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Ukraine: Bad Meat, Big Money

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10:41, April 1, 2015

By Dmytro Gnap and Valentyna Samar  

Businesses in Ukraine have been buying meat from companies abroad that have been guilty of selling unsafe meat to Eastern Europe.

That includes meat from a plant in Bad Bentheim, Germany, where ARD German television found formers workers who say were ordered to mix spoiled ground meat, essentially waste product from other plants, with fresh meat. Meat from this company was sold into Eastern Europe including Ukraine by the plant’s owner, Trinity Gmbh, a company in Lower Saxony which boasts on its website that it is the “masters in meat processing.”

When workers complained about what was going on, they say they were fired and then threatened.

Israel: Former Prime Minister Guilty in Bribery Case

April 1, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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22:33, March 31, 2015

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been found guilty of accepting bribes in a corruption retrial at Jerusalem District Court.

Monday’s verdict found that the 69-year-old former statesman, who was Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, illegally accepted US$153,950 from US businessman Morris Talansky while serving in earlier roles as a cabinet minister.

He was found guilty of fraud and breach of trust.

The same court had cleared Olmert in 2012 on a series of fraud charges, including allegations that he received envelopes stuffed with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from Talansky when he was mayor of Jerusalem and, later, a cabinet minister.

World Bank Cuts Armenian Growth Outlook

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In a significant downward revision of its earlier projections, the World Bank said on Tuesday that economic growth in Armenia will likely slow to just under 1 percent this year due to spillover effects of a recession in Russia.

The bank forecast late last year that the Armenian economy will expand by 3.5 percent in 2015 — as fast as it did in 2014, according to official statistics. The Armenian government was even more upbeat, forecasting a growth rate of 4.1 percent.

Laura Bailey, the head of the World Bank’s Yerevan office, said that the figure is unlikely to exceed 0.8 percent. She warned that even this growth projection could prove overly optimistic in case of a deeper-than-anticipated crisis in Russia or renewed drastic fluctuations of the Armenian dram’s exchange rate.

Romania: Son of Former Moldovan President Probed over ‘Blackmail Plot’

March 31, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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19:11, March 31, 2015

Romanian authorities questioned the son of the former president of Moldova late on Monday night on suspicion of corruption.

Sergiu Lucinschi, a businessman with Romanian and Moldovan citizenship, is accused of blackmail and trading in influence in the course of the past four months.

Lucinschi is the son of Petru Lucinschi, president of Moldova from 1997 to 2001.

The prosecutor of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) suspects that Lucinschi demanded € 4 million (US$ 4.3 million) from an unnamed businessman in return for withdrawing a complaint lodged against him at the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT).

A DIICOT officer, Constantin Comaneanu, is also accused of demanding bribes from the same businessman.

Armenian Exporters Hit Hard By Russian Currency Meltdown

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Armenian exporters of agricultural products, processed foodstuffs and beverages to Russia are incurring growing losses because of the dramatic depreciation of the Russian ruble, an Armenian business association said on Friday.

According to the Union of Employers, dozens of such firms have stopped shipments to Russia in recent months following sharp decreases in their real revenue. The union’s chairman, Gagik Makarian, claimed that some of them, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), are now on the brink of bankruptcy.

The Russian ruble has depreciated by almost half over the past year due to the combined impact of falling oil prices and Western sanctions imposed on Russia. By contrast, the Armenian dram has lost less than one-fifth of its value against the U.S. dollar, making Armenian exports to Russia much more expensive.

Top Armenian Official Enjoys Banana Monopoly: Imported 12 Tons in 2014

March 27, 2015 Armenia, Business, Europe No Comments
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15:00, March 26, 2015

Nikol Pashinyan focused on the price of bananas during today’s session of Armenia’s parliament.

The opposition MP said that while the yellow fruit costs 500 or 600 drams per kilo, at a stretch 700 drams, throughout Europe, in Armenia a kilo goes for more than 700.

Pashinyan wagged his finger at Mihran Poghosyan, who heads the country’s Compulsory Enforcement Service, for controlling the banana market with the backing of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

“And against this backdrop, the man is a patriot. Do you believe it? He takes new employees to the Genocide Memorial and has them take an oath swearing ‘In the name of the homeland…’ If you’re a patriot let the people live in Armenia. Let them run their businesses. If you’re such a patriot don’t do things that force people to leave,” Pashinyan declared at the parliament session.

Azerbaijan: Khadija Ismayilova Allowed to See Family for First Time in Months

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17:34, March 26, 2015

Khadija Ismayilova, the investigative journalist jailed in Azerbaijan, has been allowed to see her family for the first time since her December arrest.

Ismayilova’s sister, Sabina Rahimova, spoke to her through a glass window at a Baku detention center on Tuesday.

Describing the visit on Wednesday, Rahimova said that despite Ismayilova’s continued detention over what are widely believed to be politically motivated charges, the reporter remains in high spirits and asked to send greetings to her friends and family.

Ismayilova was arrested on Dec. 5 and charged with inciting a former colleague to attempt suicide. Authorities have detained her ever since, later charging her over a number of new allegations including embezzlement and running an illegal business. She denies wrongdoing.

Central America: Journalists Launch New Database of Controversial Figures

March 27, 2015 Armenia, Arts, Business No Comments
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17:38, March 26, 2015

Journalists in Mexico and Central America have created a groundbreaking new database compiling information on leading controversial figures, or persons of interest to the media, including persons involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption and other organized crime activities.

The major project builds on OCCRP’s ongoing ”People of Interest” initiative, whose aim is to provide a free-of-charge tool for anyone wanting access to information on organized crime figures that is otherwise difficult to obtain.

It includes data on judiciary files, properties, businesses and the personal relationships of more than 300 of the most important names linked to organized crime in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salavador and Costa Rica.

AGBU’s Upcoming General Assembly in Yerevan to Tackle Armenia-Diaspora Relations

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13:31, March 26, 2015

On April 4, 2015 more than 300 delegates of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) will participate in the 88th General Assembly at the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (Matenadaran) in Yerevan, Armenia.

The event will give the delegates the opportunity to reassert their commitment to strengthening relations between Armenia and the diaspora, as well as rediscovering Armenia’s cultural treasures and its potential for development.

The 88th General Assembly is aimed at creating a discussion platform and giving participants greater insight into AGBU’s undertakings. As part of the General Assembly, three panel discussions will be held between April 1 and April 3.

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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.