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Microsoft To Boost Support For Armenian IT Sector

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Microsoft Corporation pledged to step up its contribution to Armenia’s burgeoning information technology sector on Tuesday with a new regional software development center to be opened in Yerevan soon.

In return, the Armenian government promised stronger protection of the U.S. giant’s world-famous products against widespread software piracy in the country.

The two sides formalized their mutual commitments with a package of agreements which Microsoft’s top executive for central and eastern Europe, Don Grantham, signed in Yerevan with Armenia’s ministers of economy, education and defense. Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, Richard Mills, underscored its importance with their presence at the signing ceremony.

Another IT Facility Launched In Armenia

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Highlighting the rapid growth of Armenia’s information technology (IT) sector, D-Link Corporation, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of computer networking equipment, inaugurated its newly constructed research and development center in Gyumri on Monday.

The center is one of the three facilities of its kind operated by the Taiwanese IT group around the world. Its creation was made possible by an agreement which D-Link signed with the Armenian government in January 2013. The government provided the company with a plot of land in Gyumri for that purpose.

D-Link had opened software development branches in both Gyumri and Yerevan even before that agreement. It reportedly employed some 200 people in Armenia as of last year.

ERBD Loans Armenia €3.5 Million for Kotayk Solid Waste Management Project

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14:42, May 20, 2015

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD) has provided a €3.5 million fifteen year loan to the Republic of Armenia for the construction of the first EU compliant regional landfill and relevant infrastructure in the country.

The landfill will be located in Hrazdan, capital of Armenia’s Kotayk Province, and will be used by eight municipalities in the nearby region – Hrazdan, Abovyan, Charentsavan, Yeghvard, Nor Hajin, Tzaghadzor, Byureghavan and Sevan (Gegharkunik Province).  

The solid waste management project will also include the acquisition of vehicles, bins and equipment for waste management.  

In addition, the European Union Neighbourhood Investment Facility (“NIF”) has approved a grant in the amount of €3.5 million to provide co-financing for the Project.

How to Stay Connected Without the Internet

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18:07, May 18, 2015

Often, we read about how internet access is restricted in some country or other, especially during times of civil unrest.

When the Green Movement took off in Iran after the 2009 presidential election, and the government launched similar restrictions, Armine Saidi and David Esteves thought of ways to bypass such restrictions and make communication independent of the internet and cellular links.

Years later, the WiCastr company (now operating in Armenia as well), is offering equipment that contains large amounts of information – documents, videos, games, etc. Such material is accessible in a fifty meter radius by using equipment linked to its network that is capable of connecting to the WiFi; for example, smart phones. 

IT contests, designed for IT professionals and beginners

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17:07, May 15, 2015

Cloud-based Hackathon [YAN] 2015 and Seedstars Yerevan will take place in Vahakni residential community on May 28, 2015

Microsoft Innovation Center-Armenia, in collaboration with Microsoft RA and Seedstars World, is organizing a unique contest day for IT specialists, which will be interesting both for beginners and startups. The partners of the event are Hovnanian International, VivaCell-MTS, Technology & Science Dynamics and Sixt companies. Cloud-based Hackathon [YAN] 2015, designed for beginners and Seedstars Yerevan targeting startups will take place on May 28 at Ararat Valley Club in Vahakni community.

U.S. Takeover Of Armenian Power Plants ‘Completed’

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The landmark sale of Armenia’s largest hydroelectric complex to a U.S. energy company, which the Armenian government put on hold a year ago, has been finally completed, according to President Serzh Sarkisian.

Under the takeover agreement signed in Yerevan in January 2014, the New York-based group ContourGlobal was to pay $180 million for the Vorotan Hydro Cascade and invest another US$70m in its modernization. ContourGlobal was thus on course to become the first Western company to gain major assets in Armenia’s energy sector dominated by Russian companies, notably Gazprom.

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U.S.-Armenian Trade Deal Signed

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The United States and Armenia signed on Thursday an economic agreement which they hope will help to expand their modest bilateral trade and facilitate U.S. investments in the Armenian economy.

The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed by Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and U.S. Assistant Trade Representative Daniel Mullaney during President Serzh Sarkisian’s visit to Washington. Sarkisian was present at the signing ceremony.

“Today’s agreement provides a vehicle for deepening and broadening U.S.-Armenia trade and investment relations,” Mullaney said in a statement released after the ceremony.

Under the agreement, the U.S. and Armenian governments will set up a joint Council on Trade and Investment that will meet at least once a year to address obstacles to U.S.-Armenian trade and explore other ways of deepening economic ties between the two countries.

Armenia as Lab Rat? Flu Vaccine Donation Includes Odd List of Obligations

April 14, 2015 Armenia, Technology No Comments
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00:13, April 14, 2015

Marine Martirosyan
Vahe Sarukhanyan

In a follow-up to our article regarding the donation of 60,000 seasonal influenza vaccines to Armenia from the U.S. based Task Force for Global Health, we will now take a look at the details of the memo of understanding between donor and recipient.

These details are interesting and raise a number of issues.

Hetq sent Armenia’s Ministry of Health questions regarding this document and the answers are also subject to scrutiny. In particular, we wanted to know the exact date when Minister of Health Armen Muradyan and Task Force Executive VP Thomas Rosenberger signed the memo. The ministry wrote back that the memo covered a one-time donation and was signed based on a government decision issued on October 30, 2014.

Bulgaria’s Largest Telecoms Firm Shares Bought by Group Linked to Sanctioned Oligarch

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17:21, March 24, 2015

A majority stake in the largest telecoms company in Bulgaria has been bought by a group linked to an oligarch close to Putin, according to a probe by the investigative journalism outlet Bivol.

The Louvrier Investment Company (LIC33) announced on March 19 that it had bought shares in the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, known as Vivacom AD, from previous owner Tsvetan Vassilev.

LIC33’s chairman is Belgian-Russian businessman Pierre Louvrier, and its website lists a company address in Paris which Bivol, an OCCRP partner, discovered is a rented mailbox. According to Bivol, no company with the name LIC33 legally exists in France and it is unclear where the group is registered.

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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

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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.