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Yerevan Seeks New Economic Accord With EU

November 11, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Europe, Top News No Comments

Armenia hopes to deepen economic ties with the European Union through a new agreement despite joining a Russian-led trade alliance of ex-Soviet states, Economy Minister Karen Chshmaritian said on Tuesday.

“We hope that after working out a certain format we can sign an agreement on developing further economic cooperation,” Chshmaritian told reporters, commenting on his visit to Brussels last week.

Chshmaritian and members of an Armenian government delegation headed by him visited the EU headquarters to meet with senior EU officials. They discussed possible alternatives to a far-reaching Association Agreement which Yerevan was due to sign with the EU until President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly decided last year to make his country part of the Eurasian Economic Union.

Will New Government Bill Deprive Women Inmates of Maternity Allowances?

November 11, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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10:10, November 11, 2014

Hasmik Haroutyunyan, a member of the Rights Without Borders NGO in Armenia, told Hetq that a recent government bill to amend the benefits received by those temporarily unable to work will deprive women who give birth in the country’s prisons from receiving maternity allowances.

Haroutyunyan points to Article 17 of the amendments bill that would modify Article 23 of the existing law, stating that, “Maternity allowances will not be granted to convicts serving time in correctional facilities.”

She argues that such an approach is discriminatory and rife with negative socio-economic consequences for women inmates.

Law Enforcement Takes On The Black Markets Of The “Dark Web”

November 11, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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13:22, November 11, 2014

Authorities from the US and Europe have made 17 arrests and taken down more than 400 so-called “Dark Web” domains in a crackdown on illegal online marketplaces.

The hundreds of “.onion” addresses and servers seized in the Nov. 6 assault, “Operation Onymous,” corresponded to dozens of markets, according to the FBI, who coordinated the operation with Eurojust, Europol’s European Cybercrime Center (EC3) and the US Justice Department. Authorities from 16 European countries took part, according to Europol.

However, a complete list of sites taken down is not yet available. The EC3 head, Troels Oerting,told Wired that his staff hadn’t had time to assemble a full list.

Iran offers Azerbaijan to joint car production deal

November 10, 2014 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Europe No Comments
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Azerbaijan and Iran may jointly produce cars, a member of the Iranian parliament’s mines and industries commission Ali Alilu told has told the Trend News Agency in Baku.
A automotive manufacturing plant can be in Baku or Tabriz,” he said.
Alilu said that automakers must do some work for the development of cooperation between the two countries.
“The quality of jointly produced vehicles must comply with international standards,” he said. “The cars must compete with those of European producers. Azerbaijan and Iran has the potential to create such vehicles.”
Alilu said that there is an automotive manufacturing plant in Tabriz, Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. The plant has the necessary equipment for the production of qualitative vehicles.
He said that at present, various cars are imported from Iran to Azerbaijan.
“The two countries are cooperating in this area,” he said. “However, this cooperation is not at a satisfactory level.” 

Ireland insists it can still be hi-tech hub despite axing ‘double Irish’ loophole

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As 22,000 tech entrepreneurs, inventors and investors converged on Dublin for the city’s Web Summit last week, one big question threatened to bring the whole digital bonanza down to earth, The Guardian reports.After the Ireland moved last month to close a lucrative tax loophole, former Apple chief executive John Sculley told the summit that the country risked losing the “edge” that has helped it become the European headquarters of US technology giants including Apple and Facebook. “There is a lot of talent in Ireland so I don’t think it will be an insurmountable problem but it will take the edge off, if tax advantages do go away,” he said.The “double Irish” scheme has allowed corporations to save billions by legally moving huge profits at their Irish bases to countries regarded as tax havens. It will be phased out following the 2015 budget – although Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed last week that firms already benefiting from the scheme could continue to operate it until 2020.At the summit – where speakers included Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, Dropbox founder Drew Houston and actor and angel investor Eva Longoria – bosses of the latest wave of hi-tech companies to come to Ireland were keen to play down the significance of Dublin’s move to end the scheme. Eight software, telecoms and digital media firms announced that they would create 400 new jobs in the republic.The boss of one of them, New Zealander Dr Jock Percy, whose Perseus Telecom provides fibre optics to connect major banks with stock exchanges, said he was encouraged that the Dublin government had decided to maintain its 12.5% corporate tax rate and planned new tax breaks for inventions and innovations minted in Ireland, like the UK’s “patent box” scheme.“Low corporation tax in Ireland is attractive but the double Irish was not even considered or planned for. Instead we were more interested in the fact that there are multilingual skilled workers in Ireland and a pro-business government,” said Percy, whose company’s main base is in Galway.“For us the introduction of a patent-box is much more valuable because our intellectual property, designs and software programs all belong here in Ireland. So getting tax relief for that is fantastic and we are looking forward to that coming in,” he said.Kenny told an audience at the summit that the country had “nothing to fear” from the end of the double Irish scheme. “The end of it will make our country even more attractive for foreign direct investment in the future and there is that transition period for companies already here up to 2020.”Richard Bruton, minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation also dismissed the concerns of Sculley, although he acknowledged the flak Ireland has taken over tax schemes in Brussels and Washington. “Clearly we understand that countries compete on a number of fronts and Ireland has always offered a competitive tax environment,” he said. “We know companies expect that and we will continue to compete very strongly but on a fair basis. There has to be a worldwide consensus to make taxation policy fair across the board.”The 12.5% corporate tax rate, Kenny and Bruton said, would be protected as a cornerstone of Irish fiscal policy.As Kenny and Bruton were speaking, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers signalled that the UK Treasury would decide within weeks if Northern Ireland could set its own corporation tax rate. She promised in a speech to Co-operation Ireland in Belfast that the administration would know soon whether London would hand over control.Political leaders in Stormont have looked on jealously as their southern neighbors continue to use low corporate taxes to attract foreign direct investment and want their own rate set at a level close to the republic’s.Villiers said London was taking the calls to devolve tax powers “very seriously”. It could be a move the republic’s Industrial Development Agency will have to take very seriously too. 

Turkey to intensify Armenian Genocide denial policy as 2015 nears – expert

November 8, 2014 Armenia, Diaspora, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is inferior to Turkish Premier Ahmet Davutoğlu in the political and many other respects, expert in Turkic studies Ruben Melkonyan told Tert.am as he commented on Mr Çavuşoğlu’s statement ruling out Turkey’s admission of the Armenian Genocide.“Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s appointment made it clear that more instances of uncivilized behavior will mark Turkey’s foreign policy. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is inferior to Turkish Premier Ahmet Davutoğlu in the political and many other respects. His strong-worded statement was no mere coincidence, which once again proves Turkey is too far from panhuman and European values and there is no room for it in the European family,” Mr Melkonyan said.The policy of denial is a key component of Turkey’s policy.“Turkey’s ruling elite is denying the crime of Genocide, and this policy will certainly become more aggressive as the centennial of the Armenian Genocide is nearing. As the year 2015 nears, Turkey’s ruling elite will intensify its attempts by making similar statements,” the expert said. 

Armenia’s Environment Minister In Berlin for Talks with German Development Bank

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16:35, November 7, 2014

Armenian Minister for Nature Protection Aramayis Grigoryan yesterday met with members with the board of the German government owned KfW Development Bank.

Minister Grigoryan and the KfW board members discussed on-going projects in Armenia financed by the bank and paid particular attention to third stage of the “Project to Assist Protected Areas in Armenia” for which the bank has allocated 8.250 million Euros.

The minister is now visiting Germany in an official capacity at the invitation of the KfW to participate in the 15th anniversary celebrations of “Support Caucasian nature” program.

EU Mulls Areas Of Cooperation For Future Agreement With Armenia, Envoy Says

November 7, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Europe, Top News No Comments

The European Union does not exclude that a new agreement with Armenia considering the South Caucasus country’s commitments to an emerging Russian-led trade bloc may be signed in the near future, according to a Brussels representative in Yerevan.

Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday, Ambassador Traian Hristea, the head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, said that negotiations around the matter are currently underway between the two parties.

The European Union and Armenia signed a memorandum of understanding on November 3 launching the Single Support Framework for EU support to Yerevan under which the 28-nation bloc pledged to provide between 140 million and 170 million euros to Armenia for private-sector, public administration, and justice reforms over the next three years.

Manet canvas sets record at Christie’s $166-million sale of Impressionist art

November 7, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Diaspora, Europe No Comments
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A celebrated 1881 portrait by French Impressionist Edouard Manet on Wednesday smashed the record for the artist when it sold for $65.1 million at Christie’s, going far towards the auction house’s solid total takings of $165.6 million.”Le Printemps,” an oil painting owned by the same family for a century, had been estimated to sell for as much as $35 million, but half a dozen bidders competing for the work, most of them via telephone, helped drive up the price.The sale, including Christie’s commission of just over 12 percent, nearly doubled the previous record of $33.2 million for a Manet, set in 2010 by “Self Portrait with a Palette.”The strong results were a testament to “the widespread interest in Impressionist and modern art,” said Doug Woodham, president of Christie’s Americas.For a second consecutive night, collectors of increasingly rare Impressionist and modern trophy works spent heavily.The auction was a far more modest affair than Tuesday’s record sale at rival Sotheby’s, which saw the highest auction total in its 270-year history, but managed to beat even the high pre-sale estimate of $157 million.Christie’s officials worked to keep estimates conservative, and the strategy paid off handsomely as more than half the offerings exceeded the high estimate. Four of 39 went unsold.”The sale was overwhelmingly well-priced and tailored to today’s tastes,” said Brooke Lampley, head of Impressionist and modern art. “We had participation from every part of the world,” she added, with strong representation from the United States, Europe and Asia. Four of the evening’s 10 highest-priced works were bought by clients from Britain.Among other highlights, Alberto Giacometti’s “Stele III” sculpture fetched $9.9 million, well above the high estimate of $6.5 million, while Joan Miro’s “Tuilerie a Mont-roig” sold for $8.7 million, against an estimate of $5 million to $8 million.The lone significant casualty was Fernand Leger’s “Les constructeurs avec arbre,” which had been estimated to sell for $16 million to $22 million, but went unsold.The fall auctions continue next week, when Sotheby’s and Christie’s hold their sales of post-war and contemporary art, a category marked by spiking prices which for years has eclipsed the once-dominant Impressionist and modern arena. 

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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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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.