Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XVII  Number 3, March 2009


Thursday, March 26, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting Caltech Y is located off San Pasqual 
between Hill and Holliston, south side. You will 
see two curving walls forming a gate to a path-
- our building is just beyond. Help us plan 
future actions on Sudan, the 'War on Terror', 
death penalty and more.  

Sunday, April 5, ?? PM.  Group Movie 
Outing. Details will be posted on our website.

Tuesday April 14, 7:30 PM. Note change of 
venue. Letter writing meeting at Zephyr coffee 
house, 2419 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena. 626-
793-7330. This informal gathering is a great 
way for newcomers to get acquainted with 

Sunday, April 19, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion Group. Vroman's 
Book Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., 
Pasadena.  This month we read "Yellowcake" 
by Ann Cummins. 


Hi everyone,

Whew! Waited until March 16, no layoff notice 
was sent so am in the clear for next year at least! 
A great stress was lifted...Only 16 nurses will 
(possibly) be cut next year, instead of the 
hundreds we were envisioning...For the sake of 
children and families in LAUSD, hopefully none 
are to be cut - we are so short we need to hire 
more nurses!! 

We are doing some new things this month. Our 
letter writing meeting will be in a new location, 
Zephyr cafe' in east Pasadena. See the upcoming 
events section for more information. Bring your 
laptop and send letters via email to government 
officials! (Some of us will still be doing it the old 
fashioned way, with paper and pen...).

We are also planning to have a monthly movie 
night, which will be the first Sunday of the 
month. For April, it will be the Sunday before 
Easter, April 5th. Stay tuned to Group 22's 
website for more details as they become 

Larry Romans is back in town, to stay this time! 
Larry is a long-time member and was Group 22 
coordinator before Lucas and I started to share 
the position. Welcome back, Larry (and family to 
come later!).

Robert and I are going to walk April 19 at the 
Rose Bowl in Pasadena to raise money for the 
National Multiple Sclerosis Society. If you are 
interested in donating (small amounts are fine in 
view of the economy) or participating in the 
walk, pls. let me know!  Here's the link to our 
fundraising page:

Mil gracias to those of you who have already 
donated and have volunteered to walk with us.

Con carino,

by Joyce Wolf

AI's International Secretariat (IS) has chosen the 
cases of five Eritrean prisoners of conscience for 
long-term global research and campaigning. They 
are journalists Dawit Isaak and Mattewos 
Habteab and Saleh al-Jezeari, G15 member Aster 
Fissehatsion, and religious leader Abune 
Antonios. The first four were all arrested in the 
crackdown of September 2001 along with Group 
22's adopted POC Estifanos Seyoum, and since 
their arrest they have been held incommunicado 
in secret prisons. Aster Fissehatsion's case will 
represent Estifanos and the other G15 detainees.

The strategy of the IS is to limit the total number 
of cases in the Individuals Portfolio so that each 
case can receive more intensive research and 
broader action.  There are now 80 active POC 
cases with many more in development. AI has 
committed to increasing the number of long-term 
cases of individuals to 500, which will represent 
the broad range of human rights issues with 
which AI is involved.

Some AIUSA local groups whose adopted 
Eritrean POCs were originally not included in the 
IS Individuals Portfolio were quite unhappy. The 
AIUSA Eritrea Country Specialist and the 
AIUSA Casework Office spent the past year in 
discussions with IS and were successful in 
getting the fifth Eritrea POC included in the 
Portfolio, with the possibility of a sixth being 
added at a later time. An official announcement 
of some kind is expected soon. Stay tuned!  

Last month we wrote to the Eritrea Minister of 
Justice in behalf of Estifanos and Aster. This 
month let's write to the Eritrea Ambassador. 
Domestic postage is still 42 cents but will 
increase in May.

Ambassador Ghirmai Ghebremariam
Embassy of the State of Eritrea
1708 New Hampshire Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20009

Dear Ambassador Ghebremariam,

I am deeply concerned for the safety of Aster 
Fissehatsion and Estifanos Seyoum and the nine 
other former senior officials detained with them 
since 2001 (the so-called G15). It is believed that 
two of the G15 may have died in detention. 
Could you please confirm if this is indeed the 

I believe that Aster Fissehatsion and Estifanos 
Seyoum are being held solely for peacefully 
exercising their right to freedom of expression 
and as such are prisoners of conscience. The 
International Covenant on Civil and Political 
Rights, to which Eritrea is a signatory, upholds 
the fundamental human right to freedom of 
opinion and expression. I urge that the 
government of Eritrea show its respect for this 
freedom by releasing Aster Fissehatsion and 
Estifanos Seyoum and the other G15 detainees, 
and by allowing all other Eritrean citizens 
peacefully to express their opinions without fear 
of harassment or imprisonment.

I look forward to hearing from you on this 
important matter.

[your name and address]


Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:

Sunday, April 19, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard
 in Pasadena

By Ann Cummins
Book Review:

The plot of Ann Cummins' first novel, 
'Yellowcake,' seems to suggest that we're in for a 
pretty shrill experience: Native Americans dying 
from chemical exposure at a shuttered uranium 
mine. Regardless of your politics, that looks like 
a beam of white guilt that will irradiate all 
subtlety. Discovering that Cummins delivers 
something far more nuanced is just one of many 
surprises in this rich and touching story. 
(Washington Post Book Review Post).

Yellowcake is the powdery substance produced 
while milling uranium ore, but it's also a 
compromise between chocolate and vanilla cake. 
Both definitions show up in these pages, which 
suggests something about the novel's ability to 
span industrial and domestic concerns. 
Cummins grew up in Shiprock, N.M., where her 
father was a mill worker, and she demonstrates 
an intimate familiarity with the labor and the 
laborers - Navajo and Anglo - who toiled 
away in this dangerous business.

The story opens decades after environmental 
warnings closed the uranium mine on a Navajo 
reservation in New Mexico. Ryland Mahoney, 
who was a manager when the mill shut down, is 
looking forward to his daughter's marriage in a 
few weeks, but he's being pulled back into the 
past. With every breath, the oxygen tank he drags 
along reminds him of the mining chemicals that 
may have compromised his lungs. And then 
there's the arrival of Becky Atcitty, the daughter 
of a Navajo worker who's dying of cancer. Becky 
wants him to help a group of ex-employees sue 
the government for compensation for their 
medical problems. But joining that crusade 
would involve admitting that he poisoned his 
friends and co-workers, that he poisoned himself, 
that he's dying. Why spoil the wedding festivities 
with all that, and besides, who's to say what was 
really responsible? 'Maybe it was the uranium 
exposure. Maybe it was something else, like 
cigarettes,' Ryland thinks. 'As far as I'm 
concerned, half the people creating a stir want 
compensation for getting old. We're not young. 
Things go wrong.'

There's a dramatic showdown set up here, a la 
'Erin Brockovich,' but Cummins never lets that 
take over the novel. While the workers' protest 
rumbles away in the background, she's far more 
interested in the small personal dramas among 
these characters - conflicts of life and death, 
love and disappointment, that no court could 
ever sort out. The central relationship is the long 
marriage between Ryland and his super-
competent wife, who's trying to manage his 
illness without turning him into a child. There's 
nothing romantic about dying from lung failure, 
and Cummins portrays that struggle with clear-
eyed realism, but she's also attentive to all the 
other moments of comedy and romance that 
keep right on flowing between two people in love.

And she's particularly sensitive to the quandary 
of young Navajo men and women who hover in 
the cloudy atmosphere of assimilation, enjoying 
the benefits of modern life but still aware of the 
riches of their parents' traditions. Becky wants to 
help her dying father, but she's reminded again 
and again that she can't even speak his language. 
The medicine men her father consults can't 
supply the technical records she needs to pursue 
his case in court, but is it worth violating his faith 
to confirm her own beliefs? Watching her 
grandmother pray, 'she feels entirely foreign, out 
of place.'

Many likable people move through this novel, but 
my favorite subplot involves Delmar, the 
'crossbreed' son of Ryland's best friend. Recently 
released from prison for stealing cars, Delmar is 
trying to stay out of trouble, even as he thinks 
about 'what a bummer the straight and narrow 
is.' The humiliation of weekly drug tests and 
picking up after rich white folks would be 
enough to test anyone's resolve, but he just might 
have enough determination and humor to make 
it. The chapters that show him struggling to stay 
clean are marvels of insight and sympathy.

Cummins, who teaches creative writing at 
Northern Arizona University, published a well-
received collection of short stories called 'Red Ant 
House' in 2003. In some ways, 'Yellowcake' is a 
collection of stories, too, but she's knit them 
together to reflect the messiness and continuity of 
real life, a marvelous blending of crises and 
blessings and a fair share of wondering and 
worrying. In the end, Cummins rather bravely 
leaves all her loose ends loose - none of that 
Anglo obsession with closure. That could have 
been frustrating, but here the effect is poignant. It 
leaves space that you can't help but fill with your 
own hopes for these tender, resilient people. 

Ron Charles is a senior editor of The Washington 
Post Book World.

About the Author
Born in the southern Rocky Mountain town of 
Durango, Colorado, Ann Cummins writes 
frequently about working class people. During 
the early part of the 20th century, her family 
migrated from County Galway, Ireland to 
Colorado, where they mined silver, coal, and 
uranium. When Cummins was nine, her father -
a uranium mill worker - moved the family to 
Shiprock, New Mexico in the northern part of the 
Navajo Indian Reservation, where Ann 
graduated from high school. Although her work 
extends beyond her ties to the southwest, she is 
often drawn by landscape and custom to write 
about the region of her birth.



Albuquerque, NM - NM Repeal congratulates 
our Governor Bill Richardson and the New 
Mexico State Legislature for their leadership in 
repealing capital punishment in New Mexico. The 
strong vote in the New Mexico legislature reflects 
broad consensus that the death penalty has 
failed the people of New Mexico, who have come 
to know that it risks executing the innocent, is 
unfairly applied, fails victims' families and law 
enforcement and wastes scarce taxpayer dollars.

By repealing the death penalty, New Mexico has 
chosen to focus its energies and resources where 
they should be focused: on providing tangible 
assistance to the families of murder victims. The 
additional measures making their way through 
the Legislature at this moment will enable New 
Mexico to use the savings gained from ending the 
death penalty to provide a reparation award to 
children of murder victims, provide services and 
programs to murder victims' families, and create 
a murder victim family services fund.

Another measure requires employers to provide 
paid or unpaid leave to crime victims to attend 
judicial proceedings.  NM Repeal applauds this 
action in behalf of survivors of homicide in New 

In this time of fiscal crisis, it is more important 
than ever to make smart choices when it comes to 
meeting the needs of our citizens.  Replacing the 
death penalty marked the end of a costly, 
ineffective aspect of New Mexico's criminal 
justice system.  With it went the false promise 
that executions would bring healing to survivors 
of homicide victims.  Now in New Mexico the 
priority will be on assisting murder victims' 
families as opposed to pursuing the executions 
of a handful of individuals.  Perpetrators will be 
sentenced to life imprisonment without 
possibility of parole.

New Mexico's decision to end capital 
punishment brings to 15 the number of states 
that no longer carry out executions.  Other states 
have put executions on hold or have 
commissioned studies.  These actions come 
amidst a growing chorus of concern about the 
death penalty across the country.  Since 2000 
there has been a dramatic decrease in all aspects 
of death penalty use.  And public opinion has 
shifted away from support for capital 
punishment. These developments, which are the 
backdrop against which New Jersey and New 
York, and now New Mexico, abandoned the 
death penalty, are evidence that Americans are 
moving away from capital punishment.

What a great week for New Mexico!  As we enjoy 
repealing the death penalty in our state, let's all 
take a few minutes today and send the Governor 
a thank you for his leadership.  He showed great 
strength and courage by signing the repeal bill 
into law, and we appreciate his support!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to call 
or write Governor Richardson to encourage him 
to sign this just bill - your voice was heard!   
Please thank Governor Richardson for doing the 
right thing; you can send hand written notes to:

Honorable Bill Richardson
Office of the Governor
490 Old Santa Fe Trail
Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501(505) 476-2200

For email, visit:

 Source: (link from

DP           1
EritreaPOC   7
UAs         27
Total:	    35
To add your letters to the total contact

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code 5-62
Pasadena, CA 91125

Amnesty International's mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and 
ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and 
expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all 
human rights.