Saturday, 10 September 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian...Public Forum - 12 Sep...House of Lords

London Public Forum
Armenians, Kurd and Turks:
Towards a Peaceful Resolution of a Painful Past
House of Lords, 12 September 

see attachment for details

Armenia's school pupil engineers seek to reinvent the robot
Government programme aims to put robotics clubs in every 
school by 2019 to encourage new generation of designers
Suren Stepanyan in Yerevan
5 September 2016 

The little robot makes odd beeps as it spins around the room, detecting fires with its thermal sensors and extinguishing flames with a strong blast of air.

Its mission accomplished, the beeps die down and the machine comes to an abrupt halt.

Rather than being the brainchild of experienced engineers in a hi-tech lab, the firefighter robot was designed by Armenian schoolboys Rafael and Sahak Sahakyan – brothers aged 18 and 14 .

It is one of several inventions to come out of Armenia’s youth robotics programme, which aims to establish engineering groups in every school by 2019. Already there are 121 after-school clubs, catering for pupils between 12 and 18.

The government hopes the scheme will improve the quality of engineering education and encourage inventors of the future.

At the brothers’ school in Gyumri, one of the poorest cities in Armenia , more than 20 pupils gather after lessons every week to design and create robots.

“When I was little, every day my friends would go out after school to play football while I would go home and take apart electrical gadgets to find out how they worked,” says Rafael Sahakyan.

His dedication bore fruit. The brothers’ invention will be entered into Armenia’s annual robotics contest, in which schoolchildren from across the country compete against each other.

Instructor Rafael Hekimyan said the project helps children develop independent thinking and will breed a new generation of engineers.

“For a country like Armenia which does not have great natural resources, information technology is a good opportunity to develop the economy,” he said.

The Union of Information Technology Enterprises, which runs the scheme, said the initiative had grown from a few experimental groups into a national programme.

“Many parents asked us to expand the programme, as they could see the benefits for children,” said Karen Vardanyan, the union’s executive director.

To develop the software the clubs use the Scratch and Turtle programming languages, with open source code created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Scratch is a free programming language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations,” said Vardanyan.

Emil Tarasyan, the deputy economy minister, said the clubs solved several problems at once.

“The government has proclaimed IT to be a priority sector for Armenia but to fulfil this potential we need properly trained professionals,” he said. “That is why we are focusing on school-age children. We think the 12 to 18 age group is the best to target.”

Rafael and Sahak Sahakyan, who are from a family of engineers, built their robot together. Rafael was responsible for programming the software while his younger brother made the hardware.
Rafael Sahakyan shows a friend the secrets of coding.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Rafael Sahakyan shows a friend the secrets of coding. Photograph: Suren Stepanyan

“It wasn’t easy,” says Sahak. “We had to give a life to an inanimate piece of iron. Every day we tried new solutions to improve the robot. We had many failures but we hope to perfect in the next few months to enter the competition.”

Read more Top inventions from Armenian school clubs

1. A mine-sweeper robot that can detect and detonate unexploded mines

2. Cleaner robots that can pick up litter

3. A firefighter robot with thermal sensors that can locate and extinguish flames

4. The first-aid robot that delivers medical supplies in dangerous conditions

5. A line-follower robot that traces a specified route.
Armenian national archives have digitized one million documents
September 6

More than one million documents kept at the National Archives of Armenia 
have been digitized since 2010, the director of the establishment Amatuni 
Virabyan said today.

"Digitization not only ensures the safety of documents, but also
accelerates the acquisition of necessary information by citizens. The
National Archives have 350 million documents, and most important of
them are first to be digitized,' Virabyan said.

According to him, they are death and birth certificates, documents
relating to the history of the First Republic of Armenia, the Armenian
Genocide of 1915, the history of settlements and others.
He said in the future, the necessary information will be available on-line.

“I would like to note that the cost of services for obtaining archival
information is more accessible in Armenia than in neighboring
countries," Virabyan said.

According to him, the cost of one page in Armenia is about 50 US
cents, while in the neighboring Georgia it is $4-5.

"On average, we digitize about 200 thousand pages of documents every
year. This year we will complete the digitization of Armenian
documentaries," said Virabyan.

The oldest document kept at the National Archives of Armenia dates
back to 1607. 

RFE/RL Report 
 Armenian PM's Resignation Not Ruled Out
September 07, 2016
Ruzanna Stepanian
Galust Sahakian, the Armenian parliament speaker and a leading member
of the ruling Republican Party (HHK), on Wednesday declined to deny
media claims that Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian is poised to resign.

Multiple reports in the Armenia press have said in recent days that
President Serzh Sarkisian will replace Abrahamian by Karen Karapetian,
a former Yerevan mayor currently holding a senior position in one of
Russia's largest commercial banks.

"You'll know tomorrow if there is such a thing," Sahakian told
RFE/RL's Armenian service (, commenting on those reports.

The HHK's governing board headed by Sarkisian is scheduled to meet in
Yerevan on Thursday.

Asked whether Abrahamian and members of his cabinet will indeed step
down, Sahakian said: "I can't tell." The HHK board has not yet
discussed such an issue, he added.

The Armenian speaker was also vague about the possibility of
Karapetian's appointment as prime minister. "I've also read [those
reports,] but since the issue has not been discussed in detail in my
presence, there is nothing I can say about it," he said.

In recent weeks and months, the Armenian press has been rife with
speculation that President Sarkisian will sack his prime minister and
key cabinet members in a bid to address popular discontent with the
socioeconomic situation in the country.

The speculation intensified after the Armenian authorities' two-week
standoff with radical opposition gunmen that seized a police station
in Yerevan in July. Thousands of people demonstrated in support of the
gunmen that demanded Sarkisian's resignation.

The president has publicly given no indications, though, that a change
of the government is imminent.
Zhoghovurd: Company owned by Armenian ambassador to UK ‘let down’

Jermuk International Pepsi-Cola Bottler, a company owned by Armenian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Armen Sargsyan, is about to face court proceedings over debts, the paper has learned.

Seven different lawsuits have been reportedly filed, urging the respondent to pay the debt, as well as the required fines and duties.

The paper says that the company is now trying to return a sum of 15 million Armenian Drams, which is approximately US $31,000.

RFE/RL Report 
 Watchdog Sees No Decrease In Government Corruption
September 07, 2016
Sisak Gabrielian

The Armenian government has still not acted on its promises to fight
against endemic corruption in earnest, the country's leading
anti-graft watchdog said on Wednesday.

Varuzhan Hoktanian, the director of the Armenian affiliate of the
Berlin-based group Transparency International, claimed that a new
Anti-Corruption Council formed by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian in
early 2015 has already proved ineffectual.

"In Transparency International's view, consultative anti-corruption
bodies formed by governments have not achieved tangible results
anywhere in the world and Armenia is no exception," Hoktanian told
reporters. He said the government should set up instead an independent
and far more powerful body if it really wants to tackle the problem.

The Anti-Corruption Council approved a three-year plan of actions when
it held its first meeting in July 2015. In February this year, the
U.S. Agency for International Development allocated $750,000 for the
plan's implementation.

Abrahamian said in May that his government will further step up its
declared fight against corruption and improve the domestic business
environment because of new security challenges facing Armenia.

Hoktanian said his Anti-Corruption Center (ACC) sees no evidence yet
of any decrease in the scale of various corrupt practices in
Armenia. He again singled out administration of state procurements
that have long been scrutinized by the ACC.

Hoktanian claimed that various government agencies continue to
routinely purchase many goods and services at disproportionately high
prices from a handful of companies usually owned by government
officials or their friends and relatives. The Armenian authorities
should be legally banned from signing procurement contracts with such
companies, he said.

Abrahamian promised stronger government action against procurement
fraud in May. He said the Armenian Finance Ministry should publicize
more details of contracts signed with private contractors.

Gagik Melikian, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Republican Party of
Armenia (HHK), insisted on Wednesday that the government is serious
about its anti-graft drive, having done "a huge amount of work" over
the past year. "The authorities have always had and will always have a
political will to combat corruption and quite serious processes are
underway right now," he claimed.

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