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Wednesday briefing: Trump runs up against a brick wall

Top story: Trump’s wall stalls

The Mexican government has seized on Donald Trump’s problems with his border wall. Apparently emboldened by the president’s failure to squeeze money out of Congress for his pet project, the Mexican finance minister, Luis Videgaray, declared it a “hostile” plan and “absolute waste of money” that Mexico will never agree to pay for. “Under no scenario will we contribute economically to an action of this kind,” Videgaray said.

In another setback for Trump, a federal judge has blocked his attempt to cut off funding to “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with authorities trying to round up undocumented immigrants. The White House responded with typical fury.

And there has been more censure of Michael Flynn. Both a senior House Republican and a Democrat investigating Trump’s short-lived national security adviser say he probably broke the law by taking money from Russia and Turkey without declaring it. The White House has refused to provide documents to help with the oversight committee’s inquiries.

Free schools are anything but – Developers are gouging the Department for Education on the price of land for free schools that end up being poorly planned and short of facilities, a damning report has found. The cross-party public accounts committee says implementation of the government’s free schools agenda is “increasingly incoherent and too often poor value for money”. New schools are being established where there is spare capacity, while other areas are being left struggling to meet demand for places. Meanwhile existing schools are crumbling and need £7bn spent to bring them up to scratch, the Tory-dominated committee of MPs says.

Fat in the fire – A row has erupted between heart experts over whether saturated fat clogs the arteries. An editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine argues there is no correlation with cardiovascular diseases, and calls for a “Mediterranean diet” with some nuts and olive oil plus a good walk every day. Some doctors have warned that the authors selectively quote research and oversimplify a complex area of medicine: one rigorous study found cutting down on saturated fat reduced cardiovascular events by 17%. But others have lent their support: “Walking 22 minutes a day and eating real food. This is an excellent public health message,” said Dr Mary Hannon-Fletcher from Ulster University.

Landslide or avalanche? On the general election front, there seems more than a hint of tactical bluff to Theresa May’s warning that voters should not take predictions of a resounding Tory victory for granted. The PM is delivering that line as Conservatives go after the traditional Labour heartlands of Wales. Jeremy Corbyn’s party has apparently managed to settle differences, or at least call an election truce, over free movement of EU labour post-Brexit, agreeing it will have to stop. Polly Toynbee, meanwhile, says Labour needs to reach for the sandbags or be reduced to a shadow of its former self.

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Trial by Fitbit – A husband’s alibi about his wife’s killing is being tested by the data from her wearable device. Richard Dabate told police a masked assailant attacked him in their house, took his gun and shot his wife as she arrived home from the gym. But Connie Dabate’s Fitbit showed she had been home and moving around the house for some time before she was killed. Richard Dabate is on trial for murder in a Connecticut court. He tried to claim her life insurance and had a pregnant girlfriend.

Pop-up pontiff – Pope Francis has sent a ripple through the internet by giving a surprise TED Talk in Vancouver via video link.

Speaking from the Vatican, the pope suggested technology was all well and good but it should bring about equality and social inclusion rather than leaving people behind. And he said the greater the power held by the world’s leaders, the greater their duty to “act humbly … if you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other”.

Lunchtime read: Battle for Instagram’s favourite beach

The resort of Tulum, on the Mexican Caribbean, looks idyllic in the pictures – but it has turned unwelcoming for some of the new-age entrepreneurs who came there to found a profitable paradise of meditation, yoga and alternative therapies for rich hippies.

A string of evictions stemming from murky land ownership has left people like the founders of Uno Astrolodge turfed out on the street by thugs who brandish court orders obtained by profit-seeking developers. Rachel Monroe explores how a clash of the spiritual and the monetary varieties of enrichment led to the collapse of a dream.


Maria Sharapova returns to competitive tennis today for the first time in more than a year but many including her opponent in Stuttgart, Roberta Vinci, do not approve of her presence so soon after a drugs ban, writes Kevin Mitchell.

Normal service has resumed at Chelsea after a recent hint of a stagger was checked with a 4-2 win over Southampton that manager Antonio Conte hailed as a “psychological step” in the club’s pursuit of the Premier League title. At the Crucible in Sheffield, Ding Junhui produced a sparkling display to lead Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-6 in their world championship quarter-final.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has confirmed it undertook a review of its child safeguarding procedures in the wake of the revelation that a child sex offender had worked at a children’s cricket association with the ECB’s written permission. And England selectors have stuck to their long-term plans with the announcement of the squad for their Champions Trophy challenge later this year, writes Vic Marks.


The Asian markets are still on a post-French election roll with stocks extending gains for a fifth consecutive day. The MSCI – the broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan – rose 0.3%, while the numbers were also up in Japan and Australia.

Reuters reports that the Nasdaq Composite hit a record high on Tuesday, while the Dow and S&P 500 brushed against recent highs.

The pound was buying US$1.28 and €1.17 overnight.

The papers

Ivanka Trump’s Berlin meeting with Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde makes the front pages of the Guardian, the Times and the Telegraph, but each leads on a different story: the Guardian on that critical report about “wasteful” free schools; the Times on improved borrowing figures; and the Telegraph on news that a Brexited Britain could be paying EU bills until 2020.

The Scotsman has an exclusive that all police officers are to be fitted with body cameras, while the Express and the Mirror lead on the latest in the continuing search for Madeleine McCann as the 10th anniversary of her disappearance approaches. Meanwhile, the Sun has what it’s calling a “new PR disaster for United Airlines” but is in fact the death of a large rabbit in a cargo hold.

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