The $10 trillion resource North Korea can't tap

North Korea may not have proved petroleum reserves, but it’s estimated that the secluded belligerent nation sits on reserves of more than 200 minerals—including rare earth minerals—worth an estimated up to $ 10 trillion.

Of course, there are no official reports on how much North Korea’s mineral wealth really is, but according to rough estimates from earlier this decade, Pyongyang’s deposits of coal, iron ore, zinc, copper, graphite, gold, silver, magnesite, molybdenite, and many others, are worth between $ 6 trillion and $ 10 trillion, as per South Korean projections reported by Quartz.

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US President Donald Trump © Brendan Smialowski

Before the fall of the USSR, North Korea had prioritized mineral mining and trade with fellow communist partners. But the mining industry has been in decline since the early 1990s, due to decades of neglect and lack of funds for infrastructure development to support mining activities.

Now North Korea’s mining sector trade is under a full ban by the UN, as Pyongyang has stepped up both nuclear missile tests and belligerent rhetoric in recent months. The UN started banning trade in metals last year, but there have been reports that Kim Jong-Un’s regime has grown increasingly inventive in circumventing sanctions.

The UN introduced last month a full ban on coal, iron, and iron ore, after having banned trade in copper, nickel, silver, and zinc in November last year. China also implemented the coal import ban, cutting off an important economic lifeline of the regime. Coal trade has generated over one billion US dollars in revenue per year for North Korea, the US Department of Treasury said at the end of August, when it slapped sanctions on Russian and Chinese entities for supporting the regime.

On Monday, following North Korea’s latest nuclear test on September 2, the UN Security Council banned the supply, sale, or transfer of all condensates and natural gas liquids, and banned Pyongyang’s exports of textiles such as fabrics and apparel products. The latest sanctions, however, are not imposing a full oil embargo as the US called for in recent weeks. The sanctions instead are capping refined petroleum products and crude oil supply, after the US dropped its demand for full oil ban, to avoid China vetoing the UN resolution.

All the sanctions leading to Monday’s strongest prohibitions so far have been designed to stifle North Korea’s trade in minerals and cut off money for the regime.

North Korea has staked mostly on coal mining, the cheapest and easiest to mine, compared to precious metals or rare earth metals mining, for which Pyongyang has neither the funds nor the infrastructure or know-how to develop.

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North Korea has sizeable deposits of some minerals. Its magnesite reserves are the second largest in the world behind China, and its tungsten deposits are likely the sixth-largest in the world, Lloyd R. Vasey, founder and senior adviser for policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), wrote in April this year. North Korea sits on sizeable deposits of more than 200 different minerals, and “all have the potential for the development of large-scale mines”, Vasey said.

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. © Yuri Gripas

North Korea doesn’t have either the funds or the infrastructure to develop those resources. It’s also officially banned to export them.

Yet, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is flouting sanctions through trade in prohibited goods, with evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication,” a UN report of a panel of experts from February this year concluded.

“Diplomats, missions and trade representatives of the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea systematically play key roles in prohibited sales, procurement, finance and logistics. In particular, designated entities are trading in banned minerals, showing the interconnection between trade of different types of prohibited materials,” the panel’s report reads.

According to UN experts—as of February this year—North Korea had adapted to the stricter sanctions “through various tactics, including identity fraud.”

“Their ability to conceal financial activity by using foreign nationals and entities allows them to continue to transact through top global financial centres,” according to the report.

Read more on Aramco Valuation Comes Under Scrutiny

According to a more recent investigation by ABC Four Corners, North Korea has business interests in Asia, the Middle East, and even Europe, contrary to the common perception that it is a very isolated country. Office 39—one of the departments of its Workers’ Party—is “the ultimate slush fund”, reportedly generating up to US$ 1.6 billion annually for Kim’s lavish lifestyle, while 70 percent of people are food insecure.

“North Korea is very sophisticated in concealing the fact that it is, indeed, North Korea doing business overseas. It’s good at hiding in plain sight,” Andrea Berger, Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), told the program.

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Clinton compares herself to Cersei in Game of Thrones

In her new book “What Happened”, Hillary Clinton compared the vitriol she faced on the campaign trail to Cersei Lannister’s walk of atonement in the hit TV series Game of Thrones.

In a passage contemplating the role sexism played in her failed presidential bid, Clinton wrote, “Crowds at Trump rallies called for my imprisonment more times than I can count.”

“They shouted, ‘Guilty! Guilty!’ like the religious zealots in Game of Thrones chanting, ‘Shame! Shame!’ while Cersei Lannister walked back to the Red Keep,” Clinton wrote.

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Hillary Clinton signs copies of her new book, “What Happened” at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on Union Square on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. (Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)

(Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)

In Season 5, Cersei was stripped and marched through the streets of King’s Landing as citizens jeered and threw garbage at her.

Actress Lena Headey told Entertainment Weekly there was a part of her that was “f—ing terrified” getting in the character’s mindset to film the emotional public shaming scene.

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Patrons fall in line to purchase Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new book “What Happened” at Barnes & Nobles located at 33 East 17th Street in Manhattan on Tuesday September 12, 2017. (Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News)

(Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News)

“I can’t even imagine people wanting your blood. Cersei has done wrong, but she doesn’t really deserve this,” Headey said.

In her memoir, Clinton said she was taken aback by the “flood of hatred” she faced in the run-up to election day, saying she was “one of the most admired public servants in America” after her tenure as Secretary of State.

She wrote, “Now people seemed to think I was evil…Was this all because I’m a woman? No. But I believe it was motivation for some of those chanters and some of that bile.” 

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Porn star Cory Chase doesn’t ‘like’ Sen. Ted Cruz

For the porn star that went viral on Sen. Ted Cruz’s Twitter account, the “like” is not mutual.

Veteran erotic entertainer Cory Chase was oblivious to the lawmaker’s supposed fandom because Hurricane Irma took her home offline when it raged through southern Florida over the weekend.

She discovered a deluge of tweets, calls and texts informing her of the after-dark viewing on Cruz’s account when she powered up her phone Tuesday morning.

“With his stance against the porn industry and adult entertainment, I’m not a fan of Ted Cruz,” the 36-year-old actress told the Daily News. “But I’m happy to see that he could be a fan of mine though.”

Sen. Ted Cruz blames staffer for porn video blunder

The Texas pol denied liking the titillating porno, a two-minute clip of the 36-year-old actress portraying an voyeuristic stepmother walking in on a couple’s living room romp.

Sen. Ted Cruz denied liking a raunchy porno shared to Twitter.

Sen. Ted Cruz denied liking a raunchy porno shared to Twitter.

(Cliff Owen/AP)

Cruz said one of his staffers was to blame for the inadvertent click.

“I do hope he enjoys the video if he watched it,” Chase said.

Chase is skeptical that Cruz was behind the subtle endorsement because of his push for conservative legislation. The traditionally pious lawmaker tried banning sex toy sales as the Texas solicitor general in 2007. During his failed White House bid, Cruz boasted that he watched pornography alongside former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for a case.

Ted Cruz dodges saying who liked pornographic video on Twitter

Some Twitter users speculated the married father of two was drawn to Chase for similarities to Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz.

The infamous "like" of a two-minute porno clip appeared on Sen. Ted Cruz

The infamous “like” of a two-minute porno clip appeared on Sen. Ted Cruz’s Twitter account early Tuesday.

(@TedCruz via Twitter)

“I could see the resemblance,” Chase said.

If Cruz was behind the carnal like, Chase said the senator would be her first politician to openly enjoy her work spanning 13 years.

“You never know if someone has a pseudonym,” she added.

Ted Cruz’s college roommate dishes the dirt on Texas Senator

Nicol Jenkins reported from Florida

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Embattled de Blasio donor to testify against Norman Seabrook

A big-time donor to Mayor de Blasio, expected to testify in an upcoming public corruption trial, is more deeply involved in criminal activity than the government lets on, new court papers claim.

Jona Rechnitz, who quietly admitted to giving campaign contributions in exchange for favors, is set to take the stand against former Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association honcho Norman Seabrook, as well as Murray Huberfeld, the onetime head of Platinum Partners hedge fund.

Huberfeld’s lawyers believe the feds have information that Rechnitz “knowingly participated” in a wholesale ticket business scam, they said in court papers Monday.

This bogus wholesale stubs business involves Jason Nissen, who was hit with one wire fraud count in May for allegedly duping investors out of $ 70 million.

Despite info from wiretaps, a “secret recording” of Nissen and emails, prosecutors continue to resist the idea Rechnitz was Nissen’s “apparent co-conspirator,” Huberfeld’s lawyers argue.

Jona Rechnitz, whow was arrested as part of a corruption probe.  (Photo by Baruch Ezagui)

Jona Rechnitz, whow was arrested as part of a corruption probe. (Photo by Baruch Ezagui)

(Baruch Ezagui/Baruch Ezagui)

The lawyers also said they believe Rechnitz didn’t tell the feds about it when he started coming clean — and that they learned about it from Nissen instead.

Seabrook, 57, is accused of accepting a $ 60,000 kickback to push $ 20 million in union pension funds toward Platinum Partners, which has since gone belly up.

Seabrook and Huberfeld, 56, face conspiracy and wire fraud charges in the alleged bribery scheme.

Both Rechnitz and Nissen’s lawyers declined to comment.

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North Korea sanctions ‘nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen’ – Trump

Donald Trump has expressed doubt that the new sanctions on Pyongyang will have “any impact,” but said it was “nice” of UNSC to unanimously approve the US-drafted resolution watered down to accommodate Russian-Chinese concerns.

“We think it’s just another very small step, not a big deal,” Trump told reporters at the start of his meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“I don’t know if it has any impact, but certainly it was nice to get a 15-to-nothing vote, but those sanctions are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen,” said Trump, according to Reuters.

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. © Yuri Gripas

The US has still not ruled out a military option to halt North Korea’s nuclear development, the White House confirmed Tuesday.

“The President is committed to taking every step and keeping all options on the table in order to have a denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

After a number of last minute compromises, China and Russia went on to support the latest round of sanctions against Pyongyang Monday. The ninth set of punitive UNSC measures against the communist regime fell significantly short of the far-reaching consequences the Trump administration had demanded following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test earlier this month.

Instead of banning oil imports altogether, the sanctions authorized an annual cap of 2 million barrels of refined petroleum products to North Korea. The sanctions also place a limit on crude oil exports to the communist regime at current levels. The UNSC also imposed a ban on the country’s textile exports, North Korea’s second-biggest export.

In addition, the UNSC empowered countries to inspect ships going in and out of North Korea’s ports but did not authorize the use of force to conduct such searches as the Trump administration had originally proposed.

Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, told the UNSC that while Moscow does not endorse North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, it doubts whether sanctions will achieve the desired results to bring peace and stability to the Korean peninsula.

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South Korean and U.S. Marines take positions as amphibious assault vehicles of the South Korean Marine Corps fire smoke bombs during a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang, South Korea © Kim Hong-Ji

Nebenzia stated that Moscow will continue push for the implementation of the so-called Chinese-Russian “double-freeze” proposal, which calls for Pyongyang to suspend its nuclear and ballistic missile tests in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korea military drills.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Tuesday morning that the points laid out in the dual track approach are practical methods to solve the Korean crisis.

“We called on the relevant parties to work with China to push for dialogue and negotiation and make joint efforts to realize peace and stability on the Peninsula,” he said.

Washington has so far rejected the proposal, saying that it has every right to conduct exercises with its ally, South Korea. Instead, for now, the US is trying to pressure China to exert more influence on its communist neighbor.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin threatened Tuesday to impose economic sanctions on China if it does not implement the new sanctions regime against North Korea.

Pyongyang has rejected the new set of punitive measures, repeating its warning issued just ahead of the Security Council meeting that it will be forced to retaliate using “ultimate means.”

“My delegation condemns in the strongest terms and categorically rejects the latest illegal and unlawful UN Security Council resolution,” North Korean Ambassador to the UN Han Tae Song said in Geneva Tuesday.

Han noted that Washington is “fired up for political, economic, and military confrontation.” Until the threat from Washington is diminished, N. Korea is “ready to use a form of ultimate means.”

“The forthcoming measures by DPRK will make the US suffer the greatest pain it ever experienced in its history,” the ambassador added.

No sanctions will make North Korea change its policies, Pyongyang’s ambassador to Moscow meanwhile noted.

“We have lived under US sanctions for decades. Under the harshest of sanctions. But we have acquired everything we wanted to. If the US hopes that our position would be shaken and changed, that is an illusion,” Kim Yong-jae told Russian media.

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‘5 decades of de-development’: UN report blasts Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands

A new strongly-worded UN report has slammed the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, calling Israeli settlement activity a “major obstacle” to the economic development of the Palestinian territories and a huge stumbling block to a two-state solution.

Israel fought the Six-Day War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria in June 1967. Following the defeat of the Arab forces, Israel redrew the boundary lines, seizing East Jerusalem, the West Bank from the Jordanians, the Golan Heights from Syria, as well as the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.

Over the next five decades, Israel went on to impose its rule over the Palestinians in the occupied lands, considered illegal under international law. The issue remains at the heart of negotiations for a two-state solution.

The pre-1967 borders are still the primary reference point in any discussions for a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Instead of the hoped-for two-State solution envisaged by the United Nations and the international community, occupation is currently even more entrenched, while its complex socio economic toll has worsened over time,” the report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), reads.

The strong-worded report described Israel’s occupation as “five decades of de-development.” UNCTAD further said that Israel has since 1967 steadily “suppressed” the human potential of the Palestinians and denied them the “right to development.”

Recalling the December 2016 UN Security Council resolution demanding an end to the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories, UNCTAD reminded Tel Aviv that the settlements have “no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of international law.”

READ MORE: UNSC passes resolution demanding end to Israeli settlement building on occupied Palestinian land

Following the passage of Resolution 2334, Israel suspended its multimillion dollar contribution to a number of UN bodies. The government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu also defiantly embarked on an aggressive settlement expansion course.

READ MORE: Netanyahu halts Israeli funding of UN bodies in revenge for ‘crazy’ resolution

This year, Israel “intensified the expansion of settlements and housing units in the occupied West Bank,” the report noted. “Further plans have been announced to build more than 5,000 new housing units and for the retroactive legalization of 4,000 units in settlements and outposts.” 

The report also revealed that in 2016, housing construction in the settlements was 40 per cent higher than in 2015, directly impacting on the demographics in the region.

“In recent years, the settler population growth rate has not only surpassed the rate in Israel but also the growth rate of the Palestinian population,” the report said. It added that the settler population has “more than doubled” since 1995, and currently stands at between 600,000 and 750,000 people.

In addition to pointing out the construction of new homes for Jewish settlers, the report also expressed concern over the demolition of Palestinian homes.

“In 2016, more Palestinian structures were demolished in the West Bank than in any other year,” the report stated. Israel demolished or seized 1,094 Palestinian structures resulting in the displacement of over 1,600 Palestinians, half of whom were children, the document said.

Palestinians in the West Bank remain subject to “many forms of violence by settlers,” who in turn are offered preferential treatment, the UN report said.

“There are two parallel legal systems in the occupied West Bank, namely the domestic law of Israel with more guarantees for defendants is applied to Israeli settlers, while Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law. Restrictions on the freedom of movement and access of Palestinians continue to be stringent near settlements,” UNCTAD said.

The UN body argues that restrictions on movement has a “direct impact” on the economy, employment and poverty.

The report also noted a steady decline in Palestinian gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the last 20 years and the theft of Palestinian natural resources by Israel.

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Here's how Hope Hicks has outlasted most other Trump aides

Hope Hicks will become the third White House communications director since President Trump took office eight months ago.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Hicks being named to the job permanently Tuesday.

Unlike predecessors Mike Dubke and Anthony Scaramucci, the 28-year-old media guru has been one of the few people considered untouchable within Trump’s inner circle.

She’s worked with the real estate family for roughly five years, and has moved up the ranks through its company and on the campaign.

Mueller wants to talk to Spicer, Priebus and other WH aides

Hicks, a longtime Trump confidant, is one of the youngest members of the President

Hicks, a longtime Trump confidant, is one of the youngest members of the President’s inner circle.


That carried over into the White House, where she joined the press team and earns the top salary available: $ 179,700.

But she’s mostly avoided the spotlight among a team of rivals often at the center of media attention.

That could be why she’s now one of the longest-serving aides Trump has counted on since he launched his campaign more than two years ago.

Hicks’ appointment, which was announced alongside other members joining Trump’s communications team, was lauded by former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who tweeted his congratulations on Tuesday.

Hope Hicks named interim White House communications director

Like the Trumps, she doesn’t have a political background

The Greenwich, Conn., native played lacrosse during her four years at Southern Methodist University. She was also a model who did shoots for Ralph Lauren and an offshoot book based off the show “Gossip Girl.”

Hicks modeled and played lacrosse before moving into PR.

Hicks modeled and played lacrosse before moving into PR.

(Little Brown and Company)

Hicks first started working with the Trumps in 2012, when she went to go work for Hiltzik Strategies, which represented the Trump Organization.

She joined the Trump Organization two years later, focusing on Ivanka Trump’s fashion line.

Hicks even modeled one of the now-first daughter’s dresses in April 2015.

W.H. shakeup shows Trump taking matters into his own hands

Hicks was conscripted into the campaign

Despite the many staff shakeups during Trump’s whirlwind campaign, Hicks was one of the few mainstays during its year-and-a-half run.

Maybe that’s because she didn’t have much of a choice. Trump called her to his office at Trump Tower to deliver the news, according to a 2016 New York Times profile of Hicks.

“Mr. Trump sat her down and said, ‘This is your new job,'” her mother, Caye Cavender Hicks, told the newspaper. “It was a shocker.”

Despite reportedly being a registered Republican since 2008, she had never worked on a campaign before. She lived in a Trump-owned apartment during the marathon presidential bid.

All the times Trump and associates denied collusion with Russia

Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told her she couldn’t work for both the campaign and the company, so she had to pick one, according to a GQ profile.

When she quit the campaign, aides recalled Lewandowski saying: “You made a big f—–g mistake; you’re f—–g dead to me.”

Trump convinced her to stay, however.

Hicks stays quiet — she doesn’t even tweet

One of the reasons Hicks might’ve survived while so many others have been fired might be because she lets all the media attention stay on the President.

White House releases salaries of staffers; 22 earn nearly $ 180G

Making off-hand remarks or giving off-the-rails interviews have been the undoing of veterans like Scaramucci and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

But Hicks is rarely heard speaking. Aside from addressing a Trump rally after the former real estate mogul won office, she’s hardly given an interview.

And her Twitter account, with more than 10,000 followers, has only three tweets — two retweets of the President and another of First Lady Melania Trump.

She’s one of the youngest people to hold the job

At 28 years old, Hicks is the youngest person to hold the position since it was created in 1969.

Mar-a-Lago employee reportedly working for Trump team overseas

Dan Bartlett — who ran the White House media shop for four years under George W. Bush — previously held the record. He became communications director in October 2001 at age 30.

Hicks will also be the 10th woman to hold the position, not counting those who filled the role in an acting capacity.

Hicks, seen exiting Air Force One, has remained quiet and let the President be himself.

Hicks, seen exiting Air Force One, has remained quiet and let the President be himself.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Hicks lets Trump be himself, and will defend him no matter where she is

She’s often considered one of Trump’s closest confidants, along with his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Hicks was the lone White House staffer at a July interview with the New York Times in which the President went off on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sean Spicer upset that Trump did not let him meet Pope Francis

At other times she’ll keep the commander-in-chief on message. Hicks was quoted three times in a May interview the President gave with the Economist in which she tried to keep him on track.

The tradition goes back long before the White House.

Trump would often dictate tweets for Hicks to send out from his well-followed Twitter account during the campaign, New York magazine reported in April 2016.

And she’s gone on the defensive even beyond borders.

Devout Catholic Sean Spicer doesn’t attend Trump-Pope meeting

The weekend after Trump was elected, she overheard some people expressing their displeasure about his victory at a family wedding in Bermuda.

“I promise, he’s a good person!” she told the group, according to Politico.

hope hicks
donald trump

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Trump admin waives more environmental laws to expedite border wall construction in California

The US Department of Homeland Security has waived another set of environmental laws that would impede construction of President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the US-Mexico border, this time specifically near Calexico, California.

On Tuesday, DHS issued a waiver to bypass some environmental laws in order to “ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads” along the US border near Calexico, California.

The waiver will allow DHS to bypass certain federal laws, regulations and other legal requirements in order to speed up construction along a three-mile segment of the border, which stretches west from the Calexico West port of entry. The project also involves the department replacing two miles of the existing fence along the border with a new bollard wall.

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A worker stands next to a newly built section of the U.S.-Mexico border © Jose Luis Gonzalez

The waiver covers border infrastructure projects in the US Border Patrol’s El Centro Sector, which the DHS said is “a critical sector for border security.”

“The El Centro Sector remains an area of high illegal entry, and replacing the existing fencing, which was built in the 1990s and no longer meets the Border Patrol’s operational needs, is a high priority,” the department said in a statement.

The Sierra Club issued a statement that said the waiver would allow the Trump administration to ignore 28 federal laws from the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Dan Millis, the Sierra Club Borderlands Campaign coordinator, said the waiver “leaves border communities without the protections that other Americans count on every day.”

“Wiping away decades-old laws along the border achieves nothing more than unnecessarily harming local communities, wildlife, and wild places,” Millis said in a statement. “It is irresponsible for the Trump Administration to ignore this nation’s most effective laws to deliver an extremist agenda.”

DHS claims that in the fiscal year 2016, US Border Patrol apprehended more than 19,400 undocumented immigrants and seized 2,899 pounds of marijuana and 126 pounds of cocaine in the El Centro Sector alone.

In August, the department issued a similar waiver to expedite construction along a 15-mile segment of the border wall near San Diego.

Trump, who made the border wall one of his major campaign issues, issued an executive order in January, directing DHS to begin construction of the wall along the US-Mexico border.

In Tuesday’s announcement, the department said the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) grants the DHS “authority to waive all legal requirements that the Secretary, in his sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure the expeditious construction of the barriers and roads.”

Under federal law, the government is generally required to conduct environmental impact studies when building on public land. The department said the waiver will eliminate their obligation to comply with “a variety of environmental, natural resource, and land management laws.”

However, the department vowed to remain “committed to environmental stewardship with respect to these projects.”

“DHS has been coordinating and consulting – and intends to continue doing so – with other federal and state resource agencies to ensure impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the extent possible,” the agency said.

Between 2005 and 2008, DHS issued a waiver to expedite construction of the border wall under former President George W Bush. The waivers were challenged in court several times, but each time, a federal court upheld the exercise of waiver authority as constitutionally valid. The Supreme Court also declined to review the issue on two separate occasions.

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Russia sends 4,000 tons of pipes, cables & machinery in reconstruction aid to Syria – MoD

Russia is preparing to send more than 4,000 tons of materials and over 40 pieces of construction equipment to Syria to help the war-torn country in its multibillion-dollar reconstruction effort.

The shipment of industrial aid that is currently being readied for dispatch will consist of “more than 40 units of construction equipment,” such as bulldozers, excavators and cranes, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. In addition, the country will receive “over 2 thousand tons of metal pipes” that would be used to restore water infrastructure as well as “hundreds of kilometers of high-voltage and fiber-optic cables” to restore electricity and communications lines.

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Troops of the Syrian 5th Army Corps join Syrian army units in the south of Deir ez-Zor following the breaking of the ISIL blockade at the main entrance to the city in the south. © Sputnik

The construction material, which will be shipped from the port of Novorossiysk, will be used to restore “critical infrastructure” to those areas that have been recently freed from terrorist fighters, the Defense Ministry said, adding that hospitals and schools remain the priority.

The announcement of Russia’s industrial aid support followed the meeting between Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus Tuesday. With roughly 85 percent of Syrian territory cleared from terrorist fighters with the help of the Russian air force, Shoigu and Assad discussed military cooperation and joint actions against jihadists.

Just before flying off to Damascus, Shoigu sent a letter to the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, urging the UN to speed up humanitarian efforts as people across Syria are in dire need more than 1,000 tons of food and also over 80 tons of medicine.

Moscow and Damascus, along with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) have recently been focusing on delivering aid to the former besieged residents of Deir ez-Zor, who are now recovering from three years of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) tyranny. In addition to food, medicine, and other supplies, Russia has also sent a team of sappers to demine the provincial capital which was liberated from the jihadist encirclement last week.

“Upon the directives of President Bashar al-Assad, tens of trucks, loaded with food, medical, educational, petroleum and basic materials were sent to be distributed to the families who have resisted the terrorist organizations,” the Governor of Deir Ez-zor Mohammad Ibrahim Samrah told Sana Tuesday.

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© Syrian President's press service

With most of the territory in Syria under Damascus’ control, crushing the remaining pockets of terrorist resistance is just a matter of time. As Syrian forces continue to liberate the remaining 15 percent or roughly 27,000 square kilometers that is still controlled by the terrorists, reconstruction of the country will soon be the priority of President Assad.

After six years conflict, substantial resources is required to rebuild Syria. The World Bank estimates that apart from the human capital lost in the war, the country will need billions of dollars to support reconstruction efforts. Funding might prove a challenge though, considering the economic sanctions placed on the Syrian government by the West.

“Estimates by the World Bank show that if a political solution is reached today and reconstruction begins, it will take 10 years for the Syrian GDP to get close to its pre-war (2010) real GDP level, if the economy grows by 5 percent on average,” World Bank’s latest semi-annual MENA Economic Monitor report stated. “Growing at lower than this rate i.e. at 3 percent growth rate, will delay the recovery by another 10 years.”

READ MORE: Damascus to buy Iranian power generators for devastated Aleppo

“The scale of destruction and forgone economic growth – the loss in GDP relative to the “no-war” counterfactual in Syria alone is estimated at $ 200-300 billion – means that substantial resources will be needed for post-conflict reconstruction,” the report added.

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Crooked domestic abuser Monserrate sees City Council hopes dashed

Convicted felon and disgraced former Queens politician Hiram Monserrate lost his comeback bid for a seat on the City Council Tuesday as voters in his working class Corona district couldn’t look past his sordid history of corruption and domestic abuse.

Monserrate was beaten by Assemblyman Francisco Moya after a mud-spattered campaign that included the National Organization for Women standing on the steps of City Hall urging voters to reject a man convicted of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

With all precincts reporting Tuesday night, Moya had 56% of the vote.

At a packed victory party in a pizza restaurant on 104th St. in the heart of Corona Tuesday night, Moya supporters cheered and waved signs as he gave a victory speech noting Monserrate’s attacks during the campaign taunting him for living with his parents.

“We endured a tough campaign, one that made it very difficult for my father and my mother. It was a nasty campaign,” Moya said to the cheering crowd. “Honesty and integrity won tonight.”

Monserrate was expelled from the state Senate in 2010 over charges he slashed his girlfriend’s face with a glass. He later pled guilty to a scheme to siphon taxpayer cash into his campaigns and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Moya — who beat Monserrate in an earlier race for Assembly — was endorsed by Mayor de Blasio, Gov. Cuomo and civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, and all seven City Council candidates currently running for speaker of the council. He was also backed by the district’s current Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who opted not to run for re-election.

The slugfest between Moya and Monserrate was the highest profile race in a primary season that also saw seven seats on the Council open up because of term limits, and a raft of state legislators make runs for higher-paid city posts.

Female lawmakers also worried their already diminished ranks would further shrink, since a majority of Council members facing term limits were women.

Disgraced ex-pol Hiram Monserrate will not make it back onto the New York City Council.

Disgraced ex-pol Hiram Monserrate will not make it back onto the New York City Council.

(DelMundo, Anthony freelance NYDN)

The primary victors will face voters again in November’s general election, but in most of the district’s the Democratic nominee is overwhelmingly favored. The current Council has 47 Democrats and just three Republicans.

In competitive races across the city:

-In East Harlem and the south Bronx, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito aggressively pushed her aide Diana Ayala as her successor, but she faced stiff competition from Bronx Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez. The race was too close to call Tuesday night.

-State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. — a firebrand social conservative known for his opposition to gay marriage — won the primary for an open seat in the Soundview section of the Bronx over City Council staffer Amanda Farias and former de Blasio aide Elvin Garcia.

-Bronx Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, who shelled out more money than any Council candidate on record in his quest to take over the Throggs Neck and Pelham Bay seat being vacated by Jimmy Vacca, was locked in a too close to call race against district leader Marjorie Velazquez, who got Vacca’s backing.

-Carlina Rivera won the primary for her former boss Rosie Mendez’s seat in the East Village and Lower East Side, easily defeating a field of rivals.

-On the upper East Side, former lobbyist and state legislative staffer Keith Powers won over a crowded field to replace term-limited Councilman Dan Garodnick.

-In Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Justin Brannan ran for the Council seat being vacated by his former boss, Vincent Gentile, and defeated Rev. Khader El-Yateem, a Democratic socialist seeking to become the first Arab American on the Council. The district also saw a competitive Republican primary where Senate aide John Quaglione beat former Congressional staffer Liam McCabe and supermarket manager Bob Capano, which could pave the way for a heated contest in November.

"We endured a tough campaign, one that made it very difficult for my father and my mother. It was a nasty campaign," Moya said to the cheering crowd. "Honesty and integrity won tonight."

“We endured a tough campaign, one that made it very difficult for my father and my mother. It was a nasty campaign,” Moya said to the cheering crowd. “Honesty and integrity won tonight.”

(Danielle Maczynski/New York Daily News)

– Alicka Ampry-Samuel, a former Assembly chief of staff, beat out Henry Butler, a community board district manager and Democratic club leader and the rest of a crowded field for the Brownsville, Brooklyn seat being vacated by Darlene Mealy.

-After ex-Queens Councilman Ruben Wills was booted from office when he was convicted on corruption charges, county party favorite Adrienne Adams jumped into the race to replace him. She scored a close win against community board member Richard David and attorney Hettie Powell.

-Kalman Yeger faced no competition in the Democratic primary in Borough Park, Brooklyn, because the timing of current Councilman David Greenfield’s decision not to run again allowed him to annoint his own successor. But he’ll face an independent bid by Yoni Hikind, the son of Assemblyman Dov Hikind, in November.

-Ronnie Cho, a former Obama White House staffer who attracted high profile support but on Monday had to backtrack from a claimed endorsement by Yankee great Derek Jeter, came in third — trailing Rivera and attorney Mary Silver.

No Council incumbents were knocked off as of 10:30 Tuesday night, but Councilwoman Margaret Chin led just 46% to 44% in a too close to call race against Christopher Marte.

Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo prevailed over Ede Fox, who rode a wave of anger over development and gentrification in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights — and the controversial Bedford Armory project -four years after losing to Cumbo in 2013, but fell short. Cumbo still faces a Green Party challenger in November.

In another rematch, upper West Side Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal defeated Mel Wymore, a community board member who was aiming to become the first transgender Council member.

Brooklyn Councilman Carlos Menchaca beat out Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and ex-Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez, who was trying to reclaim her old Sunset Park seat. 

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