Texas bill would punish police who do not comply with immigration enforcers | US news

Donald Trump’s plan to punish so-called sanctuary cities was blocked in court this week, but the concept is enjoying more success at state level, where Texas is poised to enact a law forcing local police to act as federal immigration enforcers.

A bill passed the Texas state house shortly before 3am on Thursday, after 16 often heated hours of debate amid pro-immigrant demonstrations outside the capitol building in Austin. Democrats in the Republican-dominated Texas legislature proposed a series of amendments in a futile effort to stall and weaken the bill, a version of which was already advanced by the senate.

It puts sheriffs and other police chiefs at risk of criminal charges and other serious sanctions if they do not help the federal government enforce immigration laws by complying with requests to detain immigrants. There are also civil fines for non-cooperation by local entities including campus police departments.

A Democratic state representative, Victoria Neave, began a four-day hunger strike on Sunday in protest at the bill. Another, Mary Gonzalez, wept on Wednesday as she talked in the state house about being a sexual assault survivor and expressed her fear that the law would help criminals. A third, Ana Hernandez, gave an emotional speech about her life before she became a US citizen.

“During the time we lived in undocumented status, although I was just a little girl, I remember the constant fear my family lived with each day, the fear my parents experienced each day as their two little girls went to school, not knowing if there would be an immigration raid that day,” she said. “I see myself in many other students now that share the same fear of being deported or having their parents deported, wondering what’s going to happen to them.”

Republican hearts were not softened: they strengthened the language in the bill to allow law enforcement to ask the immigration status of anyone who is merely detained – for example, during a traffic stop – as well as arrested. They also refused to pass amendments calling for exemptions for young children at school or people in domestic violence shelters.

Rafael Anchia, a Democratic state representative, described it on Twitter as a “papers please” measure reminiscent of Arizona’s hardline and highly controversial SB1070, passed in 2010.

The two Texas chambers will have to agree on a final version before the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, can sign it into law.

The renewed effort comes after Donald Trump issued an executive order in January proposing to cut federal funds to sanctuary cities. These are informally defined as places where local authorities limit cooperation with immigration agents, notably when police decline to honour “detainer” requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) to hold people already in jail for longer so they can be picked up and potentially deported.

On Tuesday, though, a judge in California said that Trump’s order was an unconstitutional overreach of his authority and issued a temporary ban to stop it being enacted. But, energised by Trump’s rhetoric, conservative states are forging their own paths where the White House has so far been unable to tread.

Lena Graber, a staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, said that it is likely to be easier for states to enact anti-immigrant policies. “The legal analysis is different when it’s a state law versus a federal law. And so the states probably have more power in this [respect] than the federal government,” she said. “The states have more power to tell localities what they can or can’t do but it actually depends on state constitutions.”

Florida lawmakers are mulling over a bill to end municipal sanctuary policies.

Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, vetoed a restrictive bill last month. But Phil Bryant, the Republican governor of Mississippi, signed a law prohibiting sanctuary cities and banning any local policies that prevent public officials from enquiring about an individual’s immigration status.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, this year at least 32 states and the District of Columbia have considered or are considering legislation on the topic, with 29 states examining possible bans and 15 states and DC weighing pro-immigrant stances (12 states have bills on both sides of the argument).

Four states – Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina – passed bans before a national conversation began in 2015.. Kate Steinle’s murder in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant who had been released from jail a few weeks earlier became a rallying cry for conservatives, and Trump often cited the killing during his election campaign.

Proponents of mandatory cooperation argue that it creates uniform standards and makes communities safer by reducing the number of criminals who are released from jail and go on to commit other offenses. Opponents say that serious crimes are rare and that mandating local police to work with Ice in fact undermines safety by eroding trust between officers and communities, pushing undocumented immigrants deeper into the shadows and making offences less likely to be reported.

Five Texas sheriffs from major metropolitan areas wrote an editorial earlier this month in the San Antonio Express-News arguing that compelling local police to act as immigration agents would be an expensive and damaging use of resources based not on sound reasoning but on “anti-immigrant grandstanding”.

Critics also say that detaining individuals who otherwise would be released violates due process and that enlisting local officers for immigration enforcement encourages racial profiling.

“All of these policies, they do different things but they’re all about the use and discretion of local resources and staff time and there is no legal obligation for local governments or agencies to help enforce immigration law of any kind and in fact the constitution prevents them from being required to do it. They’re allowed to offer help, as many do, but the idea that sanctuary policies are somehow going to be struck down in the courts is absurd because they’re totally legal,” Graber said.

The issue can also be seen in the wider context of the growing trend of Republican-led states seeking to create laws preempting ordinances passed by large liberal-leaning cities on culture wars topics such as guns, LGBTQ rights and the minimum wage, said Allie Yee, associate director of the Institute for Southern Studies.

But the vague term “sanctuary city” leaves room for a wide range of interpretations. Abbott, the Texas governor, withheld $1.5m in criminal justice funding for the Austin area after the sheriff of Travis County announced in January that her department would not honour most Ice detainers. He also threatened to have her removed from her job, though she is an elected official.

On Tuesday, though, Austin mayor Steve Adler told reporters after a discussion with the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, that the federal government does not consider the city and county to meet the definition of a sanctuary city.

“This is creating a lot of uncertainty for local elected officials about what they can do or can’t do,” Yee said. “Is any kind of policy that’s seen as friendly towards immigrants going to be then [tagged] with a sanctuary city label and will that jeopardise millions of dollars from the state or federal government?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report


Even Trump’s Twitter binges aren’t enough to make it worth $11bn | Nils Pratley | Business

As Jack Dorsey, the Twitter chief executive, said he was “proud to report” a 14% increase in daily usage of the social media service, the shares moved higher. It’s hard to understand why. Quarterly revenues fell by 8% to $548m (£427m), the first time they have dropped since Twitter became a public company in 2013. Meanwhile, profits are nowhere to be seen. In the first quarter, the company lost $62m, an $18m improvement on a year ago, thanks to cost cutting, but hardly justification for a stock market value of $11bn – less than it was, yet still substantial.

“While we continue to face revenue headwinds, we believe that executing on our plan and growing our audience should result in positive revenue growth over the long term,” Dorsey said. The plan is probably the only one worth backing: get the audience up and hope revenues follow. But the current breakdown in the relationship between audience and revenues suggests Twitter’s clout with advertisers is fading fast.

Maybe it is being outgunned by Facebook and Google, with their vastly greater audiences and budgets. Or perhaps Twitter, despite Dorsey’s many modifications, is simply less suited to commercial messages. If so, even Donald Trump’s tweeting flurries, which boost the audience statistics, won’t bring salvation – or a reason to value an 11-year-old company making a loss so highly.

GSK’s new chief takes on the ‘perennial question’

Emma Walmsley’s first big call as chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline was easy to make and correct: she ruled out a breakup and committed herself to a corporate structure that houses complex pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer products such as toothpaste and Horlicks under one roof.

In truth, nobody expected any other decision. Walmsley was an internal appointment, blessed by her predecessor Sir Andrew Witty. He spent ages deflecting calls for GSK to do the splits and she used to run the consumer division. Still, there’s no harm in Walmsley addressing the “perennial question”, as she called it, in her first month in charge.

Like Witty, she argued that reliable cashflows from vaccines and consumer products are a natural counterweight to the higher risk and more volatile business of developing pharmaceutical drugs. And she agreed that there are benefits from being able to switch prescription medicines to the consumer category when patents expire. Neither argument is 100% convincing in itself, but both are more persuasive than a disruptive separation in which the only guaranteed winners would be investment bankers and lawyers.

There were no major fireworks, then, which may explain why the shares were the biggest fallers in the FTSE 100, down 2%, despite first-quarter figures that showed revenue and profits marginally ahead of City forecasts. But Walmsley was clearly signalling a shakeup of some sort in pharmaceuticals with her pointed criticism that GSK has sometimes pursued “interesting” drugs that lack sufficient commercial potential. Some programmes may be dropped or shoved into partnerships.

Until full details are published in July, it’s hard to tell whether the plan represents a tweak or a serious reform. But the market’s yawn seems odd. A new CEO who talks about “disciplined choices” to make the labs more commercial usually gets applause from investors.

The Lloyds investigation is welcome, but a mess

It is understandable that Lloyds Banking Group feels the need to answer definitively the charge that its board and executives were complacent about fraud at the Reading branch of HBOS.

The bank has appointed Dame Linda Dobbs, a retired high court judge, to examine whether Lloyds handled the matter properly and met its reporting obligations after buying HBOS in 2009. The fraud, for which six people were jailed in February, ran from 2003 to 2007, but victims have long argued that Lloyds wouldn’t listen to their complaints after the takeover. That allegation is serious, and an investigation is overdue.

Everybody happy then? Not really. The natural investigator is the Financial Conduct Authority, which is supposedly on the job. The regulator’s inquiry into HBOS Reading, which was suspended in 2013 when Thames Valley police leapt into action, reopened last month. The primary focus may be on what HBOS did under its own steam, but Lloyds’ actions after it bought the ailing lender will also be under the microscope.

Indeed, Lloyds will not be allowed to publish the Dobbs report or any of its findings until the FCA says so. Put another way, Lloyds has launched an “independent” inquiry into itself that won’t be regarded as independent or credible until the regulator allows. It’s good that this affair is getting the attention it deserves, but the process is a mess.


Trump under fire over ‘huge tax cut for the rich’ | US news

The Trump administration unveiled what it called the biggest tax cuts “in history” on Wednesday, in a move that will simplify the US tax system, slash taxes for businesses large and small – including his own – eliminate inheritance taxes and set the president on a collision course with Congress over the likely $2tn-plus cost of the proposal.

Critics immediately called it “basically a huge tax cut for the rich”.

The plan would cut the US’s individual income tax brackets from seven to three (10%, 25% and 35%) and slash US corporate tax rates from 35% to 15%. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something really big,” said Gary Cohn, chief economic adviser to Donald Trump. “This is about growing the economy, creating jobs.”

Cohn and Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, were short on details of the plan that, if passed, would be the largest overhaul of the US tax system since the Reagan era. “We are moving as quickly as we can,” said Mnuchin.

The announcement comes amid a continuing row over Trump’s own taxes, with members of his own party asking for him to release his returns before pressing ahead with tax reforms. Trump has long claimed he might release these documents at the end of what he says is a long-running audit, but Mnuchin said on Wednesday that the president “has no intention” of releasing his tax returns to the public.

As well as slashing costs for his own businesses, the new proposals will also cut the alternative minimum tax (AMT), a tax designed to stop the super-wealthy from taking so many tax deductions that they avoid paying anything. Leaked documents have shown that in 2005 Trump paid $31m in tax thanks to the AMT.

Mnuchin and Cohn were pressed on how Trump would benefit from the proposals, but they avoided the questions. “What this is about is creating job and economic growth,” Mnuchin said. He described the proposals as “the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country.”

The president will not be the only Trump administration official to benefit from the tax cuts. His cabinet is the richest in history and includes several billionaires.

The proposal also gets rid of almost all tax deductions, including those for state and local taxes. This creates a significant increase in tax for residents of high-tax states such as California and New York. It does leave in place existing tax dedications for charitable donations and home mortgage payments.

Mnuchin refused to commit to whether the tax cuts would end up being revenue neutral, saying the administration was “working on a lot of details”. However, he felt confident that the tax cuts “will pay for itself through growth, reduction of deductions, and closing loopholes”. The treasury secretary did insist though that “the deficit is a problem and the president is concerned about that”.

Trump has long heralded tax cuts, particularly on corporations, as a major component of his economic plan. In his joint address to Congress in February, the US president previewed his proposals, saying: “My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone.” He added: “It will be a big, big cut.”

The changing story of Donald Trump’s tax returns

But on the campaign trail he also consistently pledged to cut the US’s $19tn deficit “big-league” and “very quickly”. A 20-percentage-point cut to corporate tax rates alone would add $2.4tn to the national debt, according to nonpartisan pressure group Americans for Tax Fairness. Frank Clemente, executive director, called the proposal a “reckless” plan “for massive tax giveaways to corporations, the wealthy, and his own family” in return for adding trillions of dollars to the national debt.

“So, how would Trump’s White House make up the shortfall? By drastic cuts to essential services and lowering the standard of living for regular American families. Unacceptable,” said Clemente. “The White House line that ‘tax cuts will pay for themselves’ is a lie that has been debunked repeatedly, including by the conservative Tax Foundation. We will fight this tax plan tooth and nail, and we’ll be joined by Americans of all political stripes in doing so.”

The plan faces significant obstacles because of the need for Democratic support, and “reconciliation” rules that place strict limits on any tax cuts that result in increases to the deficit.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, indicated on Tuesday that Republicans would have to use the reconciliation process, which requires tax cuts to be balanced out with spending cuts. “I think it’s pretty clear we’re going to have to use a reconciliation vehicle because today’s Democratic party is very different from the Democratic party in the 80s,” McConnell said.

In a joint statement with McConnell, his fellow Republicans House speaker Paul Ryan, House ways and means chair Kevin Brady and Senate finance chair Orrin Hatch gave cautious praise to the administration’s proposals. “The principles outlined by the Trump administration today will serve as critical guideposts for Congress and the administration as we work together to overhaul the American tax system and ensure middle-class families and job creators are better positioned for the 21st century economy.”

Republican congressman Tom Cole, from Oklahoma, said he envisioned a “very complex” path forward on tax reform.

One notable tax missing from Wednesday’s briefing was the “border adjustability tax”, a proposal to tax goods imported into and sold in the United States championed by Ryan.

The tax, backed by House Republicans was supposed to serve as a means to offset any loss in revenue from corporate tax cuts but ran into opposition from major corporate interests including retailers and automobile manufacturers.

Trump reportedly abandoned his support for the border adjustment tax, although his treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin did not definitely rule it out.
“I don’t think it’s dead,” Cole said of the border adjustment tax. “I’m very worried about blowing a huge hole in the deficit.”

The tax policy was panned by deficit hawks. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) estimated it would cost between $3-$7tn, using a baseline estimate of roughly $5.5tn because of its vagueness.

In its analysis, the Trump proposals would “increase debt to 111 percent of Gross Domestic Product (compared to 89 percent of GDP in CBO’s baseline) by 2027. That would be higher than any time in US history, and no achievable amount of economic growth could finance it.”

In a scathing statement, the group’s president Maya McGuineas said: “It seems the administration is using economic growth like magic beans – the cheap solution to all our problems. But there is no golden goose at the top of the tax cut beanstalk, just mountains of debt.”

However, David McIntosh, the president of the influential conservative group Club for Growth, praised it as “massively pro-growth”. He added: “This is the tax plan that the American people supported when they elected President Trump, so House Republicans would do well to give it their full support.”

Democrats condemned the proposals. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who is facing re-election in 2018 in a state that Trump won, said in a statement: “This scheme is a massive tax giveaway to millionaires, billionaires and big corporations at the expense of middle-class families in Pennsylvania.

Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No2 Democrat in the Senate, said in a statement: “President Trump should release his own tax returns if he wants to have any credibility in a debate about America’s tax code.”

The plans have split experts. Hunter Blair, budget analyst at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said the proposals were “basically a huge tax cut for the rich. ”

“According to the Treasury, 43% of corporate tax is paid for by the top 1%. We have tried this supply side economics before; trickle down just doesn’t work,” he said.

Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, said cuts in corporate tax rates in the UK and Canada had not led to lost revenues. “There is a huge amount of [tax] avoidance right now and a huge effort to park overseas. That money would come back if rates fell,” he said.


ESPN layoffs hit on-air reporters and anchors as 100 employees face cuts | Sport

ESPN was set to lay off around 100 employees on Wednesday, including some of the network’s most popular on-air and online personalities, according to multiple reports.

The Disney-owned sports giant had no plans to announce the names of the employees affected, but a number of the anchors, reporters and analysts who were informed of their release spoke out on social media.

Notable names included veteran NFL reporter Ed Werder, college football reporter Brett McMurphy, college basketball reporter Dana O’Neil and ESPN Dallas columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor.

MLB analyst Jim Bowden, college basketball reporter Eamonn Brennan and Big Ten football reporters Austin Ward and Jesse Temple were also among those let go.

“A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions,” ESPN president John Skipper said in a company-wide memo disseminated Wednesday morning. “We will implement changes in our talent lineup this week. A limited number of other positions will also be affected and a handful of new jobs will be posted to fill various needs.”

Also included in the cuts were NHL writers Pierre LeBrun, Joe McDonald and Scott Burnside, which taken together offers an ominous sign for the network’s commitment to hockey coverage moving forward.

The long-rumored layoffs were inevitable given ESPN’s declining subscriber base and commitment to increased broadcast rights packages, a portfolio which includes a 10-year, $15.2bn deal with the NFL, a $7.3bn deal for the college football playoffs and a nine-year, $12 billion deal with the NBA that started last fall.

It marked ESPN’s first major layoffs since October 2015, when around 300 mostly behind-the-scenes employees were let go.


Will Sonny Perdue, Trump’s agriculture pick, stand up for the little guy? Don’t bank on it | Guardian Sustainable Business

Donald Trump owes his election in no small part to the support of farm country. But since entering office, almost all his actions and pronouncements have betrayed an abysmal understanding of farm and rural concerns. No surprise, then, that food and farm advocates have looked eagerly to Sonny Perdue, who was sworn in as agriculture secretary on Tuesday, to educate and temper the president on their issues.

The new secretary has his work cut out for him. The president unveiled a budget blueprint last month that slashed funding for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) by 21%.

Will Perdue become the champion that the advocates hope for? He gave mixed messages about his vision during his confirmation hearing. Perdue wants to preserve the “broad tent” approach of his predecessor, such as supporting organic and locally grown and consumed food. Unfortunately, he also stated that “the jury is still out on whether humans are causing climate change”. He also indicated that he would be open to allowing school districts to formulate their own meal plans, a move that could undermine the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which requires schools to provide nutritious meals with more fruits and vegetables. Frozen- and junk-food companies have lobbied for loosening the regulation.

Most worrisome is that it appears that, under Trump and Perdue, the USDA will double down on an industrialized, corporate food and agriculture model that is already failing most farmers and rural residents.

Perdue’s Senate hearing centered on USDA programs that cater to large-scale companies producing commodity crops. The former governor said farmers and taxpayers are getting “good value” from these programs. Tell this to farmers, most of whom run small family-owned operations, who in 2017 will face a fourth consecutive year of diminished income in spite of record productivity.

It shows an inconceivable lack of imagination if the nation’s top agricultural leadership is suggesting we tackle low prices by pushing production, new product development, new markets and exports. Plus, Perdue wants to establish a new undersecretary for trade. While a minority of large-scale farmers will benefit from this spent approach, we are not going to produce our way out of the current agricultural doldrums.

The USDA would do better to invest in programs serving a wider swath of farmers and struggling rural communities, including those that encourage more farmers to enter rather than leave the business, help farmers produce a diverse mix of healthful foods for regional consumption, and create local jobs (the very same approach worked well for Perdue in his home state). Farmers also need programs that would curb the soil erosion and runoff that pollutes drinking water from Des Moines to Toledo and many rural communities in between.

Does Perdue believe in the market economy? If so, farmers need markets to reward them for clean water and carbon sequestration. Farmers – who will be hit harder and more frequently by the catastrophic floods, droughts and pests that accompany a changing climate – need programs to help their farms become more resilient, a point reinforced by a recent bipartisan task force, that found these interrelated issues to be “among the most significant threats to food and nutrition security”. Yet the Trump administration has worked to systematically dismantle the government’s ability to tackle climate change, even suggesting it will back out of the Paris Agreement, a move opposed by the National Farmers Union.

Other critical issues are also question marks. For example, when asked about his commitment to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Snap), more commonly known as the food stamp program and the largest single expenditure in the federal farm bill that will be renewed next year, Perdue said he hoped to do it “more efficiently and more effectively than we have”. That sounds like shrinking this safety net vital for low-income families, especially those in rural communities – research shows that a larger percentage of households in rural areas receive Snap benefits than in urban areas, contrary to the stereotype.

During his first 100 days in office, Trump has shown little intention of investing in rural communities. Only today, three months into his administration and the first with a secretary of agriculture, has he met with a group of farmers in a rushed photo opportunity, and signed an executive order that essentially calls for a 180-day regulatory review.

His new secretary of agriculture has given every indication of catering to the farmers and agribusinesses that least need public support while neglecting the majority of farmers and rural communities.

Trump may not be personally affected by his broken campaign promises – so far he has failed to replace the Affordable Care Act with something better, or to deploy his secret plan to defeat Isis in 30 days – but the rural electorate that put its faith in him will suffer the consequences. They will continue to see more polluted drinking water, depressed farm incomes, failed businesses, farmland vulnerable to floods and droughts and loss of hope.

Status quo is what the farm and rural constituencies voted against, and precisely what Trump and new secretary of agriculture will all but ensure.


US may avoid government shutdown as Trump softens demand for border wall | US news

Congressional leaders sounded confident on Tuesday that they would be able to row back from the brink of a government shutdown after Donald Trump signaled a softening on his demand for immediate funding of the wall along the US-Mexico border.

Though Trump insisted that his controversial plan to build a barrier along the southern border would begin “soon”, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill were reportedly pressing ahead with a spending plan that included no such funding. Congress has until Friday to approve a spending package to avoid a shutdown of the federal government.

“The president’s 11th-hour demand threatened to upend the progress. We’re pleased he’s backing off,” Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Though he would not offer details, Schumer said the bipartisan group of negotiators involved in crafting the spending package were taking the signals from Trump and his team “at face value” and proceeding on the basis that funding for the wall would not be a part of the package.

“The fact that the wall is now off the table – Americans should breathe a huge sigh of relief, the negotiations can resume and move forward,” he said.

Trump and his team had previously been resolute in their demand for funding in the omnibus plan. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, has said the White House proposed a dollar-for-dollar funding deal between the wall and healthcare subsides for low-income Americans.

Democrats have remained opposed to allocating funds for a wall and Republicans need their support to pass the spending bill.

On Tuesday, Republicans moved to avert an impasse – and threat of a shutdown – and proposed a spending bill that included no funding for the wall, according to the Washington Post. As a tradeoff, the plan includes increased money for border security and defense spending.

There are still several sticking points in the negotiations. Democrats are wary of “poison pill riders” and want to see the spending bill extend health provisions for coal miners, provide relief for Puerto Rico, and fund Obamacare subsidies, Schumer said.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said he was hopeful lawmakers would reach a bipartisan agreement within the next few days. Asked if Congress would opt instead to pass a stopgap measure to buy more time to negotiate, McConnell said he was optimistic that lawmakers would reach an agreement on legislation that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, on 30 September.

Trump indicated that he was backing away from his border wall demand during a meeting with representatives of conservative media outlets on Monday night. Trump told reporters that he is open to waiting until negotiations for next year’s budget to push for the allocation of funds along the US-Mexico border, according to the accounts of several attendees.

Yet the president was adamant that his concession on the spending bill did not signal that he was any less committed to building the wall, a signature campaign promise.

“Don’t let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking etc.”

Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor, said that Trump remains committed to constructing the wall but suggested that the president was willing to wait for funding in the interest of avoiding a shutdown.

“Building that wall and having it funded remains an important priority to him,” Conway said in an appearance on Fox & Friends on Tuesday morning. “But we also know that that can happen later this year and into next year. And in the interim, you see other smart technology and other resources and tools being used toward border security.”

A shutdown would be disastrous for Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House. It would also come on the president’s 100th day in office, a significant milestone that threatens to be overshadowed if Congress and the White House fail to keep the government open.

Despite reservations from liberals and conservatives about the cost and complications of building a barrier on the southern border, Trump on Tuesday doubled down on his commitment to it.

“We’re already preparing,” Trump said. “We’re doing plans, we’re doing specifications, we’re doing a lot of work on the wall, and the wall is going to get built.”

Asked at the agricultural event when he expected construction to begin, Trump replied “soon” and specified that it would be completed during his first term as president.

“We have plenty of time,” Trump said. “We’ve got a lot of time.”


Former Bernie Sanders operative to run for Congress in Iowa | US news

The grassroots movement that fueled Bernie Sanders’ rise to prominence in the 2016 Democratic primary has just produced one of its first congressional candidates.

The Guardian has learned that Pete D’Alessandro, who helped guide the Vermont senator to a virtual tie with frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses, will announce a bid for Congress in Iowa’s third congressional district on Tuesday.

D’Alessandro is a veteran political operative who worked on campaigns for Paul Wellstone, Bill Bradley and a number of Iowa Democrats before becoming Bernie Sanders’ first campaign staffer in Iowa in the summer of 2015.

The district is a swing seat comprising Des Moines, its suburbs and south-western Iowa. Obama won the district twice before Donald Trump edged out Hillary Clinton in 2016. D’Alessandro will seek to challenge Republican David Young in 2018. A two-term incumbent, Young was a longtime Republican aide on Capitol Hill before being elected to Congress.

In a statement to the Guardian, D’Alessandro said: “For the past several months, progressives throughout Iowa’s third congressional district have contacted me and have asked me to consider running for the US House of Representatives. The many offers of support have been humbling. It is clear that a great many people believe it is not possible to change the clutter in Washington DC if we choose our candidates from the same failed pool that we have in the recent past.”

D’Alessandro’s bid represents a key test for the electoral prospects of Sanders’ allies. The seat has long been a political battleground and is expected to be once again in 2018 as Democrats try to regain their majority in the House of Representatives. Although several candidates who tied themselves to Sanders ran in special election in California’s 34th district in March, that district is safely Democratic.

D’Alessandro’s race will mark a key measuring stick if the progressive message pushed by Sanders works in what is expected to be a competitive congressional primary and potentially in a swing district in November.

Young already lost a major ally in March when a Super Pac tied to House speaker Paul Ryan pulled out of his district after Young announced his opposition to the American Health Care Act, the ultimately unsuccessful Republican effort to repeal Obamacare. The group spent nearly $2m on Young’s behalf in 2016.


Arkansas executions: US supreme court won’t block first of two scheduled deaths | US news

The US supreme court has refused to block the first of two scheduled Arkansas lethal injections in one night, clearing the way for the execution of Jack Jones at 7 pm local time.

Earlier, the Arkansas supreme court had denied stays of execution to both men scheduled for execution Monday evening, which would be the first double execution in more than 16 years.

Jones and Marcel Williams are set to die in what would be the second and third executions in Arkansas this month. The last state to put more than one inmate to death on the same day was Texas, which executed two people in August 2000.

The state supreme court decision is just the latest in a string of legal setbacks for the inmates. A federal judge on Friday rejected their request to stop the executions over their health concerns. Two federal judges ruled against the inmates in separate cases on Sunday.

One denied a stay of execution to Williams, saying that the eighth circuit court of appeals had jurisdiction in the case. Another federal judge denied the inmates’ request for changes to the rules for witnesses to view the executions.

After the setback in a lower court, both inmates on Sunday asked the appeals court to halt their executions based on their poor health.

Lawyers for Jones say he suffers from diabetes and is on insulin, has high blood pressure, neuropathy and had one leg amputated below the knee. He is on heavy doses of drugs they say could prevent the lethal injection sedative midazolam from working and lead to a “tortuous death”.

Williams’s lawyers say he weighs 400lb and it will be difficult to find a vein for lethal injunction, so the drugs are unlikely to work as intended.

Arkansas set an aggressive plan to execute several inmates before one of its lethal injection drugs expires at the end of April.

Ledell Lee was executed last week in the first use of capital punishment in Arkansas since 2005. The Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, originally scheduled four double executions over an 11-day period in April.

The eight executions would have been the most by a state in such a short period since the US supreme court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The state said the executions needed to be carried out before its supply of the sedative midazolam expires on 30 April.

Courts have blocked four of the eight scheduled executions. A supplier of one of the drugs used has sued the state, claiming it was misled over the sale of its product.

Williams was sent to death row for the 1994 rape and killing of 22-year-old Stacy Errickson, whom he kidnapped from a gas station in central Arkansas. Authorities said he abducted and raped two other women before he was arrested over Errickson’s death. Williams admitted responsibility to the state parole board last month.

“I wish I could take it back, but I can’t,” he said.

Jones was given the death penalty for the 1995 rape and killing of Mary Phillips. He strangled her with the cord to a coffee pot. In a letter earlier this month, Jones said he was ready to be killed by the state.

“I forgive my executioners; somebody has to do it,” wrote Jones, who had a leg amputated in prison because of diabetes and uses a wheelchair.

The letter, which his attorney read aloud at his clemency hearing, went on to say: “I shall not ask to be forgiven, for I haven’t the right.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report


US considers banning laptops on flights from UK airports | US news

The Trump administration is considering barring passengers flying to the US from UK airports from carrying laptops, sources have told the Guardian.

The proposed ban would be similar to one already imposed on travellers from several Middle Eastern countries.

British officials understand that their US counterparts are looking at extending the ban – which prevents any devices larger than a smartphone being taken as carry-on luggage – to flights from Europe.

One Whitehall source suggested to the Guardian that although it was not certain that the ban would be extended to the UK, the US was considering doing so.

The US government unexpectedly imposed the ban in late March for flights from 10 airports in the Middle East.

Passengers must stow their devices in checked-in baggage on flights from the affected airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

All are close US allies and none are covered by the Trump administration’s attempts to ban travellers from six other mostly Muslim nations.

Hours after sending a “confidential” edict from the US Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to airlines, the Trump administration hastily arranged a press briefing to explain that the ban had been imposed after “intelligence” emerged that terrorists favoured “smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items”. The TSA directive is understood to be valid until 14 October.

It was not immediately clear why US authorities might want to extend the ban on taking electronic devices such as tablets, e-readers and laptops to flights from European airports.

Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Homeland Security, said: “We’ve said we will continue to evaluate the threat environment and make determinations based on that assessment, but we have not made any decisions on expanding the current restrictions against large electronic devices in aircraft cabins from selected airports.”

The UK has also banned electronic devices on flights from six countries: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey, with UK airlines including British Airways and easyJet among those affected.

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, denied that the UK ban on laptops implied that airport security in the countries affected meant their airport security was lax.

While the US ban applies to “anything larger than a smartphone”, the UK regulations give specific dimensions.

The bans sparked criticism from technology experts, who said the new rules appeared to be at odds with basic computer science.

Nicholas Weaver, researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, said last month: “It doesn’t match a conventional threat model. If you assume the attacker is interested in turning a laptop into a bomb, it would work just as well in the cargo hold.”

Restricting electronic devices to checked baggage for flights from the Middle East has been a commercial boost to US carriers at the expense of their Gulf rivals, which include Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

US airlines have long contended that the three fast-growing carriers benefit from unfair government subsidies – with which American, Delta and United cannot compete – and have lobbied the Trump administration to intervene. All three Gulf airlines consistently deny that they receive such benefits.

However, extending the restriction would potentially hit US airlines, given the volume of traffic across the Atlantic to airports such as Heathrow. American airlines operate a relatively small number of flights to destinations in the Middle East.

Some Middle Eastern airlines have resorted to lending tablets to business and first-class passengers and allowing them to check devices at the gate, rather than the check-in counter.

Anushka Asthana, Sabrina Siddiqui and Gwyn Topham contributed to this report


Canada’s Tim Hortons coffee chain to open first UK shop in May | Business

Canadian company Tim Hortons is to open its first UK coffee shop in May, entering the crowded but still growing British market for food and drink on the go.

Promising to bring its “signature coffee, delicious food and Canadian charm” to the UK, the chain’s first UK coffee shop – also its first foray in Europe – will be on Argyle Street in central Glasgow, with further outlets planned in other city centre locations around the country.

The company is seeking to cash in on the UK’s fast-growing coffeemarket – where it faces intense competition from major players such as Starbucks and Costa, independent chains and low-cost operators.

Tim Hortons – known for its red and white vintage-style branding – was founded in 1964 by its namesake (Miles “Tim” Horton), a professional ice hockey player who wanted to create cafes where everyone would feel at home.

Since then the brand has grown to become an ingrained part of Canadian culture, dominating its home market with locations in nearly every city and small town. It clams eight out of 10 cups of coffee sold across Canada are served at Tim Hortons, which is owned by Restaurant Brands International.

A recent report from Mintel showed the UK retail coffee market was worth just £137m in 1997, but by 2016 it had grown to an estimated £3.4bn. Almost £1bn of this growth has come since 2011 alone, making the UK an attractive proposition for international coffee shop chains.

Jonny Forsyth, Mintel’s global drinks analyst, said Tim Hortons faced challenges in terms of timing. “Competition has become incredibly intense and there are now simply too many brands in competition with each other,” he said.

“For example, Starbucks has announced disappointing results recently and is under threat from the growth of trendy independent coffee shops at the top end and also lower-priced, non-specialist operators such as JD Wetherspoon and Greggs.

“We are also starting to see inflation outstripping wage growth, which means UK consumers will have less disposable income in the lead-up to Brexit.”

Tim Hortons president Elias Díaz Sesé said: “Great Britain is a nation of coffee lovers, so we’re confident Tim Hortons will continue to be a leader in the quick service restaurant sector across the pond.”

Forsyth said a major obstacle for Tim Hortons was that “it is little known outside of its native Canada, something which explains why it also struggled to make inroads on the US coffee market in recent years”.

Tim Hortons’ signature freshly brewed drip coffee – medium roast and guaranteed to be served no more than 20 minutes after brewing – will be on sale in the UK. But British palates may find another Tim Hortons favourite in Canada, the “double-double” coffee served with two portions of cream and two sugars, a step too far.