over Illinois , tying Jeff Horner (2004 versus Penn State) and Jim Bartels (1995 at Ohio State).“We are happy to have Joe back for his sophomore season,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. “I’m glad that Joe had the opportunity to go through the process and receive feedback from NBA personnel. I’m incredibly proud of the professional approach Joe took during this process. This experience provided him feedback on what he needs to work on as he strives to reach his full potential and play at the highest level. Joe is a valuable member of our team on and off the court, and we look forward to him being a leader for us next season.” CLEAR LAKE — Clear Lake plays in the Class 3A boys state golf tournament today and tomorrow at the Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge. Coach Eric Perry says it’s a course his team is familiar with.Perry says it will be a very competitive team raceClear Lake is the only area team that qualified for the boys state golf from the area. Forest City’s Avery Busta qualified as an individual for the Class 2A tournament at the American Legion Memorial Golf Course in Marshalltown. MASON CITY — The Mason City High baseball team opened up the season with a 1-0 win over Charles City last night at Roosevelt Field. Dylan Miller pitched a one-hit complete-game shutout, striking out 11. He also had the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the sixth, knocking in Avery Mellman, who had singled and stole second and third prior to scoring the lone run of the contest. Mason City travels to Decorah tonight. DALLAS — Former Iowa star Megan Gustafson was waived on Wednesday by the Dallas Wings of the WNBA. The 17th overall pick did not make the Wings’ roster cut down to 12 players. Gustafson played in three pre-season games for Dallas, scoring eight points in 33 minutes of play. The 6-3 post from Port Wing Wisconsin was women’s college basketball’s 2019 Naismith Award winner after leading Iowa to a Big Ten Tournament championship and to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993. OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Cole McDonald allowed five hits and struck out nine in eight innings, and bottom seed Iowa knocked off regular-season champion Indiana 4-2 in the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday night.The Hawkeyes (31-22), swept by Indiana in a three-game series in March and losers of five straight entering the tournament, play Nebraska on Thursday night. The Hoosiers (36-20) meet Minnesota in an afternoon elimination game.The Hawkeyes broke through against Indiana starter Pauly Milto (8-6) in the seventh. Ben Norman scored on a play at the plate and, after Chris Whelan’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly, Izaya Fullard hit a two-out RBI single off Connor Manous for a 3-1 lead.Indiana managed two singles and a walk against McDonald (6-3) before scoring in the sixth when Matt Gorski followed Drew Ashley’s triple with a base hit.Grant Leonard worked the ninth for his school-record 14th save. — high school baseball last nightCentral Springs 12, Eagle Grove 10Lake Mills 3, Rockford 0North Union 13, Belmond-Klemme 2
FOREST CITY — Winnebago Industries says they are laying off some employees as it’s resuming some production after a shutdown. The company says 79 positions were being eliminated in response to what they term as a “dramatic shift in demand” for their products. Winnebago employs about 2000 people in north-central Iowa and about 5500 in total nationwide. The outdoor lifestyle products company suspended production nationwide on a temporary basis on March 23rd. The company’s specialty vehicles line in Forest City as well as their Chris-Craft boats production lines went back to work starting this past Monday. The company says their motorhome production, Grand Design, and Newmar facilities are scheduled to start back up on May 4th, with the towables line starting back on May 18th.