SAUDI ARABIA – Saudis may not send women to Olympics

Members of the first female Saudi basketball team 'Jeddah United' pose for a team picture in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah on March 25, 2102. Saudi Arabia, where sports events for women are banned, will not send female athletes to the Olympics this year. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia | Plans for Saudi Arabia to send women to the Olympics for the first time appear to be in jeopardy.

Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Watan reported Thursday that Saudi Olympic Committee President Prince Nawaf bin Faisal does “not approve” of sending female athletes to the London Games. …

[Prince Nawaf said, however, that Saudi women taking part on their own are free to do so and the kingdom’s Olympic authority would “only help in ensuring that their participation does not violate the Islamic sharia law.  We are not endorsing any Saudi female participation at the moment in the Olympics or other international championships,” he told a press conference in Jeddah on Wednesday.  “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of (Saudi) women who practice sports, but in private,” he said, adding that the sports body has nothing to do with their activities.]

A similar arrangement was made at the Youth Olympics in 2010 for Saudi equestrian competitor Dalma Rushdi Malhas. She won a bronze medal in show jumping.

“I do not approve of Saudi female participation in the Olympics at the moment,” Nawaf was quoted as saying by the newspaper.  Officials at the Saudi Olympic Committee could not be reached for comment.

The IOC [International Olympic Committee] has been in talks with the Saudis about sending women to London.  “We are still in discussion and working to ensure the participation of Saudi women at the games in London,” the IOC told the Associated Press in an email on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia is one of three countries that have never included women on their Olympic teams, along with Qatar and Brunei. The IOC has been hopeful that all three would send female representatives to London, marking the first time for every competing nation.

A formal proposal for the participation of Saudi women had been scheduled to be submitted to the IOC executive board at its meeting in Quebec City from May 23-25.

NORTH KOREA – ‘Building tunnel for third nuclear test’

Satellite handout showing a three-dimensional image of North Korea's suspected nuclear test site in P'unggye-yok Kilu county (AFP)

North Korea is digging an underground tunnel in apparent preparation for a new nuclear test, intelligence reports have claimed.

Satellite images depict mounds of earth piled at the entrance of a tunnel at a site in northeast Punggye-ri, where two controversial nuclear tests were conducted in 2006 and 2009.

Observers fear that the creation of a new tunnel could indicate North Korea’s intentions to conduct a third underground nuclear test, a move which would ignite widespread international criticism.

“North Korea is covertly preparing for a third nuclear test, which would be another grave provocation,” said a report compiled by South Korean intelligence officers and obtained by The Associated Press.  “North Korea is digging up a new underground tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, in addition to its existing two underground tunnels, and it has been confirmed that the excavation works are in the final stages.”

Suspicions surrounding the possibility of a new nuclear test coincided with peaking regional tensions as North Korea counts down to this week’s launch of an observation satellite using a three-stage rocket.

The reclusive state claims the rocket launch will peacefully mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, although the move is widely regarded in the international community as cover for a long-range ballistic missile test.

Japan, where the Prime Minister David Cameron is heading for a two-day visit this week, has stationed missile interceptors in southern Okinawa and the capital Tokyo, with top orders to shoot down any part of the rocket that enters its territory.

Meanwhile, North Korea took the unusual step of inviting foreign journalists into the secretive region in order to view its rocket launch site in a bid to convince the world of its argument that its intentions are peaceful. …

North Korean officials reportedly told media that the function of the satellite is to collect data on forests and natural resources across the region, with officials able to destroy it if it veers off route.

The world’s eyes are fixed on North Korea this week less than four months after the still untested Kim Jong-un took over from his father and long-term ruler Kim Jong-il following his death in December. …

PAKISTAN – Government to punish parents who do not have children vaccinated for polio

The Pakistani government is planning to punish parents who fail to have their children vaccinated as part of an increasingly desperate effort to halt the spread of polio.

The country is one of three – along with Afghanistan and Nigeria – that have failed to eradicate the virus.

Now the government is promising to take a more muscular approach to the problem by making immunization compulsory, fining parents of children who are not protected and prosecuting religious groups who spread misinformation about vaccines.

Draft legislation, unveiled to coincide with a March vaccination drive, promises fines of more than $1,100 for parents who fail to comply.  Children could also be barred from school if they do not have an immunization card.

Last year there were 198 cases of polio in Pakistan’s tribal areas where limited health care, insecurity and large populations of refugees make it difficult to administer the vaccine.

Immunization efforts have also been hampered by fears that programs may be use by foreign intelligence agencies. Last year it emerged that the CIA used a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad as spies closed in on Osama bin Laden’s hideaway.

As many as 200,000 children have missed their polio vaccinations in the past two years.

Health officials fear Pakistan could become a global incubator of the crippling disease.

Earlier this month the World Health Organization warned that Pakistan could face international travel sanctions if it was unable to eradicate the disease.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at on April 5 and on April 9 and March 28.)


1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
a) location/the countries that share its borders
b) the religious breakdown of the population
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]e) the population

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to for a list of continents.]

a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) How many countries participating in the Olympics do not permit women to compete?  Name these countries.
c) In Saudi Arabia, all women, regardless of age, are required to have a male guardian.  Women are prohibited from driving in Saudi Arabia, and cannot leave the house without a male guardian.  Women cannot vote or be elected to high political positions.  However, Saudi King Abdullah has declared that women will be able to vote and run in the 2015 local elections.  How do you think Saudi female athletes should view Prince Nawaf’s offer to possibly compete on their own?  

a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) How many nuclear weapons tests has North Korea conducted thus far?
c) The report on North Korea’s tunnel being dug for a new nuclear test coincides with North Korea’s launch this week of an observation satellite.  What is the government saying is the purpose of this satellite launch?

a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Thanks to Jonas Salk and later Albert Sabin’s vaccines, polio has been eradicated in every country in the world but three.  Name these three countries.
c) Why do some parents in Pakistan prohibit their children from receiving the polio vaccine?
d) The World Health Organization has warned that Pakistan could face international travel sanctions if it was unable to eradicate the disease.  Read about the effects polio can have on a person under “Background” below.  Ask a grandparent if they ever knew anyone who had polio, and to tell you their story.  Do you think the World Health Organization should impose travel sanctions on Pakistan until it eradicates the disease, or is it ok for a person who has polio to travel around the U.S. or other countries?  Explain your answer.



  • Polio epidemics have crippled thousands of people, mostly young children; the disease has caused paralysis and death for much of human history.
  • Polio had existed for thousands of years quietly as an endemic pathogen until the 1880s, when major epidemics began to occur in Europe; soon after, widespread epidemics appeared in the United States.
  • By 1910, much of the world experienced a dramatic increase in polio cases and epidemics became regular events, primarily in cities during the summer months. These epidemics – which left thousands of children and adults paralyzed – provided the impetus for a “Great Race” towards the development of a vaccine.
  • Developed in the U.S. in the 1950s, polio vaccines are credited with reducing the global number of polio cases per year from many hundreds of thousands to around a thousand.
  • Enhanced vaccination efforts led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and Rotary International could result in global eradication of the disease.
  • The first was developed by Jonas Salk and first tested in 1952. Announced to the world by Salk on April 12, 1955, it consists of an injected dose of inactivated (dead) poliovirus.
  • An oral vaccine was developed by Albert Sabin using attenuated poliovirus. Human trials of Sabin’s vaccine began in 1957 and it was licensed in 1962. (from wikipedia)


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