Ritual platform to be improved
MINA, Saudi Arabia -- Workers began tearing down a platform at a key site of the annual hajj pilgrimage yesterday to rebuild it with better access, hoping to prevent deadly stampedes such as the one that killed 363 people last week. The al-Jamarat platform, where three pillars representing the devil are located, will be rebuilt with four 330-foot-wide ramps that can accommodate 250,000 pilgrims an hour, said Osama al-Bar, head of the Hajj Research Center. The current site has a 260-foot-wide ramp leading to a platform from which pilgrims pelt the pillars with stones in a symbolic purging of their sins.
Quake relief flights halted for weather
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan --The United Nations suspended life-saving relief flights to earthquake-hit Kashmir yesterday as heavy snow grounded helicopters and promised more misery for millions left homeless in freezing temperatures. The flights, which form the bulk of the mammoth relief operation, may resume today if there is a break in the weather, U.N. spokesman Ben Malor said. Today marks 100 days since the giant earthquake struck, killing 87,000 people and leaving about 3.5 million homeless. Pakistan's Meteorological Department is forecasting heavy snow to keep blanketing the quake zone over the next five days, possibly triggering avalanches along its jagged peaks. Temperatures are expected to remain below freezing, fanning concern about a possible sharp rise in cold-related illnesses, especially among the young and elderly.
Iran to examine Holocaust evidence
TEHRAN, Iran --Iran said yesterday that it would sponsor a conference to examine the scientific evidence supporting the Holocaust, an apparent next step in hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's campaign against Israel and a move likely to deepen Tehran's international isolation. Ahmadinejad already had called the Nazis' World War II slaughter of 6 million European Jews a myth and said the Jewish state should be wiped off the map or moved to Germany or the United States.