Archive for March, 2008

Obama Out of the Game

Last Thursday, on our way to an after-work bowling party, one of my coworkers said she was the worst player when it came to bowling. I proudly told her that she had never met me before then! I was right – I lost the game to everyone.

My score of 37 is apparently not a record. Presidential candidate Barack Obama shares with me the title of worst player. Although generally I am not happy about sharing titles (I will have to do so during my upcoming graduation where, along with another student, I will be the Outstanding Undergraduate Student of my class), this one is indeed promising.  

Via Yahoo:

[Barack Obama’s] weekend of campaigning [in Pensylvania] also included a comical trip to the lanes at a bowling alley in Altoona, where he was, by his own admission, terrible.

“My economic plan is better than my bowling,” Obama told fellow bowlers Saturday evening at the Pleasant Valley Recreation Center.

“It has to be,” one man called out.

As he laced up his bowling shoes, Obama let everyone know he hadn’t bowled since Jimmy Carter was president.

He shared a lane with Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr., who endorsed him Friday and joined him on the bus tour, and local homemaker Roxanne Hart. As the game went on, several small children bowled with Obama as well.

Obama’s first ball flew well off his hand but ended up in the gutter. On his second try, he knocked down four pins.

About five lanes over, a young man in a T-shirt that said “Beer Hunter” fell on his backside while bowling and still recorded a strike.

The crowd of regulars pressed in to take pictures, get autographs and rib him on his poor skills.

Obama did improve, nearly getting a strike in one frame, and in the seventh, picking up a spare, giving him a score of 37. Casey had a score of 71 after getting a strike, and Hart, with one less frame, racked up a score of 82.

“I was terrible,” Obama laughed as he shook hands with people in a crowd that gathered outside once word spread he was there.

Turkey: Some Nationalists Start War Against Wikipedia

Via TurkishPress:

The Turkish Association for Fight Against Unfounded Genocide Allegations (ASIMED) launched an e-mail campaign against Wikipedia urging it to remove the “Semi-Protection” lock over the article on Armenian allegations concerning the incidents of 1915.

Chairman of Asimed, Assistant Professor Savas Egilmez, said the best thing about Wikipedia was its feature allowing users to edit (make corrections, deletions and additions) in articles published on the website.

“When you browse the English version of Wikipedia which publishes its content in various languages, one notices an issue in complete contrast with the Wikipedia principles. In the english website while the article on Armenian allegations concerning the incidents of 1915 contain all the thesis of the Armenian diaspora, the Turkish thesis are excluded,” said Egilmez.

“The web site allows users to make editions in all subjects, but it does not allow edition of the article on Armenian allegations. The site only provides the theses of the Armenian diaspora. This is a great injustice against the Turkish Nation.”

Egilmez said they started an e-mail campaign to stop this injustice and asked Turkish nationals to support it by sending e-mails to the web site’s administrators ([email protected]) .

Wikipedia has a “Protection policy” allowing administrators to protect a page to restrict editing or moving of that page, and remove such protection.

“Editing or moving of a page can be restricted by administrators. As Wikipedia is built around the principle that anyone can edit it, this should only be done in certain situations,” says the policy.


Happy Earth Hour!

From 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. my local time I joined the Earth Hour campaign. In order to remind/tell friends about the event, I texted them “Happy Earth Hour.”

Armenia: Popular News Website Closes Comments Section, an Armenian investigative journalist website regarded as one of the most objective in the South Caucasus despite its often open support for the political opposition, has blocked all users from commenting on its articles citing constant usage of inappropriate language by some of its readers.

“Given that some individuals have continued to exploit the Comments Section for expressing personal vitriol and the use of foul language, rather than to advance true dialogue and debate,” explains on its website, “we are left with no recourse but to temporarily close it.”

Hetq’s move somewhat resonates with the now-lifted state of emergency in Armenia that the government issued following the March 1, 2008 violent clashes between opposition supporters and the police. The state of emergency at the time banned all media from reporting any political information other than statements provided by the authorities. has also deleted all previous comments – all originally posted without moderation. Recalling some of the comments I read before they were deleted, I can understand why Hetq would get sick and tired of many intolerant, polarized, extremist and irrational comments made by supporters of both the opposition and the authorities.

One thing that could have done is moderation of comments – post those without inappropriate language and intolerance. This could provide some with the opportunity to rethink their usage of words. Given the enormous number of comments moderation might have been technically and practically impossible for Hetq to do. But what kind of message is Hetq delivering with entirely blocking the comments section?

I hope our colleagues at Hetq will come to share our approach to Armenia’s politics that social revolution will bring political reforms. Unless there is a social-cultural revolution in Armenia where people learn to say ‘Thank You’ and ‘Sorry’ to each other and until the roots of intolerance are eliminated, there is not going to be democracy in Armenia. And Hetq could support this movement by starting moderating the comments instead of blocking them all.

Armenian Activist Meets with Clinton

Armenian-American socialite Annie Totah, who has raised eyebrows for her usage of ultraconservative anti-Obama articles, has recently met with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. According to the Armenpac website, the meeting took place last week.


Recently Annie Totah, Co-Chair of ARMENPAC, the Armenian American Political Action Committee, had the opportunity to once again get together with Senator Hillary Clinton at her residence in Washington, D.C.

Clinton, whose Presidential candidacy was bolstered with victories in Ohio and Texas, met with supporters at an intimate event in her Washington residence. Clinton, whose solid record of support for Armenian-American issues goes way beyond that of the other presidential hopefuls, was recently endorsed by ARMENPAC.

“I always appreciate the opportunity to speak with the Senator about the issues most important to Armenian-Americans. It’s truly inspiring to think that Senator Clinton, who has been such a good friend to our community, may be the next President of the United States,” said ARMENPAC Co-Chair Annie Totah.

“Along with my fellow colleagues on the ARMENPAC Board of Directors, we make it a priority to meet with, work with and support candidates who are in a position to affect policy and legislation that can be beneficial to Armenians in America and our brothers and sisters on our homeland,” added Totah.

Annie Totah also had the opportunity while at this event to discuss Armenian-American issues with Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley, Senator Clinton’s Presidential Campaign Manager Terry McAuliffe and Mid-Atlantic Campaign Director Natalie Jones, among others.

Another Human Rights Watch Press Release on Armenia


Armenia: Lift Ban on Peaceful Protest

Opposition Demonstrators Detained Under New Restrictions

(New York, March 27, 2008) – The Armenian government should lift new restrictions on freedom of assembly and cease detaining opposition supporters participating in peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch said today.  

On March 25 and 26, 2008 police detained at least 60 opposition supporters in Yerevan who were peacefully demonstrating against restrictions imposed last week on public assemblies following violent clashes on March 1 between police and opposition protesters. All were released after several hours in detention, but on March 27, another 21 opposition supporters were detained and their fate remains unknown.  
“The Armenian government should allow peaceful demonstrations, not ban them,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The new restrictions effectively punish peaceful demonstrators for the violence that took place on March 1.”  
The Armenian National Assembly passed amendments on March 18 which allow for extensive restrictions on public gatherings following “disturbances leading to the loss of human life.” The wording is a clear reference to the events of March 1, when violence erupted between security forces and protesters after police had earlier used force to disperse demonstrators protesting alleged fraud during the February 19 presidential elections. At least eight people were killed and more than 130 injured. The restrictions on public assembly are indefinite, remaining in place until the completion of an investigation into alleged crimes committed during the disturbance.  
Every evening since a three-week state of emergency was lifted on March 21, several hundred opposition activists and supporters have been organizing what they call “public walks” on Northern Avenue, a pedestrian street in the capital’s downtown. They quietly protest against the government’s new restrictions on assembly. At these “public walks,” people walk around, chat with one another, sit on public benches, and play chess or read books. On March 25, police began detaining dozens of those participating in the “public walks.”  
The new amendments violate Armenia’s obligation to respect peaceful assembly. The European Convention on Human Rights, to which Armenia is a party, guarantees freedom of assembly, and governments may not place unreasonable restrictions on this right. The European Court of Human Rights has described the right to assemble peacefully as “one of the foundations of a democratic society” and has made clear on a number of occasions that individuals cannot lose their right to peaceful assembly as a result of punishable acts committed by others in the course of a demonstration.  
Authorities have used the changes to the law to deny at least six requests from opposition parties to hold demonstrations at Freedom Square in downtown Yerevan. The government justifies the denials by claiming that participants in the March 1 violence may seek to participate in future demonstrations as well.  
Human Rights Watch spoke with four opposition supporters detained on March 26. One said: “I was sitting on a bench on Northern Avenue and reading a book, when two uniformed police officers approached me, asking me to go with them. When I asked why, they advised me not to ask questions and to just follow them if I wanted to avoid problems. I obeyed. There were others who did not obey this command, and the police twisted their arms behind their backs and stuffed them into a car.”  
Opposition supporters were taken to the Kentron police station, photographed and asked for their names and addresses. Two hours later, they were transferred to Yerevan district police stations near their homes. After several hours, detainees were taken individually to the police department chief for a brief interrogation and then released. No official charges were brought against any of the detainees.  
Police officials told Larisa Alaverdian, the former Ombudsperson of Armenia and now an opposition parliamentarian from the opposition Heritage Party, that the detentions of people participating in the “public walks” are done in order to question suspected opposition party activists as part of the criminal investigation into the March 1 events. However, one released detainee told Human Rights Watch that the police chief was trying to talk him out of participating in the “public walks” on Northern Avenue. 

Armenia: State of Emergency No More


Image: Post-Election Protest Demonstration, Yerevan © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2008 

Onnik Krikorian writes about a demonstration in Armenia following the expiration of the state of emergency. He also posts some parties’ concerns about the authenticity of a dramatized and edited video that showed police shooting toward protesters. Interestingly, the video appeared on the Internet about ten days after the actual post-election unrest – raising the possibility of a some level of fabrication.

Nonetheless, given that at least one non-activist, who was on his way to home when he discovered himself surrounded by protesters and the police, was killed with a bullet on his forehead strongly suggests that police have shot toward the protesters. Furthermore, as an Associate Press photo testifies, just past Friday (after the authorities lifted a 20-day state of emergency) a riot policeman used “an electroshock device to disperse opposition supporters in Yerevan.”

A police officer in riot gear, center, uses an electroshock ...

Image: (AP Photo/Photolure, Mkhitar Khachatryan) .(AP Photo/Photolure, Mkhitar Khachatryan) 

Canadian Buttle Wins World Figure Skating Championship Performing to Armenian Music

My Canadian-Armenian friend Artin Boghossian just brought to my attention that Canada’s Jeffrey Buttle has won his first men’s title at the world figure skating championship performing to the soundtrack of the Canadian movie Ararat (about the Armenian genocide) and wearing a costume with Armenian motives. The soundtrack includes the famous Armenian song “Groong” and Zurna music.

That’s because one of his coaches is Armenian. The winning performance is posted at

Clinton Camp Compares Richardson to Judas

Talking to The New York Times about long-time Clinton family friend and famed Hispanic politician Bill Richardson’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a Clinton ally has compared Richardson to Jesus Christ’s traitor.

“An act of betrayal,” said James Carville, an adviser to Mrs. Clinton and a friend of Mr. Clinton.

“Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic,” Mr. Carville said, referring to Holy Week.

Wow, so Hillary is Jesus?

Turkey: ‘Racist’ Politician Arrested for Terrorism

Among newly-arrested suspects in an ongoing crackdown against the Ergenekon ultranationalist gang in Turkey is Dogu Perincek, leader of the nationalist Turkish Workers’ Party, who was last year convicted of racism by a Swiss court for denying the Armenian genocide in Europe.

 Image via BBC

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