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Judge orders permanent halt on construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall at four high priority sites

Judge orders permanent halt on construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall at four high priority sitesA federal judge on Friday expanded a ban on construction of President Donald Trump’s signature southern border wall that would have used money secured under his declaration of a national emergency, but that Congress never approved for the purpose.US District Judge Haywood S Gilliam Jr, of Oakland, California, blocked construction on four of the administration’s highest-priority projects on the US-Mexico border spanning 79 miles near El Centro, California, and Tucson.The Pentagon had moved to fund the projects using $ 1.5bn (£1.18bn) transferred into a Defence Department counter-drug programme from military pay and training accounts.In his order granting a permanent halt on the construction, Mr Gilliam also cleared the path for an immediate appeal.Mr Gilliam last month in part of the same case temporarily stopped another $ 1bn (£787 million) transfer for work on stretches totalling 50 miles in eastern New Mexico and Yuma, Arizona.But he signalled then that environmentalists and border communities covered in Friday’s ruling were likely to prevail in their claims that the administration illegally shifted money that Congress never intended or approved for the wall.Mr Gilliam last month cited “Congress’ ‘absolute’ control over federal expenditures – even when that control may frustrate the desires of the executive branch”, and on Friday saw no reason to reverse course.“Defendants do not have the purported statutory authority to reprogram and use funds for the planned border barrier construction,” Mr Gilliam wrote.He acknowledged the government’s “strong interest in border security”, but said: ”Absent such authority, defendants’ position on these factors boils down to an argument that the Court should not enjoin conduct found to be unlawful because the ends justify the means. No case supports this principle.”Mr Gilliam’s latest 11-page opinion delivered a victory to the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had argued the wall would irreparably harm “recreational and aesthetic interests” in desert expanses that include national monuments, wildlife refuge and reserves and rivers, they said.Together with the US Justice Department, both sides had asked Mr Gilliam to speed up his ruling and enter final judgment so one of the president’s signature initiatives could quickly go before the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment late on Friday.However, earlier in the day, attorneys for the Justice Department and ACLU notified Mr Gilliam that the government had said it planned to move ahead by Monday on the El Centro and Tucson border barrier projects and asked Mr Gilliam if he intended to rule before then, so if he didn’t they could file emergency motions over the weekend.In all, Mr Gilliam’s rulings blocked $ 2.5bn (£1.97bn) of the $ 6.7bn (£5.28bn) that the administration planned to transfer for the effort beyond the $ 1.375bn (£1.08bn) Congress allotted last winter.When Congress declined to sign off on spending at the levels sought by the president, Mr Trump eventually declared a national emergency in February to redirect mostly military-designated funding to pay for the project.Mr Gilliam said the administration’s plan to transfer counter-drug funding appeared to be illegal because the law the administration invoked applies only to “unforeseen” needs, whereas Trump had demanded funding since early 2018 and even in his campaign.“We applaud the court’s decision to protect our Constitution, communities, and the environment today,” said Gloria Smith, managing attorney at the Sierra Club.“Walls divide neighbourhoods, worsen dangerous flooding, destroy lands and wildlife, and waste resources that should instead be used on the infrastructure these communities truly need.”“Congress was clear in denying funds for Trump’s xenophobic obsession with a wasteful, harmful wall,” said Dror Ladin, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project.“This decision upholds the basic principle that the president has no power to spend taxpayer money without Congress’s approval.”On a separate legal challenge to wall funding, US District Judge Trevor McFadden in Washington DC, in May tossed out a lawsuit by the Democrat-led House of Representatives to block the spending transfers, arguing that President Trump unconstitutionally diverted appropriated funds in violation of Congress’s power of the purse.The House has appealed that case to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.Washington Post



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A look at sites hit by Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka

A look at sites hit by Easter Sunday bombings in Sri LankaCOLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Easter Sunday bombings were Sri Lanka's deadliest violence since the country's civil war ended a decade ago. Six near-simultaneous blasts targeted churches and luxury hotels in and near Colombo, the capital. A look at the sites targeted:



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UN chief visits mosque, stresses sanctity of religious sites

UN chief visits mosque, stresses sanctity of religious sitesNEW YORK (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres went to the first mosque built in New York City on Friday to show solidarity with the Muslim community, urging people everywhere "to reaffirm the sanctity of all places of worship and the safety of all worshippers."



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New Zealand gunman entranced with Ottoman sites in Europe

New Zealand gunman entranced with Ottoman sites in EuropeBELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — The white supremacist suspected in the mosque shootings that left at least 50 people dead in New Zealand had traveled to the Balkans in the past three years, where he toured historic sites and apparently studied battles between Christians and the Ottoman empire.



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France steps up security near religious sites after New Zealand attacks

France steps up security near religious sites after New Zealand attacksFrench authorities have stepped up security measures near religious sites after deadly attacks against two mosques in New Zealand left 49 people dead, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Friday. “Patrols will be held around religious sites,” Castaner said on his official Twitter account. At least one gunman killed 49 people and wounded more than 20 during the Friday prayer at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in an act that was qualified as terrorism by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.



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Israel hits Hamas sites after balloons with 'explosive device'

Israel hits Hamas sites after balloons with 'explosive device'Israeli aircraft have struck two Hamas observation points in the Gaza Strip, a security source said Sunday, after the army reported balloons carrying an “explosive device” were sent toward Israel. The strikes occurred after a “cluster of balloons carrying an explosive device was launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory,” the Israeli army said in a statement.



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Facebook, Twitter remove fake news sites in Bangladesh ahead of election

Facebook, Twitter remove fake news sites in Bangladesh ahead of electionFacebook and Twitter said on Thursday they had removed accounts and fake news pages linked to the Bangladesh government that had posted anti-opposition content, days ahead of an election in the South Asian nation. Facebook, Bangladesh’s most popular social network with an estimated 30 million users, said it had removed nine fake news pages “linked to individuals associated with the Bangladesh government” which mimicked those of independent news outlets. Bangladesh’s interior minister, Assaduzzaman Khan, said action would be taken against people behind the fake accounts.



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'Waste Land' — 67 Superfund sites across 45 states

'Waste Land' — 67 Superfund sites across 45 statesWith the support of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985, American photographer David T. Hanson traveled to 67 Superfund sites across 45 states that represented a cross section of industries whose practices have decimated the environment. Now, the full series has been published for the first time in 'Waste Land' (Taverner Press, September 2018).



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'We Do Not Support This Conduct.' PayPal Joins the Growing Number of Sites to Ban InfoWars

'We Do Not Support This Conduct.' PayPal Joins the Growing Number of Sites to Ban InfoWars'We do not support this conduct'



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Major US tourist sites in path of Hurricane Florence

Major US tourist sites in path of Hurricane FlorenceFrom Charleston’s colonial mansions with finely-crafted balustrades, to fragile Outer Banks beaches, to exalted centers of American history, the tourism-heavy US East Coast is facing a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Florence. The full force of Florence is threatening the city’s colonial structures, cobblestone streets and dozens of bohemian bars and cafes, which delight the region’s five million annual visitors. A direct hit on Charleston could shock the area’s $ 4.2 billion tourism industry, which employs more than 47,000 people.



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