Grand Mosque in Makkah drops social distancing; people pray shoulder-to-shoulder

News Network
October 17, 2021

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Makkah, Oct 17: The Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia operated at full capacity Sunday, with worshippers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Workers removed floor markings that guide people to social distance in and around the Grand Mosque, which is built around the Ka’aba, the black cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.

"This is in line with the decision to ease precautionary measures and to allow pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque at full capacity," reported the official Saudi Press Agency.

Pictures and footage on Sunday morning showed people praying side by side, making straight rows of worshippers that are formations revered in performing Muslim prayers, for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold last year.

While social distancing measures were lifted, the authorities said visitors must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus and must continue to wear masks on mosque grounds.

Also, the Ka’aba remained cordoned off and out of reach.

Saudi Arabia announced in August it will begin accepting vaccinated foreigners wanting to make the umrah pilgrimage.

The umrah can be undertaken at any time and usually draws millions from around the globe, as does the annual hajj, which abled-bodied Muslims who have the means must perform at least once in their lifetime.

In July, only around 60,000 inoculated residents were allowed to take part in a vastly scaled-down form of the annual hajj.

The Covid-19 pandemic hugely disrupted both Muslim pilgrimages, which are usually key revenue earners for the kingdom that rake in a combined $12 billion annually.

Hosting the pilgrimages is a matter of prestige for Saudi rulers, for whom the custodianship of Islam's holiest sites is their most powerful source of political legitimacy.

The once-reclusive kingdom began issuing tourist visas permitting foreign visitors to undertake more than just the pilgrimages for the first time in 2019 as part of an ambitious push to revamp its global image and diversify income.

Between September 2019 and March 2020, it issued 400,000 of them -- only for the pandemic to crush that momentum as borders were closed.

But the kingdom is slowly opening up and has started welcoming vaccinated foreign tourists since August 1.

Saudi Arabia also announced that fully-inoculated sports fans will from Sunday be allowed to attend events at all stadiums and other sports facilities, reported SPA.

It has also been said that masks in most open spaces are no longer mandatory.

Saudi Arabia has registered over 547,000 coronavirus cases and 8,760 deaths.

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News Network
November 23,2021

Bengaluru, Nov 23: The JD(S) on Monday fielded only seven candidates for the upcoming Legislative Council elections to 25 seats. Elections are scheduled to be held on December 10.

The regional party will contest for the local authorities’ seats in Mandya, Tumakuru, Mysuru, Kolar, Bengaluru Rural, Kodagu and Hassan.

Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy said the JD(S) had won four seats in the previous elections. “As announced earlier, we have stuck to seven seats. Our aim is to win all these seven seats,” he said.

The JD(S) list includes a sitting member of the upper house HM Ramesh Gowda, who will be the party’s candidate from the Bengaluru Rural local authorities’ seat.

Although his term ends June 2022, Ramesh said that he decided to contest as he has a “good grasp” of issues in Bengaluru Rural. “I hail from Hoskote and I’m aware of issues faced by people in Bengaluru Rural. I still have six more months for my term to end. However, the process for those elections, too, will begin in another three months. So I decided to contest now," he said.

If he wins from Bengaluru Rural, Ramesh will have to resign from his current membership and take a fresh oath as a Legislative Council member. He is a second-time contestant.
The party has nominated another incumbent MLC Appaji Gowda who will seek a re-election from the Mandya local authorities’ seat.

Suraj Revanna, former prime minister and JD(S) supremo HD Devegowda's grandson and former minister HD Revanna's son, is the face of the party’s first family in these elections. Suraj is a first-time contestant making his bid to enter the upper house.

The JD(S) has also brought in four fresh faces: Anil Kumar (Tumakuru), CN Manje Gowda (Mysuru), Vakkaleri Ramu (Kolar) and HU Issaq Khan (Kodagu).

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News Network
November 18,2021

Lahore, Nov 18: Pakistan’s parliament on Wednesday passed a bill allowing the use of electronic machines for voting. The opposition said the policy is an attempt to rig the next elections.

Lawmakers also passed a bill to grant the right to vote to expats. The bills still must be signed into law by President Arif Alvi, a formality.

The opposition wants elections to continue under a decades-old system that features paper ballots and manual vote-counting.

Khan, who was present in the parliament, has defended the legislation, saying he wanted to ensure free and fair elections. Khan says millions of Pakistanis overseas should be given the right to vote for the candidates of their choice.

In his speech before the bills were passed, the opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif said Prime Minister Imran Khan was trying to manipulate results of the next parliamentary elections, in 2023. 

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who leads the opposition Pakistan People's Party, warned of a boycott of the next elections if electronic counting machines were used.

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News Network
November 20,2021

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Nov 20: Battered by the heavy rains for over a week, Karnataka is likely to witness another three rainy days according to meteorologists from the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

In its fresh forecast, the IMD has sounded yellow alert in 18 districts on Saturday. Further, officials explained that south interior and coastal Karnataka districts will witness fairly widespread rains for the next three days until Sunday.

"Revealing that the widespread rainfall along with thundershowers to continue in various parts of southern Karnataka. IMD Karnataka officials sounded ‘yellow alert’ in Bengaluru Urban, Rural districts, Tumakuru, Shivamogga, Ramanagar, Kodagu, Hassan, Davangere, Chitradurga, Chikkamagaluru, Ballari, Koppal, Haveri, Gadag, Dharwad, Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts," it said.

Commenting on the prevailing weather pattern over the Bay of Bengal, a senior meteorologist said that the depression over the Bay of Bengal is moving towards the west and a trough has been identified over the coast of Odisha.

Under the influence, southern districts are likely to witness widespread rainfall until Sunday.

According to IMD data, Gubbi and Tumakuru have received the highest rainfall of 15 cm, followed by Chintamani - 12 cm, Mulbagal and Srinivasapura - 11 cm.

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