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U.S.-Armenian Tycoon Remembered At Gyumri Church Service

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Hundreds of people attended a church service in Gyumri on Monday to pay their respects to Kirk Kerkorian, the Armenian-American billionaire who has built thousands of homes in Armenia’s second largest city ravaged by a 1988 earthquake.

Kerkorian, who died one week ago at the age of 98, financed over $230 million in infrastructure projects that were implemented in his ancestral homeland in the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A considerable part of that assistance was spent on the reconstruction of Armenia’s northern regions devastated by the 1988 earthquake. Some 3,700 apartments and houses were constructed there in the early and mid-2000s.

Another Relative Of Armenian Governor Implicated In Assault

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A convicted murderer pardoned by President Serzh Sarkisian in 2010 has emerged as another suspect in a recent brutal attack in the Armenian town of Goris that was allegedly orchestrated by a son of Suren Khachatrian, a notorious regional governor.

The suspect, Mayis Khachatrian, is the governor’s nephew who has spent six years in prison for a murder committed in 2004. According to law-enforcement authorities, he went on the run at the weekend after being charged with involvement in last month’s severe beating of two Goris residents, the Zakarian brothers.

One of the brothers suffered a broken nose while the other lost vision in one eye. The victims say that their attackers were led by Tigran Khachatrian, a notoriously violent son of the governor of Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province. Tigran and his father deny these allegations.

Armenia Pays Tribute To ‘Legendary’ Kerkorian

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Armenia’s current and former leaders on Wednesday recalled Kirk Kerkorian’s multimillion-dollar contributions to their country in messages offering their condolences on the death of the Armenian-American billionaire.

President Serzh Sarkisian referred to Kerkorian as a “great Armenian benefactor” who became a living “legend” thanks to his entrepreneurial and philanthropist activities. He singled out more than $220 million in economic assistance which the tycoon’s Lincy Foundation charity has provided to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The projects financed by the foundation gave new impetus to Armenia’s economy, significantly changing the face of our country,” Sarkisian wrote in a letter to the family of Kerkorian, who died on Monday night at the age of 98.

ATP Provides Fruit Trees for Syrian-Armenian Refugees in Artsakh

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12:14, June 16, 2015

The ongoing civil war in Syria has had a negative impact on its entire population, and its 80,000 Syrian-Armenians are no exception. Since 2011, a large number of Syrian-Armenian refugees moved to Armenia not only because it is their ancestral homeland but also because its migration policies and repatriation program made the move relatively easy.

Some Syrian-Armenian refugees have chosen to settle in Artsakh. The Kashatagh region is currently home to 34 Syrian-Armenian families who originate from Kessab and Qamshli. The climate and land is similar to their native towns. They’ve been provided with aid and loans for houses and land in Kovsakan, Berdzor and Ishkhanadzor.

USA – Delays in Visa and Passport Issuance

June 16, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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17:16, June 15, 2015

The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is currently experiencing technical problems with our overseas passport and visa systems. This issue is not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category. This issue is affecting Americans and all foreign visa applicants, including tourist, student, and business visa applicants. We apologize for the inconvenience and are working urgently to correct the problem and restore full operability.

U.S. passport applications accepted overseas on or after May 26, 2015 are affected by this delay. If you applied for a U.S. passport at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan during this time frame and have travel plans within the next 10 business days, please consider requesting an emergency passport at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.

Ilham Aliyev’s Family: The Mansion on the Heath

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12:14, June 15, 2015

BY IGGY OSTANIN, WITH REPORTS BY ELEANOR ROSE (OCCRP) 

Ilham Aliyev’s family owns a 10,500-square-foot London mansion worth more than US$ 25 million.

The house is on Hampstead Lane, in a leafy corner of North London – a cool oasis from the bustle of the central tourist zone. The red-brick building stands behind an imposing security gate, hidden from prying eyes by thick hedges. The curtains in its large windows are drawn, and the driveway stands empty save for a couple of service personnel who come and go in a battered Fiat Punto.

It is an old neighborhood, and a rich one.

Goldfingers? Control Chamber Deputy Chairman to Dabble in Mining

June 15, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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14:30, June 15, 2015

Levon Yolyan, Deputy Chairman of Armenia’s Control Chamber, has his eyes set on running the planned for gold mine in the Gegharkounik village of Kout.

Yolyan is a close associate of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, serving as his deputy campaign director in 2013 presidential election.

Armenia’s Control Chamber is akin to the Government Accountability Office in the United States.

Since Armenian government officials cannot, at least on paper, run businesses while holding public office, Yolyan has set up the business under his wife’s name.

The company, Dragheg Metal, is planning to do exploratory work in Kout village on the southeastern shore of Lake Sevan in the Vardenis district.

Writer Affiliated with Pro-Israel Policy Center Charges Orange Telecom with “War Crimes” Over Nagorno-Karabakh Business

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21:30, June 13, 2015

A writer affiliated with a pro-Israel policy center has written a piece in The Washington Post arguing that while Orange telecom recently threatened to boycott Israel over its settlement policy in the occupied West Bank, the company is actually doing business in the occupied territory of Nagorno Karabakh.

What seems to have ruffled writer Eugene Kontorovichs’s feathers is last week’s announcement by Orange CEO Stephane Richard that his company was going to “drop” its business with Israel – apparently in response to Arab boycott calls.

Kontorovich in the June 11 issue of The Washington Post paints Orange Telecom as duplicitous since the company, in the writer’s words, “actively does business with, and promotes, settlements in occupied territory.”

Spanish Princess Stripped Of Duchess Title Amid Tax Fraud Allegations

June 13, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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17:42, June 13, 2015

Amid a simmering tax fraud scandal, King Felipe VI of Spain has stripped his sister of her title.

A royal decree circulated in the Spanish state bulletin this morning revoked Her Royal Highness Princess Cristina’s right to use the title of Duchess of Palma de Mallorca, which had been given to her upon her wedding in 1997.

The Princess’s husband, former Olympic handball player Iñaki Urdangarin, is accused of embezzling € 6 million (US$ 6.75 million) in public funds awarded through contracts to the Noos Foundation, a charitable organization he chaired.

The Noos case first broke in 2011, when police searched the foundation’s premises in Barcelona, reports the Telegraph.

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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.

Commentary

Capitalism Run Amok Is Just Plain Capitalism

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16:37, January 17, 2015

By Markar Melkonian

The source of Armenia’s misery and humiliation, we often hear, is not capitalism per se, but rather “gangster capitalism,” “a broken system,” “capitalism run amok.”

The goal for the future, then, is to “fix the system,” to reform capitalism, to make it more like regular, pure, genuine Free Enterprise, the kind of capitalism that works. But what if Armenia’s actually existing capitalism already is genuine capitalism?

An economist once observed that the only existential meaning of “enterprise” in the term free enterprise is “whatever capitalists happen to be doing at the time”–and “free” is the accompanying demand that they be allowed to do it.

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

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13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

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21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.