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Falling inflation a worry for Europe but also the world

November 23, 2014 Armenia, Diaspora, Europe No Comments
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European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has moved closer to launching sovereign debt purchases and data this week will show just how dangerously low inflation has fallen in the $13 trillion euro zone economy, Reuters reports.
A sickly Europe has held back global economic growth for years, and now it is contributing significantly to powerful forces already dragging down inflation across the globe.
A spectacular drop in crude oil prices over the past month will be the center of discussion when ministers from the world’s top oil exporters meets in Vienna on Friday.
The key question there is whether Saudi Arabia, which signaled last month it was comfortable with lower oil prices, accelerating a plunge in the price of crude to a third since June, will stick to that view.
But rapidly-increasing U.S. oil production, coinciding with shaky demand from China and Europe, is likely to keep a lid on the price no matter what the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decides.
The latest Reuters poll suggests euro zone inflation relapsed to 0.3 percent in November, far from the ECB target of just below 2 percent.
“It is essential to bring back inflation to target and without delay,” Draghi said on Friday.
“Monetary policy can and will do its part to achieve this. But it is also clear that, as monetary policy works on the demand side of the economy, other policies can assist in this process – or at least not counteract it.”
After many years of austerity, Draghi and others have come around to the idea of loosening fiscal policy to invest in infrastructure. But Germany, which could best afford it, is focused on balancing its books for the first time since 1969.

China rate cut spurs markets on to new highs

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The cut in Chinese interest rates and comments from Europe’s central bank chief have lifted global markets, the BBC reports. The People’s Bank of China cut its one year deposit rate to 2.75% from 3.0% to try to revive its economy.Meanwhile Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB) said he would “step up the pressure” to stimulate Europe’s struggling economy.Within half an hour of opening, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose almost 1% to a new record high of 17,866.00.In the UK, mining stocks rose between 3% and 5% on the hope that better growth would help sales of raw materials to China.The six biggest risers on the index were either oil or mining companies.The Australian and New Zealand currencies also strengthened reflecting their dependence on trade with China.The cut in Chinese rates, which took the markets by surprise, was the first since 2012, and comes into effect on Saturday.The one-year lending rate will also be reduced from 6% to 5.6%.On Thursday figures showed China’s factory output contracting for the first time in six months.Economic growth slowed to a five-year low of 7.3% last quarter.To offset the effect of lower rates on savers the bank said it would give banks the flexibility to offer higher deposit rates, up to 1.2 times the benchmark level, rather than 1.1 times. 

Government Loses More European Court Cases

November 21, 2014 Armenia, Europe, Top News No Comments
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Three more families evicted from their homes during a controversial redevelopment in central Yerevan a decade ago have won lawsuits filed against the Armenian government in the European Court of Human Rights.

The court ordered the government this week to pay them a total of 160,000 euros ($200,000) in damages for the demolition of their old houses and confiscation of land owned by them.

Hundreds of such homes were torn down in the early and mid-2000s to make way for expensive residential and office buildings constructed by private developers in accordance with a government-backed plan. Many of the displaced families were unhappy with modest compensations offered by the state. Some challenged the eviction orders with physical resistance and lawsuits.

ECHR Orders Armenia to Pay 160,000 Euros in Three Eminent Domain Cases

November 21, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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17:39, November 20, 2014

In three separate cases, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has decided that Armenia must pay a total of 160,000 Euros in compensation.

All three cases are eminent domain in nature and involve property located on Byuzand Street in downtown Yerevan. Said property was expropriated by the state for town planning purposes. In all three, the plaintiffs did not accept the state’s offer of compensation for the property.

In BAGHDASARYAN AND ZARIKYANTS v. ARMENIA, (the ECHR found that Armenia must pay the plaintiffs EUR 44,000.

In the case of GHARIBYAN AND OTHERS v. ARMENIA, the ECHR ordered Armenia to pay EUR 52,000.

In the case of GHASABYAN AND OTHERS v. ARMENIA, the ECHR ordered Armenia to pay EUR 64,000.

Italy: ‘Ndrangheta Initiation Ritual Exposed

November 21, 2014 Armenia, Business, Europe, Video No Comments
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20:25, November 20, 2014

Police in Italy have arrested 40 suspected gangsters after capturing unprecedented hidden-camera footage of the ‘Ndrangheta’s infamous organized crime initiation ceremony.

Milan prosecutor Ilda Boccassini claimed that the footage, part of a two-year investigation, was the only police video of the secretive ritual,according toThe Guardian.

“For the first time we heard it from the voice of [organized criminals],” she said of the footage, believed to show ‘Ndrangheta members being sworn into an elite group known as La Santa. One recruit was only 17.

“Today, from now on, you will be your own judges!” proclaims the ritual’s master of ceremonies. He calls on the huddled group of figures to promise to kill themselves should they make a mistake, either by taking cyanide or using a gun. “There must always be a bullet reserved; one for you,” he cautions.

Hungary: Protesters Rally Against Prime Minister

November 20, 2014 Armenia, Business, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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11:01, November 20, 2014

More than 10,000 Hungarians protested on Monday, Nov. 17 against Prime Minister Viktor Orban, saying he is too close to the Kremlin and employs corrupt officials.

The protests took place outside the Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest on what organizers dubbed the “Day of Public Outrage,” summing up ordinary Hungarians’ concerns about the nation’s fate under a leader who in July provoked international outcry by saying he would end liberal democracy in the country.

According to Reuters, placards displayed by protestors read “We don’t pay tax to criminals” and “Europe! Europe!” One banner bore the slogan, “People against corruption, so much for the two-thirds,” referring to Orban’s political party Fidesz, which rules by a majority of two-thirds, reports Reuters.

PACE condemns Azerbaijan’s use of prisoner transfer treaty in ‘Safarov case’

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The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has condemned the use by Azerbaijan of a Council of Europe prisoner transfer treaty to justify the immediate release of an Azerbaijani soldier, convicted of murdering an Armenian soldier in Hungary in 2004, once he had returned to his home country.In a resolution adopted during its meeting in Brussels, based on a report by Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, EC), the Standing Committee – which brings together around 60 leading members of PACE and acts in its name – said the use of Article 12 of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons in the case of Ramil Safarov was “a violation of the principles of good faith in international relations and of the rule of law”.Mr Safarov was convicted in 2007 of murdering an Armenian fellow participant on a NATO training course in Hungary and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of release for 30 years. After serving eight years of his sentence in Hungary, he was transferred to Azerbaijan under the Convention, which allows the transfer of foreign prisoners to their home countries for primarily humanitarian reasons.Upon his arrival Mr Safarov was welcomed as a national hero and granted an immediate pardon – long before the expiry of the minimum sentence set by the Hungarian court – and a retroactive promotion as well as other rewards, according to the resolution.The Convention is “not designed to be used for the immediate release of prisoners upon return to their home country”, the parliamentarians pointed out.“While recognizing that States Parties, by virtue of Article 12 of the convention, have a sovereign right to grant pardons and amnesties to persons sentenced to a term of imprisonment, the Assembly recalls that the principles of good faith in international relations, recognized, inter alia, by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and of the rule of law require that treaties be interpreted in line with their objects and purposes.” 

Azerbaijani Government Blocks Journalist From US Commission Hearing

November 19, 2014 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Europe No Comments
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Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist and OCCRP partner facing criminal libel charges in Azerbaijan, could not attend a hearing scheduled at the US Capitol to testify on fighting corruption due to a travel ban she claims is illegal.

Ismayilova was one of four witnesses 

scheduled to testify in Washington, DC today, Nov. 19, before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the US Helsinki Commission. However, the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of Azerbaijan has forbidden her from leaving Azerbaijan, saying her participation is needed as a witness in a case “on revealing the state secret.”

The US Helsinki Commission is an independent US Government agency created in 1976 and comprised largely of members of Congress but including representatives from the departments of State, Defense and Commerce as well.

Mediators Urge Access To Armenian Helicopter Wreckage

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International mediators on Wednesday urged Azerbaijan to give the Armenian side access to the wreckage of an Armenian military helicopter shot down near Nagorno-Karabakh for recovering the bodies of its three crew members.

The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group said they “remain deeply concerned that there has been no humanitarian access to the crash site” of the Mi-24 helicopter that was downed by Azerbaijani forces on November 12.

“We call on the sides to cease firing in the vicinity of the crash site and facilitate the demining of the area surrounding the site,” they said in a joint statement. “In the spirit of the Astrakhan statement of October 2010 between the Presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia, the Co-Chairs urge Azerbaijan to permit the recovery of the bodies of the victims, and Armenia to cooperate fully with all efforts to resolve this humanitarian situation.”

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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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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.