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More Draft Constitution Chapters Published

August 5, 2015 Armenia, Europe, Top News No Comments
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The expert commission drafting constitutional amendments has released eight more chapters of the new Constitution that implies Armenia’s switch to a parliamentary form of government.

Chapters 8-15 concern prosecutors and investigators, the ombudsman, the Central Election Commission, the Audit Chamber and some other institutions.

The first seven chapters publicized by the commission earlier mostly concerned the formation of different branches of power. They drew criticism from leading Armenian opposition parties as well as the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission that highlighted two controversial aspects: the parliamentary elections mechanism envisaging a so-called second round of vote to ensure a “stable majority” in parliament, as well as the order of appointing judges that critics say may affect the independence of the judiciary.

Armenian Opposition Slams Authorities Over Constitutional Reform Provision

August 4, 2015 Armenia, Europe, Top News No Comments
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Armenia’s leading opposition parties have criticized the Armenian authorities for their reluctance to at least listen to the recommendations of a Council of Europe advisory body and remove a controversial provision on the so-called “second round” in parliamentary elections from the draft amendments to the Constitution.

Despite recommendations from the Venice Commission, a top Armenian expert involved in the Constitutional Reform Commission said on Monday that Armenia is likely to keep the option aimed at ensuring the formation of a “stable majority” after legislative polls.

Armenian Trade In First Decline After 2009 Recession

August 4, 2015 Armenia, Asia, Top News No Comments
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Armenian foreign trade shrank by a fifth in the first half of 2015, the latest data released by the country’s National Statistical Service shows. This is the first time Armenia’s trade falls after the 2009 recession when its economy declined by more than 14 percent.

In the mentioned period Armenia’s trade with other countries, including Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, with which it formed the Eurasian Economic Union at the beginning of this year, totaled $2.186 billion, which is by 20.6 percent less than in January-June 2014.

When Armenia’s economy went into recession in 2009 the foreign trade decline in the first half of the year was 31.5 percent compared with the same period of 2008.

Moldova: New PM Elected, Vows to Tackle Missing Billion Bank Crisis

August 3, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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18:18, August 3, 2015

The Parliament of Moldova has voted in a new pro-European prime minister to tackle financial crisis and corruption in the small ex-Soviet nation. 

Valeriu Strelet, head of the Liberal Democratic Party (PLDP), won the election by a hair’s breadth. A three-party alliance of pro-Europe MPs provided the 52 votes needed to secure Strelet’s position in the 101-seat Moldovan parliament.

The post of prime minister has lain vacant since June 12, when former premier Chiril Gaburici stepped down after being accused of forging his high school transcript. Already the poorest country in Europe, Moldova has suffered from a deepening financial crisis since November when, through a series of fraudulent loans and transfers, US$1 billion was stolen from three of Moldova’s largest banks.

Armenia Insists On ‘Second Round’ Option In Parliamentary Elections

August 3, 2015 Armenia, Europe, Top News No Comments
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Despite recommendations from a Council of Europe advisory body the commission drafting constitutional amendments in Armenia is likely to keep the option of the so-called “second round” in parliamentary elections, a member said on Monday.

The provision aimed at ensuring the formation of a “stable majority” after legislative polls was criticized late last week by the Venice Commission that published its preliminary opinion on the proposed Armenian reform.

In chapters 1-7 of Armenia’s draft new Constitution published last month local constitutional law experts suggest turning Armenia into a parliamentary republic with a largely ceremonial president. At the same time, one of the provisions dealing with the formation of the parliament suggests that if no party or bloc of parties can achieve an outright majority, a second round of elections should be held between the two parties or blocs of parties having the largest number of votes.

Sixth Pan-Armenian Games Kick Off In Yerevan

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The Sixth Pan-Armenian Games have opened in Yerevan, bringing together over 6,300 athletes from Armenia and Armenian communities abroad.

The Games, currently held every four years, are designed to foster closer relationships between Armenia and its far-flung Diaspora.

Armenia is an ethnically homogenous country that has a population of about 3 million. But twice as many ethnic Armenians are believed to live abroad. Most of them are descendants of survivors of the 1915 massacres in Ottoman Turkey that more than two dozen governments of the world as well as many historians recognize as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Artsakh Defense Army Suppresses Azerbaijani Cross Border Firing

August 1, 2015 Armenia, Arts, Azerbaijan No Comments
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13:38, August 1, 2015

The Artsakh Defense Army reports that Azerbaijan violated the Line of Contact ceasefire 1,100 times from July 26 to August 1, firing 17,000 rounds including grenade launchers and mortars.

The Defense Army says it took counter measures that suppressed the Azerbaijani fire.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Young Yazidi Refugee from Iraq: ‘We felt it best to come to a Christian country like Armenia’

August 1, 2015 Armenia, Arts, Europe No Comments
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16:26, July 31, 2015

The bracelet worn by Fadil Bshar, a 17 year-old Yazidi from Iraq, catches my eye. Woven in white thread, it reads ‘Shangal’.

Shangal, also known as Sinjar/Shingal is a town in northern Iraq, mainly inhabited by Yazidis, which the Islamic State (IS) captured in August 2014. Hundreds of Yazidis were massacred and thousands fled to the mountains north of the town.

Fadil’s family of nine and that of his brother (5 members), took the flight from Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan and arrived in Armenia last night.

The families had been living in Shingal before IS captured the predominately Yazidi northern Iraqi province, also home to Arab and Assyrian minorities.

CE Body Criticizes Proposed Parliamentary Election ‘Runoff’ In Armenia

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An advisory body of the Council of Europe (CE) has issued its preliminary opinion on the proposed Armenian constitutional amendments, criticizing the provision of a so-called “second round” in parliamentary elections aimed at forming a “stable majority”.

In their conclusion experts of the Venice Commission welcome the work conducted by the Armenian Constitutional Reform Commission, but also made certain proposals on how to improve the draft constitutional changes.

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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.