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- Reuters Investigates - Assets of the Ayatollah
Among other things, this is clearly a real-estate/property-rights issue. We won't pass judgment on the articles because it is all but impossible to know just how "political" the articles in the three-part series are.As you know, the US says it suspects Iran may have a nuclear-weapons-development program while Iran says it is only interested in nuclear energy and nuclear medicine. Economic sanctions against Iran have been applied in an attempt to force Iran to open up for thorough, on-going monitoring and perhaps to back away from 20% enrichment.
We can say that Setad appears hardly transparent. We were also familiar with the issue of freedom of religion in Iran. It is true that those of the Bahai faith are certainly treated as less than second-class citizens. Iran is a fairly strict Islamic dictatorship that hates the Bahai faith and has gained financially at the expense of the members of that faith. There's no point in not acknowledging it.
Should people who hold a certain religious belief and who are otherwise apparently functioning in society as nearly everyone else, with no ill-intent, be stripped of their property solely because of their religious beliefs?
We used to have deed restrictions in the US that allowed owners to legally block the sale of property to people who were not white, etc.
Where should the lines be drawn so that people may freely exercise their religious beliefs while others are protected from any serious ill-effects?
"The Iranian government did not respond to a request for comment."
The following is an extensive excerpt, but as mentioned, it's a three-part series and the articles are long.
Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh, and Yeganeh Torbati report:
Part 1: A Reuters investigation details a key to the supreme leader's power: a little-known organization created to help the poor that morphed into a business juggernaut worth tens of billions of dollars.
The 82-year-old Iranian woman keeps the documents that upended her life in an old suitcase near her bed. She removes them carefully and peers at the tiny Persian script.
There's the court order authorizing the takeover of her children's three Tehran apartments in a multi-story building the family had owned for years. There's the letter announcing the sale of one of the units. And there's the notice demanding she pay rent on her own apartment on the top floor.
Pari Vahdat-e-Hagh ultimately lost her property. It was taken by an organization that is controlled by the most powerful man in Iran: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. She now lives alone in a cramped, three-room apartment in Europe, thousands of miles from Tehran.
The Persian name of the organization that hounded her for years is "Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam" — Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam. The name refers to an edict signed by the Islamic Republic's first leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, shortly before his death in 1989. His order spawned a new entity to manage and sell properties abandoned in the chaotic years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Setad has become one of the most powerful organizations in Iran, though many Iranians, and the wider world, know very little about it. In the past six years, it has morphed into a business juggernaut that now holds stakes in nearly every sector of Iranian industry, including finance, oil, telecommunications, the production of birth-control pills and even ostrich farming.
The organization's total worth is difficult to pinpoint because of the secrecy of its accounts. But Setad's holdings of real estate, corporate stakes and other assets total about $95 billion, Reuters has calculated. That estimate is based on an analysis of statements by Setad officials, data from the Tehran Stock Exchange and company websites, and information from the U.S. Treasury Department.
Just one person c ontrols that economic empire — Khamenei. As Iran's top cleric, he has the final say on all governmental matters. His purview includes his nation's controversial nuclear program, which was the subject of intense negotiations between Iranian and international diplomats in Geneva that ended Sunday without an agreement. It is Khamenei who will set Iran's course in the nuclear talks and other recent efforts by the new president, Hassan Rouhani, to improve relations with Washington.
Minority report: Why Baha'is face persecution in Iran
The supreme leader's acolytes praise his spartan lifestyle, and point to his modest wardrobe and a threadbare carpet in his Tehran home. Reuters found no evidence that Khamenei is tapping Setad to enrich himself.
But Setad has empowered him.
- Detroit Billionaire Goes On Real Estate Buying Binge | NPR Media Player
Sarah Hulett reports:
Despite the bankruptcy, parts of downtown Detroit are going gangbusters, and that's in large part because of one guy. Online mortgage mogul Dan Gilbert has bought up 40 buildings and counting. He's filling those buildings — some of which used to be vacant — with new businesses. But some residents are wary of his expanding reach in the city.
We'd have liked to hear exactly what the critics would have done differently. We aren't saying they are right or wrong. We don't have enough info.
We can say that Dan Gilbert has acted as a capitalist concerning what we assume were buildings for sale to such capitalists. He's still had to operate in a regulated environment. Where would the critics like to see the lines drawn and why? That's what we don't know from this NPR report.
The US is a mixed economy, a mix of capitalism and public government. Is Dan Gilbert not playing by the rules? Until there is hard evidence to the contrary, we have no reason to believe he isn't playing by the rules to the best of his ability.
Oligarchy versus democracy is an important debate in political economy. Let's hear it. Let's be able to be fully informed so we may properly weigh the path forward.
- Real estate experts say local 'mini-bubble is over' | Bakersfield Now
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The real estate market in Bakersfield is "in recovery" and trending toward "stabilizing prices." That's the view of long-time analyst Gary Crabtree. He said the market is changing from a sellers' advantage to a buyers' advantage, though others see opportunities for both.
"You might say the mini-bubble is over," Crabtree told Eyewitness News on Monday. "We should see some transition back into a normal market."
- China Vows Bigger Role for Markets as Party Closes Summit - Businessweek
Kevin Hamlin and Xin Zhou report:
China elevated the role of markets in the nation's economic strategy while stopping short of unveiling detailed policy shifts, after President Xi Jinping oversaw a gathering of Communist Party leaders in Beijing.
More details on decisions from the plenum will probably be released within a week after the meeting, Macquarie Capital Securities Ltd. said in a report Nov. 11.
State media had heralded the meeting as a "watershed" for reform, putting it in the same category as 1978's third plenum. That's when former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping broke with three decades of Maoism and introduced pro-market policies that paved the way for growth averaging 10 percent a year.
"What we have seen from the plenary's communique is broad principles," said Ramin Toloui, Pacific Investment Management Co.'s co-head of emerging-markets portfolio management in Singapore. "The devil will be in the implementation -- how those principles are translated into specifics and a timetable for action."
The communique also announced the party's determination to draw a "red line" to protect the environment, after years of economic expansion have polluted China's soil, water and air. China will also reform its judicial system to protect people's rights, it said.
- Germany 'rips off' the world: Posen
Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, discusses Germany's record-high export surplus and tells CNBC why it is not a positive.
- Builder Confidence in the 55+ Housing Market Shows Continued Improvement in Third Quarter - Multifamily News Headlines — Breaking News, Stories, Top Headlines :: MultifamilyBiz.com
WASHINGTON, DC - Builder confidence in the 55+ housing market showed continued improvement in the third quarter of 2013 compared to the same period a year ago, according to the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) latest 55+ Housing Market Index (HMI) released. All segments of the market—single-family homes, condominiums and multifamily rental—registered strong increases. The single-family index increased 14 points to a level of 50, which is the highest third-quarter number since the inception of the index in 2008 and the eighth consecutive quarter of year over year improvements.
- Dennis Gartman: 'Massive top' in bond market
"I think that we've seen a massive top taking place here," Dennis Gartman said. "I think you have to be selling the bond market at the long end of the curve. I think we have a long-term change in the sentiment in the bond market, and I think you have to be a seller of it."
On CNBC's "Fast Money," he said that the nomination of Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen to succeed Chairman Ben Bernanke could coincide with the end of a 31-year bull market.
Well, we think jobs and wages are the issues. We don't see enough movement there. We've all seen that the adult-employment rate is down around 58%. The Fed knows that and will handle QE accordingly; but unless they stop pushing on a string and rather start charging interest on excess reserves or take some other strong measure(s), it might remain a rather hollow, jobless recovery: slow.
Source ... https://www.cnbc.com/id/101188715
- Texas (nearly) tops for commercial real estate - Prime Property
Nancy Sarnoff reports:
Nationwide, development and construction of new commercial real estate contributed $303.4 billion to the economy — up 16 percent from the year earlier — and supported about 2.3 million jobs, marking the second year that the sector posted gains since 2007.
While the industry as a whole is recovering, the report's author expressed concerns about the future.
"These gains and planned projects face a difficult economic road as current changes in fiscal policy and decreases in federal spending threaten the current projections of increased GDP growth and job creation through 2015," Stephen Fuller, a professor at George Mason University said in a statement.