Alabama authorities say a home burglary suspect has died after police used a stun gun on the man.  Birmingham police say he resisted officers who found him in a house wrapped in what looked like material from the air conditioner duct work.  The Lewisburg Road homeowner called police Tuesday about glass breaking and someone yelling and growling in his basement.  Police reportedly entered the dwelling and used a stun gun several times on a white suspect before handcuffing him.  Investigators say the man was "extremely irritated" throughout and didn't obey verbal commands.

Montgomery Education Foundation's Brain Forest Summer Learning Academy was spotlighted Wednesday at Carver High School.  The academic-enrichment program is for rising 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the Montgomery Public School system.  Community Program Director Dillion Nettles, says the program aims to prevent learning loss during summer months.  To find out how your child can participate in next summer's program visit Montgomery-ed.org

A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.

NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

Then we became parents.

Now there are some weeks when pre-chopped vegetables and a rotisserie chicken are the only things between us and five nights of Chipotle.

Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

Let the record show: neither version of those lyrics contains the phrase "all lives matter."

But at the 2016 All-Star Game, the song got an unexpected edit.

At Petco Park in San Diego, one member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors — by himself, according to the other members of the group — revised the anthem.

School's out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

Pages

Taking The Sacred Hajj Pilgrimage ... VIP Style

Oct 26, 2012

Transcript

CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. Michel Martin is away. Coming up, we'll sit down with MacArthur Genius fellow, Maurice Lim Miller, and talk about what some call his groundbreaking work on poverty.

But, first, it's time for Faith Matters. That's the part of the program when we talk about faith, religion and spirituality. Many of us are familiar with significant spending on religious holidays and rituals like massive Christmas parties and lavish bar mitzvahs.

But now, we want to focus on the luxurious side of a critical ritual for Muslims, the Hajj. Today is Eid Al Adha, but it's the second day of the Hajj. Yesterday, an estimated two million Muslims began the four-day pilgrimage outside Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Every Muslim is required to make this pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime and it can be a transformative experience for the faithful. It can also be hot, crowded and exhausting, but for those who are willing to shell out the big bucks, there are VIP alternatives.

Here to tell us more is Jamal Elshayyal. He's a reporter and senior producer with Al Jazeera English and he joins us from Mina, one of the main sites the pilgrimage outside Mecca. Welcome.

JAMAL ELSHAYYAL: Hi. Good to be with you.

HEADLEE: If you want to get a taste of the Hajj, there's actually a live webcam that streams the Hajj 24 hours a day, so let's take a listen here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Chanting in foreign language).

HEADLEE: So, Jamal Elshayyal, we should explain you're on a cell phone in an extraordinarily crowded city of Mina outside the Hajj, but maybe you can start us off by briefly explaining what the Hajj is and why it's so important for Muslims.

ELSHAYYAL: Well, essentially, Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. The idea behind it, from an Islamic perspective, is to bring all of God's creations on a level playing field and to shed any differences that may be between us due to worldly things, so for example, wealth or race or language or background - to shed that in exchange for two simple white cloths that Muslims wear around them in order to make it impossible for you to know who is the prince, who is the pauper, who is the rich person, who is the poor person and, essentially, bringing together all these different backgrounds, all these different races on one level footing with the acknowledgement that it is what is in your hearts that God will judge you on and not what title you may have in this world or how much money you might have in your bank account.

HEADLEE: And yet, despite all of that, what we're talking about today are VIP alternatives, which seem to be kind of going in the face of what you say is the purpose of the Hajj. Can you explain what the VIP, the luxury options are for the Hajj?

ELSHAYYAL: I think it is a very important topic that you are talking about, but we have to look at it in context. Those who will do this so-called VIP Hajjor something that is a lot more luxurious than the usual pilgrimage is barely even one percent. It is less than 30,000 people you'll find. Rather than, you know, getting stuck in the hustle and bustle and the people traffic, they will pay large amounts of money to companies that essentially use this as a tour service.

So what they will do - they'll put them up in very luxurious hotels and apartments that are overlooking the grand mosque, to the extent where people - for example, rather than going down and praying in the mosque, because their apartment looks over it, they will conduct their five prayers from that hotel room or that apartment and that idea may be one of the indicative signs that (unintelligible).

The authorities here haven't been able to strike the balance between the spiritual aspect of the pilgrimage and the commercial aspect that comes hand-in-hand with any large gathering of any sort. Striking a balance maybe hasn't been done as well or as tastefully as many Muslims would like.

HEADLEE: Tastefully - I would imagine you're talking about the world's second tallest building, the replica of Big Ben, which now towers over the mosque. But, although you say that it's only one percent of pilgrims that choose these VIP packages, the impact of that one percent seems to be pretty severe. I mean, we're talking about security guards going down and clearing a place in the line of pilgrims so they can walk freely and not have to brush up against other pilgrims. We're talking about people whose hotel towers actually obstruct your view of the surrounding hills. What kind of problems is this causing with the other 99 percent of pilgrims?

ELSHAYYAL: Well, you know, say it is a reflection of the mismanagement and inability of those governing authorities in charge of Mecca to ensure that something like that doesn't hinder the pilgrimage. As far as a lot of pilgrims are concerned, though, because so many of the millions of people who've come here literally have been yearning for the chance to come on this journey, many of them have spent their life savings. Others have waited, you know, year after year, their visas being rejected until they finally were able to be part of that quota of those allowed to come to Hajj.

I think, while a lot of them look at these things negatively, but their joy and the euphoria they feel about being in what they consider to be the most holy place, walking in what they consider to be the footsteps of their beloved prophets, that kind of overshadows it. I think it's only when they reminisce, looking back when they go back home that they look at it and they think, oh, you know, this surely shouldn't be like this.

I mean, from my perspective as a journalist looking at it, not from a spiritual or a religious perspective, just from a practical point of view, there are huge question marks as to the wisdom behind how these things have been planned. You look at the trajectory of how the number of pilgrims increases, year on year, and you realize that the grand mosque needs much more expansion.

But, because they constantly build these massive towers, which essentially engulf or suffocate the grand mosque, you are then limiting yourself to how many customers, how many pilgrims can come to you.

So from whichever way you look at it, there really has to be a reassessment by the authorities, as to why and how these things are being done, even - like I say, if it's not in light of the spiritual duty they have to maintain and upkeep the holiest place on earth, as far as Muslims are concerned, even from a commercial perspective, it really doesn't make any sense.

HEADLEE: Jamal Elshayyal is a reporter and senior producer for Al Jazeera English. He joined us by cell phone from Mina, where it's very crowded. He's covering the four day Hajj pilgrimage. Happy Eid to you, Jamal. Thanks so much for joining us.

ELSHAYYAL: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.