Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXI Number 2, February 2013


  Thursday, February 28, 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, March 12, 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, March 17, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion Group. This 
month we discuss Unnatural Selection: Choosing 
Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World 
Full of Men by Mara Hvistendahl.

  Feb. 23 - March 10. Death Penalty Action 
Week. See


Hi everyone

Here I am writing this at the last minute, as 
usual!  Thanks to Joyce, who has helped me put 
the newsletter together for several months!

Due to other commitments and general 
exhaustion, I haven't been able to attend the 
monthly meetings and letter-writing, but I'm 
still here and still interested!

Paula received a reply to a letter she had written 
to the Secretary of State in Chihuahua, Mexico, 
regarding a group of human rights defenders 
called El Brazon.  The Secretary assures her that 
the state has taken measures to protect the 
members of this group.  It's nice to know that 
the letters we write do get to their intended 
targets, and once in awhile they actually try to 
resolve the situation!

Con Carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

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

Unnatural Selection:
Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of 
a World Full of Men
By Mara Hvistendahl

Book Review:

DoubleX Book of the Week: "Unnatural Selection"
By Rachael Larimore
Posted Friday, July 8, 2011, at 3:58 PM

For anyone who's ever made a smug, self-
righteous comment about abortion on either side 
of the divide - and really, who among us 
hasn't? - or for anyone who's ever looked at 
China's draconian one-child policy and chalked 
it up to an outdated, sexist preference for boys 
that's limited to Eastern cultures, Mara 
Hvistendahl's Unnatural Selection: Choosing 
Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a 
World Full of Men should be required reading. 
It might be the most important book written 
about women in years.

More than 20 years after Indian economist 
Amartya Sen generated much controversy with 
his article "More Than 100 Million Women Are 
Missing," Hvistendahl offers a sobering update 
on the gender imbalance that is growing ever-
more prevalent around the world, but especially 
in Asia. As a result of sex-selective abortion by 
families desiring boys, India has a ratio of 112 
boys for every 100 girls; in China it's 121 to 100. 
(The "natural" sex ratio is 105 to 100 and 
biologists consider anything over 106 to be 
"impossible.") With the passage of time and 
continued population control measures in, 
especially, India and China, she puts the 
number of "missing" women at more than 160 
million. The number is so high as to be 
practically incomprehensible, but Hvistendahl 
puts it in perspective: It's more than the entire 
female population of the U.S.

The book has engendered considerable debate 
since its release last month. The NYT's 
conservative columnist Ross Douthat reviewed 
it through a pro-life lens, saying that the book 
showed that access to abortion is driving the 
problem, and that this moral quandary is more a 
dilemma for pro-choicers than pro-lifers. He and 
Hvistendahl then had a lengthy back-and-forth, 
with Hvistendahl taking him to task for 
suggesting that limiting access to abortion is the 

But what makes Hvistendahl's book so 
important is the way she drills down to the root 
causes of sex-selective abortion to show that 
there's no room for black-and-white, East-vs.-
West, pro-life-vs.-pro-choice moral superiority. 
No one comes out of her tale looking good. 
Those of us on the right who abhor abortion and 
think of China and India as the poster children 
for choice gone wrong? We have to confront the 
fact that, following World War II, Western 
leaders saw Asia and its growing populations as 
susceptible to communism, and supported 
population control as a way to combat that. 
Hvistendahl tells of Gen. William Draper, who 
oversaw the occupation of Japan after WWII and 
saw firsthand that abortion, legalized there in 
1948, was an effective way to counteract 
population growth. Working for President 
Eisenhower, he worked with both the United 
Nations and the International Planned 
Parenthood Foundation and supported making 
foreign aid conditional on implementing 
population control.

On the other hand, the United Nations 
(specifically, the U.N. Population Fund) and the 
International Planned Parenthood Foundation -
darlings of the left - do not come out looking 
any better to their fans. Perhaps their most 
grievous offense is their complicity in China's 
practice of coercing women to have abortions, 
which came to a head at the 1984 U.N. World 
Population Conference in Mexico City, when 
pro-life advocates showed up with evidence of 
compelled abortions and sex-selective abortions 
in China. That, and not some desire to force 
poor women to bear unwanted children, is why 
Ronald Reagan issued an executive order 
banning the use of U.S. funds for NGOs that 
provide abortions, which has come to be known 
as the global gag rule. It was a victory for 
reproductive rights, not a defeat, as it's often 
portrayed by the left.

Hvistendahl shows that this global gender 
imbalance creates problems for everyone. The 
latter third of her book paints a bleak picture of 
the future, and shares heartbreaking stories of 
what is already happening: Middle class and 
wealthy men traveling to Vietnam and 
elsewhere to buy brides from poor families, girls 
kidnapped into sex slavery, unemployment and 
high crime rates among men who live in cities 
with skewed sex ratios. But this gender disparity 
is mostly a problem for women. Contrary to 
what economists might think, a scarcity of 
women doesn't increase their value in the way a 
scarcity of a material good does. It might make 
their families better off, but the women don't 
directly benefit. The crisis the West helped 
create, and the future the world faces as a result, 
can perhaps be most succinctly summed up by 
an unnamed Chinese woman who underwent 
an abortion in China. "During the operation, I 
realized that it was not easy to be a woman. It is 
painful. Very painful."

About the Author (
Mara Hvistendahl is an award-winning writer 
and journalist specialized in the intersection of 
science, culture, and policy. A correspondent for 
Science magazine based in Shanghai, she has 
also written for Harper's, Scientific American, 
Popular Science, The Financial Times, Foreign 
Policy, and other publications. Proficient in  
Spanish and Chinese, she has spent much of the 
past decade in China, reporting on everything 
from archaeology to biotechnology. Her first 
book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over 
Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, 
was selected as a finalist for the Los Angeles 
Times Book Prize and the Pulitzer Prize.
A former contributing editor at Seed magazine, 
correspondent for The Chronicle of Higher 
Education, and visiting journalism professor at 
Fudan University, Mara sits on the advisory 
board of Round Earth Media, an organization 
founded to promote international journalism. 
She holds a bachelor's degree from Swarthmore 
College in comparative literature and Chinese 
and a master's of science in magazine writing 
from Columbia University School of Journalism.

Gao Zhisheng

by Joyce Wolf

Group 22's adopted prisoner of conscience, 
imprisoned human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, 
has also been adopted by Congressman Frank 
Wolf [not a relative of mine]. Rep. Wolf (R-VA) 
is co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights 
Commission. Following are excerpts from the 
letter that Rep. Wolf sent on Jan. 24 to Gao 
Zhisheng at Shaya Prison:

Dear Gao,

Happy New Year. I hope this letter finds you 
well. My name is Frank R. Wolf and I am a 
U.S. congressman from the state of Virginia. 
Though I don't expect you have heard of me, I, 
along with some of my colleagues, have heard 
of you and have advocated for your release for 
several years. I am a co-chairman of the Tom 
Lantos Human Rights Commission, a 
congressional commission whose mandate is 
to promote, defend and advocate for basic 
human rights around the world.

At the end of last year, the commission 
launched a new initiative called the Defending 
Freedoms Project. The goal of this project is to 
increase support for and raise the profile of 
prisoners of conscience around the world. 
Congressional offices will adopt at least one 
prisoner and work in support of that 
prisoner's release.  And I have chosen to 
advocate for you.
Martin Luther King famously said, "In the end 
we will not remember the words of our 
enemies but the silence of our friends."  You 
have my promise that I will be your friend and 
will not be silent in the face of your suffering.  
I will continue to advocate on your behalf until 
your freedom is secured.

My suggestion for this month's action is to 
thank Rep. Wolf for his commitment to support 
Gao Zhisheng. You can write to him at 233 
Cannon Building, Washington, DC 20515, or go 
to his website at the above link for other contact 
information, including Facebook and Twitter.

By the way, if you are on Twitter, you might 
want to check out  @GaoZhisheng, an unofficial 
Twitter Page dedicated to Chinese Human 
Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng. It has 262 
followers, including a number of Amnesty 
groups (and me).

[Here is a recent article from the South China 
Morning Post with some very worthwhile insights 
into Gao Zhisheng's present circumstances.]

Hope against hope for Gao Zhisheng's freedom

Friday, 08 February, 2013
South China Morning Post
Comment> Insight & Opinion
Keane Shum

Keane Shum says experience with the Chinese justice 
system teaches that the illegal detention of Gao 
Zhisheng will continue into the new year. 
Nevertheless, it would be nice to be proved wrong.

If you look at a satellite photo of Xinjiang, there is 
a large patch in the southwest, about one-third 
the size of the province, that looks like it has been 
erased from the map. It looks like a giant 
smudge, blanking out an entire region of western 
China the size of Germany. The Taklamakan 
Desert is 337,000 square kilometres of sand that 
shifts from just south of Urumqi to just east of 
Kashgar. Its name comes from the Arabic, 
meaning place of abandonment, or ruins.

I once took the train from Urumqi to Kashgar 
that grinds along the northern edge of the 
Taklamakan, and for hours all you can see is 
nothing. In the middle of the journey, you can get 
off in Aksu prefecture, once the largest town 
along the route from Delhi to Beijing, with 
bazaars and inns and other dusty fixtures of Silk 
Road outposts. Today it is just another small 
Chinese city, with tall concrete hotels and lobby 
KTV lounges.

Three hundred kilometres west of Aksu is Shaya 
county, closer to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan 
than to any other Chinese province. There is a 
prison in Shaya, post code 842208, though no one 
knows how many prisoners it holds, or why they 
are there. And, in this prison, Gao Zhisheng sits 
in a cell, waiting.

At least we know that much. In January, Gao's 
brother and father-in-law were allowed a prison 
visit with Gao, the first time in nine months that 
anyone had heard anything about the self-taught 
human rights litigator once heralded by the 
Ministry of Justice as one of China's 10 best 
lawyers, before he was disbarred for defending 
persecuted religious groups and other vulnerable 
citizens. This time last year, Gao had not been 
heard from for nearly two years, since his 
daughter's 16th birthday. Before that, he had 
been missing for another year, since the day he 
was spirited away from his family home in 
Shaanxi on February 4, 2009.

So it goes for Gao and his family, now in exile in 
the United States. An appearance every one or 
two years is all the confirmation they have that 
he is even alive. This time of the year, every year, 
Gao's family waits for news. It is not unlike the 
way we all will wait for our loved ones to visit us 
this week, only they never turn up.

Three years ago, I and several lawyers, including 
lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan, submitted a 
petition to the United Nations Working Group 
on Arbitrary Detention, on Gao's behalf. The 
working group ruled in our favour, calling for 
Gao's immediate release after finding that the 
central government had violated international 
law. We had also pointed out that the central 
government was violating its own domestic laws, 
including articles 35, 36, 37, 41, and 125 of the 
Chinese constitution.

That was in November 2010. I am not optimistic. 
I have no illusions that the unenforceable opinion 
of five foreign human rights experts carries any 
ounce of influence in Beijing. There are probably 
less than a handful of people in the central 
government who know there even is a Working 
Group on Arbitrary Detention, at least one that is 
meant to prevent such things from happening. 
And so I have little doubt that, a year from now, 
Gao's children will ring in the Year of the Horse 
just as they have the Years of the Ox, the Tiger, 
the Rabbit and the Dragon, and now the Snake: 
without their father.

But I am desperate to be proved wrong. New 
years are meant to be a time of hope, the promise 
of spring and the belief, even in smog-smothered 
Beijing, that when we move, we move forward. 
In recent months, Xi Jinping has called the 
constitution "the legal weapon for people to 
defend their own rights", and the Southern 
Weekly editors' censored dreams of constitu-
tionalism have been retweeted far beyond the 
reach of the Great Firewall. I assume this to be 
the usual - and usually brief - flowering of a new 
administration, but perhaps change is coming, 

In the meantime, there may not be a lot that 
ordinary people can do for Gao. But we can do a 
little: we can at least make him feel a little less 
isolated, a little more connected to the world he 
is shut out from.

Over Christmas, the activist Hu Jia, drawing on 
his own years in prison for subversion, urged 
supporters to send cards to post box 15-16 at 
Gao's prison in Shaya county. "Even if he never 
gets them," said Gao's wife, Geng He , "it will 
make the prison guards respect him more." This 
new year, alone in a jail cell on the edges of the 
Taklamakan Desert, respect may be the only 
thing Gao Zhisheng can wish for.

Keane Shum is a lawyer in Hong Kong

By Stevi Carroll

Maryland May Repeal the Death Penalty

Maryland looks like the next state to replace the 
death penalty with life without possibility of 
parole. A final vote by the Maryland State 
Senate is expected on February 26, 2013.  Senator 
Robert Zerkin changed his mind about the death 
penalty and said, "As heinous and awful as 
these individuals [on death row] are, I think it's 
time for our state not to be involved in the 
apparatus of executions."   If Maryland repeals 
the death penalty, it will be the sixth state in six 
years to do.  States that are considering 
repealing the death penalty include Montana, 
Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon, and Delaware.  

Of course, I am wondering when California will 
finally take this step.

In a recent article in The Economist magazine 
(February 9, 2013), both Democrat and 
Republican governors who struggle with the 
death penalty are discussed.  Governors are the 
bottom line when it comes to the execution of 
another human being. They hold the person's 
life in their hands since they can commute death 
sentences.  No governor, especially one who has 
his or her eye on another elected office, wants to 
appear "soft on crime" but unlike Governors 
George W. Bush or Rick Perry, not all of them 
sleep soundly after an execution.

The Economist article ends with "Yet the death-
penalty debate has changed in ways that go 
beyond day-to-day politics. It is less loud and 
more sceptical, giving thoughtful governors 
room to question a policy that causes them 
anguish - because they think it arbitrary, 
ineffective and costly, and because they impose 
it. That grim duty does not trouble all 
politicians: ask Mr Clinton and Mr Bush. But it 

It seems some politicians are beginning to be 


Andre Thomas - too mentally ill to be executed?

Marc Bookman had a recent essay (How Crazy 
Is Too Crazy to Be Executed?) in Mother Jones in 
which he describes Andre Thomas's family life, 
his crime, and his treatment of himself.  What is 
at issue is whether or not Mr. Thomas is fit to 
execute.  A few items in the essay say to me that 
a resounding "NO" should be the answer to the 

Highlights of his actions include his cutting out 
the hearts of two of his victims and lung of 
another victim (he mistook the lung for her 
heart) and his auto-enucleation of not one but 
both of his eyes.  He believes that cutting the 
hearts out of his children and his wife freed 
them from evil.  He plucked out his first eye 
after reading Matthew 5:29  "If your right eye 
causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it 
away. It is better for you to lose one part of your 
body than for your whole body to be thrown 
into hell."  He ripped out his remaining eye 
because he didn't want the government to read 
his thoughts.  He ate his second eye.

Mr. Thomas has been moved to a Texas state 
prison psychiatric unit.  He is locked in a small 
cell for 23 hours a day. "Texas continues to 
forcefully pursue Andre's execution. No state 
authority figure has expressed hesitation about 
ending the life of a man who intentionally 
blinded himself, nor has there been any move by 
the district attorney to reconsider Andre's 
mental state at the time of the killings."


From Death Penalty Information

MULTIMEDIA: "One For Ten" Introduces 
Documentaries on Death Row Exonerees
Posted: February 18, 2013
One For Ten is a new collection of documentary 
films telling the stories of innocent people who 
were on death row in the U.S. The first film of 
the series is on Ray Krone, one of the 142 people 
who have been exonerated and freed from death 
row since 1973. Krone was released from 
Arizona's death row in 2002 after DNA testing 
showed he did not commit the murder for 
which he was sentenced to death 10 years 
earlier. Krone was convicted based largely on 
circumstantial evidence and bite-mark evidence, 
alleging his teeth matched marks on the victim. 
The film is narrated by Danny Glover.  All the 
films will be free and may be shared under a 
Creative Commons license.
To see a pilot for the film, go to

Perhaps this film is something we may want to see.

Stays of Execution

Date scheduled for execution

January 2013
29	Kimberly McCarthy	Texas

February 2013
13	Chris Sepulvado		Louisiana 
19	Warren Hill		Georgia
20	Britt Ripkowski		Texas
27	Larry Swearingen	Texas

March 2013
5	Freeman May		Pennsylvania	 (Stay 
5	Orlando Maisonet	Pennsylvania
7	Abraham Sanchez		Pennsylvania (Stay 
21	Michael Gonzales	Texas


February 2013
21	Carl Blue		Texas 
		1-drug lethal injection

21	Andrew Cook 		Georgia 
		1-drug lethal injection


UAs    7
POC    8 
Total 15

To add your letters to the total contact

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