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Things are looking pretty bad for Microsoft’s Xbox One

February 16, 2014 Arts, Business, Diaspora, Video No Comments
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Microsoft may have a problem on its hands. Not Windows 8, but its latest video-game console, the Xbox One. Based on recent sales data, rival Sony’s PlayStation 4 is significantly outselling Microsoft’s offering — in the U.S., at a rate of 2-to-1, according to the Business Insider.While a poorly selling Xbox One isn’t great for Microsoft, investors in Electronic Arts could ultimately be the ones most exposed.According to research firm NPD, Sony’s PlayStation 4 was the top selling video game console in the US during the month of January, edging out Microsoft’s Xbox One. VentureBeat puts the figures at around 280,000 for the PlayStation 4 and 145,000 for Microsoft’s Xbox One. On a cumulative, global basis, Sony has sold about 5.1 million PlayStation 4s, while Microsoft has sold 3.4 million Xbox Ones, according to data compiled b VGChartz.The discrepancy is even more notable in light of the fact that Sony still hasn’t released the PlayStation 4 in its home market of Japan. At the same time, Sony seems to be struggling with supply constraints, as many retailers in the U.S. have completely sold out of their allotted shipments.Moreover, the PlayStation 4 doesn’t even really have any video games worth playing. As new consoles, neither the PlayStation 4 nor the Xbox One has a robust catalog of offerings, but with exclusives like Dead Rising and Killer Instinct, Microsoft’s Xbox One seems to have the better lineup. 

Data protection: Angela Merkel proposes Europe network

February 16, 2014 Armenia, Business, Diaspora, Europe No Comments
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is proposing building up a European communications network to help improve data protection, BBC reports. It would avoid emails and other data automatically passing through the United States.In her weekly podcast, she said she would raise the issue on Wednesday with French President Francois Hollande.Revelations of mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) have prompted huge concern in Europe.Disclosures by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden suggested even the mobile phones of US allies, such as Mrs Merkel, had been monitored by American spies.Classified NSA documents revealed that large amounts of personal data are collected from the internet by US and British surveillance.Mrs Merkel criticized the fact that Facebook and Google can be based in countries with low levels of data protection while carrying out business in nations that offer more rigorous safeguards.”Above all, we’ll talk about European providers that offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send emails and other information across the Atlantic,” she said.”Rather, one could build up a communication network inside Europe.” 

Oskanian Against Armenian Entry Into Customs Union

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Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian has criticized President Serzh Sarkisian’s decision to make Armenia part of the Russian-led Customs Union, saying that it will seriously limit prospects for the country’s economic development.

“Armenia is a small country. Its only possibility of development is [greater] exports and foreign investment. By joining the Customs Union we have closed the door to that,” Oskanian said late on Thursday during a public discussion at the Civilitas Foundation , a Yerevan-based think-tank founded by him.

Oskanian dismissed government arguments that membership of the union will facilitate Armenian exporters’ access to the vast Russian market. “We already had a free-trade regime with Russia within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent states,” he said.

Syrian-Armenian exhibition opens in Yerevan

Armenian News

A Syrian-Armenian charity exhibition opened in Yerevan on Friday, bringing together around 30 Armenian businessmen from Syria.
Entitled The Breath of Syrian-Armenian Culture in Yerevan, the exhibition features knitted artefacts, decorations, confectionery etc.
The proceeds of the exhibition-fair will be go to the fund of an apartment-building project, reports the Ministry of Diaspora.
The exhibition will continue in the Yerevan Park of Lovers on Saturday. 

Source: TertOriginial Article

Apple in conflict mineral ‘name and shame’ crackdown

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Apple has begun publicizing which of its suppliers may be sourcing minerals from conflict zones, the BBC reports.
Conflict minerals, as they are known, are mined in areas of fighting or human rights abuses, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The first published list detailed 104 suppliers that were unverified for compliance with ethical guidelines.
Electronics firms are being pressured by human rights groups to use their influence to force suppliers to change.
Most electronic devices contain either gold, tantalum, tin or tungsten. The gathering of these raw materials is often controlled by violent militias who may profit greatly from the activity.
“The ethical sourcing of minerals is an important part of our mission to ensure safe and fair working conditions,” Apple said in its latest Supplier Responsibility Report, published annually.
“In January 2014 we confirmed that all active, identified tantalum smelters in our supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third party auditors, and we’re pushing our suppliers of tin, tungsten, and gold just as hard to use verified sources.”
The first published list showed that 59 smelters were compliant with its guidelines.
A further 23 have agreed to be audited by the Conflict-Free Smelter Program (CFSP), meaning their status should soon be known.
But the document stated that the status of 104 smelters was unknown, highlighting the scale of the challenge.
Bandi Mbubi is a director of Congo Calling, a UK-based campaign group calling for greater transparency in the sourcing of minerals, particularly for electronics.
He told the BBC that Apple’s announcement was to be applauded.
“What we want is the whole industry to start transforming the way they do their business,” he said.
“The way Apple has gone, even though it is not 100%, is something that is quite encouraging.”
In an interview with the Financial Times, Apple’s senior vice president of operations Jeff Williams explained why the company would not just use smelters it had identified as conflict-free.
“Quite honestly, if we did that, we could wave our conflict-free flag but it would do nothing to affect the workers on the ground,” he told the newspaper.
“And so what we are focused on is getting a critical mass of suppliers verified such that we can truly influence the demand situation and change things.”
Last month, Intel announced that it would no longer use conflict minerals in its microprocessors.
The declaration came as a response to a law passed in 2010 that gave companies a May 2014 deadline for reporting the source of its raw materials.
Mr Mbubi said he hoped the moves from Apple and Intel would spark a race for other technology companies to show they too were taking action.
“I think the competition has now started. I think very soon Microsoft will have to say something, or Nokia, or Samsung.

Italy: 24 Arrested On Drug Charges In TransAtlantic Mafia Venture

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00:05, February 14, 2014

Italian police and the FBI have arrested 17 people in Italy and seven in the United States during an operation that authorities say dismantled a drug-trafficking group. The operation, dubbed New Bridge, involved collaboration between the Italian crime syndicate ‘Ndrangheta and the New York- based Gambino family of the Mafia.

Among those arrested Tuesday were Francesco Ursino and Giovanni Morabito, two leading figures of the ‘Ndrangheta, a crime family based in Calabria, which is located in the toe of the Italian boot. Police also arrested Frank Lupoi, an Italian-American they say represented the Gambino family.

Investigators say the two crime groups worked together to move heroin by boat from Italy to the United States and cocaine from South America to Italy.

Armenia to Host Next Session of Customs Union Customs Services Board

February 13, 2014 Armenia, Business No Comments
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15:14, February 13, 2014

According to the Belarusian Telegraphy Agency, Armenia will host the next session of the united board of the customs services of Custom Union member states scheduled to take place in the second quarter of this year.

 Andrei Belyaninov, Head of the Federal Customs Service of Russia, noted that integration into the Customs Union is more than the interaction of three or four customs services.

“Intensive communication between working groups is in progress. The informational component has raised concerns. The three customs services use Russian as the language of business communication. In Armenia Armenian is the state language, the language of written communication, and the language of mass media. Therefore, a lot has to be done, otherwise, we will not be able to understand each other,” Belyaninov told the news service.

Kapan Residents Give a “Thumbs Down” to Pension Payments

February 13, 2014 Armenia, Business No Comments
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15:40, February 13, 2014

Residents of the southern Armenian town of Kapan give a ‘thumbs down’ regarding the recently launched mandatory pension system in the country.

The disgruntled residents, workers at various local businesses,  were photographed by Sustainable Development NGO President Armen Parasadyan. The photos later appeared on the Facebook page of a group called “Against Paying the Mandatory Pension 5%”.

Workers born after 1974 will see a minimum of 5% of their wages deducted for investment in the pension system.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Collateral damage: Car importers in Armenia say Customs Union membership will ruin their business

February 13, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Business, Europe, Georgia No Comments
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Individual car importers in Armenia are concerned over the prospect of becoming unemployed after the country joins the Customs Union. Accession to the Russian-led trade block, among other things, will also mean higher customs duties for cars of non-Russian make, which will put thousands of second-hand car dealers in Armenia out of business.

Armenia’s authorities expect to finalize membership in the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in autumn, and beginning January 2015 they want to join the Eurasian Economic Union. In the meantime, Armenia’s legislation is being harmonized with that of the Customs Union member countries, which implies an essential rise in customs duties for imports from non-Customs Union member states. Armenia mainly imports second-hand cars of foreign make from Georgia, which, unlike Armenia, has embarked on the path of European integration and is expected to form a deep and comprehensive free trade area with the European Union soon.

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Featured Books

Book Reviews

John Balian’s “Novel Approach” Brings the Armenian Saga to the Masses – An interview with John Balian by Lucine Kasbarian

Gray Wolves and White Doves cover art

Armenians often wish for a tale about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath that would make a blockbuster film and draw attention to their cause. John Balian’s new book, Gray Wolves and White Doves (CreateSpace/Amazon.com), may be that tale.

 Largely autobiographical, this atmospheric novel is presented through the eyes of an innocent young boy trying to make sense of the world as he grows up amid repressive conditions in Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey during the 1960s and 70s.

 This fast-paced, multi-layered narrative takes readers from Hanna Ibelin’s (a.k.a. Jonah Ibelinian’s) close-knit family life in the perilous Asia Minor region of Palu to terror and tragedy while en route to Syria’s Kamishli, to a bleak existence on the mean streets of Istanbul.

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Teaneck, N.J. and Belmont, Mass. –  An Armenian folktale retold by Armenian-American writer Lucine Kasbarian and illustrated by Moscow-based artist Maria Zaikina debuts with Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishers in April 2011.

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is from the ancient Armenian oral tradition and culture, which was nearly obliterated during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915. The author learned the tale from her father, editor and columnist C.K. Garabed, who would recite it to her at bedtime. He had learned it from his own grandmother, a celebrated storyteller from the Old Country.  The tale was first put to paper by Armenian poet Hovhannes Toumanian at the turn of the 20th century.

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Turkish writer and publicist Ahmet Insel labels the initiative of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party to pray namaz on the ruins of Ani as provocation.

In an interview with “A1+,” the publicist said the initiative was supported only by a small percentage of Turks.

“They offered namaz in Ani in protest against Christian rites carried out in Trabzon and Akhtamar. The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahceli said if Christians are allowed to pray inside museums, similarly he can pray namaz in Armenian churches,” said Ahmet Insel.

The Turkish writer arrived in Armenia to participate in a book festival. Presentation of Armenian version of Dialogue sur le tabou arménien (Dialogue about the Armenian Tabou) co-authored by Ahmet Insel and Michel Marian was held during the festival.

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA –  KFI 640, a popular news/talk radio station hosted by Bill Handel on September 23 aired a live interview with Michael Bobelian, the writer of a new book titled  Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice

The book chronicles the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and recounts a people’s struggle for justice in the face of a century of silence and denial.

During the interview, which was aired during the prime morning time slot, Bill Handel addressed both the efforts within the United States to ensure that the US government appropriately acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s ongoing denial.

Handel, a well known and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, has discussed the Armenian Genocide during past shows.

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10:24, March 14, 2014

I’m looking for freelancers who can broaden the scope of Hetq’s English edition

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Write to me with your ideas and story suggestions.

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Source: HetqOriginial Article

For Better or For Worse: Nature Protection Ministry Proposes Amendments to Water Use Laws

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16:44, February 14, 2014

With the goal of providing a systematic solution to issues of effective use of water resources in Ararat valley, the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia (RA) is proposing amendments and additions to the RA Water Code, and the RA laws on the Republic of Armenia’s National Water Program, on Licensing, and on State Tax.

The proposed legislative package has been sent to the relevant state agencies for their input.

Head of the Ministry of Nature Protection’s Water Resources Management Agency Volodya Narimanyan told Hetq, said that with this amendment package his ministry is attempting to clarify the ideas and the ambiguous commentary, as well as introduce new requirements. For example, one of the main points of the proposed amendments is if water use permit conditions are not met, the water use permit might be annulled.

2013 in Civil Society: Protests and more protests

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The struggle of civil movements this year has been comprehensive and diverse with limited success in certain fields due to unified efforts and active involvement of the civil society.

Despite the rather passive start of the year in terms of civil movements, the second half of 2013 turned out to be tense with active developments.

Some analysts believe that especially after the February 18 presidential ballot, when current president Serzh Sargsyan won a decisive victory over his opponents and was re-elected for a second term, despite the widespread poverty and atmosphere of injustice in the country, people became even more aware of the fact that is it impossible to achieve changes via elections and started practicing their constitutional rights to civil protest and disobedience more frequently.

Armenian Foreign Policies 2013: Customs Union, U-turn on EU accord, Karabakh, Turkey, regional developments

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2013 became a milestone year for Armenia not only in its foreign, but also domestic politics. After nearly four years of negotiations with the European Union over the signing of an association agreement on September 3 Armenia unexpectedly announced its intention to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This decision has had its influence not only on Armenia proper, but also on the processes elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Inspired by Armenia’s decision, Russia stepped up its pressure on Ukraine, which suspended the process of signing of the Association Agreement with the EU one week before the Vilnius summit of Eastern Partnership. As a result, on November 29 such agreements were initialed only by Moldova and Georgia.

Heritage reshuffle: Postanjyan becomes new leader of parliamentary faction

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Zaruhi Postanjyan has been elected new head of the opposition Heritage faction in parliament. The change comes after Ruben Hakobyan announced his decision to resign as faction leader earlier today.

Talking to media in parliament Hakobyan said Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian had been notified about his move well in advance. He left questions about reasons for his step without commentary, only saying that he had decided to step down as faction leader before the recent scandal around Postanjyan in the wake of her controversial question to President Serzh Sargsyan about his gambling habit at the PACE plenary session in Strasbourg on October 2.