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Test Ebola drug fully effective in animal trials

August 31, 2014 Africa, Armenia, Diaspora No Comments
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The only clinical trial data on the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp shows it is 100% effective in monkey studies, even in later stages of the infection, BBC News report.
The researchers, publishing their data in Nature, said it was a “very important step forward”.
Yet the limited supplies will not help the 20,000 people predicted to be infected during the outbreak in West Africa.
And two out of seven people given the drug, have later died from the disease.
ZMapp has been dubbed the “secret serum” as it is still in the experimental stages of drug development with, until now, no public data on effectiveness.
Doctors have turned to it as there is no cure for Ebola, which has killed more than 1,500 people since it started in Guinea.
Researchers have been investigating different combinations of antibodies, a part of the immune system which binds to viruses, as a therapy.
Previous combinations have shown some effectiveness in animal studies. ZMapp is the latest cocktail and contains three antibodies.
Trials on 18 rhesus macaques infected with Ebola showed 100% survival.
This included animals given the drug up to five days after infection. For the monkeys this would be a relatively late stage in the infection, around three days before it becomes fatal.

Armenia imports over 1 ton of guanabana this year

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Armenia has imported over one ton of guanabana since January.
Speaking to Tert.am, a press secretary for the Agriculture Ministry’s State Food Security Service, Armine Sukiasyan, said a considerable part of the exotic fruit – one ton – came from Columbia; another six kilograms were imported from China.
Ashot Agaghabyan, a businessman MP affiliated with the ruling Republican faction in parliament, had earlier told the local daily Zhoghovurd that he had signed an exceptional agreement in Ecuador to facilitate the import of a guanabana additive that helps treat and prevent cancer and AIDS. The paper said that the fruit was first imported to Armenia by Artak Sargsyan, the owner of the supermarket chain SAS.
The market price of guanabana is within the range of 80-100 Drams/kg ($0.19-$0.24)
Guanabana is grown in Africa, South America and in tropical countries. 

West African athletes banned from Youth Olympics over Ebola concerns

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Three West African athletes from the areas affected by the recent Ebola outbreak will not take part in the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games, a joint communique issued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the games’ Organizing Committee said Friday.
To ensure the safety of the participants in the competition, the IOC has banned athletes from the West African regions affected by the Ebola epidemic from participating in contact sports and pool events, reads the Friday communique.
The decision affects three athletes in total, while other contestants from the region will be “Subject to regular temperature and physical assessment throughout the period [of the games],” the joint statement says.
The Second Youth Olympic Games is to be held in Nanjing, China from August 16-28.
Earlier, Sierra Leone’s Olympic body urged its athletes to refrain from taking trips to China. Although the Nanjing Organizing Committee stressed that all nations are equally welcome in the competition, and noted that the risk of infection at the event is extremely low.

Uganda sends 20 experts to aid in Ebola crisis

August 12, 2014 Africa, Diaspora No Comments
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Uganda, which has a history of containing Ebola outbreaks, has sent 20 of its experts to Sierra Leone and Liberia to help curb the spread of the disease, the Voice of America reports.
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest ever. Late Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there have been at least 1,013 deaths.
West Africa has a new partner in the fight against the Ebola outbreak. Uganda’s Ministry of Health, in coordination with the WHO, has sent 20 of Uganda’s top health experts to West Africa.
Their specializations include epidemiology, case management, community education and psychosocial support. They flew to Sierra Leone and Liberia late last month to assist the overburdened governments in containing the disease.
Uganda has experience fighting Ebola with four major outbreaks in the past 10 years, all of which were contained.
During the last Uganda outbreak in 2012, public health initiatives, including recommendations by President Yoweri Museveni and the Ministry of Health, targeted social interactions.
Warnings were sent out daily, reminding people to avoid shaking hands, kissing and engaging burial rituals that included touching the body. Diagnostic testing was also improved, to more efficiently identify Ebola patients, while training for health workers and protective gear was supplied.
The WHO is hoping Uganda’s experts can bring a similar approach to the current outbreak in West Africa.
Doctor Solomon Fisseha, who is working on the project with the WHO in Uganda explains Uganda’s previous successes.
“Uganda has got very good experience on this management of viral hemorrhagic fevers. For example in 2012 we had almost four outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fevers in four districts, Ebola and Marburg. Since then the country has developed a good capacity. So if you look at the outbreaks that we have in Uganda for the last couple of years we have been able to manage it as early as possible, actually. Without even spread[ing] to neighboring countries,” said Fisseha.
This Ebola outbreak has led to multiple border closures, while airline companies have also suspended or restricted flights to the West Africa region.
At the WHO, there is hope that a multifaceted approach will work.
“If you have the surveillance system in place and if you have the experts on the ground, and if you create the environment so that the community understands the risk, rather than trying to hide [they] will come out and inform the health workers and professionals so that appropriate measures can be taken. Because it’s very difficult to identify the patients unless they come in and report to you. So what makes the control very difficult, especially in West Africa, is that it happens for the first time and in a very remote area, and you can really understand the panic that it can create in the community and people will be likely to be resistant, so it will take you some time to convince the community and get them on board,” said Fisseha.
The United States is also sending specialists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Agency for International Development. With a multi-national approach underway, health officials hope it will limit the spread of the deadly disease.

Armenian, Azerbaijani civic activists call for peace in Karabakh

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Civil society representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan and other world countries have issued an open call urging for strong measures to end the armed violence along the Contact Line of Nagorno-Karbakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.The statement is provided below:
We, the undersigned citizens of Azerbaijan, Armenia and other countries demand that the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict stop the shooting and attacks on the Line of Contact and Armenian-Azerbaijani border immediately.
We demand that, as a sign of good will, either side stop shooting unilaterally and then ask the other side to do the same.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” On the Karabakh front-line, a sniper shot for a sniper shot, an attack for an attack will only make more young Armenians and Azerbaijanis dead, wounded and disabled. A few meters of territory or “strategic heights” gained are worth nothing if they put young people under the ground and leave their loved ones traumatized.
The Karabakh ceasefire regime was agreed and signed in May of 1994. In February 1995, the parties agreed to strengthen and monitor the ceasefire regime. But that has not been enough to prevent dozens of young people being killed each year. Many of them, some of them born after the ceasefire agreement was signed, died over the last week. We appreciate that the ceasefire in itself is not enough and that the status quo inflicts harm on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the region.
We demand that mediators and parties to the conflict find a new legal and practical framework that will stop the violence. In 2008 in Helsinki the foreign ministers of France, Russia and the United States called for the removal of snipers from the ceasefire line. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon endorsed the idea in 2010. We regret that that proposal, which could have saved dozens of lives, has never been implemented.
Finally, we urge citizens, civil society leaders, state and independent media to uphold ethical and professional standards as they discuss the conflict, not to glorify or otherwise encourage violence, to engage in sincere efforts towards peaceful conflict resolution and demand from their respective governments that they halt the escalation of the conflict and start real negotiations for peace.Veronika Aghajanyan, Imagine Center for Conflict Transformation, Yerevan
Anar K. Ahmadov, Assistant Professor of Comparative Political Economy, Leiden University, The Hague
Rashad Aliyev, freelance journalist, social media and conflict resolution trainer, Baku
Zinaddin Babayev, Imagine Center for Conflict Transformation, Boston
Bayram Balci, visiting scholar, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment, Washington
Sofie Bedford, researcher, Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University
Jean-Baptiste Blanc, University of Lausanne
Laurence Broers, Editor, Caucasus Survey and Research Associate, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Michael Cecire, associate scholar, Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia
Alexander Cooley, Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University, New York
Dzovinar Derderian, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
John Evans, former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia (2004-2006)
Arzu Geybullayeva, Imagine Center for Conflict Transformation, Istanbul
Philip Ghamagelyan, Imagine Center for Conflict Transformation, Washington
Natalya Ghurbanyan, International Development Expert, Washington
Richard Giragossian, Regional Studies Center, Yerevan
Hamida Giyasbayli, Imagine Center for Conflict Transformation, Baku
Sevil Huseynova, Institute for European Ethnology, Berlin
Ulvi Ismayil, Public Policy Expert, Washington
Irakly Kakabadze, Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, Tbilisi
Maria Karapetyan, Rondine Cittadella della Pace, Arezzo
Richard D. Kauzlarich, former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan (1994-1997) and Adjunct Professor School of Policy, Government and
International Affairs, George Mason University, Arlington

Armenian Deputy Defense Minister in Washington D.C. for Talks

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12:47, August 8, 2014

Armenian Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan yesterday met with Evelyn N. Farkas, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia, and deputy assistant secretaries Gregory M. Kausner and Eric Rubin in Washington D.C.

At the meeting, the Armenian and American officials discussed matters of mutual interest regarding Armenia-U.S. defense cooperation.

They also discussed recent developments on the Artsakh line of contact and the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.

The parties stressed the need to stabilize the situation and reiterated their stance that the Karabakh conflict can only be resolved through peaceful negotiations via the OSCE Minsk Group.

Victoria Beckham dress sale to benefit African mothers with HIV

August 5, 2014 Africa, Diaspora, Music, Video No Comments
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British fashion designer and former pop star Victoria Beckham is giving away 600 pieces of clothing, including several evening dresses, to raise money and awareness for mothers living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, Reuters reports.
Beckham’s iconic, white Dolce and Gabbana dress worn for the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards is just one of the items to go under the hammer in aid of mothers2mothers (m2m), a charity that works to prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to babies in nine countries including South Africa, Swaziland and Kenya.
Other pieces are from Beckham’s days with the Spice Girls pop group, fashion shows, parties and red carpet appearances with husband and former England soccer captain David Beckham.
The money raised from the auction of Beckham’s evening gowns, hats, shoes, bags, jewellery and costume pieces will be “transformational” for the organization that trains and employs mothers living with HIV to mentor other HIV-positive mothers in their community, m2m founder, Mitch Besser, said.
The women work alongside doctors and nurses in understaffed health centers as members of the healthcare team.
“We’ve reached 1.2 million mothers since we started, but with more resources, we can reach more mothers. With more reach we prevent more infections and we keep more mothers alive to take care of their kids,” said Besser, an obstetrician and gynaecologist by training.
“The funding is absolutely transformational for an organization like ours,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
With an annual budget of around $20 million, m2m receives up to two thirds of its funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – a program to combat AIDS started by former U.S. President George W. Bush.
THE OUTNET.COM, the online fashion outlet which will host the private online sale from Aug. 20-25, said Beckham chose to donate proceeds to m2m after visiting South Africa in February and meeting some of the mothers affected by HIV.
“After spending just a few days with these remarkable women and learning more about the charity from Mitch, and his lovely wife Annie Lennox, I wanted to do as much as I could,” Beckham said in a statement.
“It really was a life-changing experience. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
Sub-Saharan Africa is still the region hardest hit by HIV, with 24.7 million HIV-positive people in 2013.
Women account for 58 percent of those living with HIV in the region, which is also home to 85 percent of pregnant women living with HIV, according to UNAIDS.
Nevertheless there have been great strides in reducing the number of children infected with HIV worldwide – from 580,000 in 2001 to 240,000 in 2013.
Yet stigma, under-funded and under-equipped healthcare systems and problems engaging men are some of the obstacles to ending the epidemic in Africa, Besser said. 

Ebola virus: Infected US missionary flown out of Liberya

August 5, 2014 Africa, Armenia, Diaspora No Comments
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A US missionary who contracted Ebola has been evacuated from Liberia aboard a special medical flight, the Voice of America reports.Nancy Writebol was flown out of Monrovia Tuesday and is expected to arrive in the United States later Tuesday. She will be treated atEmory University Hospital in the southeastern US city of Atlanta alongside an American doctor who also contracted the deadly virus while treating patients in Liberia.The Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse said Kent Brantly received a dose of an experimental serum before leaving Liberia, and also received blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola under his care.Meanwhile, a New York City hospital reported it is testing a man with possible symptoms of the Ebola virus.Officials at Mount Sinai Medical Center said a man suffering from a high fever and gastrointestinal problems arrived at the emergency room early Monday and was quickly isolated. They say the patient recently traveled to a West African country where Ebola has been reported, and is now undergoing tests to determine the cause of his illness. No other details about the man were given.Earlier Monday, the World Health Organization released new figures on the Ebola virus, reporting dozens of new fatalities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It said the total number of cases across four West African countries stands at 1,603, including 887 people who have died.Authorities in Nigeria Monday reported the country’s second confirmed case of Ebola — a doctor who treated the first patient who died July 25 in Lagos. Nigerian officials said at least two other health professionals are also showing symptoms of the disease. 

Facebook offers free web access to developing states

August 3, 2014 Africa, Diaspora No Comments
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Facebook’s internet.org initiative launched last year with the intention of working with industry companies to reduce the cost and hassle associated with getting online developing countries, The Independent reports.
Now the project is releasing its first appfor Android phones, providing free access to core services including Google search, government info, weather, job listings, Wikipedia, and – of course – Facebook.The app is trialling in Zambia first, with plans to extend its coverage to other countries over time. It’s available for both smartphones and feature phones and can also be accessed through Facebook’s own main app.Access will be free to any customers on Airtel Africa – a subsidiary of Indian telecommunications giant Airtel, and the market leader in numerous African countries including Chad, Gabon, Malawi, Niger and the Republic of the Congo. 
Read more on The Independent website.

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CNN International Explores the Secrets of Armenia’s Stone Henge

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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.

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Commentary

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.

Want to Write for Hetq?

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10:24, March 14, 2014

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

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Politics, Civil Society, Interviews…

Anything interesting happening in your local community you’d like to share?

Write to me with your ideas and story suggestions.

Hrant at hg.hetq@gmail.com

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.