Forced repatriation to Afghanistan: ‘We didn’t think it would happen to us’

An estimated million refugees will return from Pakistan and Iran this year, despite Afghanistan still being plagued by conflict and unemployment

Afghanistan is starkly different from what Masooma had imagined. She was just a little girl when her family fled the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s. They left everything they owned behind to look for sanctuary in Pakistan and she has few memories of the place.

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Trump travel ban will hit Iranian critics of regime hardest, analysts warn

Last year 12,269 Iranian students studied at US universities, mostly at MA or PhD level; they and academics are likely to be the main victims of the revised order

Donald Trump’s revised executive order – which keeps a blanket travel ban on all Iranians – will punish a segment of Iranian society that is largely critical of the country’s regime, academics and analysts have warned.

The US president modified his previous travel ban on Monday by excluding Iraq from a previous list of seven predominantly Muslim countries. But nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are still subjected to restricting measures that include a suspension of visa issuance for at least 90 days.

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The Ethiopian boomtown that welcomes water firms but leaves locals thirsty | William Davison

Business in the Sululta district of Ethiopia’s Oromia region is burgeoning. So why, despite abundant rainfall, does half the population have no access to fresh water?

Towards the end of the day at the Abyssinia Springs bottled water factory near Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, workers hose down the car park liberally. Outside the gates, residents of the Sululta area trudge along the road with empty yellow jerrycans that they will fill from muddy wells and water points.

Over the past decade, the town in Oromia region has attracted plenty of investment. A Chinese tannery, steel mills, water factories and hotels have sprung up.

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Ahmadinejad and Trump on Twitter are a match made in heaven | Saeed Kamali Dehghan

Iran’s former president wrote a letter to Trump recently. Having had no reply, he’s begun tweeting. What could possibly go wrong?

Less than two months into his presidency, Donald Trump has already outperformed his Iranian rival in demagoguery, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, making him look like a novice. No wonder the two-term president thinks he has some catching-up to do.

Related: Iran's Ahmadinejad joins Twitter despite ban

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Sports Direct to put workers’ representative on board after scandals

Retailer’s founder, Mike Ashley, bows to pressure following criticism over corporate governance and its treatment of workers

Sports Direct has kickstarted the process of appointing a worker representative to its board after caving into shareholder demands to change the way the company is run.

The sports retailer founded and run by Mike Ashley has opened the application process for the first regular staff member to sit on the board as it attempts to clean up its image after a series of scandals.

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The House of Lords: like an 80s reunion from beyond the grave | Peter Bradshaw

One great spin-off from the Brexit debate is the re-emergence of faded politicos we never expected to see again

The Lords’ intervention in the Brexit debate is very welcome. But there’s something very ghostly and ectoplasmic about it, like an 80s reunion party from beyond the grave. People you never expected to see on television ever again loom up out of the screen, like Jacob Marley, moaning and wailing. Thatcher veteran Norman Fowler – renowned before this as the author of history’s most crashingly dull political memoir, Ministers Decide – is now a smallscreen star once more as Lord Fowler, leader of the upper house, reading out the number of “contents” with headmasterly disapproval. Norman Tebbit is back in our living rooms, having his say on the fatuous absurdity of caring about foreigners. And Europhile Michael Heseltine counters him on principle, sacrificing his government job in the process.

Related: Michael Heseltine says Brexit is 'man-sized' task for Theresa May

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Yan Wang Preston’s best photograph: a Chinese village’s ancient tree – sold for $25,000

British-Chinese artist Yan Wang Preston has won the Syngenta award 2016/17 for her topical response to the theme Grow/Conserve: ‘I had seen the tree in its original village, covered with leaves. The hotel that bought it broke two cranes trying to replant it’

The first time I shot this tree was in March 2013, while I was working on a project to photograph the entire length of the Yangtze river at 100km intervals. I stopped in at a tiny village called Xialiu in Yunnan Province. The first thing I noticed was this beautiful tree. Locals said it was probably more than 300 years old, as old as the village. It was a hot, sunny place, so people really needed its leafy branches to rest under.

The village had gorgeous big courtyards full of lush plants and decorated walls. The houses were white with black-tiled roofs and flying eaves. There were several other ancient trees, but half of the village had been demolished. A dam on the Yangtze was being built nearby, so Xialiu would soon be flooded. I managed to take a couple of pictures, but I was exhausted. I had spent all my money and even been bitten by a dog.

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Social care crisis is about more than money | Bob Hudson

Philip Hammond’s emergency funding has not changed the issues the sector faces – social care is at tipping point and needs a long-term strategy

Slowly, grudgingly, the funding crisis in adult social care has forced itself on to the Tory policy agenda. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has proposed an additional £2bn of funding in the budget, to be spread over three years, with half of that available in 2017-18.

But what will be done with this increased investment? At best it will be sucked up to meet new obligations on the “national living wage”; at worst, some of it will disappear into higher salaries and dividends for chief executives and owners of the private companies running services.

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Late 2018 could be best time for new Scottish referendum, says Sturgeon

Scottish first minister says best time for new poll would be when shape of Brexit deal becomes clear – but says no decision has been made

Nicola Sturgeon has agreed that autumn 2018 could be “the commonsense time” to hold a second Scottish independence referendum if she decides to call one.

The first minister told a BBC documentary on Brexit the best time for staging it would once the shape of the UK’s deal to leave the EU became clear. But Sturgeon stressed she had not yet made that decision.

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Hammond rejects charge that budget broke Tory manifesto promise

Chancellor says rise in national insurance contributions for self-employed is fair as he seeks to calm critics from his own party

Philip Hammond has insisted the government will press ahead with its plan to increase national insurance contributions (NICs) for the self-employed, as he defended his most prominent budget measure against charges it broke a manifesto promise.

In a series of interviews on Thursday morning, the chancellor argued that the proposal to unify NICs for the employed and self-employed was fair and did not renege on the Conservatives’ 2015 election pledge.

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UK in worst decade for pay growth for 210 years, says thinktank

Budget figures show families will miss out on £12,000 of pay growth by 2020, reports Resolution Foundation

The UK is in the midst of the worst decade for pay growth since the Napoleonic wars two centuries ago, according to the Resolution Foundation.

In a grim assessment of the new budget forecasts, the thinktank said families would miss out on £12,000 of pay growth by 2020, the worst decade for 210 years.

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Michaelia Cash pressured to release report on work for the dole tragedy

Teenager Josh Park-Fing fell from a flatbed trailer during rubbish-collecting assignment at Toowoomba showgrounds

The employment minister, Michaelia Cash, has come under renewed pressure to release a report into the death of a teenage work for the dole participant in Queensland.

Josh Park-Fing, 18, fell from a flatbed trailer as it was towed by a tractor during a rubbish-collecting assignment at the Toowoomba showgrounds in April. He suffered critical head injuries and died on the way to the hospital.

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Too close for comfort: campaign aims to give cyclists safe space

Cycling UK is raising funds to replicate nationwide a West Midlands police initiative that teaches drivers how to overtake cyclists safely

More than 2 million Britons cycle every day, and about 6.6 million ride at least once a month. For most of these people, the cycling infrastructure will be poor and they will be on the road mixing with traffic in all its forms where close passes will sadly be the norm.

According to findings from Dr Rachel Aldred’s Near Miss project, drivers overtaking cyclists too closely account for a third of threatening encounters that cyclists have with motor vehicles.

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The Conservatives promised change, but delivered more injustice | Aditya Chakrabortty

The party of entrepreneurs increases taxes on them. This budget’s contradictions will come to haunt Theresa May

Theresa May’s politics are at war with her very own policies. What she says is utterly undermined by what she actually does. No matter which way I look at Wednesday’s budget, that is the conclusion I end up at.

The prime minister vows “a change is gonna come”. Her chancellor delivers more of the same cuts. In No 10, they fret about “just-about-managing” families. In No 11, they make policies that, in their own budget analysis published yesterday, hit the just about managing harder than the rich. To Tory activists, May declares: “The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the rich and powerful, but by the interests of ordinary, working-class people.” To Tory MPs, Philip Hammond boasts about the cuts he is making to corporation tax. Indeed, flick through the red book and the single biggest giveaway it lists is the two successive reductions to taxes on big businesses, worth £18bn over the next five years. Compare that to the £2bn he’s coughed up for care for elderly people.

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‘Circumstances have moved on’ – Hammond defends breaking Tory manifesto promise on NICs – Politics live

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen, including reaction to the budget, Philip Hammond and John McDonnell’s morning interviews and the IFS press conference

Q: Would you put NICs up again for the self-employed?

Hammond says he has got the system into a better place.

Hammond says he faces extremely challenging circumstances.

Q: You could use that as a reason for admitting you have not kept your promise?

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Spicer’s confusing response to Trump investigation question – video

White House press secretary Sean Spicer is asked at a press briefing on Wednesday whether President Donald Trump is the target of a counterintelligence investigation. Spicer first says ‘we need to find out’ as there is ‘a lot of concern’, then subsequently circles back to clarify ‘there is no reason to believe’ the president is the target of any investigation

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Southwold: welcome to the town where business rates are set to rise 177%

The seaside town is to be the place worst hit by the government’s proposed business rate hike, but the locals aren’t taking it lying down

When shop owners in the seaside town of Southwold warn of the “tragic” and “catastrophic” consequences of steep increases in business rates, it is tempting to assume that their campaigning zeal might be nudging them towards hyperbole. But fuelling this powerful, coordinated local protest is a real, widely-shared fear that a projected increase of 177% in business rates could ruin the town permanently.

There was only muted relief among shop owners on Wednesday in response to the announcement by Philip Hammond of some interim softening of proposed rates rises, which removed the immediate prospect of huge new bills from the small businesses along the high street. There was no celebration because the longer term threat to the survival of the town’s independent businesses has not been removed.

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Cutting tax, clawing back disability benefits: Hammond’s plan is familiar | Frances Ryan

The chancellor is about to cut Personal Independence Payments for sufferers of severe anxiety and depression. Because mental distress can’t be disabling – can it?

Ahead of the budget, Philip Hammond boasted he would do “whatever it takes” to rebuild the British economy. That, apparently, includes denying disabled people benefits. Theresa May’s own policy chief, George Freeman, is keen to sell the new rules for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) as “tweaks” rather than cuts – but look at the small print. This is the sort of “tweak” that’s worth £3.7bn.

Buried on the day two byelection results were announced, and hushed up in the budget, this month the government is set to quietly overturn two tribunal rulings on PIP, including one that found people with extreme anxiety should be given the same status as those who are blind.

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Centrelink’s use of 10% debt recovery fee could be unlawful, welfare groups say

‘Robo debt’ recovery system charged 97,300 welfare recipients the fee in the last six months of 2016 alone

Centrelink’s indiscriminate use of a 10% recovery fee on welfare debts could be unlawful, welfare rights groups believe.

The “robo debt” system slugged almost 97,300 Australians with a 10% recovery fee in the last six months of 2016. The fee has been applied to two of every three debts raised under the robo debt system.

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