Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XX Number 5, May 2012


Thursday, May 24, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. We meet at the Caltech Y, Tyson 
House, 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, June 12, 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, June 17, 6:30 PM.  Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion group. This 
month we read "Children and Fire" by Ursula 


Hi All

Thanks to Joyce, Lucas, and Stevi for doing the 
newsletter last month and to Joyce for her 
regular assistance.  

I was feeling overwhelmed due to the sudden 
death of my mother the last week of March, and 
I had the responsibility to organize a memorial 
gathering in her honor that 50-60 friends and 
relatives attended at my parents' home in 
Tarzana. It was a lovely event and a chance to 
catch up with people we hadn't seen in a long 
time. Thanks to everyone who expressed their 
condolences to me, Robert, and our family. 
Thanks to Paula for attending the celebration 
and for the donation in my mother's honor that 
was made by Group 22 to the CSUN Arts 

At our last monthly meeting, Wen told us about 
the blind Chinese activist who had escaped 
house arrest and made his way to the US 
Embassy.  Chen Guangcheng is now in the US to 
study law.  Also see Joyce's piece on Chen in 
this newsletter.

Con Carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, June 17, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena

Children and Fire
by Ursula Hegi

About the Author
Multiple award winner Ursula Hegi moved 
from West Germany to the U.S. in 1964. She has 
lived on both coasts, in the states of Washington 
and New York. 
Hegi's first two books had American settings; 
but when she was in her '40s, she began 
investigating her cultural heritage in stories 
about life in Germany. Her critically acclaimed 
1994 novel Stones from the River gathered 
further momentum when it was selected in 1999 
as an Oprah's Book Club pick. 
Among numerous honors and awards, Hegi has 
received an NEA Fellowship, several PEN 
Syndicated Fiction Awards, and a book award 
from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers 
Association (PNBA) in 1991 for Floating in My 
Mother's Palm. She has taught creative writing 
and has written many reviews for acclaimed 
publications like The New York Times, the Los 
Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.

Book Review
June 24, 2011
Testing the Conscience of a Village Under the Nazis

By Ursula Hegi

All novelists are godlike. Sovereign creators of 
worlds they populate with beings wrought from 
something less than dust and rib, they set events 
in motion and determine their consequences. 
The situation is less ideal than it sounds: 
omnipotence can be a dreary limitation. That's 
why the best novelists are also childlike. Bent 
over impalpable dollhouses, moving their lips 
while they rearrange the furniture and figures, 
they give themselves over to such deep play that 
their stories read less like a premeditated 
imposition than obedience to the whispered 
suggestions of the universe.

Ursula Hegi belongs to this second category, 
and she attends not to a single dollhouse but to 
an entire imagined village. Again and again, she 
has returned to this setting, investing it with 
renewed curiosity and a desire to feel her way 
down new paths, coming at many of the same 
rooms and characters, even the same story lines, 
from different angles. One senses in Hegi a 
willingness to lose herself in play, in the service 
of play. So it's fitting that her latest work is 
concerned in part with the awful, awe-full 
seriousness of children's play. 

"Children and Fire," is the fourth novel Hegi 
has set in Burgdorf, a German village "hundreds 
of kilometers" from Berlin where everyone 
seems to know everyone else - and where that 
knowing entails a multigenerational grasp of the 
history, secrets and myths that make up each 
person's lineage. This is a village with a chorus 
of old women who say things like "During those 
times when there was an abundance of dying, 
there was also an abundance of poetry." It's a 
village in which "the taxidermist gave glass eyes 
to the children . . . on St. Martin's Day, not 
sweets or apples like other merchants." It's a 
village with a chess club and a pigeon club, a 
"midwife to the dying" who reads verses at the 
bedsides of those drawing their final breaths, a 
village with an "unknown benefactor" who slips 
inside people's houses to deposit, uncannily, the 
very items they've been pining for: roller skates, 
a phonograph, a block of cheese. But lest 
Burgdorf sound a little too picturesque and 
gemuetlich, the village is also - like any place, 
like every place - home to cruelty and 
cowardice and harm, qualities Hegi makes all 
the more disturbing by locating them in both 
large-scale events and in the vicissitudes of daily 
life, in the personages of the well-meaning, the 
hard-working, the innocent. 

Much of the narrative unfolds over a single day: 
Feb. 27, 1934, the first anniversary of the burning 
of the Reichstag. This fire, which destroyed the 
Parliament building in Berlin and for which a 
Communist was accused of arson, has allowed 
the Nazis to consolidate their power. By the time 
the novel begins, many Burgdorf boys have 
joined the Hitler-Jugend. Books have been 
burned in the town square. Jewish families are 
leaving. The remaining Jewish children must 
now attend a segregated school in the 
synagogue, and a beloved Jewish teacher has 
lost her job. This firing proves pivotal, setting 
the story in motion - although we will have to 
wait almost until the novel's end to learn exactly 
what happened, to see how deeply it continues 
to affect the protagonist, Thekla Jansen. 

A former student of the dismissed teacher, 
Thekla has agreed to take over her mentor's 
class of fourth-grade boys, "knowing she was 
doing something wrong" but rationalizing the 
decision as a way to "save the position" until the 
older teacher can "come back." Thekla's guilt 
and subsequent efforts to make amends for her 
betrayal (while simultaneously denying it to 
herself) shape everything that ensues, from how 
she relates to the day's events to her pressing 
need to understand her own past. Alternating 
sections of the book exhume that past, tracing 
the story of her birth and parentage, her parents' 
beginnings and those of the townspeople whose 
lives intersect with hers in true Burgdorfian 

Hegi follows Thekla as she struggles to divert 
her thoughts from acknowledging the great 
ugliness looming over Germany, repeatedly 
redirecting her attention to more immediate 
exigencies: her class of 9- and 10-year-olds. "She 
loves them all: the boys with crossed eyes and 
the boys with crooked teeth; the brainy boys and 
the beautiful boys; the boys from good families 
and the boys with Rotznasen - runny noses," 
and even the bullies, in whom she seeks out 
what there is to praise, to nurture. She recites 
poems to them and takes them on walks. She 
wants to teach them courage, tries to impress on 
them her former teacher's lesson that "we can 
alter fate," that "for us, as humans, there is 
choice." Yet Hegi reveals, with fine, damning 
precision, that choosing the right course is 
anything but easy. Writ large or small, the same 
complicated human impulses distort the picture. 
On the playground as in Parliament, fear thrives 
alongside love, the giddy thrill of power 
alongside the burn of shame. 

In this novel as in others (particularly "Stones 
From the River," many of whose characters 
show up here; also, notably, in "Tearing the 
Silence," her nonfiction exploration of German 
identity after the Holocaust), Hegi makes a 
considerable effort to engage our moral 
imagination. Her aim is signaled in the opening 
lines: "A winter morning in 1934. Imagine frost 
on the windowpanes of the schoolhouse in this 
village by the Rhein, milk blossoms of frost." 

By addressing the reader directly, Hegi 
implicitly conveys an intention to reach beyond 
the bounds of fiction. At best, this is like inviting 
us to kneel beside the toy village along with her, 
involving us more deeply in the fluid flow of her 
story. At other times, though, the urge leads us 
astray. Occasionally, Hegi can't resist pointing 
out the parallels between events in little 
Burgdorf and those on a grand scale. When the 
children gang up on a weaker classmate, Thekla 
intervenes, only to realize that "any moment 
now, they may turn on her, no longer individual 
boys she can guide but a pack. . . . It comes to 
her how, with the government, too, she believed 
she could manage it, yet once unleashed, it was 
overtaking her, all of them." The novel falters 
under the pedantry of such moments, but 
thankfully they are rare. 

And what is it Hegi means us to apprehend? 
Not simply that each of us harbors the capacity 
for wrongdoing or that insisting on a divide 
between good and bad people is itself harmful. 
We are, she shows us - sadly, tenderly - 
incapable of not doing wrong. Yet she also hints 
at the many forms our redemption can take: 
imagining, doubting, telling our truths, 
gathering together to listen to one another's 
"tales around the flames." 

Leah Hager Cohen's latest novel, "The Grief of 
Others," will be published in September.

Gao Zhisheng

By Joyce Wolf

The topic of human rights in China has been 
very much in the news this past month, thanks 
to the dramatic escape of blind activist Chen 
Guangcheng and the tense diplomatic 
negotiations between the U.S. and China that 
followed. News stories often mentioned Gao 
Zhisheng, Group 22's adopted prisoner of 
conscience, as another case of China's brutal 
retaliation against a human rights lawyer. 
Here's a background bit about dissidents who 
escaped that features Gao Zhisheng's wife:

CECC (Congressional-Executive Commission on 
China) conducted a hearing in Washington on 
May 3 about the case of Chen Guangcheng, who 
was then in a hospital after leaving the US 
Embassy. The hearing suddenly turned into 
breaking news when witness Bob Fu of 
ChinaAid received a call on his cellphone from 
Chen in his hospital room. Chairman Chris 
Smith (R-NJ) and Bob Fu spoke with Chen, who 
said he would like to come to the US and have 
the sort of rest he hadn't had in 10 years. The 
recorded webcast is available on 
It was very exciting to watch in real-time.

Today my Sunday paper has an article on the 
safe arrival in New York of Chen Guangcheng 
and his wife and two children. He is happy to be 
in the U.S. and to have the opportunity to study 
law, but he is concerned about his nephew and 
other family members who remain in China.

Next Saturday (May 26) the Visual Artists Guild 
will honor Chen Guangcheng at their 23rd 
annual Tiananmen commemoration at the 
Golden Dragon in Chinatown. 
( On June 
9, Visual Artists Guild of New York will honor 
our Gao Zhisheng, and his daughter Geng Ge 
will accept the award on behalf of her father.

If you have not already sent a message of 
solidarity to Gao Zhisheng, or if you want to 
send him another one, you can find his prison 
address on our updated page at
/GaoZhisheng.html. You will find other 
suggestions for action there as well. Postage to 
China is $1.05. 

By Stevi Carroll

Recently at an AI meeting, we discussed the use 
of one drug vs three drugs used in executions.  
The question of what's the difference? came up.  
First, let's look at what we can learn about lethal 
injection from the website howstuffworks 
injection5.htm).  This information is dated 
because sodium thiopental is no longer used but 
we can substitute pentobarbital.

How Lethal Injection Works

Some states use multiple executioners, all of 
whom inject drugs into an IV tube -- but only 
one of the executioners is actually delivering the 
lethal injection. None of the executioners know 
who has delivered the lethal dose and who has 
injected drugs into a dummy bag.

The drugs are administered, in this order:
-	Anesthetic - Sodium thiopental, which 
has the trademark name Pentothal, puts 
the inmate into a deep sleep. This drug is 
a barbiturate that induces general 
anesthesia when administered 
intravenously. It can reach effective 
clinical concentrations in the brain 
within 30 seconds, according to an 
Amnesty International report. For 
surgical operations, patients are given a 
dose of 100 to 150 milligrams over a 
period of 10 to 15 seconds. For 
executions, as many as 5 grams (5,000 
mg) of Pentothal may be administered. 
This in itself is a lethal dose. It's believed 
by some that after this anesthetic is 
delivered, the inmate doesn't feel 
-	Saline solution flushes the intravenous 
-	Paralyzing agent - Pancuronium 
bromide, also known as Pavulon, is a 
muscle relaxant that is given in a dose 
that stops breathing by paralyzing the 
diaphragm and lungs. Conventionally, 
this drug takes effect in one to three 
minutes after being injected. In many 
states, this drug is given in doses of up to 
100 milligrams, a much higher dose than 
is used in surgical operations -- usually 
40 to 100 micrograms per one kilogram 
of body weight. Other chemicals that can 
be used as a paralyzing agent include 
tubocurarine chloride and 
succinylcholine chloride.
-	Saline solution flushes the intravenous 
-	Toxic agent (not used by all states) - 
Potassium chloride is given at a lethal 
dose in order to interrupt the electrical 
signaling essential to heart functions. 
This induces cardiac arrest.
Within a minute or two after the last drug is 
administered, a physician or medical technician 
declares the inmate dead. The amount of time 
between when the prisoner leaves the holding 
cell and when he or she is declared dead may be 
just 30 minutes. Death usually occurs anywhere 
from five to 18 minutes after the execution order 
is given. 

So now we know how it works.
For some information on the one drug 
procedure, I went to Death Penalty Focus. 
According to DPF, "The process of lethal 
injection using just one drug follows nearly the 
same procedure, except the inmate dies from the 
one large dose of anesthetic, either sodium 
thiopental or pentobarbital." 

Arizona, South Dakota, Idaho, Ohio and 
Washington now use the one-drug method.  
April 25th Thomas Kemp was executed in 
Arizona using one drug.  According to his 
lawyer, Tim Gabrielsen, Mr. Kemp began to 
shake violently after the drug was injected.  Is 
this cruel and unusual punishment?  Other 
people who witnessed Mr. Kemp's execution 
disagreed with Mr. Gabrielsen's account of the 

Momentum seems to be building that one-drug 
executions are "a more humane, safer protocol," 
according to Richard Dieter, director of the 
Death Penalty Information Center in 

Three days after the SAFE Campaign received 
certification to have its initiative on the 
November ballot, Attorney General Kamala D. 
Harris filed an appeal seeking to counter a 
February ruling that halted a revised three-drug 
lethal injection method.  Also in that appeal was 
information about an order from Governor Jerry 
Brown for prison officials to consider the one-
drug method for executions in California.

Without lessening the horror of what many 
inmates are convicted of committing, I continue 
to wonder about the State's right to commit 

Wrong Man Executed

Professor James Liebman, Columbia Law 
School, and 12 students have investigated the 
execution of Carlos DeLuna.  Los Tocayos Carols: 
An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution 
( shows 
how the wrong Carlos was executed.  Here are a 
few items from an article in The Guardian 

- No blood samples were collected and tested 
from the crime scene.
- Fingerprinting was so badly handled no 
useable fingerprints were taken.
-	None of the items found on the floor of the 
crime scene - a cigarette stub, chewing gum, a 
button, comb and beer cans - were forensically 
examined for saliva or blood.
-	No scraping of the victim's fingernails for 
traces of the attackers skin were taken.
-	No measurements were taken of the footprint 
left in the pool of the victim's blood.
-	In fewer than two hours after the murder 
happened, the owner of the bar that was the 
crime scene was allowed to wash it down, 
sweeping away vital evidence.
-	Twenty years later the one eyewitness who 
identified Carlos DeLuna said he had trouble 
telling one Hispanic person apart from another.

Stays of Execution

May 2012
2 	Anthony Bartee		Texas
9	Todd Wessinger		Louisiana
13-19	Eric Robert (volunteer)	South Dakota
16	Steven Staley		Texas
16	Samuel Lopez		Arizona 
 (rescheduled for 6/27)


April 2012
25	Thomas Kemp		Arizona 
	1-drug lethal injection
26	Beunka Adams		Texas 
	3-drug lethal injection

May 2012
1	Michael Selsor		Oklahoma 
	3-drug lethal injection


UAs                22
China postcards     6
Total              28
To add your letters to the total contact

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code C1-128
Pasadena, CA 91125