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Sleeping with Our Enemy: Russia Sells Weapons to Azerbaijan

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13:08, February 21, 2015

By David Boyajian

Russia has sold some $4 billion worth of modern weapons to Azerbaijan in the past few years, with perhaps more to come.

These include S-300 air defense missiles, Mi-35Mcombat helicopters, T-90 tanks, Kornetanti-tank missiles, MSTA-S 152mm self-propelled artillery, and the highly destructive Smerch Multiple Launch Rocket System.

Since Azerbaijan’s1994 defeat in the Karabagh/Artsakh war, its leaders have declared their intention to seize Artsakh by force. Azeris regularly shoot across, and try to penetrate, Artsakh’s ceasefire line. They have made territorial claims on Armenia and are even shelling villages in Armenia itself.

Prison Reform in Armenia: ‘The Butchers Continue to Operate without Punishment’

February 20, 2015 Armenia, Arts, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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14:45, February 20, 2015

The Council of Europe has a special committee called the CPT (European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) that it periodically sends to its 47 member states to assess how detained persons are treated.

Places visited include prisons, juvenile detention centres, police stations, holding centres for immigration detainees, psychiatric hospitals, social care homes, etc.

After each visit, the CPT sends a confidential report containing its conclusions and recommendations to the state concerned.

Human rights organizations and defenders, both locally in Armenia and internationally, have been critical of the reports the CPT has been sending to the Armenian government, the first in 2002, describing them as carbon copies of previous reports with minor changes here and there.

Leak Reveals US and UK Spies Hacked Mobile Phone Data in Bulk

February 20, 2015 Armenia, Business, Europe, Sports No Comments
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British and American agencies have harvested encryption codes that allowed them to access the voice calls and messages of millions of mobile phone users around the world, The Intercept revealed Thursday.

The US’s National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) worked together to hack Gemalto, the world’s largest producer of the SIM cards used in mobile phones and credit cards. The Netherlands-based company works with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and 450 other providers around the world, producing two billion SIM cards per year.

Documents leaked to The Intercept by whistle-blower Edward Snowden contain information from the 2010 theft of three months of encryption data, during which NSA and GCHQ’s joint operation, titled the Mobile Handset Exploitation Team, collected millions of encryption codes.

Karabakh Rules Out Release Of Jailed Azerbaijani Nationals

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Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian authorities have refused to consider the release of two Azerbaijani nations who were convicted and jailed last year on charges of committing a number of crimes, including a teenager’s murder.

Azerbaijan did not recognize the legality of the trial in which its citizens, Dilham Askerov and Shahbaz Quliyev, were sentenced to life and 22 years in prison, respectively.

United States Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland addressed the issue during her visits to Baku and Yerevan earlier this week.

In the Armenian capital on Wednesday the senior U.S. diplomat called on “relevant authorities” to make a “humanitarian gesture”.

Interpol Fake Food Raids Result in Record-Sized Seizures

February 18, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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18:16, February 18, 2015

In a two-month operation spanning 47 countries, Interpol and Europol have seized thousands of tons of fake food and drinks.

The record-breaking haul of counterfeit goods was netted in raids throughout December 2014 and January 2015. It is the latest of a series of operations targeting the trade of counterfeit foods, an illegal industry that makes millions of euros for criminal networks.

Worldwide, nearly 275,000 liters of drinks were seized, most of which was counterfeit alcohol. In one case, police raided a plant in the United Kingdom that produced fake vodka containing antifreeze. Back in 2012, the Czech Republic temporarily banned the sale of hard alcohol after dozens of deaths from similar fake vodka made with windshield wiper fluid.

Russia: Navalny Conviction Upheld, House Arrest Ends

February 18, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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21:13, February 18, 2015

A Russian appeals court has released activist Alexei Navalny from house arrest, while upholding his suspended three-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

The Kremlin critic was sentenced in December 2014 after being convicted along with his brother Oleg in a theft case that has been widely seen as politically motivated. Prosecutors said the pair had stolen 30 million rubles (US$ 480,000) from two companies, including one linked to the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher, by overcharging for postal services provided by their firm between 2008 and 2011.

Alexei Navalny was held under house arrest from before his trial in February 2014 until yesterday. His original prison sentence remains suspended, and he could face jail time if he violates the court’s requirements.

U.S. ‘Cares Deeply’ About Its Partnership With Armenia

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America cares deeply about its partnership with Armenia, Victoria Nuland, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said in Yerevan on Wednesday on the third leg of her South Caucasus tour that also included stops in Azerbaijan and Georgia.

“We have for more than 20 years supported democracy, independence, economic growth, prosperity and peace here. And we want to continue to do that and to deepen and broaden that relationship,” the senior U.S. diplomat added.

“We care deeply about Armenia’s ability to grow stronger, more prosperous, more independent, and to represent a strong democratic image in this part of the world and to protect the rights of all Armenians to live freely. So, it’s important to us.”

Romania: Prime Minister’s Brother-in-Law in EU Embezzlement Probe

February 17, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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22:39, February 17, 2015

A company owned by the sister and brother-in-law of the Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta was among 14 locationsraidedby anti-corruption officials Tuesday morning.

According toMediafax Newswire, prosecutors suspect that several companies includingSC Exfin Ltd, which is runby Ponta’s brother-in-law Iulian Hertanu and his wife Alexandra, were involved in embezzling an estimated US$ 2 million from a European Union-funded project.

The sum represents 54 percent of the overall budget of a program to improve sewer infrastructure in the mountain town of Azuga, Prahova.

Investigators searched the company headquarters and raided the Hertanu family home. The companies are also suspected of tax evasion to the tune of approximately US$640,000.

Karabakh Mediators On New Regional Tour

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International mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) continued their efforts to promote a peaceful solution to the protracted conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh as they paid fresh visits to Azerbaijan and Armenia this week.

On the second stop of their regional tour in Yerevan on Tuesday, the United States, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group met with the country’s leadership, including President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.

While the mediators appeared to have brought no new proposals with them to the region, Ambassador James Warlick, the American representative in the group, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) that their tour was “another opportunity to talk”.

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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.