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Missing Malaysia plane: Malaysia requests countries’ help

March 16, 2014 Asia, Australia, Diaspora No Comments
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Some 25 countries are now involved in a vast search operation for the missing airliner that disappeared over a week ago, the BBC reports, quoting Malaysian officials as saying.The search area – from central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean – takes in vast tracts of land and sea.An already complex search operation has become even more difficult, Malaysia’s transport minister says.Crew, passengers and ground staff are being investigated after it was confirmed the jet was commandeered.Investigators are trying to obtain the radar data from any of the countries that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 may have passed over, with its 239 crew and passengers.Malaysian officials are contacting countries including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and France.They are also asking countries to provide assistance in the search for the plane, including satellite data and analysis, ground-search capabilities, and maritime and air assets.The police are also reportedly looking at the family life and psychological state of the plane’s pilot, Zaharie Shah, and co-pilot, and searched their homes on Saturday.Officers spoke to relatives of the pilot and experts are examining the pilot’s flight simulator.Those who know Mr Zaharie insist he is a normal family man, reports the BBC’s Jonah Fisher in Kuala Lumpur.Fifty-three years old – with 18,000 hours of flying experience – he is a self-confessed “aviation geek” and proudly posted pictures online of the flight simulator he built at home.As well as the crew and passengers, police are investigating the engineers who may have had contact with the aircraft before take-off. 

Rosberg steers Mercedes to crushing win

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Nico Rosberg drew first blood for Mercedes in the new Formula One season with a dominant Australian Grand Prix victory on Sunday after pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and world champion Sebastian Vettel retired with reliability problems.Vettel’s early exit ended the Red Bull driver’s record run of nine successive victories racked up since last August.While one German smarted, another celebrated as 28-year-old Rosberg capitalized on a brilliant start from third on the grid, snatching the lead before the first turn and roaring to a 24.5-second victory ahead of Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo.On an overcast day at Albert Park, Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen shone with a brilliant third place finish for McLaren, emulating Hamilton’s first effort for the British team at the same Grand Prix in 2007.The result meant all three men on the podium had beaten world champion team mates in a stunning triumph of the underdogs.Rosberg, tipped to duel with team mate Hamilton for the championship, celebrated his fourth race victory and first since last year’s British Grand Prix, when he was also the beneficiary of technical mishaps to Hamilton and Red Bull’s Vettel.”Brilliant stuff, what a car you’ve given me! What a car!” the thrilled German said over the team radio after crossing the line.”The car was just really, really quick today,” the German later told reporters, looking forward with relish to the next race in Malaysia in two weeks.”A really good engine, not much problem with fuel consumption. It just all worked perfectly.” 

Winter Paralympics 2014: Only one athlete to represent Armenia in Sochi


A four-member Armenian delegation including only one athlete has already left for Sochi to take part in the Winter Paralympic Games that will open in the southern Russian city on March 7.

The first official Paralympic Games were held in 1960, while the first Winter Paralympics took place in 1976. Armenia has participated in the Games since 1998. At the Games in Sochi on March 7-16 Armenia’s representative is 33 -year-old alpine skier Mher Avanesyan, who is participating on a ‘white card’, which is issued to countries that had no participants in rating competitions.

About 6.5 million drams (some $16,000) have been allocated from the state budget to ensure Armenia’s participation in the Sochi Paralympic Games.

Mexico: They Got Shorty

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01:13, February 23, 2014

Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel and the world’s most-wanted drug lord, was captured alive Friday night in the Mexican resort city of Mazatlan, the Associated Press reports.

It was an anticlimactic moment in a legendarily violent career that spanned decades and cost untold lives. It will be the end if police can keep him in custody.

Guzman, 56, had been on the run since 2001, when he escaped from a high-security Mexican prison by hiding in a laundry truck. According to CNN, he avoided capture for more than a decade thanks to bribes paid to corrupt officials in Mexico.

Unusual Suspects: Armenia Allegedly Trades with Pitcairn and Christmas Islands…and Itself

February 20, 2014 Armenia, Arts, Australia, Georgia No Comments
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16:40, February 20, 2014

If we believe the statistics publicly provide by Armenia’s customs agencies, Armenia is doing a brisk trade…with itself.

For example, Armenia allegedly exported US $6.2 million US in products to Armenia. And, according to the stats, that amount was an increase from the previous year.

At the same time, Armenia imported $1.5 million from Armenia.

The main export was alcoholic beverages, but the range of exports was quite diverse, including passenger automobiles.

Even if we accept for a moment that such Armenia to Armenia trade includes Artsakh, the question arises why the Republic of Artsakh (NKR) can’t be specified in the stats as a trading partner.

$12,000 ‘Chocolate’ Diamond ma’am? How jewelers fool women by repackaging the common brown diamond as an expensive gem

February 16, 2014 Armenia, Arts, Australia, Diaspora No Comments
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Brown diamonds, the least valuable of the diamond family, are so common they were once only used for industrial purposes, attached to blades on cutting machines.
But now an increasing number of jewelers are being criticized for ‘pulling the wool over women’s eyes’, by charging the same price for them as their rarer white diamond counterparts thanks to some clever marketing techniques, reports the Daily Mail.
Instead of ‘brown’, the gemstones are referred to as ‘chocolate’, ‘champagne’, ‘cognac’ or ‘caramel’-colored by outlets, instantly giving them more of a luxury appeal.

An Ancient Art: Century-Old Carpet Manufacturer Uses Natural Dyes and Armenian Designs

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12:47, February 11, 2014

A successful century-old rug manufacturer, Megerian Carpets uses natural dyes and ancient Armenian designs to produce its rugs in Armenia, exporting them all over the world.

Of its 22 factories in Armenia, however, only 3 remain — in Yerevan, Abovyan, and Hrazdan.

The Armenian carpet manufacturers’ remaining factories were temporarily closed because of the global economic crisis, says Production Director Leonid Andreasyan, adding that 90% of their rugs were exported to the US, but after the economic crisis, this figure drastically reduced. Now primary consumption occurs in the domestic market, and the majority are tourists. However, Megerian Carpets continue to receive orders from different countries around the world — Equatorial Guinea, Australia, China, and countries from South America, to name a few.

Armenia ranked 41st according to latest Index of Economic Freedom


Armenia has dropped by three positions and is currently ranked 41st among 178 countries in the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, the Heritage Foundation’s report says.

Last year Armenia placed the 38th among 177 countries in the index. The score of the Armenian economy dropped by 0.5 points to 68.9 compared to the edition reviewing 2013.

The Heritage Foundation experts say the decline is recorded due to worsened indicators of investment freedom, entrepreneurship freedom and financial freedom.

The countries are considered not free at all if they get less than 50 points, mostly not free if they have from 60 to 70 points, relatively free – with 60-70 points, mainly free with 70-80 points and free if they get above 80 points.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge seek new nanny for their trip Down Under

January 12, 2014 Australia, Diaspora No Comments
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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are searching for a new nanny to take on their tour of New Zealand and Australia.Their current nanny, Jessie Webb – who looked after Prince William when he was a child – has reached the end of her contract.According to sources close to the couple, Mrs Webb, 71, came out of retirement to look after Prince George on the condition that she would work only for three months.In fact, Mrs Webb is still at Kensington Palace and William and Kate are keen to retain her services, but they are discreetly looking for extra help for the month-long trip this spring.It took a lot of persuading to get Jessie to take the job in the first place, but she loves William and wanted to help out,’ said a source.‘I can’t imagine that she will want to be travelling around the world at her age. If she does, she will need an assistant.’The Duke and Duchess did not hire a maternity nurse after George’s birth last July. Instead the couple moved into the Middleton family home in Berkshire so that Kate’s mother, Carole, could help out.When they moved to Kensington Palace last September, they persuaded Mrs Webb to join their household.It had been rumored that Carole Middleton could join the tour Down Under to help look after George. However, aides insist that will not be the case.The Duke and Duchess will have a punishing schedule, criss-crossing the two countries in less than a month. ‘They need round-the-clock help for George if he joins them,’ said a source.‘Kate might also want to think about taking a dresser or a lady’s maid. It sounds grand, but it’s actually very practical.The Queen wouldn’t dream of travelling overseas without a lady-in-waiting.’ In addition to Mrs Webb, William and Kate also have a housekeeper, Antonella Fresolone. Kate’s only luxury is her personal hairdresser, Amanda Cook Tucker, who visits the Palace. She is also expected to join the Royal tour.Carole Middleton has taken a hands-on role in caring for her grandson. According to one family friend, she visits Kensington Palace several times a week.The friend said: ‘Carole is very involved. She often arrives without warning.’A spokesman for the Royal couple last night declined to comment. 

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Featured Books

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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10:24, March 14, 2014

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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


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.

Armenian Foreign Policies 2013: Customs Union, U-turn on EU accord, Karabakh, Turkey, regional developments


2013 became a milestone year for Armenia not only in its foreign, but also domestic politics. After nearly four years of negotiations with the European Union over the signing of an association agreement on September 3 Armenia unexpectedly announced its intention to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This decision has had its influence not only on Armenia proper, but also on the processes elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Inspired by Armenia’s decision, Russia stepped up its pressure on Ukraine, which suspended the process of signing of the Association Agreement with the EU one week before the Vilnius summit of Eastern Partnership. As a result, on November 29 such agreements were initialed only by Moldova and Georgia.

Heritage reshuffle: Postanjyan becomes new leader of parliamentary faction


Zaruhi Postanjyan has been elected new head of the opposition Heritage faction in parliament. The change comes after Ruben Hakobyan announced his decision to resign as faction leader earlier today.

Talking to media in parliament Hakobyan said Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian had been notified about his move well in advance. He left questions about reasons for his step without commentary, only saying that he had decided to step down as faction leader before the recent scandal around Postanjyan in the wake of her controversial question to President Serzh Sargsyan about his gambling habit at the PACE plenary session in Strasbourg on October 2.