AAmnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XX Number 9, September 2012


Thursday, September 27, 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, October 9, 7:30 PM.  Letter 
writing meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner 
of Hill and California in Pasadena. The 
Rathskeller is in the Athenaeum basement; 
take the stairs to the right of the main 
entrance. Look for the table with the Amnesty 
sign. Please join us to write actions on human-
rights violations around the world. This 
informal gathering is a great way for 
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty!   

Sunday, October 21, 6:30 PM.  Rights 
Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
group. This month we discuss "The Barbarian 
Nurseries" by Hector Tobar..


Hi everyone!

I want to thank Joyce, Stevi, and Lucas for 
working on the newsletter this month as I have 
been overwhelmed at work...it's only September 
and I've already helped to put together and 
teach two CPR and first aid classes for staff with 
my co-workers and we're doing another one 
next week! This year we have some fun new 
people in our office and our diabetic coverage 
list is 6 pages long!  At least we're back on the 
Eastside, where most of my schools are (some in 
South LA). Many of the schools have not had the 
funding to purchase a full time nurse, and we 
are taking up the slack.  As one of my former co-
workers used to say, "one day at a time"...

Several members of Group 22 attended a 
community forum on the Supreme Court's 
recent Citizens United decision at Villa Gardens. 
Rob (and others) videotaped the session, Lucas 
was at our Amnesty table, and Stevi introduced 
the speakers.  I think I saw some of you in the 
audience - caught a glimpse of Laura. I came 
along as gofer and helper to Rob, but found it to 
be a very interesting and informative event.  Rob 
is working now on posting his video on 
Youtube, so keep looking for it! (More about 
Citizens United at http://tinyurl.com/cxcxs2w)

Con carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at 

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, Oct. 21,  6:30 pm 
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena

The Barbarian Nurseries
by Hector Tobar

We enjoyed reading Hector Tobar's novel The 
Tattooed Soldier back in August 2001 and are 
looking forward to this recent book of his.

The Washington Post
Book review: 'The Barbarian Nurseries,' by
Hector Tobar
By Dinah Lenney, 
Published: November 20,  2011

In "Translation Nation," an account of the 
Latino experience across America published in 
2005, Hector Tobar recalled his father, a 
Guatemalan immigrant, telling him: "We are part 
of a bigger world ._._. full of beauty and horrors. 
._._. Our history and our future cannot be 
contained within borders." The author goes on 
to say, "I grew up believing it was my destiny to 
advance this essentially Latin American story 
into new, northern territories."

Now, in his third book and second novel, "The 
Barbarian Nurseries," Tobar is as good as his 
word. Once again, he explores the boundaries 
that bind and divide families, neighborhoods 
and Southern Californians; this time, to darkly 
hilarious and moving effect.

The story, told in three parts, begins in a gated 
community in Orange County, where we meet 
pale-skinned, half-Mexican Scott Torres; his 
wife, Maureen; and their three children, 
Brandon, Keenan and Samantha. Having 
dismissed the gardener and the nanny, Scott 
and Maureen are making do with one domestic 
in these tough economic times.

Enter housekeeper Araceli Ramirez, who, 
they've calculated, can be counted on in a pinch 
to keep an eye on the kids. Even so, Maureen 
can't quite get with the program. The neglected 
garden embarrasses her; impulsively, she 
decides to replace it for a four-figure sum. When 
Scott's credit card is subsequently rejected after 
a business lunch, tempers flare and he 
accidentally pushes her into a glass coffee table, 
which shatters. Scott drives away to lick his 
wounds in the company of an adoring co-
worker, while Maureen empties their piggy bank 
and heads off to a spa, baby Samantha in tow.

What is the poor housekeeper to do? She didn't 
sign on for this. She doesn't even like children. 
Four days later, with no word from either parent 
(each assumes that the other stayed home), 
Araceli sets off with the two boys in search of 
their grandfather Torres, who, she naively 
reasons, must still reside on a street in a distant 
Los Angeles neighborhood where he posed for a 
family photograph three decades earlier.

So begins a wild and crazy ride, which gets 
wilder and crazier after the boys are returned to 
their parents and Araceli is jailed on kidnapping 
charges. In a moment of rare fluency, this illegal 
from south of the border describes herself as 
having landed in "a very strange North 
American circus."

In this ode to L.A., as affectionate as it is 
terrifying, Tobar's position is clear: An exclusive 
enclave with vast ocean views is no less scary 
than the flats of South Central, its isolated 
inhabitants all the more alienated from each 
other and themselves.

In fact, the farther we get from the order and 
calm of the Torres family's McMansion, the 
more believable, if bizarre, events become in 
Tobar's vivid rendering of people and place.

Although epic in scope, this is, at heart, the 
story of two women: Araceli and Maureen. And 
never were there such a couple of unlikely 
heroines: One is inscrutable, withholding and 
thick-waisted; the other is spoiled, controlling 
and perfectly accessorized. Lucky for us, Tobar, 
a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is that rare 
male author who credibly inhabits a woman's 
point of view - both women, in fact, and a 
slew of other characters besides. If we spend 
more time with some than with others, it's a 
credit to Tobar that we feel we know them all: 
neighbors, friends, politicians, passers-by - a 
cast that includes a rabid prosecutor, a pregnant 
public defender and a social worker who 
deserves a novel all to herself.

Each moment surprises, right up to a scene close 
to the end when domestically challenged 
Maureen faces off with an army of ants invading 
her beautiful house: "Every day they conquered 
new territories of tile, particleboard and 
porcelain," Tobar writes. "They gathered in 
pulsating masses around pieces of chicken 
underneath the dining room table, over the toilet 
paper in the bathroom trash cans, and inside the 
kitchen sink, carrying away whatever it was that 
settled at the bottom of the garbage disposal."

Baffled by the chalk lines that Araceli drew 
along the baseboards, Maureen scrubs them 
away along with the ants, who keep coming 
back for more. At last, she resorts to pesticide, 
"so desperate to see the chemicals work that she 
didn't bother to get the children out of the house 
before she began spraying." Maureen is on 
border patrol, resolved to keep appear_ances up 
and the aliens out.

Sad, funny, seemingly inevitable - such are the 
metaphors and insights from Hector Tobar, an 
author from whom we expect nothing less, and 
look forward to more.

Lenney, the author of "Bigger than Life: A Murder, a 
Memoir," teaches at Bennington College, Pacific 
Lutheran University and in the Master of Professional 
Writing Program in the USC Dornsife College."

Hector Tobar (born 1963 Los Angeles) is a Los 
Angeles author and journalist, whose work 
examines the evolving and interdependent 
relationship between Latin America and the 
United States.
He is the son of Guatemalan immigrants. He is 
currently a weekly columnist for the Los Angeles 
Times. Previously, he was the paper's bureau 
chief in Mexico City and in Buenos Aires, 
Argentina. He also worked for several years as 
the National Latino Affairs Correspondent. In 
1992, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his work as 
part of the team covering the L.A. riots for the 
Los Angeles Times. He is a graduate of the 
University of California, Santa Cruz and the 
MFA program in Creative Writing at the 
University of California, Irvine.

Gao Zhisheng
by Joyce Wolf

Our own California senator, Barbara Boxer, 
introduced a resolution on September 13 calling 
on China to free Gao Zhisheng!  (Human rights 
lawyer Gao Zhisheng is Group 22's adopted 
prisoner of conscience.)  

Senator Boxer stated, "We are introducing this 
bipartisan resolution today to send a clear 
message that the Chinese government must 
release Gao Zhisheng and end its persecution 
and torture of innocent lawyers, writers and 

The press release contains the complete text of 
the resolution (S.Res. 554). After summarizing 
Gao Zhisheng's story, the resolution concludes: 
"Whereas the continued detention of Gao 
Zhisheng, with limited or no access to family or 
legal counsel, by the Government of the People's 
Republic of China is a source of grave concern to 
the United States Senate: Now, therefore, be it
 Resolved, That the Senate calls on the 
Government of the People's Republic of ChinaŃ
 (1) to immediately facilitate continued access to 
Gao Zhisheng by his family and lawyers;
 (2) to facilitate the immediate and 
unconditional release of Gao Zhisheng, including 
allowing Mr. Gao to leave China to come to the 
United States to be reunited with his family, 
should he wish to do so; and
 (3) to release all persons in China who have 
been arbitrarily detained."

The resolution has been referred to the 
Committee on Foreign Relations. It was co-
sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). 

This month let's send a thank-you to Senator 
Boxer. Her contact information is at 
http://boxer.senate.gov. Please thank her for 
S.Res. 554, and mention that AI Group 22 has 
been working over two years for Gao Zhisheng. 
You might also mention that just recently 
(August 27), two lawyers retained by Gao 
Zhisheng's brother Gao Zhiyi were denied 
permission to see him in Shaya Prison. Details 
about the lawyers' attempted visit are at 

Here's a mailing address for Senator Boxer:
Office of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer 
312 N. Spring St. Suite 1748 
 Los Angeles, CA 90012

By Stevi Carroll

Troy Davis - One year later

Troy Davis was executed one year ago on 
September 21, 2011.  Friday evening the 
California NAACP, the YES on 34 Campaign, 
civil rights groups and clergy leaders held a 
vigil to commemorate his execution.  Because 
the divinity, Google Maps, led me astray, I was 
unable to attend, but I want us to remember 
Troy as we work to end the death penalty.

"This fight to end the death penalty is not won 
or lost through me but through our strength to 
move forward and save every innocent person 
in captivity around the globe. We need to 
dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state 
by state and country by country." ~Troy Davis

We in California have the opportunity to move 
in that direction with Proposition 34.

YES on Proposition 34

Soon we will have a volunteer opportunity to do 
phone banking for the YES on 34 campaign.  I 
will let you know when the dates and times are 
established for Pasadena.

Ronald Post

Ronald Post is scheduled for execution January 
16, 2013, for the 1985 murder of Helen Vantz.  
Mr. Post wants his execution delayed because he 
is morbidly obese, 480 pounds, and finding a 
vein into which the lethal injection would go 
could be difficult to find.

His attorneys say, "Given his unique physical 
and medical condition there is substantial risk 
that any attempt to execute him will result in 
serious physical and psychological pain to him, 
as well as an execution involving a torturous 
and lingering death." 

What to me is interesting about this case is the 
comment thread that follows the article.  I know 
the anonymity of the internet allows people to 
say many things without concern of censure.  
Here are a few of the comments.

"Given his unique physical and medical condition 
there is substantial risk that any attempt to execute 
him will result in serious physical and psychological 
pain to him, as well as an execution involving a 
torturous and lingering death," the attorneys said." 
So.....what's the downside?
Cut off his head... You all can pay for him to live.
If they can't find a vein, two bullets in the back of the 
head. Ridiculous. I don't care if you're 1000 lbs or 50 
lbs, you killed someone all the same.
Well, then it seems to me that hanging would be most 
effective in this case.
America can't even remove sick murders from society 
properly; maybe we should outsource that to China 

According to the article "Three Percent of US 
Executions Since 1900 Were Botched, Study 
Finds," Professor Austin Sarat, Amherst 
College, found that from 1900 to 2011, 270 
executions during that time had some problem.  
He said that early in the 20th century "In the 
vast majority of the stories about the botched 
executions, the narratives were both sensational 
and what we called 'recuperative' -- reporters 
consistently made the point that, despite the 
gruesomeness of the proceedings, the inmates 
didn't suffer, that justice was done. There was 
very little criticism of the process or questioning 
of the death penalty itself."  

Professor Sarat's student researcher, Heather 
Richard, said, "the institution of capital 
punishment was not really examined or 
critiqued. It certainly says something about the 
newspapers and their readers."  

Professor Sarat's final comment in the article is,  
"Punishment tells us who we are. The way a 
society punishes demonstrates its commitment 
to standards of judgment and justice, its 
distinctive views of blame and responsibility, its 
understandings of mercy and forgiveness and 
its particular ways of responding to evil. Sadly, 
our attachment to the death penalty reveals an 
unpleasant, unseemly side of American 

This is vividly revealed in the comment thread 
regarding the upcoming execution of Ronald 
Post. http://tinyurl.com/cfoj55l

Terrance Williams

October 3, 2012, the state of Pennsylvania is 
scheduled to execute Terrance Williams for the 
1984 murder of Amos Norwood.  Amos 
Norwood was a leader of the acolytes at St. 
Luke's Episcopal Church in Philadelphia where 
he used his position in the church to have access 
to children to sexually abuse.  The jury did not 
know about the sexual abuse from a number of 
abusers Mr. Williams had endured since he was 
six years old, the violence that accompanied the 
abuse, nor the possibility of his being 
imprisoned for life without parole.  

Even though three out of the five members of 
the state Board of Pardons voted to spare Mr. 
Williams' life, his sentence cannot be commuted 
because the vote must be unanimous.  Governor 
Tom Corbett may be able to commute the 
sentence to LWOP without the unanimous vote.

Mamie Norwood, the widow of Amos 
Norwood, has asked for Mr. Williams' life to be 
spared.  Among the reasons she gave in her 
Declaration are "(h)is execution would go 
against my Christian faith and my belief system.  
He is worthy of forgiveness and I am at peace 
with my decision to forgive him and have been 
for many years." 

An online Amnesty International action is 
available at http://tinyurl.com/cdyt4fr.

Stays of Execution

22	John Balentine		Texas

9	Rodney Berget		South Dakota
13	Michael Travaglla	Pennsylvania


20	Robert Harris		Texas
		one-drug lethal injection
20	Donald Palmer	Ohio
		one-drug lethal injection

UAs                 14
China postcards      5
Total               19
To add your letters to the total contact  

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