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Italy and South America: Police Forces Bust ‘Drug Ring Led by Italian Ndrangheta’

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21:07, June 18, 2015

By Cecilia Ferrara, Investigative Reporting Project Italy

An operation involving police in Italy, the United States and Spain has resulted in the arrests of 33 people and arrest warrants for six more as they attempted to crack a drug ring that allegedly brought four tons of cocaine into Europe in the past two years.

The drugs would have been worth about a billion euros, according to prosecutors.

The trafficking network reportedly involved cooperation between buyers linked to the notorious Italian Mafia clan the Ndrangheta and their suppliers in South America.

Chief prosecutor of the Italian region of Calabria, Federico De Raho, told a press conference yesterday that this represented one of their biggest ever operations.

Brazil Senate Recognizes Armenian Genocide

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Brazil’s upper house of parliament, the Federal Senate, has joined 23 countries around the world in officially recognizing the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.

The Brazilian Senate described the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians as genocide in a “motion of solidarity with the Armenian people” that was approved by 55 of its 81 members on Tuesday.

The resolution pays tribute to the victims and praises descendants of the genocide survivors who had taken refuge in Brazil for their “economic, social and cultural” contributions to Latin America’s largest nation. Brazil is now home to more than 40,000 ethnic Armenians.

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.

US: Former Venezuelan Judge Admits Cartel Involvement

November 12, 2014 Armenia, South America No Comments
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22:43, November 12, 2014

A former judge and ally of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has pleaded guilty to extortion, obstruction of justice and money laundering in Miami federal court. As Reuters reports, the case is part of US efforts targeting high- ranking Venezuelan government officials suspected of cooperating with drug cartels.

The former judge, Benny Palmeri-Bacchi, 46, was charged with distributing cocaine to the US, conspiracy to obstruct justice, money laundering and extortion in July 2013. He was arrested as he flew into Miami for a family visit to Disney World.

Armenia imports over 1 ton of guanabana this year

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Armenia has imported over one ton of guanabana since January.
Speaking to Tert.am, a press secretary for the Agriculture Ministry’s State Food Security Service, Armine Sukiasyan, said a considerable part of the exotic fruit – one ton – came from Columbia; another six kilograms were imported from China.
Ashot Agaghabyan, a businessman MP affiliated with the ruling Republican faction in parliament, had earlier told the local daily Zhoghovurd that he had signed an exceptional agreement in Ecuador to facilitate the import of a guanabana additive that helps treat and prevent cancer and AIDS. The paper said that the fruit was first imported to Armenia by Artak Sargsyan, the owner of the supermarket chain SAS.
The market price of guanabana is within the range of 80-100 Drams/kg ($0.19-$0.24)
Guanabana is grown in Africa, South America and in tropical countries. 

Luis Suarez ruling likely in August

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Barcelona recruit Luis Suarez’s appeal against his biting ban could be heard before the Spanish league season starts next month, the West Australian reports.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said on Friday that Suarez, the Uruguay football federation and Barcelona have filed a request for a fast-track appeal against FIFA’s ban for nine competitive international matches and four months from all football.
“It is likely that a final award will be rendered well before the end of August,” the court said in a statement.
The Spanish league season begins the weekend of August 23-24, when Barcelona host Elche.
FIFA must also agree to a fast-track procedure.
No hearing dates have yet been agreed to, the court said.
Arbitrators have also yet to be appointed to judge the case.
In typical appeals to CAS, both sides and the court each choose one lawyer on the three-member panel.
FIFA’s sanctions imposed on Suarez also included a fine of 100,000 Swiss francs ($A121,179) for biting the shoulder of Italydefender Giorgio Chiellini in a group match at the World Cup.
Uruguay beat Italy 1-0 with a goal scored one minute after Suarez’s bite was missed by the match officials.
The South Americans advanced to the second round, but without its star striker were easily beaten by Colombia.FIFA’s disciplinary panel imposed the ban on June 26.

Guatemala: Extradition Of Drug Lord “El Patriarca” To US Approved

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21:23, March 7, 2014

Guatemalan President Otto Perez has approved the extradition to the United States of Waldemar Lorenzana, alias “El Patriarca” (The Patriarch), who was arrested in 2011 on drug trafficking charges.

Police say he is the boss of the Guatemalan cartel Los Lorenzana, believed to have ties with the Mexican Sinaloa cartel. Sinaloa’s leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, was recently captured.

Judge Saul Alvarez told the press that Lorenzana, 72, will be extradited for trafficking drugs into the United States.

The New Herald Latin Americareports that Lorenzana’s extradition was ratified by the court in August 2012, but was stalled pending the president’s approval.

Country branding: New York-based company working on Armenia’s new image

February 26, 2014 Armenia, South America, Turkey No Comments
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If you think Armenia’s brands are ancient khachkars (stone crosses), the biblical mount of Ararat, which is technically situated in modern-day Turkey, apricots, pomegranates, duduk or lavash, well, the company tasked with developing Armenia’s new country branding thinks you may be not quite right.

These are beautiful symbols, but hardly the best means to present the country to the world in the 21st century, thinks Vasken Kalayjian, director of New York-based Brand, a company engaged in country branding.

Still, the answer to the main question – and what is Armenia’s national brand? – has not been found yet. Kalayjian says he gives this question to everyone he talks to in Armenia.

Italy: 24 Arrested On Drug Charges In TransAtlantic Mafia Venture

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00:05, February 14, 2014

Italian police and the FBI have arrested 17 people in Italy and seven in the United States during an operation that authorities say dismantled a drug-trafficking group. The operation, dubbed New Bridge, involved collaboration between the Italian crime syndicate ‘Ndrangheta and the New York- based Gambino family of the Mafia.

Among those arrested Tuesday were Francesco Ursino and Giovanni Morabito, two leading figures of the ‘Ndrangheta, a crime family based in Calabria, which is located in the toe of the Italian boot. Police also arrested Frank Lupoi, an Italian-American they say represented the Gambino family.

Investigators say the two crime groups worked together to move heroin by boat from Italy to the United States and cocaine from South America to Italy.

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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.