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Fresh Armenian Budget Allocations To Russian Military Spark Debate

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The latest decision by the Armenian government to pay for more expenses of a local Russian military base has fueled the ongoing debate about whether the host country should make such payments.

On Thursday the Cabinet approved a fresh allocation of 20.5 million drams (about $50,000) to the National Security Service (NSS) that would spend the money to cover expenses of the Russian military base stationed in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri.

Such allocations from the Armenian state budget are made quarterly. NSS head Gorik Hakobian said that in the second quarter of 2014 about the same amount of money was provided to the Russian border troops in Armenia to cover their military transportation expenses.

Armenian Genocide resolution at US Congress has not much to do with Republicans-Democrats confrontation – expert

November 7, 2014 Armenia, Diaspora, Turkey No Comments
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The adoption of a resolution on the Armenian Genocide by the US Congress has not much to do with the current confrontation between the Republicans and Democrats.It is a deeper problem, which involves the US foreign policy, expert in Turkic studies Levon Hovsepyan told Tert.am as he commented on the Republicans’ victory at the US Congress and Turkey’s enthusiasm about it.“Since Democrats in the US Congress are known for a number of initiatives in favor of an Armenian Genocide resolution, the Republicans could somewhat weaken the initiatives. I think the Armenian lobby should continue its work as actively as before,” he said.Turkey is enthusiastic about the Republicans’ stronger positions, which is seen from press reports, Mr Hovsepyan said. 

Aznavour in the Crosshairs: Did Armenia’s Ambassador Actually Say Those Things in Paris?

November 6, 2014 Armenia, Georgia, Music, Turkey No Comments
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19:10, November 6, 2014

Political Scientist Hayk A. Martirosyan: “The phenomenon of Aznavour is greater than Aznavour the diplomat, the man, or the citizen”

Did Charles Aznavour, Armenia’s Ambassador to Switzerland, give an interview to the Turkish newspaper Posta on November 2 and say the following?

“I don’t act according to the instructions of Armenia”; “Turks have a conscience”; “It’s futile to dredge up past events that took place during the Ottoman period”

Did Aznavour, in an earlier meet in Paris with Turkish producer Erkan zerman and Turkey’s Ambassador to France Hakkı Akil, accept an award called the Golden Maple?

Well it all seems to depend on whom you ask.

Anna Ohanyan: Striding the Gap between Her Armenian and German Families

November 5, 2014 Armenia, Culture, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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21:36, November 3, 2014

By Maneh Grigoryan

During Germany lessons, all of us would immerse ourselves in a language that would open borders to another country…a country where it seemed doors would open before us.

We didn’t take conscious steps to break those doors or to fly through them like spirits. No; it was more than easy. Those doors would open before our mere presence. They are waiting for us. We are beautiful, young, and full of ideas. It is only in our country that we sell our time and energy for two Euros at best…Where we exhaust our imagination to the point that even humor doesn’t save us.

$432.7 million spent on Turkey’s gargantuan presidential palace so far, finance minister says

November 4, 2014 Armenia, Diaspora, Turkey No Comments
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Turkey has spent over $600 million on a new presidential jet and presidential palace this year, Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek has revealed, noting that the budget purse strings will be loosened for the facility more next year, the Hurriyet Daily News reports. “Some $185 million will be paid for the new presidential jet from the prime ministry budget. Some $432.7 million has been paid for the construction of the new presidential palace as of now and some $135 million will be allocated for the palace in 2015,” Şimşek said at a meeting with Parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission.The whole project value of the presidential palace was set at 1.37 billion Turkish Liras ($615 million), he added.“The new Airbus A330-200 jet is now being used by the Turkish authorities. As the jet was originally acquired by Turkish Airlines and has not been transferred to the state yet, we have not yet made the payment from the budget yet. We plan to make the payment this year from the Prime Ministry budget,” he said.Turkey spent 874 million liras of secret funds, while the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has spent 145.1 million liras up until Nov. 3 this year, he added.The lion’s share of the secret funds were spent by the Prime Ministry with 618.4 million liras in expenditures, he said.The Prime Ministry spent $280 million last year from the secret funds while MİT had expenditures of $85.6 million, he noted.

Those Who Sew Do Not Reap Profit

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15:34, November 4, 2014

By Nino Bakradze

You don’t have to go to Southeast Asia to find sweatshops where workers toil under harsh conditions to make clothing for rich Western consumers.  A reporter for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) posing as a textile worker found such conditions in the Republic of Georgia.

Conditions are ripe for abuse in the country of 4-plus million which has no separate labor ministry, no labor inspectors, and an embarrassingly low minimum wage, yet OCCRP found two Kutaisi textile factories that manage to break what labor laws do exist.

Meanwhile, Georgian officials point to the weak protection laws as evidence of their “business friendly environment.”

Armenia and Iraqi Kurdistan: Why Doesn’t Yerevan Have Diplomatic Representation in Erbil?

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10:54, November 4, 2014

The de-jure autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq lies a few hundred kilometers from Yerevan. Given its pivotal role as a regional player and burgeoning economy, should we be concerned by the apparent lack of bilateral contact between Armenia and the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government.

26 states now maintain some type of diplomatic representation in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Armenia does not.

During a trip to Baghdad in February of this year, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian announced that Armenia was planning to open a consulate general in Erbil. Eight months later, this hasn’t happened.

Minister Lidington: UK Regards Armenia as Important Partner

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13:31, November 3, 2014

David Lidington, the United Kingdom’s Minister of State for Europe, met with Armenia Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian and discussed options to further strengthen political, commerce and business ties between the two countries.

The two ministers agree that for such ties to expand Armenia must first take steps to improve and strengthen the efficacy of its legal sector.

Minister Lidington said that the United Kingdom regards Armenia as an important partner in the region and that his visit is aimed at reinvigorating cooperation between London and Yerevan.

Nalbandian described the efforts of Armenia and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs to peacefully resolve the Karabakh conflict and, in turn, Lidington said that Great Britain supported this process.

Europe For ‘Stronger’ Relations With Eastern European Countries

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The European Union wants its relations with post-Soviet countries to grow stronger despite the current tensions with Russia, a visiting British official said in Yerevan on Monday.

Minister of State at the British Foreign Office David Lidington was on an official visit to Armenia during which he, in particular, held meetings with the country’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and President Serzh Sarkisian.  

Speaking at a joint press conference with Nalbandian, Lidington, replying to a question from RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on whether the current tense relations between the West and Russia would also affect the EU’s attitude towards Russia’s allies, such as Armenia, which is going to join a Russian-led trade bloc, the Eurasian Economic Union, in January.

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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.