- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2009


Swine flu kills five pilgrims at hajj

MINA | Five people died from swine flu during the hajj, Saudi Arabia said Sunday, a relatively small number considering that the event is the largest annual gathering in the world and is seen as an ideal incubator for the virus.

But some experts warned that the true extent of the virus will not be known until pilgrims return to their home countries around the world.

Speaking on the final day of the Islamic pilgrimage, Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabeeah said authorities recorded 73 cases - including the five deaths - of H1N1, commonly known as swine flu. He said only 10 percent of the approximately 2.5 million pilgrims were vaccinated against the virus.

Saudi health officials circulated among the sprawling tent camp at Mina where the pilgrims lived and gave the faithful cheek swabs for testing later. They also placed hand sanitizer dispensers on walls in the camps, near public bathrooms and at ritual sites, while pilgrims arriving at Saudi airports were scanned using a thermal camera and offered a free vaccine.


Netanyahu sick; Germany trip delayed

JERUSALEM | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has fallen ill, and his trip to Germany has been postponed.

Mr. Netanyahu was due to fly to Germany on Monday for a day of talks with German leaders. Mr. Netanyahu’s office issued a statement late Sunday saying that the Israeli leader felt unwell. His doctor diagnosed a viral infection and a light fever and recommended that Mr. Netanyahu call off the trip.

Israel’s foreign minister and defense minister were due to accompany Mr. Netanyahu. The statement said the trip would be rescheduled for January.

Four hours before the postponement, Mr. Netanyahu spoke at a conference in the southern resort of Eilat and showed no outward signs of illness.


Socialists expected to remain in power

MONTEVIDEO | A plain-talking socialist who once led an armed revolutionary movement and now rejects the “stupid ideologies” of the 1970s was favored to win Uruguay’s presidential runoff Sunday and keep a center-left coalition in power for five more years.

Jose Mujica’s opponents said he would transform the South American country into a radical socialist state, but he campaigned as a consensus builder, and polls suggested that most voters were convinced that he would govern from the center.

Mr. Mujica won 49 percent of the votes in October’s first round of the election, securing another majority in Congress for the governing Broad Front coalition.

Former President Luis A. Lacalle, a scion of Uruguay’s political elite, finished second with 29 percent for the center-right National Party. Most voters for the third-place, right-wing Colorado Party were expected to go for Mr. Lacalle in Sunday’s runoff, but he still trailed Mr. Mujica by seven to nine percentage points in the latest opinion polls.


Beached whales too weak to live

BALI | Two young whales are stranded on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali and will die on the beach because they are too weak to survive even if returned to the water, an official said Sunday.

Attempts to rescue the beached whales, a rare occurrence on Bali, have been abandoned, said Bali’s Fisheries and Marines Department officer Nyoman Wirna Ariwangsa.

The two short-finned pilot whales, a protected species, were both extensively scratched and bruised, apparently from fishing nets at sea. Their carcasses will be buried before they decompose, the fisheries officer said.

Live whales rarely become beached on Bali, although 10 dead whales - eight short-finned pilot and two giant sperm — washed ashore in February in stormy weather.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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