The Islamic world's annual pilgrimage to Mecca came to an orderly and peaceful conclusion Tuesday, with less than half as many Muslims taking part in the hajj this year due to fears that a Middle East-based respiratory illness could spread among the throngs of faithful. At least 51 people have died in Saudi Arabia over the past year from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a virus related to SARS, which killed hundreds worldwide a decade ago. Limits on visas for foreigners hoping to take part in the pilgrimage that all able-bodied Muslims are expected to fulfill at least once in their lifetime cut the number arriving from abroad to 1.38 million, the Public Statistics Department said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency. About 3.2 million traveled to Mecca and other hajj sites last year.
Big birthday bash for Billy Graham
A major celebration is planned next month for the 95th birthday of the Rev. Billy Graham. Graham's son Franklin said Tuesday that between 600 and 700 people have been invited to the Nov. 7 party in Asheville, N.C. The invitees include former President Bill Clinton and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The elder Graham will attend, but won't give a speech.
By the numbers
$10M Amount of a grant New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's foundation awarded to Mexico to help carry out an antiobesity program. The plan includes a proposal to limit the sale of large sugary drinks, which Bloomberg sought in New York. The foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, calls its work in Mexico a pilot project that could be adapted to other developing countries, the New York Times reported.