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OCCRP Wins Special Award at the European Press Prize

April 13, 2015 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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22:06, April 13, 2015

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has been honored by the European Press Prize (EPP) as a “force for good” in independent journalism, with the panel of judges giving the organization a special prize for achievement.

Executive director Paul Radu and regional editor Miranda Patrucic accepted the award on behalf of OCCRP at today’s ceremony in Copenhagen, where editors and journalists gathered to congratulate the finest in their field.

The EPP gives a series of annual awards for high-quality journalism that stirs public debate and holds power to account.

Two OCCRP projects were finalists for the Investigative Reporting and Innovation categories of the award. It was the third year in a row that OCCRP stories featured in the EPP shortlists.

Armenia Again Rejects ‘Pro-Azeri’ PACE Report On Karabakh

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Armenian lawmakers insisted on Monday that they will not cooperate with a pro-Azerbaijani British colleague who has been tasked by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) with drafting a report on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The rapporteur, Robert Walter, was named by the PACE leadership last year to launch a fact-finding mission to the conflict zone and prepare the report titled “Escalation of Violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and Other Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan.”

This wording prompted furious protests from Armenian members of the Strasbourg-based assembly and the government in Yerevan. They say that it predetermines Walter’s findings and runs counter to statements made by U.S., Russian and French mediators trying to broker a Karabakh settlement.

Romania: 73 Syrian Migrants Discovered Hidden in Furniture Truck

April 13, 2015 Armenia, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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19:32, April 13, 2015

Border authorities discovered 73 Syrian migrants packed into the back of a furniture truck on Saturday as the driver tried to cross the Romania-Hungary border.

According to the Associated Press, the truck was bound from Turkey to France when Romanian customs officials stopped the Turkish driver at the Nadlac border crossing. Reports said there were 74 people in the truck, including 73 Syrian nationals and one Iranian, aged from 12 to 41.

The group could face charges for crossing the border illegally, while the driver is suspected of trafficking migrants.   

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees reports that there are four million Syrian refugees dispersed worldwide, including nearly 1.8 million Syrians registered in Turkey.

Turkey Condemns Pope Over Armenian Genocide Remarks

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Turkey accused Pope Francis of distorting history and fuelling “growing racism” in Europe late on Sunday after recalling its ambassador to the Vatican in protest against his latest recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu condemned as “inappropriate” Francis’s remarks made during a Vatican mass dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the World War One-era slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians.

“To read these sorrows in a one-sided way is inappropriate for the pope and the authority that he holds,” Davutoglu said in televised comments cited by the AFP news agency.

According to the Anatolia news agency, Davutoglu charged that the pontiff contributed to “the growing racism in Europe” by ignoring the suffering Turks and other Muslims during the First World War.

Priceless Artifact: Komitas Piano Returns Home

April 13, 2015 Armenia, Arts, Europe, Music No Comments
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17:21, April 11, 2015

By Anna Babajanyan 

The Komitas Museum-Institute, which opened in January, received its most expensive exhibition piece from the Charents Museum of Literature and Arts—the grand piano Komitas himself used for composing. 

This journey, however, was not unswerving. For decades this piano’s abode changed from one to the next before reaching its final resting place. 

And Komitas, the greatest Armenian musician, was deprived of the opportunity to have this legendary historical artifact for many years. It would have been unbelievable for the distinguished archimandrite Komitas to have given concert performances of his popular and spiritual songs and have led a choir with this instrument, but he actually composed on a tiny antique piano housed in Etchmiadzin congregation hall. That instrument’s keyboard was nowhere near substantial enough for Komitas. 

EU Helps Syrian Refugees In Armenia

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The European Union has allocated about $500,000 in economic assistance to ethnic Armenians from Syria who have taken refuge in Armenia after the outbreak of the bloody conflict in the Middle Eastern state.

About 13,000 Syrian Armenians live in their ancestral homeland at present. Most of them are struggling to survive in a country that has long suffered from high unemployment.

The EU assistance announced on Thursday is geared towards those refugees who would like to set up their own businesses. It will take the form of logistical and material support and counselling to be provided by the Armenian Red Cross Society (ARSC).

US: "Carder" Cybercriminal Who Stole Millions is Sentenced

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22:31, April 10, 2015

A court in Nevada, United States, has sentenced another member of the cybercrime enterprise “Carder.su” for selling stolen and counterfeit credit cards via the internet.

Carder.su was an internet forum where cybercriminals could exchange their knowledge of criminal scams and circulate stolen and counterfeit ID documents and credit card information. The online enterprise was Russian-led and emerged in 2005. It was shut down by US law enforcement in 2010.

Thursday’s verdict came after Jermaine Smith, 34, from New Jersey in the US, pleaded guilty to taking part in a racketeering operation trading in fake ID documents back in October 2014. He was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in federal prison and ordered to pay US$ 50.8 million in restitution.

Armenia Part Of ‘European Civilization,’ Says Sarkisian

April 10, 2015 Armenia, Asia, Europe, Top News No Comments
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Armenia is seeking closer relations with the European Union because it is an integral part of “European civilization”, President Serzh Sarkisian said during an official visit to Italy late on Thursday.

Meeting with Italian parliamentarians in Rome, Sarkisian insisted that his country can combine those ties with its membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

“We are natural partners because our partnership is primarily based on values,” he said in a speech at the dinner meeting. “The Armenians and Armenian civilization are a part of European civilization, and our state is committed to furthering those values.”

Sarkisian stressed that among the member states of the EEU Armenia has adopted “standards closest to the EU.” Therefore, he said, “we could become a bridge for European countries, including Italy, to the 170 million-strong EEU market.”

Armenia, Russia Negotiate Over Deeper Gas Price Discount

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The Armenian government is negotiating with the Gazprom giant in hopes of securing a greater discount on Russian natural gas deliveries to Armenia, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Yervand Zakharian said on Thursday.

“Negotiations on the gas tariffs are in progress,” Zakharian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Everything is being done to have the gas price at the [Armenian] border go down.”

“We should succeed,” he said after a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan. He gave no further details.

Armenia currently pays Gazprom almost $190 million per thousand cubic meters of Russian gas, a price which is well below international market levels. The discount was agreed upon in late 2013 shortly after Armenia decided to join a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states at the expense of a far-reaching deal with the European Union. Armenian officials said at the time that the tariff will not change for the next five years.

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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.

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.