Thursday, August 25, 2016

Alex and Ani: An Armenian Jewel

We’re living in an Alex and Ani world.
No matter where you may go, there seems to be a vision of their business genius before your very eyes.  Americans tend to gloat over their jewelry products.  Armenians explode with pride over their accomplishments, pointing to a strong ethnic backbone.
Cross over the Zakim Bridge in Boston by the TD Center and there’s a sign.  Go inside for a Celtics or Bruins game and you’ll see another reminder in its prominent place.
Take your place at Fenway Park for a Red Sox game and there it is again.  Batters who are being filmed at the plate will also share the screen with Alex and Ani.
I’m inclined to believe that some of the most prominent athletes who visit Boston may come to terms with this conglomerate.  Either they’ll join the thousands who make a purchase every year or else be reminded of it the next time they come.
During a recent treatment at Dana Farber Institute in Boston, right there in the cafeteria were tables replete with Alex and Ani products.  If you could make your way past the crowd, you would be able to peruse the merchandise for sale.
Or else, wait your turn.  There were nurses, doctors, patients being treated with cancer, and even men looking for an item to give a loved one.
My own church has an Alex and Ani table during its October fair with a portion of the proceeds going our way.  We make sure they own a prominent spot and people do make sales.  The teenagers especially adore their products, including my 14-year-old granddaughter.
She wears the pieces to school and could take orders.  I could buy her an outfit, but give her Alex and Ani and it becomes sheer bliss.
As a conscientious Armenian, this is the greatest success story of my generation.  And maybe yours as well.  An e-mail came my way with a photo carrying the headline, “Carolyn Rafaelian joins Forbes’ list of richest self-made women.” It was posted June 10.
The story goes on to say that Carolyn Rafaelian founded this fashion jewelry company in 2004 taking over what had been her father’s Rhode Island jewelry factory to manufacture the new age, celestial-chic bangles that have become the brand’s staple.
To say growth has been explosive would be an understatement.  In 2010, Alex and Ani—named after two of Rafaelian’s daughters—did an estimated $4.5 million in revenues.
By 2015, sales had hit $500 million, catapulting the 49-year-old CEO/founder onto Forbes second annual list of America’s richest self-made women, thanks to her major ownership.
Rafaelian joins the ranks at number 22 with an estimated net worth of $700 million, making her the second richest newcomer to the list after Gail Miller, billionaire owner of basketball’s Utah Jazz.
She’s the richest self-made woman in the nation to derive her wealth from jewelry and joins an impressive group of fashion and retail moguls on Forbes’ ranking that includes Spanx founder Sara Blakely, preppie-chic designer Tory Burch, and bridal tycoon Vera Wang.
What Armenian would not want to applaud another successful Armenian? It’s a story that makes you want to stand up and cheer—one that would inspire another to reap the dividends in this great land of opportunity.
Described as an innovative thinker, spiritual enthusiast, and person of integrity, Rafaelian is undeniably making her mark by building a company with a conscience.
For most of us, we knew Alex and Ani was a success story but never imagined such wealth.  It’s never flaunted and has remained subtle in demeanor. Much has been done on the charity side, too.
The company did fashion a Camp Haiastan bracelet which wound up as a sellout.  All proceeds were donated to the Franklin, Mass., camp for the welfare of our children.
Long-time camp affiliates recall the number of golden deeds performed by Rafaelian through the years, ever since her childhood days. Simply put, she has not forgotten her Armenian roots.
Empowering consumers to enter the charitable world through their purchases, a portion of proceeds from all “Charity by Design” products are donated directly to non-profit organizations.
To date, that amount has reached more than $30 million in an attempt to enhance the quality of life everywhere. The company operates in 10 countries and 11 Caribbean islands.
This week, Alex and Ani committed to raising $2 million globally over the next two years to help UNICEF give children around the world brighter futures. The money will be used to aid children in the aftermath of an emergency or during conflict.
“We share the commitment to build a better future for our children by providing the tools needed to overcome hardships and promote peace,” said Rafaelian.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Attorney Richard Hartunian to Lead U.S. Justice Department Group

ALBANY, New York (Times Union)—United States Attorney Richard Hartunian, the Albany-based federal prosecutor for the Northern District of New York, was appointed Monday to lead an advisory committee on policy for U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
It is the first time a prosecutor in charge of the 32-county district, which includes the Capital Region, has been named to head the panel.
Hartunian, 55, of Delmar, who graduated Georgetown University in 1983 and Albany Law School in 1986, became vice chair of the panel in January 2015. Now he will head a panel that is tasked with establishing policies for the U.S. Department of Justice, fostering cooperation with state attorneys general and promoting consistency in the application of legal standards.
The panel dates to 1973. Hartunian succeeds former U.S. Attorney John Walsh of Colorado. Hartunian will be joined by a new vice chair, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, who heads the Eastern District of Michigan.
“The attorney general’s Advisory Committee plays an essential role in shaping the Justice Department’s policies, implementing its programs, and ensuring that equal justice and the rule of law are upheld throughout the United States,” Lynch said in a statement. “As a former chair of the AGAC, I know firsthand the significant duties required of the committee’s leaders, and I am certain that U.S. Attorneys Richard Hartunian and Barbara McQuade are ready to assume the responsibility of chairing such an important and distinguished body. They are both seasoned prosecutors, exemplary law enforcement officers, and devoted public servants, and I look forward to benefiting from their long experience and wise counsel as we advance the department’s vital work in the months ahead.”
Hartunian, a one-time Albany County prosecutor and a frederal prosecutor in Albany since 1997, served as coordinator of his office’s Organized Crime Drug Task Force from 2006 until his appointment to U.S. attorney in 2010.
Hartunian has been on the committee since 2013 when he was appointed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
He has co-chaired the panel’s Border and Immigration Subcommittee and has sat on subcommittees focused on Native American issues, health care fraud and environmental crimes.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Turkey declares a state of emergency for three months

 Turkey declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, a move that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said would enable the state to act faster against those who plotted a failed coup.
In a late-night televised address, Erdogan, who has been carrying out a large-scale purge of the country’s institutions, sought to reassure the country that the measure — which would be in force for three months — will protect democratic freedoms. But the move consolidates more power in the president’s hands, allowing him to rule by decree.
For the state of emergency to be implemented, the decision must be approved by parliament.
The United States and Europe have urged Turkey to follow the rule of law and maintain democratic order in the wake of the attempted power grab that saw a renegade part of the armed forces hijack aircraft and attack key military and government buildings last week. Turkey’s countermeasures have affected more than 50,000 people — judges, civil servants, military, police and others — as the country’s leaders seek to root out opponents and perceived internal dissent.
The government is presenting the measures as an effort to confront a wide-ranging conspiracy led by a U.S.-based Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan whom Turkey accuses of running a terrorist organization. Critics, however, claim that Erdogan’s government is using the coup attempt as an excuse to eliminate the last vestiges of opposition to its rule.

Gunship fires on vehicle and tank threatens civilians in CCTV footage of Turkey coup

Play Video0:32
CCTV footage released by the Turkish presidential palace showed attacks on government supporters and forces during the attempted coup on Friday, July 15.(Reuters)
“The cleansing is continuing, and we remain very determined,” Erdogan said. He described a “virus” within the Turkish military and state institutions that had spread like “cancer.”
Article 120 of the Turkish constitution allows for a state of emergency to be announced in the event of an act of violence intended to abolish democracy or cripple fundamental rights and freedoms, Erdogan said. The declaration will enable Turkey to “take the most efficient steps” in order to remove threats to “democracy, to the rule of law and to the freedoms of the citizens in our country,” he said.
The crackdown against alleged Gulenists has showed no signs of relenting and continued on Wednesday as Turkey issued a ban on professional travel for all academics, opened investigations into military courts and closed schools.
At least 262 military judges and prosecutors were suspended as part of an investigation by the Defense Ministry into all personnel in its judiciary, the private NTV broadcaster reported. The Education Ministry said it was closing 626 private schools and other institutions that are under investigation for “crimes against the constitutional order,” state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Almost a third of Turkey’s top military generals have been charged in the coup plot. Turkish government officials have indicated that authorities may move to take more control over the armed forces.
The military has long seen itself as the guardian of secularism in this mostly Muslim country and has staged a series of coups in past decades, but its power has been gradually diminished. Thousands of Turks took to the streets to prevent another coup, but the crackdown has raised fears that Erdogan — who described the plot as a “gift from God” — will use it as an opportunity to make the government more authoritarian.
“The armed forces . . . will act in unison with the government,” Erdogan said, hinting that civil control of the military — long a subject of debate in Turkey — could be expanded.
According to a senior Turkish intelligence official, Turkish authorities have begun to arrest defense attaches stationed in several countries abroad who might have been involved with the attempted putsch.
Analysts have raised fears that Erdogan may be moving toward establishing a one-party state.
A Turkish intelligence official said he believes elements of the Gulen movement have infiltrated opposition political parties.
According to the official, Turkish intelligence estimates that at least 100,000 people were involved in planning the coup.
Gulen, the cleric accused of inspiring the coup attempt, has denied any link to the plot, implying instead that Erdogan staged it as part of a bid to consolidate power. Gulen lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, and his backers operate education networks in Turkey, the United States and elsewhere.
Turkey has requested Gulen’s extradition from the United States.
In Washington, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the Justice Department has jurisdiction over the issue. “They will have to make their judgments applying our legal standards to whatever has been put forward,” he said.
The travel restrictions on educators officially apply to work-related trips, the state broadcaster TRT reported. “There are no restrictions to personal travel,” said a senior Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol. He described the travel ban as a “temporary measure.”
But some professors and others in academic fields claim that their administrators have told them they cannot leave the country for any reason. Several university professors also confirmed that their supervisors told them to cancel vacations and other leave plans indefinitely.
The travel ban came a day after more than 15,000 education workers were suspended and resignations were demanded for all university deans. Turkey has also revoked the licenses of 21,000 teachers.
Naylor reported from Istanbul. Carol Morello in Washington and Souad Mekhennet and Thomas Gibbons-Neff in Ankara contributed to this report.