On lower Rio Grande, a glimpse at the border Trump wants


On lower Rio Grande, a glimpse at the border Trump wants

ROMA, Texas

Stymied by Congress and the courts, President Donald Trump has struggled to make good on his signature campaign promises to build a wall and stop migrants. But there is at least one place where his vision is becoming reality: the sinuous lower Rio Grande Valley, scene of more unauthorized crossings than any other stretch between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week, as Texas National Guard troops were taking up positions on the state’s southern edge at Trump’s request, the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection told lawmakers that the agency hopes to award contracts by September for border wall construction near where the Rio Grande meets the Gulf. And the U.S. government’s efforts to identify and begin the seizure of private land along the river “are well underway,” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told a congressional subcommittee last week.

Last month, Congress rejected Trump’s request for up to $25 billion to build the full length of his coveted wall, but he did win funding for 33 miles of barriers in the Rio Grande Valley.

And while the Guard will eventually withdraw, a wall could change the region forever.

Storm blasts central US with snow, ice and wind, killing 3

MINNEAPOLIS

A storm system stretching from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes buffeted the central U.S. with heavy winds, rain, hail and snow, forcing flight cancellations, creating treacherous road conditions and killing at least three people, including a sleeping 2-year-old Louisiana girl.

In the Upper Midwest, the early spring storm brought snow to a region pining for sunshine and warmth. More than 200 flights were canceled Saturday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and blizzard conditions forced the airport in South Dakota’s biggest city, Sioux Falls, to remain closed for a second- straight day.

The Minnesota Twins home game against the Chicago White Sox at Target Field was also snowed out Saturday, marking the first back-to-back postponements of baseball games in the stadium’s nine seasons. The Yankees and Tigers were rained out Saturday in Detroit.

Authorities closed several highways in southwestern Minnesota, where no travel was advised, and driving conditions were difficult across the entire southern half of the state. The National Weather Service predicted that a large swath of southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, would get 9 to 15 inches of snow by the time the storm blows through today, though only a few inches had fallen on the area as of midday Saturday.

“It’s a cool experience for me, the best Minneapolis experience,” said Niko Heiligman, of Aachen, Germany, who braved the snow to take a walk along the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. “I’m only here for the weekend, so I guess that’s how it goes. There’s snow, and it’s cold. So it’s good.”

South Africa bids farewell to Madikizela-Mandela

JOHANNESBURG

Tens of thousands of people sang, cheered and cried as the flag-draped coffin of anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was escorted from her official funeral Saturday, after supporters defended her complex legacy with poetry and anger.

Thunder rumbled, and it began to rain as the coffin left the 40,000-seat stadium – a blessing, witnesses said.

Heads of state joined the five-hour celebration of the powerful figure who will be buried as a national hero following lively debate over how she should be remembered after her death April 2 at age 81.

Often called the “Mother of the Nation” and “Mama Winnie,” Madikizela-Mandela fought to keep South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle in the international spotlight while her husband, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned.

Gun-rights advocates rally at several state capitols across US

DOVER, Del.

Gun-rights supporters – many carrying rifles and ammunition – gathered at state capitols across the U.S. on Saturday to push back against efforts to pass stricter gun-control laws that they fear threaten their constitutional right to bear arms.

From Delaware to Wyoming, hundreds gathered at peaceful protests to listen to speakers who warned that any restrictions on gun ownership or use eventually could lead to a ban on gun ownership, which is guaranteed under the Second Amendment.

“If you have a building, and you take a brick out every so often, after a while you’re not going to have a building,” said Westley Williams, who carried an AR-15 rifle as he joined about 100 people braving blustery weather in Cheyenne, Wyo., for a pro-gun-rights rally in front of the state supreme court building.

Dave Gulya, one of the organizers of a rally in Augusta, Maine, said about 800 people showed up to make the point that “we are law-abiding.”

Saturday’s protests were planned in dozens of state capitols less than three weeks after hundreds of thousands marched in Washington, New York and elsewhere to demand tougher gun laws after the February school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17. Organizers of those protests demanded a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and called for universal background checks on potential gun owners.

GOP devotes $250M to midterm strategy: Keep House majority

WASHINGTON

The Republican National Committee has committed $250 million to a midterm election strategy that has one goal above all else: Preserve the party’s House majority for the rest of President Donald Trump’s first term.

Facing the prospect of a blue wave this fall, the White House’s political arm is devoting unprecedented resources to building an army of paid staff and trained volunteers across more than two dozen states. The RNC is taking the fight to Senate Democrats in Republican-leaning states, but much of the national GOP’s resources are focused on protecting Republican-held House seats in states including Florida, California and New York.

“Our No. 1 priority is keeping the House. We have to win the House,” RNC political director Juston Johnson said. “That is the approach we took to put the budget together.”

RNC officials shared details of their midterm spending plan with The Associated Press just as several hundred volunteers and staff held a day of action Saturday in competitive regions across the country. The weekend show of force, which comes as Democrats have shown a significant enthusiasm advantage in the age of President Donald Trump, was designed to train 1,600 new volunteers in more than 200 events nationwide.

Town wants UFO memorial moved; witness objects

SHEFFIELD, Mass.

A memorial in a remote corner of Massachusetts that marks a 1969 UFO sighting has been ordered moved, but one man who experienced a close encounter is objecting.

The 5,000-pound memorial in Sheffield was installed in 2015, but was moved about 30 feet a few weeks later when it was discovered it was on town land.

Now, Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard tells The Berkshire Eagle it has to be moved again because it’s on a town right-of-way easement.

That’s not sitting well with Thom Reed. He was 9 when he, his mother, grandmother and brother saw what he described as a “self-contained glow” that flooded their car with an amber light. About 40 people in several surrounding towns reported the strange light.

Reed is threatening legal action.

Associated Press

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