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Update: Two Suspected Human Traffickers Arrested over Mediterranean Boat Disaster

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23:18, April 21, 2015

Italian authorities have arrested two suspected human traffickers thought to have been involved inthe case of a migrant vessel that capsized in the Mediterranean on Saturday, killing more than 800 migrants.

The Guardian reportsthat the men in custody are allegedly the captain, a Tunisian national, and a crew member of the ship, a Syrian national, who now face charges of reckless homicide.

The survivors of the wreck arrived in Catania, Sicily, late last night, at which point the two men were taken into custody.Red Cross tents and other volunteers awaited the other survivors.

Kate Bond, a writer for theUN Refugee Agency, said: “One survivor told UNHCR staff that there were children aboard the boat. So far, none of them have been found, although search-and-rescue operations at the site continue.”

Europe: Rights Groups and Governments Respond to Huge Migrant Boat Death Toll

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21:20, April 20, 2015

Up to 700 migrants were killed when their boat capsized late on Saturday night in what has been called the Mediterranean’s worst tragedy in living memory.

Italian authorities reported on Sunday night that 28 people had been rescued and 24 bodies recovered from a 20-meter boat traveling from Libya, according to the BBC. One of the survivors reported that the boat had set off packed with as many as 700 people.

European politicians and international organizations from Human Rights Watch to Italy’s prime minister have joined calls for immediate action from the European Union (EU) to strengthen search and rescue efforts.

Turkish-Armenian Official Quits After Genocide Remark

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An ethnic Armenian senior adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced his resignation on Thursday just days after describing the First World War-era massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide.

“If accepting that what happened in Bosnia and Africa were genocides, it is impossible not to call what happened to Armenians in 1915 genocide too,” Etyen Mahcupyan said in an interview with Karar.com published this week.

Mahcupyan, who became last year the first-ever member of Turkey’s Armenian community to hold such a post, effectively defended Pope Francis for calling the 1915 mass killings a genocide during a Sunday Mass. The Vatican has thus “thrown off a 100-year-old psychological burden,” he said.

What Could Democracy Be?

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23:26, April 4, 2015

By Markar Melkonian 

Part I:  There Is No Such Thing as Democracy Plain and Simple 

Some older readers may recall a statement by one of the self-described “Velvet Revolutionaries” in Eastern Europe a quarter of a century ago, to the effect that there is no such thing as proletarian democracy or bourgeois democracy; rather, he said, there is just DEMOCRACY, plain and simple.  Unfortunately, my internet searches have not succeeded in locating the exact quote, but it went like that. 

Back then one heard many such statements.  By 1990, Yerevantsi’s were fed up with high-handed bosses who called themselves communists and claimed to rule in the name of some higher form of democracy.  They were fed up with one-party rule, and they wanted responsive, representative leaders.  

NYT: Armenian Diaspora Leaders Establish Rights Award to Commemorate Genocide Centenary

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Leaders in the Armenian Diaspora, preparing to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, have collaborated with Hollywood celebrities and human rights advocates to create a prize to be awarded annually to those who put themselves at risk to ensure that others survive, The New York Times writes.

Actor George Clooney will award the inaugural prize at a ceremony to be held in Yerevan next year, it emerged on Tuesday.

George Clooney to Award First Ever $1 Million Genocide Award in Yerevan on April 24, 2016

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19:49, March 10, 2015

On the eve to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Hollywood celebrities and prominent human rights activists have teamed up with Armenian diaspora leaders to create a annual prize that will go to those who put themselves at risk to ensure that others survive, this according to the New York Times.

The humanitarian prize, to be announced on Tuesday in New York, is part of an expansive effort by prominent Armenians to ensure that the history of the genocide by Turkish Ottoman troops, which is still disputed by Turkey’s government, is documented and archived through the stories of survivors and their saviors, in ways similar to the chronicling of the Jews’ suffering in the Holocaust.

Armenia’s Football Team Rises 5 Spots to 74th Worldwide

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10:02, February 13, 2015

Armenia’s football team has risen five spots, to 74th place, in the latest FIFA rankings of 209 national squads.

The improvement has been the result of the failures of other teams since the previous world rankings were released last month. Since then the Asia and African Football Cups have been played, leading to changes in the rankings.

The list of the top ten teams remains unchanged: Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Belgium, Holland, Brazil, Portugal, France, Uruguay and Spain.

In the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifiers for Group I, Denmark leads with 7 points, followed by Portugal (6), Albania (4), and Serbia and Armenia (1 apiece).

Denmark is now 28th in the world; Serbia 39th; and Albania 63rd.

Azerbaijan Has Highest Journo Jailings Per Capita

December 23, 2014 Africa, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey No Comments
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17:04, December 23, 2014

With nine journalists currently behind bars, Azerbaijan is ranked 9th on the list of 10 world’s worst journalist jailers the Committee to Protect Journalists published for 2014. But when you consider the per capita rate, it is second only behind the hyper repressive Eritrean regime in Africa,according to an analysis by journalist Till Buckner.

Graph from Till Bruckner’s 2014 study

Using numbers from the Center to Protect Journalists, China tops the list with 44 imprisoned journalists but considering the size of the country’s population of 1.3 billion, this means one jailed journalist to 30.8 million residents. Including the size of the country in population reshuffles CPJ’s list and propels the Alijev regime to the top ahead of such other bastions of anti-democracy as Iran, Syria, Burma and Vietnam.  Of the countries, Azerbaijan leads all of them in hypocrisy – it’s the only one that presents itself as a democracy.  It’s time to drop that charade now.

Montenegro: US Indicts 3 For Selling Guns To Colombian Rebels

December 20, 2014 Africa, Armenia, Business No Comments
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18:32, December 20, 2014

Two Romanians and a former Italian member of Parliament living in Greece have been arrested on charges that they conspired to sell machine guns and anti-aircraft weapons to Colombian rebels for use against American law enforcement agents battling the drug trade.

Massimo Romagnoli, 43, a Sicilian politician who served in the lower house of Parliament for the political party Forza Italia, was arrested in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica on Dec. 16. The previous day, Romanians Cristian Vintila, 44, and Virgil Flaviu Georgescu, 42, were arrested in Podgorica in the same case, according to Preet Bhahara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

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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

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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.