Kirk Kerkorian Estate Gets Judge’s OK to Donate $500 Million to Charities

A judge granted a petition by the executor overseeing the estate of the late billionaire Kirk Kerkorian to distribute $500 million of its remaining $1.6 billion in assets to charities to be picked bu a three-member committee.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maria Stratton, previously gave approval to another petition by the executor, Anthony Mandekic that allowed him and the other members of the panel–former Kerkorian lawyer, Patricia Glaser and UCLA Physician Eric Esrailian–to distribute another $200 million to charities of their choosing.

Kerkorian’s will specified that his estate be fully distributed within three years of his death. He was 98 when he did on June 15, 2015, in Beverly Hills.

“The delay and distraction from his testamentary desire and intent is due, primarily, to the efforts of certain individuals to try to extort as much money from the estate as possible…” Mandekic’s lawyers state in their court papers.

The lawyers were referring to claims by Kerkorian’s widow, Una Davis, to one third of the estate —about $600 million, based on its $1.8 billion value at the businessman’s death—and $20 million by a second woman, Vanessa Sandin.

Kerkorian and Davis were for 57 days before he asked her to leave his home, according to Mandekic’s lawyers’ court papers. Sandin maintains in a civil suit that Kerkorian befriended her before his death and promised her $20 million.

In the “unlikely event” that the Davis and Sandin claims are found to be valid, there would still be about $1 billion left in the estate, more than enough for the $500 million charity distribution, according to court papers filed by Mandekic’s attorneys.

But lawyer James Harvey, on behalf of Davis, said after the hearing that he is looking forward to seeing the results of an accounting of estate that Mandekic’s lawyers told the judge they will produce by December 20. Mandekic served as secretary treasurer of Kerkorian’s Beverly Hills based Tracinda Corp., which is the largest asset in the estate, according to Davis’ attorneys court papers.

Mandekic may have possession of about $900 million in cash after selling 34 shares of MGM though Tracinda, according to Davis’ attorneys’ court papers.

Mandekic’s lawyers counter in their own papers that the California Attorney General’s Office requested an accounting of the estate and that it will be produced under the guidelines of the state Probate Code. the attorneys also argue that Davis lacks “standing” to ask for an accounting and that her petition of “over reaching” in its scope.

Kerkorian developed key properties on the Las Vegas Strip, including MGM and MGM Grand. He also invested in and operated businesses in a number of industries, including airlines, automakers, Chrysler Corp., General Motors, and film studios. He purchased MGM Studios three times, bought United Artists and tried to acquire Columbia Pictures.

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Actor Dean Cain Focuses on the Armenian Genocides in the Documentary “Architects of Denial”

Dean Cain rose to stardom in the 1990s by playing the ultimate superhero in the ABC series “Lois and Clark”: The New Adventures of Superman.” While he has maintained a steady career in the decades since by starring in an endless assortment of TV movies and guest-starring roles in series, he has also become a real-life hero by using his notoriety to bring awareness to human rights campaigns around the globe.

Cain serves as an executive producer on the new documentary “Architects of Denial: Genocide Denied is Genocide Continued,” which focuses on the Armenian Genocide and explores how similar atrocities still afflict the Armenians and many other populations including in Sudan. Teaming with veteran talk show host, Montel Williams to help draw funding and attention to the project, he appeared with Williams and an array of stars and politicians, including U.S Rep, Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, at the film’s red carpet premiere on October 3rd, in Hollywood, prior to its opening Friday. The film was set to open at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 on Pasadena but at the last minute it was changed to Pacific Glendale 18 at the Americana at Brand.

“Neither Montel nor I are Armenian, but I was a history major at Princeton, and I’ve traveled the world and been to lots of place with Montel doing charity work for children and other charities,” says Cain, speaking by phone from Washington, DC, where he was lobbying congress to endorse House Resolution 220, authored by Schiff, which would formally recognize the Armenian Genocide and inspire faster labeling of other genocidal actions.

“We don’t agree politically on everything, but one thing we agree on is that genocide is wrong. This very fist genocide of the 20th century has been swept under the rug, hidden and whitewashed by governments because no one wants to take responsibility,” Cain said. “If you don’t acknowledge it, you allow it to continue, and the media ignores Turkey and Azerbaijan now with how they treat Armenia, plus there are atrocities in Sudan and persecution of Christians elsewhere.”

“Architects” traces the turbulent modern history of the Armenian people, from their decimation by Ottoman Turks at the onset of World War I until the present, when they are threatened by Turkey as well as its ally Azerbaijan. It chronicles the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and includes interviews with its survivors, who detail the horrors they or their family members had experienced, and experts, who graphically illustrate the real connection between its historical denial with present-day mass extermination in conflict zones around the world.

While Cain and Williams don’t appear in “Architects,” they are in the midst of producing and appearing in another documentary in which they have conducted on camera interviews with Syrian Armenians, the Armenian President, foreign minister and prime minister. The focus of that film is to show how the lives of many Armenian families have come full circle from fleeing into Syria nearly 100 years ago, only to flee back now because of persecution from Muslin extremists in that nation.

“This is the first time anyone has put together one huge statement of how familial relations are affected by genocides and refugee situations around the planet,” says Cain. “[Wikileaks founder] Julian Assange has not given interviews on this subject, and we specifically ask congressmen on camera about their denial that the Armenian Genocide took place, after they’ve taken money from Turkish lobbyists.”

With more than 100 congressional sponsors of House Resolution 220 already lined up, Cain feels optimistic that his efforts will pay off soon with a vote. But he also notes that there will always be another place in need of some help. “This has gone on throughout history, but modern travel and technology has given us the tools to monitor and stop genocidal actions faster than before,” says Cain. “I’ve spent the last few days educating congressmen on the issue, and they seem receptive. We’ll see if we can get it done.”

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Armenia Startup Academy: New Opportunities for Startups

On October 16, the Armenian Startup Academy will be launched in Armenia, which aims to develop the Armenian start-up ecosystem by utilizing necessary knowledge an experience, and create and environment where global level technology start-ups will be born. It will help start-ups to create products that are really needed and for which people are willing to pay.

The Academy is one of the initiatives of the Catalyst Foundation created by Smart-GateVC’s founders. It is implemented within the framework of the SMEDA program funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and supported by the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ).

Up to 15 start-ups will be selected based on online applications and interviews. The duration of this educational program is twelve weeks. The first four weeks are intended for clarifying internal and external factors associated with start-ups. During that time, the discussions topics will include work efficiency of the founders, options to improve product quality, the market and potential investors.

During the following four weeks, the market will be selected and developed, and by the end, start-up’s strategy of “going to market” will be ready. Many factors will be taken into account: potential accelerators in the given market, user behavior, prospects of product development in the given market, etc.

The last four weeks are for preparing for market validation. It is anticipated that, at the end of the program, startups will continue to operate for some time in the already chosen market or will be included in some global accelerator to clarify the existing business assumptions.

Armenia Startup Academy is based on some of the programs used in Silicon Valley, which have been developed and adapted to the Armenian reality. Some entrepreneurs from the diaspora expressed willingness to support the project. Many of them will be involved in the program as mentors or simply help with their advice.

The program is primarily intended for selected start-ups, but public events will be open to all. There are no restrictions on participation. It is envisaged that participants will spend most of the day in a special co-working area, which will also include meeting rooms.

Mentors, trainers, instructors, entrepreneurial assistants will work in the Academy, conveying their expertise and knowledge on specific areas, Invited speakers will lecture on a variety of topics. Five priority areas have been identified: Growth hacking, product analytics, customer development, sales, communications and culture. Within several weeks, these topics have been thoroughly studies by previously selected seven young professionals, who will now pass their knowledge to star-ups. One of the important opportunities offered by the Academy will be the use of customer development tracking methodology.

Due to this approach, which is accessible to few, it is possible to clarify the customer segment, value proposition, and optimize sales channels.

Co-founder of SmartGateVC, Hambardzum Kaghketsyan, says the Academy’s educational program is intended not only for providing theoretical and practical knowledge, but also for making start-ups as ready as possible from the perspective of investors. “Venture investors, before making a decision, check then possible aspects of the start-up. There are technical, market, financial, legal, team, customer-related and other due diligence processes. Our program includes relevant topics to address each of these ten aspects every week,” Hambardzum says.

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Rep. Frank Pallone Stresses Artsakh’s Self-Determination After Visit

WASHINGTON, D.C — Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-06) stressed Artsakh’s status as a full functioning state after visiting the nation on September 18th in conjunction with an exchange of U.S and Armenian MPs.

The Congressman helicoptered to Artsakh with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) in the morning, stopped in Shushi to visit a technical school, then drove to Steppanakert to address the Artsakh Parliament, followed by lunch with the speaker. He met with the President of Artsakh the day before and received a medal form the government in conjunction with his efforts to recognize Artsakh as an independent republic.

Pallone said that Artsakh deserves international recognition because it legally separated from the Soviet Union, by exercising its self-determination with a referendum. It then defended itself in a difficult war and proceeded to set-up a democracy which exercises transparency and has achieved a level of economic development that is remarkable given the forces aligned against the country.

“Shushi is being transformed in one generation from a city that was mostly destroyed to one that has roads, housing, and schools that are modern and up to date. A lot of this is with the help of the Armenian Diaspora. I visited a technical school financed primarily by French philanthropists. The students are eagerly learning building and construction trades that will be important to the continued redevelopment of Artsakh. Its facilities and equipment were similar to school in the U.S,” Pallone said.

“Stepanakert, looks almost completely rebuilt from the time of the Artsakh War. The Parliament is housed in a new building. Construction continues throughout the city with a new landmark church and completed hospital. I addressed the parliament and met with the speaker separately about the need for the U.S to play a large role in the Minsk process. The settlement must guarantee that Artsakh remain Armenian as an independent nation or part of Armenia. We also discussed the extent to which Azerbaijan continues its military buildup with its oil reserves and receives advanced equipment from other countries.

“The Armenian Caucus members intend to follow up in Congress to see how we can cut off assistance to Azerbaijan, as long as they continue military action against Artsakh. We will push for conference building measures with Azerbaijan that might prevent an unintended war. We will also seek continued U.S aid to eliminate land mines and promote economic development in Artsakh,” Pallone concluded.

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Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee Joins Armenian Caucus

The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) is pleased to welcome Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI) to the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues. An Assembly delegation met with Rep. Kildee last month and discussed issues of concern to Armenian American constituents living in Michigan’s 5th Congressional District. Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, Michigan raised Western Region Director Mihran Toumanian, and Grassroot and Development Associate Mariam Khaloyan were joined by the Assembly’s Michigan State Director John Jamian. St. John Armenian Church of Greater Detroit Pastor Very Rev. Fr. Aren Jebejian, and members of the Armenian American Community. Rep. Kildee is also a committed supporter of religious freedom in the Middle East. In the 114th Congress, he co-sponsored H. Res. 279, which urged “respect for freedom of expression and human rights in Turkey,” as well as H. Con. Res 75, which designated “the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria” as “war crimes”, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”

“On behalf of Armenian Americans in Michigan, we thank Rep. Dan Kildee for his dedication to and support of U.S-Armenia relations, as well as for joining the Armenian Caucus following our insightful meeting,” Fr. Jebejian said.

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NASA is Interested in Armenian Chemists’ New Substance Used for Thermoregulation of Spacecraft

Armenian chemists have created a new kind of coating used for thermoregulation of space equipment based on willemite.

Volodya Baghramyan of the General and Inorganic Chemistry Institute of National Academy of Sciences told News.am that NASA has contacted the institute after learning about their research and development of the substance.

Willemite coating is a zinc silicate which is highly demanded because it reflects 95% of sun rays. The Armenian Institute has succeeded in synthesized to 230-240 degrees, saving energy used for its production.

“There is certain interest because protecting spacecraft from ionizing radiation is always actual. Therefore, we hope that the program will continue in one way or another,” the director of the Institute Nikolay Knyazyan said.

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President Trump Congratulates Armenia’s Independence and Praises Armenia-NATO Ties

Trump congratulated Armenia on the 26th anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union by delivering to President Serzh Sargsyan in New York.

President Trump also praised Armenia for participating in NATO-led peacekeeping operations and military exercises.

In a congratulatory letter to President Sezh Sarkisian, Trump also expressed readiness to “continue our assistance” to Armenia’s ongoing transition to a parliamentary system of government. He said his administration is also seeking to expand U.S-Armenian economic ties.

“We also greatly appreciate Armenia’s participation in international peacekeeping operations and NATO-led and other multinational exercises,” said President Trump in his letter.

Trump singled out Armenian participation in U.S led drills held in neighboring Georgia in August. They involved about 2800 troops from the United States, Georgia and six other nations. U.S Vice President, Mike Pence visited and addressed them during an official trip to Georgia.

“We thank you for your dedication to regional stability and international peacekeeping operations,” U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement on Armenia’s independence holiday. “We greatly appreciate these endeavors toward building a more peaceful world.”

Despite its military alliance with Russia, Armenia has deepened defense cooperation with the U.S and other NATO member states since the early 2000s. It currently contributes more than 100 troops to NATO-led missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

“Armenia does a good job at balancing its relationships”

“Armenian does a good job at balancing its relationships with all its neighbors,” the U.S Ambassador in Yerevan, Richard Mills, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service late last month.

President Trump sent his congratulatory message two days after greeting Sarkisian at a reception which he hosted in New York for world leaders that attended the latest session of the UN General Assembly. It was the first face to face contact between the two men.

Sarkisian praised Armenia’s “strong partnership” with the U.S when he congratulated Trump on America’s Independence day in July. He expressed hope that the two countries will “enrich the agenda of Armenian-American relations with new mutually beneficial initiatives and projects.”

Meeting with a group of visiting U.S lawmakers in Yerevan on last Thursday, the Armenian leader again thanks the U.S for its economic assistance provided to his country since the early 1990s and praised Washington’s role in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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U.S Congressmen Meet with Armenian President

YEREVAN – Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan received U.S Congressmen Frank Pallone, Jim Sensenbrenner, congresswomen Jackie Spier, Anna Eschoo, Tulsi Gabbard, last week.

The Armenian President considered symbolic that the congressmen visited Armenian on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. He noted that Armenian registered significant achievements in various spheres over the past 26 years since independence.

Sargsyan thanked the U.S for its assistance in strengthening and developing the independent statehood of Armenia, and also for an important role of the U.S as the OSCE Minks Group Co-Chair in the Karabakh Peace Process.

U.S Congressmen noted that they are happy to be in Armenia on Independence Day and celebrate this holiday together with the Armenian people.

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Schiff, Colleagues, Urge California Textbook Publishers Inclusion and Expansion of Armenian Genocide Education

LOS ANGELES – Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced that, along with seven of his California delegation colleagues, he wrote to major publishers of social studies textbooks in California urging them to include additional information and context about the Armenian Genocide.

In 2014, Governor Brown signed AB 1915, requiring the Armenian Genocide to be incorporated into high school social studies and history curriculum.

The letter asks textbooks publishers to include additional information about the Armenian Genocide in forthcoming textbook editions, noting that it “helps student learn about the Genocide both as an independent historical event, but also situated in the broader context of modern genocides, ethnic cleansing, and systemic human rights abuses.”

“The Armenian Genocide is a seminal event, and belongs in any course of study that considers human rights and genocide in history and in the modern context,” Rep. Schiff said. “California has taken the lead in encouraging the study of the Armenian Genocide in social studies and history classes, but putting that principle into practice will require textbook publishers to develop new texts that properly address the Genocide, and contextualize it with other 20th century genocides

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6th Armenia-Diaspora Pan-Armenian Conference Took Place in Yerevan

On September 16th, the 6th Armenian-Diaspora Pan-Armenian Conference kicked off at Karen Demirtchyan Sport and Concert Complex.

During the plenary session, RA Minister of Diaspora, Hranush Hakobyan delivered her opening remarks, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians gave his blessings to the participants of the conference. President of the Republic of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, President of the Artsakh Republic, Bako Sahakyan, and His Holiness Arma I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia gave his blessings.

The 6th Armenian-Diaspora Pan-Armenian Conference was held under the title “Mutual Trust, Unity, and Resposibility” and with the participation of more than 1,800 representatives.

There were more than 1,500 leaders and representatives of Armenian structures and organizations from 71 countries around the world, Armenian Members of Parliament and ministers of different countries and Armenians elected as representatives of local authorities. Artsakh is represented by a 40 member delegation, and over 400 state, political and cultural figures, scholars and journalists are participating in the conference as representatives of the Republic of Armenia.

There were several large groups participating from the Russian Federation (259), the USA (213), France (92), Lebanon (107), Syria (44), Iran (56), Argentina (35), Canada, Turkey, and Georgia.

Representatives of the communities of Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Mexico, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Myanmar also participated in the conference for the first time.

During the conference, there were 2 plenary sessions, as well as 16 panel sessions devoted to 4 topics. The panel sessions were devoted to the development of Armenia’s economy, regional challenges and the national security agenda, the foreign policy agenda, the elimination of the consequences of the Armenian genocide and the preservation of the Armenian identity.

Two roundtable discussions were held during the conference. The first roundtable discussion was devoted to the creation of a Pan-Armenian Council. The second was devoted to the preliminary plans for organizing and conducting the celebrations dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the declaration of the Republic of Armenia, the 100th anniversary of the Battles of May and the 2,800th anniversary of Erebouni-Yerevan.

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