Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
During the past few days there have been reports in the Armenian press that there are plans to build an oil refinery in Southern Armenian city of Meghri. It is to be built by the Russian 'GasPromNeft' corporation.
This certainly is a good news. There have been talks about building a refinery since 1992. At that time the prime minister suggested that such a plant be built but there was even no bread to eat for the population so it was kind of a fantasy. But times have changed and the socioeconomic situation is far better now than then.
Economically, this is a very smart move by the Armenian authorities. The raw oil will be imported from across the border with Iran. Some of the refined oil will be exported back to Iran and some of it will be used in Armenia. Right now Iran has a shortage of gasoline and other refined oil products. This shortage is expected to grow in the future as the Iranians grow more affluent and buy more cars (the car production is reportedly booming in that country).
The second benefit is the lowering of the transportation costs to import oil products into Armenia. Gasoline is imported from Bulgaria. It has to cross the Black Sea, get unloaded in Poti port in Georgia, and transported to Armenia on trucks. This is a logistically complicated and costly process. With a refinery in Meghri, we will have our own supply in our backyard.
What concerns me is the environmental aspect of this. The Armenian authorities are not known for a passion for the environment. An economically depressed society values the job creation over the environmental destruction. Look at the copper mill in Alaverdi or the cement factories in Ararat. The Russians definitely are not interested in an environmentally friendly plant either. As business owners, they could care less if they destroyed Meghri. It's not their country, and they will be more interested in the bottom line.
The area is also vulnerable to Azeri attacks from Nakhijevan or Azerbaijan proper. The plant should be built next to the Arax river so that if the Azeris attack it, the oil spill will flow to Azerbaijan. This is to leverage the safety of the refinery with the Azeri water supply. Of course, there have to be precautions taken so that there are no accidental spills into the river. You do not want to harm the Azeri population and environment in peace time.
I don't know if there have been any studies about the economic viability of this project. There will be a need for infrastructure development. Right now there is only a narrow highway linking both these countries. There will be a need to build a railway link and probably an oil pipeline as well. Bot of these are costly but for the economic development of Armenia and Zangezur region these are important.
Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 11:41 AM
Monday, January 29, 2007
A few days ago there was a report of a duck in Florida that had been shot by a hunter, brought home and placed in a refrigerator for two days. And when the hunter's wife opened the fridge in order to cook the poor duck, it quacked. Apparently, she was alive.
Well, the story does not end there. BBC has another story about her. She died twice during the surgery on her wing but she made it through.
Ducks are one of the coolest birds out there. I love the way the mothers tend to their kids, and the decisions they make when faced with a problem where she has to sacrifice some kids in order to save the rest. It's a tough choice and I don't know how they feel about it.
Anyway, I am glad the duck made it through. Hopefully she will die of natural causes and won't end up on someone's dinner plate.
Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 11:36 AM
Saturday, January 27, 2007
So far the three countries initiating the Kars-Akhalkalak-Baku railway, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, have ignored the objections of Armenia, and the US. They keep pushing the project through. So far their main publicly announced hurdle has been raising the funds for the construction. The amount is small, only US$ 800 million, so the reason for these delays is political. But since it is going ahead, it means that the pressure on them has been inadequate.
A week or so ago the German ambassador in Azerbaijan did not rule out European participation in the project. And then an Armenian Foreign Ministry staffer offered Georgia to let Armenia to become a participant. I don't see a reason for such an undignified stance - clearly, the purpose of this railway is to circumvent Armenia.
The Armenian government has to start employing a stick instead of asking third parties to exert pressure. Armenia has to insist that such communication routes achieve only one thing: they will increase the tension in the region and eventually result in another war. Armenia definitely does not want to start a war with Azerbaijan or Georgia over a railway. But these two countries have to understand that they will not gain anything positive as a result of this project. The movers and shakers of this world should not want another escalation. There are already problems in Southern Caucasus as it is. Georgia certainly would not want to have Akhalkalak become another Abkhasia. Azerbaijan should not be flamboyant either - God forbid something happens to their oil pipeline.
I do not know if the Armenian government has communicated this message to the appropriate parties but maybe a war games in Lori is in order.
Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 7:11 PM
Friday, January 26, 2007
I am sitting at my desk at work and listening to the Armenian Public Radio's channel 1 broadcast live from Yerevan. I've always been a fan of Armenian Public Radio but it seems that the orientation of the music broadcast has changed. Right now I think it's NSINC or some other 'boy-band'. I usually don't listen to things like that but my hope is that they'll switch to something else shortly. After all, it's 1 am in Armenia (the DJ's voice insisted on updating me with the current time in a number of cities around the world :): you can't expect quality programming at this hour although the Macy Gray song earlier was quite nice.
And because today was the 15-th anniversary of the Armenian Army, there were a lot of small stories about the heroism of the volunteers who sacrificed their lives defending Armenia against the Azeri and Russian aggression. There was a story about a history teacher in Getashen, Shahumian region, NKR, that confronted the Russian and Azeri soldiers when they invaded the village with tanks and helicopters while they were only armed with a few rifles. He grabbed the commanding Russian colonel while holding a hand grenade in an attempt to force him to order their withdrawal, but was killed by Azeri snipers. His two friends were killed in a hail of fire when they opened fire on the Russian soldiers in response to the sniper fire.
I am glad that the memory of these fighters is still preserved. If you want to hear or watch live Armenian radio or TV, check the links on the sidebar.
Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 4:04 PM
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Today I came across the Haykakan Zhamanak issue of January 20, 2007. It had an interesting editorial and an accompanying article on page three as well which dealt with an issue I have pondered about a lot during the last few years.
The foreign policy of Armenia has had one issue since the independence - the Karabagh issue. Another issue was added when Mr. Kocharian became the president - the international recognition of Metz Yeghern (Genocide). Nikol Pashinian goes on to articulate that all the actions of Azerbaijan are interpreted by the Armenian government through the prism of these two bedrocks of the foreign policy principles. But Azerbaijan has moved on and Karabagh issue is not a bedrock in foreign policy but a means, or a pipeline, to gain access to the ears of the world's movers and shakers, i.e. the president of the United States, or European powers, and thus resolve such 'trivial' issues as access to foreign markets for their goods while isolating Armenia from the world.
I have to admit that they have been quite successful so far as does Pashinian. He also has a suggestion to prevent the next project that will isolate Armenia - the Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railway construction - make sure that the parties involved realize that Armenia will make sure that every possible option is used to prevent the construction.
There is a recent precedent to what Azerbaijan is trying to accomplish. Often, Karabagh is compared with the situation with the Turkish occupation of the Northern Cyprus. In 1974, after years of internal conflict, the Turkish community established an autonomous entity in Northern Cyprus with the help of invading Turkish military. They have a de-facto independent state with their own military, economy and other sectors of a proper independent state. Yet they are isolated and mired in poverty (relative to their Greek counterparts). That has been the result of the successive Cypriot governments' efforts to keep them cut off from the world while continuing negotiations for the last 32 years! Nothing has been accomplished through these negotiations except to keep the Turks distracted. All their efforts have been focused on achieving independence while the Greek Cypriots have developed and prospered. When the EU and the UN demanded for a referendum to take place for the Northern Cyprus be admitted into the EU a few years ago, the Greek Cypriots slapped the Turks with NO while the Turks wholeheartedly said YES.
There is a big lesson to be learned here. Armenia does not want to be what the Turkish Cypriots are now. The Northern Cypriots are a little luckier - they live on an island so the transportation is not blockaded, and they have a powerful backer - Turkey is the only country that has recognized their independence besides Pakistan. They are effectively in the backyard gutter of Europe and Middle East.
Anyway, here is the www.hzh.am article in Armenian:
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Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 1:17 PM
Friday, January 19, 2007
The first news item I came across today was a CNN story about Hrant Dink being shot in Istanbul. I am saddened immensely but I am neither shocked nor surprised. Being outspoken in Turkey is dangerous. Being an Armenian and outspoken in Turkey is certainly a death sentence.
Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 10:00 AM
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Aravot has this picture that accompanies an op-ed piece titled 'Black cat, do not pass near Khosrov Harutyunian'. Khosrov Harutyunian is a former Armenian PM and a Speaker of Parliament.
The cat does not look like a street cat but you never know. The street cats and primarily dogs can be very sociable. When I visited Yerevan in 2003 after years of living in the US, I was at first surprized that people sitting in cafes had their dogs without leash. It took me a couple of days to realize that these were not pets but street dogs.
Armenian attitudes are quite lax when it comes to street animals. These guys are tolerated and usually people do not mind packs of ruggedy dogs running around. Unfortunately, sometimes the government decides to resolve the homeless dog issue and sends hunters to shoot them at night (a quite traumatic experience for civilians to witness). Cats are not shot at and roam freely.
This is unlike the US where street animals are not tolerated. Any dog or cat without a tag is captured promptly and sent to a 'Humane Society' animal shelter. There they are spayed, put up for adoption and if not adopted within a short period of time (usually a month), are killed in gas chambers. It's a twisted logic but they think they are helping these animals.
Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 2:49 PM
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
The other day I was driving in downtown Indianapolis and realized that I had my camera with me. I started experimenting with the nighttime photography while driving. Most of the results were quite nice. The movement of the cars, combined with the shaky drive on potholed streets, yielded nicely paranoid pictures.
Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 1:55 PM
Monday, January 15, 2007
I came across the picture of this hardworking monkey in 'Haykakan Jamanak' daily. The caption underneath made references to the current authorities saying that unlike this well dressed monkey, people soon will be lining up to take their pictures, and they will not be in the Republic Square but in jail, and they won't have colorful coats but striped prisoners' jumpsuits.
But what I saw as important in the whole rant was the picture of this poor creature. He obviously is not being treated badly by the man holding him. He is as well dressed as a little kid. Also, notice that he is not on a leash. But it must be hard for him/her to be outside in a cold weather. He doesn't seem very enthusiastic about cold climate at all.
Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 4:14 PM
Monday, January 08, 2007
I just came across this photo of palm trees in Batumi, Georgia that are covered by snow on Rapho's flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/georgienblogspotcom/ but not on his blog at http://georgien.blogspot.com .
Simply amazing as I have never seen anything like this. My experience has been that palm trees do not grow naturally where it usually snows. Either these are some hardy palms, or it was just a fluke.
Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 4:28 PM
Thursday, January 04, 2007
A family friend from Syria gave this bottle when I visited Cyprus last year. Before I had settled in the US, I never thought that it would be weird to hold an alcoholic drink made in an Arab country, with Arabic inscriptions on it. I had drank Lebanese and Syrian vodka before and had never thought about it. But living in the US does wonders to you. The official propaganda eventually gets to you. After a while you start believing that the Muslims are fundamentalists and are out to get us, the Germans are genocidal freaks, the French are cheese eating surrender monkeys, and the Americans are the most superior nation in the world. It's quite silly but a lot of effort is made to convince people this is indeed true.
This Arak resembles Ouzo but is a little stronger. I think regular Ouzo is 40% alcohol. This one has 50% alcohol, and if you don't swallow it immediately, it will burn the inside of your mouth. One is supposed to mix it with water but I think it's the sissies who do that.
My goal was to finish it over the Christmas and New Years holidays. The Arak is still in the bottle laughing at me. Maybe this weekend...
Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 10:40 PM
When I was a kid in Armenia, 7 pm was a special hour. This is when my family would tune in to the 'Voice of America' on frequency 31 on our short wave radio. The signal was weak, and it would drift on the dial as the Soviets tried to jam it. So one had to keep an eye on it, and adjust it accordingly. One had to be careful also of the neighbors not being able to hear what were you up to. We lived in a 4 story Khruschev apartment building which had bad sound insulation. Most of the residents were Akhpars (repatriated Armenians from Diaspora) so there was less of a danger of being reported to the authorities as I suspect most of them listened to VOA as well. And I am sure the authorities knew exactly what was going on but chose to turn a blind eye as the Akhpars were not very politically influential as they kept their opinions among themselves - they did not trust the native Armenians very much.
One of the best moments were the weekly music programs. And sometimes they would play this strange music called 'country music'. I didn't understand much what it was about and I didn't know who listened to it. To me it was just another aspect of the American culture that we were prohibited to know.
Two decades later I found myself in the middle of American heartland. One of my neighbors had a black matte Chevy Blazer with a decal that read 'REDNECK' and there was a for sale sign on the window for $1000.00. It would take me a few months to get to know what America was all about and what redneck meant. But my redneck neighbor was cool as were the others.
The music of choice for the heartland is country music. When you drive in the interstate highways, once you are out of the metropolitan areas, you have few choices on your FM radio. You will get a couple of religious channels with either preaching of the Bible or Christian rock. Or you can tune in to a country music channel. I usually tune in to the country music channel.
The Economist has an article titled 'Middle America's soul' that attempts to explain what country music is about. Most of it is true - there is not a lot of cursing, and most of the songs are about broken hearts, sorrow, drinking, and some are about faith. And they are probably right - the audience is the mostly non-coastal population that the politicians refer to as 'conservative'. I don't know if I fit in this demographics very well. I am somewhat of a Libertarian opposed to big government and for open trade and less military adventures abroad. But I am for welfare state (though not the way of giving fish but teaching how to fish), secular governance and racial equality.
Տպագրող՝ Ankakh_Hayastan at 11:58 AM