Armenians Commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Originally Published April 24, 2015 

HOST 1: Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the mass killings most historians refer to as the Armenian genocide. Up to one and a half million Armenians were killed during the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
HOST 2: Many countries, including Turkey, refuse to call the killings a genocide. Today, thousands of Armenians marched to the Turkish consulate in Manhattan, trying to get recognition for the century-old killings. Charlotte Gibson reports.

_________________________________________________

St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral is a massive church located on 34th Street and 2nd Avenue. It is the heart of the Armenian community in New York City.

This morning thousands gathered to attend church to remember those who died. Lisa Stepanian is the Executive Director of the Armenia Fund USA.

STEPANIAN: “Already I have goosebumps so it’s a very special day for all Armenians all over the world.” (00:08)

The group was preparing to march and spend the afternoon protesting at the Turkish Consulate at third and 28th, demanding that Turkey recognize the genocide.

SCENE AND OF MARCH/PROTEST

Turkey has insisted for a century that the Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks killed in 1915 were victims of civil war and unrest as the Ottoman Empire collapsed during World War I. It says there was no plan to wipe out Armenians and therefore does not add up to genocide.

Howard Eissenstat is a historian at St. Lawrence University. He says for Turkey to admit to the genocide would require them to rethink their own history.

EISSENSTAT: “When they think genocide, they think in terms of the Holocaust, they think in terms of the Nazis, they don’t think in terms of the many more complicated more muddy genocides that have also occurred, so for them, the Armenian genocide means the holocaust, and they don’t see that.” (00:19)

Norair Meguerbitchian is the chair of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party. He says Turkey’s denial is an affront to a core part of their national identity.

MEGUERBITCHIAN: “The fiftieth anniversary of the genocide, the first fifty years, the survivors of the Armenian genocide were like in a comma, they really didn’t do much, however, starting 1965, the fiftieth anniversary, we woke up and starting pursuing the cause so that the world would know.” (00:09)

Today, only 20 nations officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. The list does not include the United States, Israel and many others who count on Turkey as an important ally in the Middle East.

The White House announced on Tuesday that it does not want to use the term genocide.

In 2007, when he was running for president, Barack Obama called the mass killing a genocide. But, during his presidency, he has resorted to citing “regional priorities,” in its decision not to say the killings amounted to genocide.

The decision has angered many Armenians in the United States and abroad who say they hoped President Obama would use the centennial as an opportunity to put things right.

MEGUERBITCHIAN: “You will see that the Armenian community are very mad with President Obama. There’s a cause we have and we are going to pursue it regardless.” (00:08)

This Sunday, Armenians will continue to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide  in Times Square.

Charlotte Gibson, Columbia Radio News.

Advertisements

Commentary: The Great Outdoors Can Leave Its Mark Both Physically and Mentally

Originally published April 24, 2015

Host: Being in the outdoors can be thrilling and terrifying.  Last summer, commentator Charlotte Gibson learned that camping can leave a lasting mark.

______

My boyfriend Shon and I have been dating for almost two years.  We’re kind of opposites.  He’s a professional whitewater kayaker.  I’m not.  But, when he invited me on his family’s annual rafting trip on the Klamath River in California, just weeks before I was going to graduate school in New York City, I was game.

A few days into the trip – I hadn’t drowned or made a spectacle of myself.  In my mind, I was Queen of the River.  I paddled down roaring rapids – check.  Jumped off cliffs with the guys – check.  Slept in a tent every night – check.

And then the third day rolled around.

We hiked up this creek to a waterfall. The  sunshine, the natural beauty, the peacefulness.  I felt like I finally started to get this whole camping thing.

My eyes wandered all around, gazing at the beauty of the great outdoors.  And then, out of nowhere, I hit my head on a sharp rock jutting out from the side of the cliff. Blood was everywhere.  Shon ran to help me.

I couldn’t stop crying and hyperventilating.

I was scared, but more than that, I was embarrassed.

Once I was cleaned up a bit, we debated leaving or just bandaging my cuts at the river.  I downplayed how hurt – and worried – I really was.  Two days later, back at home, I finally had a chance to be alone to examine my wounds.

There I was, standing in front of the mirror, looking at this three inch gash above my eyebrow and a jagged, two inch gash below my left eye.  I started to cry.  I hated the idea that my face was forever damaged from the trip.

And then, it got worse.

A week later, I started to feel really sick.  I was vomiting every day.  But I didn’t think it was related my injury.

When my mom finally dragged me to a concussion specialist, he made me do things like stand on one leg with eyes closed for 30 seconds.  Couldn’t do it.  Stand on both legs with my eyes closed.  Nope.  Say the months backwards – I started with November.

The doctor diagnosed a severe concussion.  The only remedy was “brain rest,” pretty much do nothing until I healed.  But, I was going to graduate school in New York City in three weeks.  How was I supposed to survive if I couldn’t even say the months in the right order?

At the beginning of the summer of 2014, my biggest fear was if I was going to survive five days camping on the river.  By the end of the summer, my biggest fear was if I was going to survive all of graduate school at an Ivy League.

For the next six months, I had migraines and short-term memory loss.  I worried my brain would never work the same way again.

I have survived.  And thrived.  But that moment on the river is never far from my mind.

Each morning, when I look in the mirror, I see two scars from the accident.  They tell a story.  A story of triumph and a story of trauma.  They represent my first and possibly last camping trip.  And, hopefully my first and only head injury.

Outcue: Charlotte Gibson was invited on her boyfriend’s family rafting trip again this summer.  She’s hoping that this time she won’t run into any rocks.

Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Hope New Bill Will Legalize Sport in New York State

Originally published April 17, 2015 

Host Intro: New York is the only state in the country to ban professional mixed martial arts events. New York fighters have to travel out of state to compete and gain national recognition in the increasingly popular sport. Charlotte Gibson reports that momentum is growing in Albany to legalize the violent fight club events in New York.


Every Thursday, a dozen mixed martial arts fighters gather at the Renzo Gracie Academy just two blocks from the iconic Madison Square Garden. The sport is unarmed combat involving the technique and skills from different disciplines of the martial arts, including, without limitation, grappling, submission holds, kicking and striking.

AMBI PRACTICE SOUND – MAT WORK AND SPARRING  

Amateur fighters Brandon Vancleave and Ezekiel Okunola warm up on the large, blue mats spread across the bottom floor of the gym alongisde the other fighters. Then, they step into this enormous circular platform that is caged in by a black fence and padding wrapped around the top of the fence.  This fights takes place in what is called the Octagon and it literally looks like a cage for humans without a top.  Vancleave prepares to enter the cage and practice fight with with Okunola.

ACTUALITY VANCLEAVE“It’s a different world when the cage door locks. It’s the most peaceful place on earth and chaos at the same time and that’s what makes it beautiful.” (00:07)

The cage is 30 feet across and 6 feet high.  Its walls and padded surfaces protect fighters from falling out or getting thrown out during the fight.

AMBI SOUND PUNCHING

ACTUALITY VANCLEAVE: “When the bell rings, it’s like a snap and you do what you know and you do what you have been training and what’s your instinct more or else and nothing else matters.” (00:09)

Vancleave and Okunola walk into the cage.  They stand at opposite corners of the Octagon. They glare at each other, oblivious to everything else outside the cage. Then, they begin to pivot their feet and move towards the middle of the mat.  Okunola japs his fist towards the center of Vancleave’s chest.  Vancleave pivots to the left.  It’s like a dance.  After a few minutes, the two figthers switch positions.  Okunola kicks Vancleave in his side. Sweat drips from their foreheads but the two don’t even look out of breath.

What Vancleave and Okunola are doing is legal because it’s a practice fight.  What they can’t do is fight for money.  They said they have to travel out of states to places like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and California to compete in fights.

Across the gym, 26-year-old Jared Gordon is grappling with another opponent on a large blue mat. He said he started competing at the age of 16 in underground fight clubs around the city and didn’t like the experience.

ACTUALITY JARED GORDON: “It’s like a bunch of knuckleheads and they think they are martial artists but meanwhile these guys started fighting like a year ago they are like 30 years old fighting like 16 year olds, knocking guys out. And you know, it just makes a bad name for the sport.”  (00:15)

Gordon works out at the Renzo Gracie Academy almost every day because he wants to become a professional and do it the right way this time.

There’s a ray of hope for MMA fighters from New York like Gordon, Vancleave, and Okunola.

Last month, the New York State Senate passed a bill that would allow for legal fights in New York.

Democratic Senator Joseph Addabbo of Queens co-sponsored the bill and has long supported the effort to legalize the sport in the state.

ACTUALITY ADDABBO: “We are certainly missing out on the jobs and the revenue that’s why I support it but I also support it knowing that the safeguards are there. This is a regulated sport probably in my opinion more regulated than boxing.” (00:12)

Only 14 of the 47 Senators voted against the bill.  Democratic Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan continues to be one of the biggest opponents of the bill.

ACTUALITY KRUEGER: “Mixed martial arts is an incredibly dangerous activity that has displayed a pattern of unchallenged misogyny.” (00:18)

MMA is a combat sport and is indeed dangerous. About one-thrid of professional mixed martial arts matches end in knockout or technical knockout, according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine. The study indicated a higher incidence of brain trauma than boxing or other matial arts.

MMA fighters and advocates disagree.

ACTUALITY CHISOLM: “It’s one of the safest sports out there.” (00:02) 

Ultimate Fighting Champion coach and mixed martial artist Tory Chisolm says that the mixed martial arts techniques used by the fighters are what makes the sport safer than it appears.

ACTUALITY CHISOLM: “You are using kicks, you are using submissions and takedowns. So the damage that’s afflicted goes all around your body.” (00:06)

Chisolm argues that MMA is safer than boxing.  He says that in boxing a fighter can be knocked out for up to 10 seconds and still continue a fight.  But, in MMA, the rules and regulations prohibit a fighter from continuing the fight if he is knocked out.

ACTUALITY CHISOLM: “In MMA if two of us are fighting and you hit me with a head kick or a really strong punch and I am not able to defend myself that fight is over.” (00:15)

Back at the Renzo Gracie Academy in Midtown, Vancleave finsihes up his afternoon practice.

Vancleave says his main focus right now is training.  He will travel to New Jersey on June 6th for his first professional fight and what he says is the start of his career.

ACTUALITY VANCLEAVE:  “I accomplish everything I set my heart on and this is just one more thing to accomplish so I am sure it is going to be a hard road and it’s going to be tough. And it already has been.” (00:10)

The bill to legalize the sport he loves is currently in committee in the New York State Assembly.  Backers are optimistic because the new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was once listed as a co-sponsor legalization bill. The New York Assembly will have until the end of June to legalize the sport.

Charlotte Gibson, Columbia Radio News.

Iranian-American Novelist Porochista Khakpour Explains the Powerful Impact of Iran Deal For The World

Originally Published April 3, 2015 

CHARLOTTE GIBSON (HOST 1): After two years of negotiations, the United States, along with six other leading nations have finally reached a framework agreement with Iran for the country’s nuclear program.

ARIEL RITCHIN (HOST 2): President Barack Obama commented on the progress yesterday. He said that now Iran will face more inspections than any other country.

OBAMA_IRAN_1: If Iran cheats, the world will know it. (0:02)

HOST 1:  The deal won’t be finalized until the end of June, when negotiators work out the key details for final agreement. The program plans to restrict Iran’s nuclear capabilities for the next decade.

HOST 2:  If Iran breaches the terms, Obama says the country could face unprecedented sanctions. But he said this agreement should peacefully resolve one of the greatest threats to our security.

HOST 1:  Some are calling the framework a major achievement of the president’s foreign policy. And Obama says the breakthrough could help reunite Iran with the world.

OBAMA_IRAN_3: It demonstrates that if Iran complies with its international obligations, then it can fully rejoin the community of nations. Thereby fulfilling the talent and aspirations of the Iranian people. That would be good for Iran and it would be good for the world. (0:15)

HOST 1:  In Iran, this news has been met with widespread celebration. And for some Iranian-Americans, the news is even more momentous. I visited Iranian-American novelist Porochista Khakpour this morning. In her Harlem apartment I asked her about her initial reaction on Twitter.

INCUE KHAKPOUR: “If you look at it in the context of the news…”

OUTUE KHAKPOUR: “…Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.” 

BACK ANNOUNCE HOST 1: Porochista Khakpour is an award-winning Iranian-American novelist, who wrote Sons and Other Flammable Objects and The Last Illusion.