2021 February 4

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Daily news wrap-up

Feb/4/2021: (1) Armenia will grow weed (2) Colonel charged w/bribery & tampering w/draft during war (3) Education reform: grading, curriculum, preschool (4) Bill: treason, disability ranking, media (5) Diplomacy (6) Rumors & rebuttals (7) Cancer stats & free treatment (8) $750M bond (9) in-out stats
by ar_david_hh


Your 14-minute Thursday report in 3497 words. Part 1.

anti-corruption: Defense Ministry official busted with bribery & tampering with draft during war

NSS report says: a Colonel, who had oversight over subdivisions, received a ֏975K bribe from a conscript to transfer him to another location on Sep-13-2020. Part of the bribe was transferred to his online gambling account.

When the war began, a draft was declared and recruits began training at a location in Armenia. The Colonel took a ֏1.2M bribe from a soldier in exchange for not sending him to the front lines.

During the winter draft, the Colonel took a ֏5.2M bribe from another conscript and used his connections to send him to the desired service location. A similar ֏1M bribe was requested on January 6th from another recruit.

The Colonel took another ֏1.4M bribe to help promote a conscript and allow him to work at a hospital instead of regular service.

On October 22nd, during the war, the Colonel decided to help a friend move from bordering Khndzoresk (Syunik) hospital back to Yerevan. As a result, the clinic became understaffed and couldn't fulfill its duties. Moreover, the Colonel then helped the same friend not to be deployed on Syunik borders as a soldier and instead to handle tasks in the rear, on October 26th, in exchange for a ֏300K bribe.

On October 13th, during the war, the Colonel and his accomplices wanted to help a soldier to leave Artsakh. When they learned that the latter was already on the "deserted" list, they took steps to remove him from the list.

Then, he learned that his friends' sons received a draft notice, and use his connections to remove them from the draft list.

After the war, on Dec-13, a friend asked the Colonel to make sure that his son, who was serving in Lusakert, wasn't sent to the front lines. The Colonel contacted the Lusakert facility but learned that the soldier was not among those who were supposed to be sent to the front lines. Nonetheless, the Colonel decided to defraud his friend by claiming that "he took care of it", and received a ֏200K bribe.

The colonel and over a dozen others were arrested. Illegal weapons were found under their possession. The investigation continues to expose other possible suspects.

https://youtu.be/ifo13WJLpsU

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042334.html

bill: harsher punishment for treason, spying, espionage

BHK MPs drafted a bill to increase punishment for traitors, spies, passing of state secrets. They want to raise the maximum punishment from 15 years to 20-life. The authors explained the move by citing many media reports about alleged "treason" incidents.

The bill was discussed at a relevant Parliamentary committee. The chairman QP MP Vladimir said he supports life imprisonment as the minimum punishment. However, during the discussion, they agreed to settle on 15-20 years plus property confiscation, or a life sentence.

The committee found the espionage punishment too harsh and asked the bill author to reduce it from 15 to 12 years. The BHK author agreed.

The bill was approved unanimously and will be debated/voted on the Parliament floor later.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042354.html

Jalal is back with another position

The wounded ex-Artsakh army commander Jalal Harutyunyan will serve as the Republic of Armenia's Defense Ministry's Head of the Military Control Service. He will replace General Movses Mosi Hakobyan who quit on November 18th.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042353.html

Russian-Turkish ceasefire monitoring group begins operations

Russian troops are using ORLAN-10 and FORPOST drones to monitor Am-AZ troop locations and movements.

https://youtu.be/ToSLqUDj6OE

https://factor.am/335089.html

ECHR received Armenia's complaint against Azerbaijan regarding 228 POWs / Azeris counter-claim for 13 POWs

Armenian families submitted a petition to ECHR to require Azerbaijan to provide information regarding 228 individuals. Azeris want to know data about 13 people.

(From the language it is unclear to me whether the petition is for confirmed POWs, or it also includes families of missing soldiers who want to know whether their relatives are POWs. Likely the former.)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042406.html

Red Cross visited 4 Armenian POWs in Azerbaijan

They were able to establish contact with families.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042428.html

Russia expects UNESCO to soon visit Armenian monuments that went under Azeri control

https://factor.am/335437.html

Russia removed tomato import ban on 13 Armenian firms

Russian regulator will allow 13 Armenian sellers to export tomato and pepper to Russia again after earlier finding a food virus in them. A similar ban was implemented against Azeri tomatoes.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042433.html

US Congressman demands an explanation from the US ambassador to Azerbaijan over "congratulatory" statement

Rep. Bred Sherman wants to know why the US ambassador to Azerbaijan Lee Litzenberger congratulated Azerbaijan's Economy Minister with "de-occupying territories and US's willingness to aid Azerbaijan with rebuilding those territories". He reminded the US officials that the US is a member of the Minsk Group and should take steps to ensure Artsakh's safety and prevention of a new war.

Bred Sherman praised Biden's appointee Anthony Blinken for stating that the US will review its military assistance to Azerbaijan after the latest war in Artsakh.

Artsakh MFA yesterday released a statement urging countries, officials, and organizations to refrain from such "congratulatory" statements.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042370.html

de-occupy Hadrut NGO

... aims to help 13,500 Hadrut residents who lost their homes during the war. It was founded during the war by activists who held protests in front of various embassies. In the early days, they received aid from President Sarkissian's office. The latter gave shelter to 25 families.

Today the NGO aims to help refugees with employment, while simultaneously lobbying for Minsk Group to de-occupy Hadrut so residents can return. "I hope that one day our NGO will shut down because Hadrut is no longer occupied," said co-founder Meri Davtyan.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042286.html

govt session: financial aid for Syunik border villagers

The government approved a new aid package for residents of Syunik's Shurnukh and Vorotan villagers. Those who lost their homes will qualify for the same aid package as Artsakh refugees: one-time ֏300K payment plus monthly ֏65K payments for 6 months. There is another pending aid package to build new houses for them.

Context: Two dozen houses in Vorotan and Shurnukh went under Azeri control because they were built on the Azeri side of the internationally-recognized borders.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042362.html

bill: disability ranking to be replaced with degrees of functionality impairment

The government approved a bill, yet to be approved by Parliament, to reform the disability system. The disability assessment process will analyze the person's level of functional impairment while taking into account surrounding conditions.

"Today, the system is run under a 1993 law that does not do a comprehensive assessment of the surrounding environment, person's ability to function in public life," says the govt.

The draft bill will repeal the 1-3 Categories and Disabled Child category. A person's functionality impairment degrees will be light, medium, heavy, or deep. Disability will no longer be considered a permanent health problem. The assessment will be based not only on the factor of health problems but also on the environmental factors of the person's activity and participation in public life.

Healthcare and Social Ministries, NGOs, the UN, and the EU worked together to create and test an assessment methodology.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042365.html

Tags: #DisabilityLaw #disabled

bill: require unknown Telegram/Facebook media channel owners identified before "linking" by mass media

QP MPs want to require social media channel operators identified before a "mainstream media" can link to them. It doesn't restrict citing "anonymous sources", however. It also requires outlets to disclose sources of revenues for transparency. Read yesterday's news for context and arguments in favor or against it.. The debate continued today.

QP MP Arthur: For example, a legitimate news organization with an editorial staff of 30 people generates information, holds interviews, etc., while a Telegram channel that we do not know where it is managed from and by whom, begins to disseminate sensationalized information and over time becomes more "legitimate" than real media outlets because media outlets "advertised" them.

This is also a national security risk because it is very possible that such sources are being operated by an adversary country to spread instability and an atmosphere of fear in the country. //

The co-author criticized the critics who "claimed that the bill intends to ban anonymous sources. That's not true. This also won't affect the protection of journalists' source secrecy."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042357.html

If you're interested in more debates:

https://youtu.be/MTHwRa4YjgY , https://youtu.be/ThDNVwZYEp8 , https://youtu.be/S6C_NocS9N0 , https://youtu.be/3_-i2Z23ubI , https://youtu.be/wiPnmfeLNJ8

Tags: #MediaLaw #TelegramLaw #FreeSpeech

rumors and rebuttals: Artsakh army isn't being dissolved

Serj's won-in-law Mishik earlier circulated rumors that were denied by state officials. Today, Kocharyan-ally Vitali Balasanyan, who serves as Artsakh's Security Council chief, confirmed that the army isn't "disintegrating." After the restructuring process, there will be subdivisions with professional contractors, he said.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042344.html

rumors and rebuttals: Azeri flag won't fly over Artsakh govt buildings

Vitalik Balasanyan also denied rumors about Azeri flags being installed on Artsakh govt buildings in Stepanakert.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042344.html

rumors and rebuttals: Azeri families won't resettle in Stenapakert / none are shopping in market

Vitalik Balasanyan said there are false rumors about two districts in Stepanakert being populated by Azeris, and Azeris allegedly freely shopping in Stepanakert market.

"Dear citizens of Artsakh, on behalf of the authorities of the Artsakh Republic, I assure you that despite the irreparable losses inflicted on us as a result of the war, the state is always committed to fulfilling its responsibilities to ensure the security and normal life of the population. Accordingly, I urge you not to pay attention to the false news. Everything is being done to create and expand the necessary conditions for a dignified life of the people of Artsakh."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042344.html

rumors and rebuttals: Artsakh envoy won't stop operating in Russia

The Permanent Representation of the Artsakh Republic in Russia will not be terminated, said the Artsakh govt in response to rumors.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042367.html

rumors and rebuttals: no single currency in EAEU trade bloc

EAEU would like to inform you that you've been misled about alleged plans to establish a single currency among member-states.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042427.html

location "Hollywood, Yerevan, Armenia"

There is a district called Hollywood in Yerevan, Armenia. Gamblers were caught running an underground casino in there. This is the second such bust in the past few months. The police say ֏5.5B in damages was done to the state.

https://youtu.be/sp0Sb--e_ms?t=60

https://factor.am/335320.html

anti-corruption: prosecutors charge education officials with ֏1.2B auction shenanigans

Prosecutors said: State Oversight Committee (SOC) audited the "National Center for Educational Technology" government-affiliated agency's finances between 2013-2020. Every year, the agency submitted a report on the work done by them towards servicing the education system. The bill was ֏700M annually.

It was revealed that between 2012-2015, they granted an auction-based contract to the same company. It received a combined ֏2.8B in funding. The law requires the auction-holding officials to examine the market and take other steps before the auction. They failed to do so.

Later, during 2017-2019, the same company was selected to do the job, but this time it was only paid ֏300-400M annually, far lower than during the previous years.

֏1.2B in damages was done to the state. A felony case is launched.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042389.html

re: Armenia's $750M eurobond sale / lowest % in history / $3B demand by investors / economy news

Read yesterday's news for context.

Pashinyan: The issuance of $750M eurobonds is a strong positive signal for the start of the economic year. The issuance was done under the most favorable conditions in the history of our republic, with the lowest 3.8% percentage rate. Our previous record was in 2019 at 4.2%. The demand was for $3B but we decided to issue only $0.750B.

First, it provides a guarantee of macroeconomic stability. Second, this is the first serious signal of overcoming the post-war economic shock, which shows that international investors have confidence in the economic future of Armenia and the policy pursued by the government. //

Economy Minister Janjughazyan: this was part of our long-term plan and we had planned to do it while drafting the 2021 budget. We planned to issue fewer bonds but decided to add $250M because of favorable terms. We plan to use that extra cash towards the stabilization deposit, as a safety pad, to be used throughout the year if necessary.

As long as our budget has a deficit we will have to borrow. But this is only part of the story; the country's overall debt burden is calculated based on various indicators. So far Armenia has been rated as a country with a lower debt burden.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042351.html, https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042352.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042363.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042393.html

how many people did leave and arrive after reopening air traffic with Russia?

The governments of Armenia and Russian worked on an "app" to allow mutual travel after taking a test. By February 15th, there will be 4-route flights in 2 directions. There were several flights in the past few days.

3900 left and 3400 arrived. 1423 Armenian citizens left and 1263 Armenian citizens arrived. "More people were willing to leave in December than today," noted Diaspora Committee chief Sinanyan.

"Some people flew to Russia but had to return due to a problem. This wasn't due to the COVID app implemented by us. Preliminary data shows that they went to Russia with a paper QP code which raised the suspicion of Russian authorities. We will work with them to resolve this," said Deputy PM Mher. (say what??)

"We need to better inform the public about the existence of this app. Restoring routine flights will help the tourism industry," said PM Pashinyan.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042358.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042383.html

Pashinyan about the suspended Amulsar gold mining project

He repeated his earlier position that "Decisions must be made that take into account Armenia's best interests."

"The mining industry plays a very important role in the development of Armenia's economy, including in the security context."

"We must make decisions to make investment programs acceptable for the Armenian public while taking into account interests of Republic of Armenia."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042368.html

COVID stats

1829 tested. 147 infected. 352 healed. 11 deaths. 4637 active.

"We're negotiating for vaccines via COVAX global initiative. Separately, we're negotiating with Russia for Sputnik-V. Vaccines should be available in March. It will be targeted at specific groups. It won't be mandatory," said Healthcare Minister Avanesyan.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042341.html , https://youtu.be/vXz3pHx1BlM?t=92

the consumer market price increase in the past 12 months

Armenia's consumer market inflation was +4.5% from January to January. Food +6.4%. Alcohol & tobacco +10.8%. Clothing +2.6%. Utilities +0.6%. Appliances +5.8%. Healthcare +5.6%. Transport +5.7%. Telecom +0.5%. Leisure & culture -0.8%. Education +2%. Dining +1.6%. Misc +3.5%.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042323.html

Parliament MP stops a citizen's suicide attempt

Someone tried to jump from Kievyan bridge. QP MP Gor Gevorgyan was nearby and stopped the attempt. The police took the distressed person to a station.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042329.html

psychological support will be provided to war participants and the public

Emergency Ministry says 15-30% of people have PTSD after the war. Today the government approved a plan to provide psychological aid to war participants and others. The target group includes families of missing people, POWs and their families, those who received disabilities, families of those who died, those who fought in the war, IDPs, civilians who were affected in any way. The program will work in Armenia and Artsakh.

The government will purchase services from experienced mental health service agencies.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042403.html

Armenia will grow industrial marijuana on mass industrial scale / incentive to boost land utilization

Hemp is a type of weed that contains less of the substance that makes you feel high. The government wants to grow industrial hemp on a mass scale to boost mood land utilization and revenues.

Pashinyan: this is going to open room for many speculations. It's important to present the project in detail so the public will have a full understanding of what is being done. Unfortunately, "hemp" is interpreted as something else, while in reality, it is a very important industrial raw material. The growing process has risks but there are oversight mechanisms that have been tested in many countries.

Deputy PM Avinyan: the US, Russia, and China have a great experience with industrial hemp production. The practice was examined by the Economy Ministry. We're talking about industrial production only. It will significantly activate agricultural land utilization. Today, 40% of lands are gone unused. This is part of our plan to boost the production of high-value agricultural products.

https://youtu.be/ssZgr2DR3DM?t=7

https://www.healthline.com/health/hemp-vs-marijuana#marijuana

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042372.html

Education Minister says the "controversial" parts of Church/History merger were "resolved"

Education Ministry wants to merge the school subjects "Armenian Church History" and "Armenian History". Critics said it will shrink the church-related materials too much, others called it treason, while others supported the decision, stating that it's all part of our history and having a separate class is inefficient.

Education Minister Dumanyan says he met colleagues at the National Academy of Sciences and they resolved the conflicts "that caused a noise earlier." He will reveal details soon.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042379.html , https://youtu.be/V0sC3dx-gzU

Major education reforms: "education alone will not solve all problems, but there is no problem that can be solved without an education"

... said PM Pashinyan during a govt session while discussing education reforms. Kids in 1-5 grades will no longer receive grades; tt will be pass or no pass (still needs Parliamentary approval). "There will be a criticism. How can you not grade? But this is a comprehensive program that emphasizes the student's needs and preferences," said Pashinyan.

"We need to pay attention to how the time is spent in schools and what skills are being taught in school hours. It will reflect in our society 15-20 years later. It will define whether we have a technological product or not.

What we were doing in 12 years (school length) can be done within 9 years, but a 9-year school isn't the solution. Instead of shortening the school, we're trying to fill the gap in a way to have a 50% higher efficiency by the end of the 12th year.

In developed countries, education starts not from school but from preschool. The lower the education entry age the more developed the countries are," said Pashinyan. (the govt has a plan to make sure 70% of kids attend preschools by 2023)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042394.html

cancer stats in Armenia / annual rate / drops among children / fewer abandon treatment

world

9.6 million people die from cancer annually. 1/3rd is possible to prevent. Another part can be cured with the help of early detection.

Armenia

Cancer was the 2nd leading cause of death in 2020. It has increased in the past 10 years but at a small rate. Lung cancer is more common among men, and breast cancer among women.

First time diagnosis by year: 2018 - 8762, 2019 - 7908, 2020 - 7050.

Deaths by year: 2018 - 5199, 2019 - 5434. 2020 - unavailable. (55% men, 45% women)

The cancer rate went up by 1.5x compared to 1990. However, it declined by 2x among children under 14yo.

Fewer people abandon treatment. 3 years ago 53% of lung patients did so, today it's 40%. Breast cancer treatment abandonment went from 47% to 22%. (I translated the word բարձիթողության as "abandonment". Correct me if it refers to something else.)

Artsakh

The number of cancer cases has decreased in Artsakh: from 260 to 345 YoY.

prevention

Oncologist Safaryan says the early detection helps to avoid complications and save lives, even if it's the type of cancer that is known to reappear. There are many patients who defeat cancer. "Smokers should get a lung x-ray twice a year. Those working in chemical plants should get a frequent screening. Do not ignore symptoms and չգցել ականջի հետև. You can defeat it more easily when it's at 1-2 stages. It's a lot harder when it advances to 4."

Preventing cancer isn't easy. The causes of this disease are many. Genetics, bad habits, obesity, surrounding environment. A genetic test can reveal the likelihood of suffering from illness. Some women choose to undergo a mastectomy to prevent possible breast cancer in the future.

"I decided that if 1-in-100 is destined to be cured, I will be that one," said Ashkhen, a woman who recently defeated cancer.

More: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042291.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042364.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042405.html

cancer diagnosis, surgery, and radiotherapy are free

The treatment was made free recently. The Oncology Center urges the public to get screened as part of an early-detection initiative. The pilot program began in Vanadzor; 307 women were screened.

Cancer diagnosis, surgery, and radiotherapy are free, while the medication has a co-payment.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042423.html

today in history

2004: Mike Zuckerberg founded Facebook to steal your SSN

1949: Sri Lanka declares indpendence

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042309.html

president meets donor

Artsakh president Arayik met donor Alec Baghdasaryan and thanked him. "Only with the joint efforts of the Armenian people is it possible to quickly overcome the difficulties and to plan development programs." Alec plans more charity programs relating to education.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1042326.html

donations to Artsakh & recovering soldiers

www.1000plus.am (recovering soldiers & their families)

www.HimnaDram.org (for Artsakh & Armenia)

www.ArmeniaFund.org (U.S. tax-deductible)

archive of older news

http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Daily_Anti-Corruption_Reports

disclaimer

All the accused are considered innocent unless proven guilty in the court of law, even if they "sound" or "appear" guilty.


Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/lcqkxd/feb42021_1_armenia_will_grow_weed_2_colonel/

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