Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XX Number 1, January 2012


UPCOMING EVENTS

Thursday, January 26, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. Note new location - 505 S. Wilson 
Ave., Pasadena. (This is just south of the 
corner with San Pasqual. Signs will be posted.) 
We will be planning our activities for the 
coming months. Please join us! Refreshments 
provided.

Tuesday, February 14, 7:30 PM.  Letter 
writing meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner 
of Hill and California in Pasadena. This 
informal gathering is a great way for 
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty!   

Sunday, February 19, 6:30 PM.  Rights 
Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
group. This month we read "A Person of 
Interest" by Susan Choi.


COORDINATOR'S CORNER

Hi everyone

We had a very successful Write-a-thon for 
Human Rights Day with 111 letters written.  
This year the Write-a-thon was held at Zephyr 
Cafe in Pasadena instead of Cafe Culture.

The 2012 AGM (Annual General Meeting) will 
be held in Denver, Colorado from March 30 to 
April 1).  No agenda has been posted yet on AI's 
website, but two major events will be held on 
Friday March 30:  Local group training session 
starting in the morning and lasting most of the 
day, and a rally that will start around 2 pm.  The 
rally will include at least two of the following 
three topics:  DP Abolition, Immigrant Rights 
and the Occupy Movement.

On Martin Luther King weekend, Stevi, Lucas, 
Robert and I attended an Organizing City Los 
Angeles meeting downtown with other LA area 
AI groups and student groups and then Rob and 
I helped to collect signatures at the African 
American Museum in Exposition Park to put the 
Cal Safe Act on the ballot.

Welcome to Cheri and Matt's new baby girl! 
Yvette Vigueur Pohlman arrived January 19, 
weighing 7 lbs 5 oz. Parents and baby are at 
home and "blissfully happy" according to 
Cheri's facebook post. Congratulations to the 
proud parents from Group 22! 

Con carino, Kathy


RIGHTS READERS

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at 
http://rightsreaders.blogspot.com

Next Rights Readers meeting: 
Sunday, Feb. 19, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado  Blvd.
 In Pasadena

A Person of Interest 
 by Susan Choi

With its propulsive drive, vividly realized 
characters, and profound observations about 
soul and society, Pulitzer-Prize finalist Susan 
Choi's latest novel is as thrilling as it is lyrical, 
and confirms her place as one of the most 
important novelists chronicling the American 
experience. Intricately plotted and 
psychologically acute, A Person of Interest 
exposes the fault lines of paranoia and dread 
that have fractured American life and asks how 
far one man must go to escape his regrets. 

Professor Lee, an Asian-born mathematician 
near retirement age would seem the last person 
to attract the attention of FBI agents. Yet after a 
colleague becomes the latest victim of a serial 
bomber, Lee must endure the undermining 
power of suspicion and face the ghosts of his 
past.

  About the Author

Susan Choi was born in South Bend Indiana and 
raised there and in Houston, Texas.  She studied 
literature at Yale and writing at Cornell, and 
worked for several years as a fact-checker for the 
New Yorker.  

Her first novel, The Foreign Student, won the 
Asian American Literary Award for fiction, and 
her second novel, American Woman, was a 
finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.
With David Remnick she co-edited the 
anthology Wonderful Town:  New York Stories 
from the New Yorker and her non-fiction has 
appeared in publications including Vogue, Tin 
House, Allure, O, and the New York Times and 
in anthologies including Money Changes 
Everything and Brooklyn was mine. 

A recipient of fellowships from the National 
Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim 
Foundation, she lives in Brooklyn, New York 
with her husband, Pete Wells, and their sons 
Dexter and Elliot.


PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Gao Zhisheng

By Joyce Wolf

China at long last revealed the whereabouts of 
human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was 
subjected to enforced disappearance and had 
been missing since April 2010. On January 1, his 
brother Gao Zhiyi received an official notice that 
Gao Zhisheng was in Shaya Prison in the remote 
western region of Xinjiang. 

Gao Zhiyi and other relatives traveled to Shaya 
as quickly as they could make arrangements for 
the 2000-mile journey, only to be told on their 
arrival that Gao Zhisheng could not have 
visitors because he was undergoing a three-
month "education period". Geng He, wife of 
Gao Zhisheng, who now lives in California, is 
anxious to see some evidence that her husband 
is actually alive and in Shaya Prison. 

For the latest news about Gao Zhisheng, scroll 
down to the news search box at the bottom of 
the Rights Readers page 
http://rightsreaders.blogspot.com/p/GaoZhisheng.

At this time families all over China are reuniting 
in order to celebrate the New Year. Please write 
on behalf of Gao Zhisheng and urge that his 
family be allowed to contact him. Here is a 
sample letter. 

HU Jintao Guojia Zhuxi
The State Council General Office
2 Fuyoujie
Xichengqu
Beijingshi 100017
People's Republic of China

Your Excellency,

I am deeply concerned about Gao Zhisheng, 
a Beijing-based human rights lawyer 
who was detained in Shaanxi Province on 
February 4, 2009. Since April 20, 2010, he was 
subjected to enforced disappearance. On 
December 19, 2011, he was admitted to Shaya 
Prison in a remote area of Xinjiang.

I urge you to ensure that Mr. Gao is not 
subjected to torture or other ill-treatment while 
he is in custody, that he receives whatever 
medical treatment he may require, and that he is 
able to contact his family and lawyers. 

In China at this time families are gathering 
together to celebrate the New Year. I ask that 
you make every effort to ensure that Mr. Gao 
and his brother Gao Zhiyi are able to establish 
contact with each other.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent 
matter. I wish you health and good fortune in 
the Year of the Dragon, and I look forward to 
hearing from you regarding the current status of 
Gao Zhisheng.

Sincerely,

Copy to:
His Excellency Ambassador Zhang Yesui
3505 International Place, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008


Compelling Death Penalty Documentary
 Into the Abyss

Reviewed by Kai Mariama

Into the Abyss, a new documentary about the 
death penalty in America, will soon be available 
to Netflix subscribers after a critically acclaimed 
run in local theaters such as Pasadena's 
Laemmle. This film, by Werner Herzog, should 
appeal to Amnesty International members, as 
it's made from an anti-death penalty point of 
view. LA Times critic Betsey Sharkey reports 
about Herzog: "The director, who came of age in 
post-World War II Germany with its 
concentration camp legacy, makes it clear where 
he stands on the issue - the taking of another 
life, whether legally sanctioned or not, is 
wrong." Here's a review from Group 22 member 
Kai Mariama, who attended the movie's L.A. 
opening in Hollywood, and was treated to a Q & 
A session afterward with Herzog:

The film was really amazing. Mr. Herzog was 
there and he spoke after and took questions. 
 The film was very powerful and the 
cinematography was awesome. The movie was 
also funny in some parts because of the way 
Herzog interviews and the way he asks 
questions to his subjects in the film. Herzog 
mentioned that he has experienced meeting 
killers, all kinds of thugs, and other criminals in 
his life, but no one of his subjects has terrified 
him more than Michael Perry, the individual on 
death row that he interviewed. I also noticed in 
the film how he was very natural with his 
subjects, including Perry, and I thought it was 
amazing that he could capture that in just a 50-
minute interview, the longest time prison rules 
would allow. Herzog explained that he does not 
personally believe that a state has the right to 
kill anyone. I found it interesting that Perry, 
though he knew things that only the perpetrator 
could know and he described in detail how he 
killed his victims, he was telling Herzog that he 
was innocent as his execution drew near. 
Herzog explained that oftentimes this is what 
death row inmates tend to do before execution. 
Herzog said that after reading the 800-page 
police report, it seems impossible for this kid 
(Perry was a teenager at the time of the murders 
he committed) not to be guilty of the crime.  I 
really can't describe the film - you have to see it 
for yourself.  

When I was in college, I wrote to an individual 
on death row as part as my internship my last 
year at school. At first, I did not want to do it, 
but I then I thought: This is a human being--he 
eats and sleeps just like everyone else. Besides 
writing to death row inmates, I have been to 
several prisons and have met individuals on 
their journey of hope in conjunction with MVFR 
(murder victim's families for reconciliation). 
Some of these people were sentenced to death 
but then set free after being found innocent. I 
truly believe that the death penalty is racially 
biased and inflicted most on African-Americans. 
I have seen this phenomenon myself and have 
met actual people who were sentenced to death 
but later found innocent. That is why I oppose 
the death penalty.
 - Kai Lawson


A signature campaign is underway for a citizen's 
initiative to repeal California's death penalty. The 
coalition group Savings Accountability Full 
Enforcement (SAFE) is leading the effort to qualify 
this measure for the November 2012 election. 
According to the SAFE website, they have collected 
560,000 signatures so far. Their goal is to collect 
about 200,000 more by March in order to have the 
necessary buffer in place to meet a 500,000 signature 
requirement. (Signatures will be checked, and those 
not valid will be rejected.) SAFE is asking all 
volunteers to request petitions at 
www.safecalifornia.org and return them by February 
15.  A recent Field Poll showed that more voters 
would prefer life without parole for certain crimes 
rather than the death penalty, according to the Death 
Penalty Information Center website.


DEATH PENALTY NEWS

By Stevi Carroll

Already the end of January 2012 and we see the 
year flying by.  December was a quiet death 
penalty month here in the USA.  Gary Haugen 
in Oregon had his execution stayed, and nobody 
throughout our land got the lethal needle.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since January is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 
birthday month, let's remember a little 
something he had to say about the death 
penalty.

"I do not think that God approves the death 
penalty for any crime, rape and murder 
included. Capital punishment is against the 
better judgment of modern criminology, and, 
above all, against the highest expression of love 
in the nature of God."   

Europe

What happened in December was succinctly 
stated in this headline: "Europe moves to block 
trade in medical drugs used in US executions".  
It seems the Europeans do not want drugs they 
produce used to kill intentionally.  The EC said 
it "has added eight barbiturates to its list of 
restricted products that are tightly controlled on 
the grounds that they may be used for 'capital 
punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or 
degrading treatment or punishment'." The list 
includes pentobarbital and sodium thiopental  
the two drugs on which almost all American 
executions currently depend.  Of course, the 
manufacturer of sodium thiopental has already 
given US execution states the heave-ho which 
caused those states to embrace the use of 
pentobarbital.

SAFE CA Campaign

The SAFE (Saving Accountability Full 
Enforcement) CA campaign continues on.  All 
petitions must be in to the campaign office by 
February 15th.  If you happen to have any 
petitions hanging around your house, please 
send them to

SAFE California Campaign
237 Kearny Street #334
San Francisco CA 94108

If you'd like to get involved, let me know 
(pax2u@aol.com) and I can get petitions to you 
or you can go to 
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1265/p/sals
a/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KE
Y=6365 to have them mailed to you.  Even a 
signature or two will help in the big picture of 
getting the death penalty on the California 2012 
ballot. 

If the moral issues of the State's involvement in 
murder becoming the same as the murderer's or 
the arbitrary nature of the imposition of the 
death penalty doesn't move people, the cost 
savings might.  

A Little International News

I know I concentrate on the death penalty in the 
US, but of course, other nations also commit 
state-sanctioned murder.  With that in mind, I 
am hopeful to see that Mongolia has taken steps 
to abolish the death penalty.  According to an 
article at the Amnesty website 
(http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/mongolia-
takes-vital-step-forward-abolishing-death-
penalty-2012-01-05), "'The Mongolian 
parliament's vote today is another vital step 
forward, and Mongolia should follow up by 
immediately implementing laws that abolish the 
death penalty altogether.' said Sam Zarifi, 
Amnesty International Asia-Pacific Director."  

This article reminds us that more than two 
thirds of the world's countries have abolished 
the death penalty and that China is the leading 
execution country.  Now with that said, 17 of the 
41 Asia-Pacific countries have abolished the 
death penalty.

In December the USA's ally the Saudi Arabia, 
beheaded Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem 
Nasser, a Saudi Arabian national, for 'witchcraft 
and sorcery'.  Here in the USofA, we might 
think of Salem.  According to the article at the 
Amnesty website, "the charge of sorcery has 
often been used in Saudi Arabia to punish 
people, generally after unfair trials, for 
exercising their right to freedom of speech or 
religion." 

In 2010, the number of executions in Saudi 
Arabia almost tripled and "Saudi Arabia was 
one of a minority of states voting against a UN 
General Assembly resolution calling for a 
worldwide moratorium on executions."

The GOP Debates

This leads me to remember the GOP debates 
here in the USofA.  In September 2011, let's 
remember Rick Perry, no longer a contender for 
the GOP presidential nomination for 2012, who 
got applause when he was asked about the 234 
executions carried out during his governorship 
of Texas.  What Governor Perry said was, "In 
the state of Texas, if you come into our state and 
you kill one of our children, you kill a police 
officer, you're involved with another crime and 
you kill one of our citizens, you will face the 
ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is 
you will be executed."

Just something for us to keep in mind as we 
pursue the SAFE CA campaign.

Stays of Execution

December
5	Gary Haugen		Oregon

January
17	Ralph Birdsong		Pennsylvania
18	Kenneth Haiston		Pennsylvania	
	Charles Lorraine	Ohio
19	Michael St. Clair	Kentucky

Clemency Granted

January
20	Robert Gattis		Delaware

Execution

January
5	Gary Welch		Oklahoma	
	Lethal Injection


GROUP 22 MONTHLY LETTER COUNT

December Write-a-thon           111
January Urgent Actions           19
January POC                       8
Total                           138
To add your letters to the total contact  
lwkamp@gmail.com.


Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code C1-128
Pasadena, CA 91125
www.its.caltech.edu/~aigp22/
http://rightsreaders.blogspot.com