Briefing: Russia and North Korea prepare to meet, Myanmar cancels UN visit, Baghdad demands Kurds drop vote

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  • Russian and North Korean diplomats will meet on Friday in Moscow to discuss recent international tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program. The United States State Department supports the meeting.
  • Iran has threatened that it will withdraw from the historic nuclear deal signed last year if the United States leaves the agreement. The  five other countries included in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remain supportive of the international treaty aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
  • Protestors have gathered in Hong Kong on the anniversary of mass pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014. The demonstration is set against a backdrop of increasing tension over freedom of expression in the Chinese territory.
  • China has told North Korean companies within its territory to shut down as it implements recently agreed United Nations sanctions. The companies will close by early January.
  • Islamic State has released an undated audio recording of its elusive leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. It was given on Thursday to the Al-Furqan news organisation, which is linked to the jihadist group. The 46-minute recording shows him giving a speech called “Sufficient Is Your Lord As A Guide And A Helper,” according to a tweet by Rita Katz, terrorism analyst and director of SITE Intelligence Group. The release follows multiple rumors of his death, according to Katz.


  • Myanmar canceled a scheduled visit of U.N. diplomats to Rakhine state. The visit would have been the first by U.N. officials to the state since an estimated 480,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh and violence that broke out on August 25.
  • President Donald J. Trump lifted shipping restrictions on U.S. territory Puerto Rico, to help fuel and supplies reach those affected by Hurricane Maria, which struck a week ago.
  • North Korea said U.S. President Donald J. Trump is an “old lunatic” exploiting the death of American student Otto Warmbier. The student died shortly after he was released from a North Korean prison in June, for stealing a sign in Pyongyang last year.
  • Scottish Dawn and NS131 – aliases of neo-Nazi group National Action – will be banned under U.K. terror laws, the U.K. government has announced. From tomorrow, being a member or inviting support for the either organisation will carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
  • Chinese scientists performed the world’s first successful chemical surgery on human embryos to remove disease. The researchers at Sun Yat-sen University told the BBC they used a technique called base editing to isolate a single mistake out of the three billion “letters” of our genetic code. The team hopes to eventually treat a number of inherited diseases with this technique. Base editing works by altering the fundamental blocks of DNA: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine.
  • Over 120,000 people fled the region surrounding Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali, fearing it is about to erupt, according to an Indonesian official. The area surrounding the volcano has been on its highest alert since September 22, following a recent spike in tremors. Volcanologists believe this means an eruption is more likely than not, but cannot say when it will take place. Mount Agung last erupted in 1963, killing over 1,000 people.
  • Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner died at 91 from natural causes late on 27 September in his home in Los Angeles. Hefner began publishing Playboy magazine in his kitchen in 1953. The publication became the world’s highest-selling men’s magazine, selling over seven million copies a month at its zenith.
  • Baghdad is demanding Iraq’s Kurds cancel their vote for independence. Election results shows nearly 93 percent in favor of independence with more than 3.3 million people, or 72 percent of eligible voters, taking part in Monday’s ballot. The referendum has stirred fears of a new regional conflict with Iran and Turkey also opposing Kurdish independence.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the parliament in preparation of an expected snap election, the Associated Press reports. Abe’s Liberal-Democratic Party is seeing increasing pressure from a new party which launched this week. The Party of Hope has energized some voters, and is gaining renegade lawmakers from the main opposition party.
  • Executives from Facebook, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter have been asked to testify to the U.S. Congress as part of an investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Facebook revealed this month that suspected Russian trolls purchased more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on its platform during the election cycle
  • Otto Warmbier, the American student who had been imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months, died from lack of oxygen and blood to the brain, according to a coroner. The comments contradict statements made by Warmbier’s parents in a TV interview with Fox. They said he appeared to have been tortured and that “pliers” had been taken to his teeth.

What we are watching and reading

  • The BBC recounts the full the story of five children and ten adults who lived on the 21st floor of Grenfell Tower, which went up in flames in June, killing an estimated 80 people.
  • A few years ago, many media organisations began making the move to increasing their video production. For some, it came at the expense of conventional reporting. But, as this report from the Columbia Journalism Review points out, it also meant a drop in the biggest commodity of all – traffic. The idea was to chase advertising dollars but Heidi Moore writes that things aren’t that simple when dealing with something that requires high production value.
  • U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced his displeasure with Puerto Rico’s precarious finances this week. The U.S. territory is dealing with a crisis after Hurricane Maria caused widespread devastation. It is also lumbered with huge debt but, as many pointed out, part of this was due to Trump’s own golf course project which stalled there. Politifact lays out what happened.
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