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The weakening of Morocco’s state institutions worsens the political logjam

As the Moroccan state itches for an exit from the Rif stalemate, the breaking of genuine compromises seems uncomfortable. True, street protests have abated in Al-Huceima due to a police crackdown and mass surveillance, while activists have faced defamation, imprisonment, transfer to Casablanca and selective royal pardons. However, since key Hirak Rif leaders remain in prison, the seeds of public anger persist, aggravated by an activist’s death. The deep state’s irritation with the Hirak and discomfort over political activism within state institutions coincide. The traditional security approach is its answer to the mobilisation of the people. In contrast, the institutional culture, including the roles of the judiciary, executive and legislature, is marginalised. Elected politicians are eclipsed by para-institutional initiatives that […]

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Seven dead, dozens feared trapped in Mumbai building collapse

August 31, 2017 rbksa 0
Thu, 2017-08-31 10:31

MUMBAI: At least seven people died and dozens were feared trapped when a building collapsed in India’s financial capital of Mumbai Thursday, after days of heavy rain swamped the city.
Rescuers using diggers sifted through the remains of the four-story residential building which gave way around 08:40 am (0310 GMT) in the densely populated area of Bhendi Bazaar.
It was the latest deadly housing collapse to strike the teeming metropolis — shining a spotlight on poor construction standards in the Asian country — and came after heavy rains and inundations in the city killed 10 people.
An official in the control room of India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said seven bodies had been pulled from the rubble and that around 30 more were still thought to be trapped.
Ambulances rushed more than a dozen injured to the nearby J.J. Hospital in the south of the city while locals joined a 43-member NDRF team in picking through piles of debris in a desperate hunt for survivors.
“Seven people have died and 15 have been brought here injured, including five who are in a critical condition,” the dean of the hospital, T.P. Lahane, told AFP.
Building collapses are common in Mumbai, especially during the monsoon season from late June to September, when heavy rains lash the western Indian city.
Severe downpours began on Tuesday and caused flooding across Mumbai and the neighboring region of Thane.
The collapse came as officials said the death toll from the floods was expected to rise above 10, despite the waters receding after better weather.
“We are still on the lookout for more missing persons and the number may go up,” Santosh Kadam, spokesman for disaster control in Thane, told AFP.
Bhendi Bazaar, a scruffy colonial-era market, is one of Mumbai’s most historic districts.
It is currently undergoing a six-hundred-million-dollar redevelopment project that is set to replace hundreds of ramshackle, decades-old low-rise buildings with around a dozen glitzy new tower blocks.
Distraught residents described hearing a loud crash before rushing to the scene of the collapsed structure to try to help.
“There was a huge noise and we all came running,” Naseem Mogradia, who lives two lanes away, told AFP.
Shahid Khan, 52, said he didn’t know whether his friend and seven family members who lived on the ground floor were alive or dead.
“I am just trying to help with rescue operations,” he told AFP.
Mumbai has been hit by several deadly building collapses in recent years, often caused by shoddy construction, poor quality materials or aging buildings.
Millions are forced to live in cramped, ramshackle properties because of rising real estate prices and a lack of housing for the poor.
Activists say housing societies, private owners and builders often cut corners to save on costs. They also claim that corruption plays a part with officials sometimes knowingly certifying unsound buildings in return for money.
“Most of the buildings in Bhendi Bazaar are old and dilapidated. We always live in fear that they will collapse during monsoons,” 63-year-old Mohammed Shaikh told AFP.
In July, 17 people including a three-month-old baby, died when a four-story building gave way in the northern suburb of Ghatkopar.
In 2013, 60 people were killed when a residential block came crashing down in one of Mumbai’s worst housing disasters.

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Turkey: Many wounded in bomb attack

August 31, 2017 Middle East Monitor 0

A bomb placed in a garbage container exploded in Turkey’s Izmir province on the Aegean coast today, wounding several people on a shuttle bus, the private Dogan News Agency said. The local daily Sabah newspaper said the explosion took place at around 8am (05:00 GMT), adding that eight people on a shuttle bus were wounded. According to the Dogan, the bomb was detonated as the shuttle bus was passing by Ahmet Piristina Boulevard. Police have launched an investigation into the attack. Turkey has been rocked by a number of bomb attacks in recent years with thousands losing their lives. The separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the Turkish government, the US and EU list as a terrorist group, has been […]

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Mario Draghi’s Fatal Conceit

August 31, 2017 Tyler Durden 0

Authored by Thorstein Polleit via The Mises Institute,

On 23 August 2017, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB) gave a speech titled “Connecting research and policy making” at the annual assembly of the winners of the Nobel Price for Economics in Lindau, Germany. What Mr Draghi talked about on this occasion — and especially what he didn’t talk about — was quite revealing.

Any analysis of the causes of the latest financial and economic crisis is conspicuously absent from Mr Draghi’s remarks. One gets the impression that the crisis came basically unexpected, out of the blue. There is no mention of the role of central banks, the monopoly producers of unbacked paper (or: fiat) money, played for the crisis.

No word that central banks had for many years manipulated downwards interest rates — accompanied by an excessive increase in credit and money supply — causing an unsustainable “boom.” When the bust set in — triggered by the spreading of the US subprime crisis across the globe — the ugly consequences of this central bank monetary policy came to the surface.

In the bust, many governments, banks and consumers in the euro area found themselves financially overstretched. The economies of Southern Europe especially do not only suffer from malinvestment on a grand scale, they also found themselves in a situation in which they have lost their competitiveness.

Mr Draghi, however, doesn’t deal with such unpleasant details. Instead, he lets his audience know how well the ECB pursued a policy of “crisis solution.” His narrative is straightforward: Without the ECB’s bold actions, the euro area would have fallen into recession-depression, perhaps the euro area would have broken apart.

The analogy to such a line of argumentation would be praising a drug dealer, who provides the drug addict (who became a drug addict because of him) with just another shot. Repeated consumption of drugs does not heal but damages drug addict. Who would applaud what the drug dealer does? Likewise: would it be appropriate to praise the ECB’s action?

Mr Draghi presents himself as a fairly modest, intellectually ‘undogmatic’ central bank president stressing the importance of the insights produced by economic research for real life monetary policy making (thereby dutifully applauding the output of the economics profession). But the policy maker’s approach is far from being scientifically impartial.

Draghi’s Flawed Methods 

Today’s economics research – as it is pursued, and taught, by leading mainstream economists – rests on a scientific method that is borrowed from natural science and builds on positivism-empiricism-falsificationism. This approach, used in economics, does not only suffer from logical inconsistencies, its embedded skepticism and relativism has, in fact, has let economics astray. 

Under the influence of positivism-empiricism-falsificationism, economic theory – in particular monetary theory and financial market theory – has become the intellectual stirrup-holder of central banking, legitimizing the issuance of fiat money, the policy of manipulating the interest rate, the idea of making the financial system ‘safer’ through regulation.

In this vein, Mr Draghi praises especially the independence of central banks — for it would shield central bankers from destabilizing political outside influence. One really wonders how this argument — one-sided as it is — could find acceptance, especially in view of the fact that independent central banks have caused the great crisis in the first place.

The Central Bank’s Many Friends

Why is there hardly any public opposition to Mr Draghi’s narrative? Well, a great deal of experts on monetary policy — coming mostly from government sponsored universities and research institutes — tends to be die-hard supporters of central banking. The majority of them would not find any fundamental, that is economic or ethic, flaw with it.

These so-called “monetary policy experts,” devoting so much time and energy for becoming and remaining an expert on monetary policy, unhesitatingly favor and accept without reservation the very principles on which central banking rests: the state’s coercive money production monopoly and all the measures to assert and defend it.

The upshot of such a mindset is this: “Once the apparatus is established, its future development will be shaped by what those who have chosen to serve it regard as its needs,” as F.A. Hayek explained the irrepressible expansionary nature of a monopolistic government agency – like a central bank.

Experts, keenly catering to the needs of the state and the banks, will make monetary policy increasingly complex and incomprehensible to the general public. Just think about the confusing abbreviations the ECB uses such as, say, APP, QE, CBPP, OMT, LTRO, TLTRO, ELA etc.4 In this way central bankers effectively sneak themselves out from public and parliamentary control.

Has the ECB Violated its Mandate? 

It comes therefore as no surprise Mr Draghi hails “non-standard policy measures” such as quantitative easing through which the central bank subsidizes financially ailing governments and banks in particular. Mr Draghi, however, does not leave it at that. He also suggests that monetary policy should shake off remaining restrictions that hamper policy maker’s discretion:

[W]hen the world changes as it did ten years ago, policies, especially monetary policy, need to be adjusted. Such an adjustment, never easy, requires unprejudiced, honest assessment of the new realities with clear eyes, unencumbered by the defence of previously held paradigms that have lost any explanatory power.

These remarks come presumably because the German Constitutional Court has found indications that the ECB’s government bond purchases may violate EU law and has asked the European Court of Justice to make a ruling. The German judges say that ECB bond buys may go beyond the central bank’s mandate and inhibit euro zone members’ activities.

The issue is no doubt delicate: If the ECB is prohibited from buying government bonds (let alone reverse its purchases), all hell may break loose in the euro area: Many government and banks would find it increasingly difficult to roll-over their maturing debt and take on new loans at affordable interest rates. The euro project would immediately find itself in hot water.

Without a monetary policy of ultra-low interest rates and bailing out struggling borrowers by printing up new money (or promising to do so, if needed) the euro project would already have gone belly up. So far the ECB has indeed successfully concealed that the pipe dream of successfully creating and running a single fiat currency has failed.

The crucial question in this context is, however: What has changed in economics in the last ten years?

Unfortunately, economists that follow the doctrine of positivism-empiricism-falsificationism feel encouraged to question, even reject, the idea that there are immutable economic laws, preferring the notion that ‘things change’ that ‘everything is possible’.

However, sound economics tells us that there are iron laws of human action. For instance, a rise in the quantity of money does not make an economy richer, it merely reduces the marginal utility of the money unit, thus reducing its purchasing power; or: suppressing the interest rate through the central bank must result in malinvestments and boom and bust.

In other words: Sound economics tells us that central bankers do not pursue the greater good. They debase the currency; slyly redistribute income and wealth; benefit some groups at the expense of others; help the state to expand, to become a deep state at the expense of individual freedom; make people run into ever greater indebtedness.

What central bankers really do is cause a “planned chaos.” Unfortunately, the damages they create — such as, say, inflation, speculation, recession, mass unemployment etc. — are regularly and falsely attributed to the workings of the free market, thereby discouraging and eroding peoples’ confidence in private initiative and free enterprise.

The failure of such interventionism — of which central bank monetary policy is an example par excellence — does not deter its supporters. On the contrary: They feel emboldened to pursue their interventionist course ever more boldly and aggressively to achieve their desired objectives. Mr Draghi made a case in point when he said in July 2012:

“[W]e think the euro is irreversible” and “the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough.”5 Hayek’s warning in his book Fatal Conceit (1988) goes unheard: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”6

Mr Draghi’s speech should not convince us that monetary policy rests on sound economics, or that the ECB works for the greater good. If anything, it shows that economics has been twisted and deformed to service the needs of the state and its central bank – which increasingly erodes what little is left of the free market to keep the fiat money system going.

Holding up the fiat euro will result in a coercive redistribution of income and wealth among people, within and across national borders, to an extent historically unprecedented in times of piece. As a tool of an effectively anti-democratic policy, the single European currency will remain a source of interminable conflict, injustice, and it will be a drag on peoples’ prosperity.

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‘US report is an incitement to disrupt public order in Algeria’

August 31, 2017 Middle East Monitor 0

The Algerian Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowments said that the US State Department’s report on religious freedom in Algeria for 2016 is inaccurate with some paragraphs which “have nothing to do with freedom of religion or freedom of worship but are directly related to disturbing public order, which national laws and regulations recognise and protect, as well as international covenants and treaties.” In a statement on its website, Mohamed Issa’s ministry responded to the US report and expressed reservations about some of its content which claim Algerians hate non-Muslims in spite of the fact that authorities stress the importance of Christian and Jewish holy books. In its first official comment on the report, the Ministry of Religious Affairs said […]

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AU: 0.5569 SDR = 1 AUD 2017-08-31 RBA 4.00 pm Eastern Australian time

AUD/SDR representative rate as at 4.00 pm Eastern Australian time on 31 Aug 2017. The value of the Special Drawing Right is calculated by the International Monetary Fund on the basis of a weighted basket of four currencies – US dollar, European euro, J…

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