Briefing: US makes contact with North Korea, Catalan activists occupy schools, Mumbai stampede kills 20

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  • The U.S. is in “direct contact” with North Korea, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “We have lines of communications to Pyongyang,” he said during a trip to China. President Donald J. Trump has threatened to destroy North Korea, which has led Kim Jong-Un to vow to “tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.” The escalation comes amid increasing North Korean missile tests, including claims of a hydrogen bomb test. The tests were internationally condemned, with the UN bringing in sanctions. Despite the U.S. efforts, a State Department spokeswoman said North Korean officials had shown no indication that they are interested in talks regarding denuclearization.
  • Activists have occupied more than 160 schools across Catalonia ahead of the region’s independence referendum. Spain’s central government has banned the vote and says police visited 1,300 of the 2,315 schools in Catalonia designated as polling stations, finding 163 occupied. Tens of thousands of people are expected to attempt to vote on Sunday, local time. Demonstrators also rallied in Barcelona on Saturday evening against the poll, calling instead for unity with Spain.
  • A fatal stampede at a train station in Mumbai which has left at least 22 people dead and over 30 seriously injured, sparking a debate about India’s urban infrastructure. India has the world’s fourth biggest rail network, but critics have pointed to chronic underinvestment and overcrowding. In Mumbai, a city of 20 million people, rail accidents have killed more than 3,000 people in each of the last three years. The cause of the stampede on a bridge at the central Elphinstone Road station was being investigated.

What we are reading and watching

  • The BBC has broadcast video of British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson being chastised by the country’s ambassador to Myanmar. The video depicts Johnson reciting a pro colonial poem while on an official visit to the Shwedagon Zedi Daw, the most sacred Buddhist temple in Yangon. “Not appropriate,” Andrew Patrick told Johnson.
  • They New York Times has published a story documenting the struggles that Puerto Ricans are facing in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Reporters and photographers spent 24 hours on the island, recounting a day in the life of ordinary citizens. “Puerto Rico has not been forgotten,” the story says, “but more than a week after Hurricane Maria hit, it’s a woozy empire of wreckage; of waiting in line for food, water and gas and then finding another line to wait in some more.”

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