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Schiff seeks to invest in Egypt, Tunisia firms

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President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Armenia, John Heffern, is scheduled to come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for questioning on Wednesday.

Heffern is a career diplomat who now is the United States’ deputy chief of mission to NATO in Belgium. He has also served in Indonesia, Africa, China and Japan.

If confirmed by the Senate, Heffern will replace Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who is now deputy assistant secretary of state for Northern and Central Europe.

Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, hopes the lawmakers will push for clarification of White House policy on several issues being pressed by Armenian-Americans, including support for an Armenian Genocide recognition resolution and increased trade between the United States and Armenia.

“We are hopeful that senators will also take full advantage of the opportunity afforded by this hearing to seek clarification regarding the Obama Administration's position on a range of foreign policy issues related to the Caucasus region,” Hamparian said in a statement.

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The city of Glendale is on the verge of getting a great deal on hillside real estate, paying a total of $4,046 for three properties in the hills.

The seller is Los Angeles County, which is looking to recoup delinquent property tax revenue from parcels that have been abandoned.

Under state law, cities and other local government agencies can get first crack at properties in default before they are auctioned. Glendale is seeking to acquire and preserve as open space three parcels: one on Verdugo Woods Highway at the foot of New York Avenue, one on Cardigan Avenue near the Hillcrest debris basin; and one on Pasa Glen Drive, off the Glendale (2) Freeway just above the Glendale Sports Complex. The largest of the three sites is 4,700 square feet, the smallest is 2,530 square feet.

L.A. County is expected to sign off on the sales at its July 12 meeting.

Laura Stotler, a principal planner with the city, said these parcels are vacant and the city plans to maintain them as buffer zones around the debris basin or between the hills and nearby homes. She said properties acquired through a so-called Chapter 8 agreement are often remnants of full parcels near public works projects, and so are not well-suited to private uses.

“When we see an opportunity to pick up properties for open space at a good price, then the city often purchases them,” Stotler said.

The acquisitions have been in the works for more than a year, Stotler added. The city is not looking to make further purchases because of current budget constraints, she said.

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Trying to ensure a positive outcome after key Arab Spring rebellions, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) introduced a measure last month for the U.S. to invest in small- and mid-size firms in Egypt and Tunisia.

Under the legislation, the federal government would provide financial aid, technical support and strategic advice to firms destabilized by the political unrest.

“This is a once-in-a-generational moment, potentially one of the most promising that we have seen in decades, in which the U.S. has an historic opportunity to help people in the Arab world achieve a measure of democracy and self-determination,” Schiff said in a statement.

Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The proposal is modeled after an effort in which the United States spent about $1.2 billion to encourage an open economy in Eastern Bloc countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Schiff said the investment here would be much smaller, $20 million in the first year and a total of $60 million over 30 years.

On Thursday, Schiff turned his attention to Syria, where the popular rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad has been met by severe government violence. In a speech on the House floor, Schiff highlighted the Syrian government’s torture and killing of a 13-year-old boy, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, who was observing a political demonstration before authorities whisked him away in April.

“Bashar al-Assad is a ruthless tyrant whose time has passed and who clings to power by only by virtue of brutal force,” Schiff said. “Our role and that of the international community should be to work with Syrian opposition figures and others to advance a negotiated transition to a new Syrian government that will represent all Syrians.”
 
 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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