Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXII Number 1, January 2014

  Thursday, January 23, 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, February 11, 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 16, 6:30 PM.  Rights 
Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
group. This month we read "Farewell, Fred 
Voodoo" by Amy Wilentz.

Hi All

Happy New Year!  Can't believe it's 2014 
already...I enjoyed 3 weeks off, seeing my sister 
and her BF, who came down from northern 
California, catching up on my reading and 
exercising, and even having some time left over 
to work on some household projects and see a 
movie or two!
Here's hoping 2014 is a better year for human 

Con Carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:

Sunday, February 16, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena

Farewell, Fred Voodoo

by Amy Wilentz

Book Review:  Farewell Fred Voodoo  
A veteran journalist captures the functioning 
chaos of Haiti.

New Yorker writer Wilentz has been covering 
shattering events in Haiti since the Duvalier 
dynasty fell in 1986, culminating in her book The 
Rainy Season. Now based in Los Angeles, the 
author again felt the fatal pull of the country 
after the recent natural-disaster devastation and 
returned repeatedly in order to record the 
uneven progress in reconstruction and 
humanitarian aid as well as interview many of 
the so-called (in politically incorrect parlance) 
Fred Voodoos, or Everymen on the street, for a 
reality check. 

Describing herself as "a naive person, and a 
romantic," she has grown enormously wary of 
the good intentions heaped on the country from 
one crisis to another and is frequently cynical 
after many years of her "Haitian education." 
Since its very inception as the first (and last) 
slave revolution in history, Haiti has been 
victimized, plunged into poverty, denuded of 
resources and patronized by rich white 
neighbors bent on a "salvation fantasy" that has 
never lifted the country out of poverty. After the 
hurricane, suddenly whites appeared 
everywhere to help out. 

While Wilentz does chronicle some extremely 
good work being done--by the indefatigable 
infectious-disease specialist Dr. Megan Coffee 
and by actor Sean Penn in setting up a workable 
refugee camp--much of what the journalist 
witnessed remained a familiar profound malaise 
and dysfunction. Seeking out her old 
acquaintances and former proteges of President 
Aristide, the author found drugged-out 
zombies, many living in permanent refugee 
camps without proper sanitation and little or no 
literacy. She learned that nothing is as it seems 
in Haiti. Like voodoo ceremonies, society runs 
on "artifice and duplicity," and its government 
(a kleptocracy) has been organized "to be 
porous and incompetent, to allow for 

An extraordinarily frank cultural study/memoir 
that eschews platitudes of both tragedy and 

[From Kirkus Reviews]

Author Biography    
Amy Wilentz is the author of Farewell Fred 
Voodoo (2013), The Rainy Season: Haiti Since 
Duvalier (1989), Martyrs' Crossing (2000), and I 
Feel Earthquakes More Often Than They Happen: 
Coming to California in the Age of Schwarzenegger 
(2006). She is the winner of the Whiting Writers 
Award, the PEN Martha Albrand Non-Fiction 
Award, and the American Academy of Arts and 
Letters Rosenthal Award, and also a 1990 
nominee for the National Book Critics Circle 
Award. Wilentz has written for The New York 
Times, The Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, The 
New Republic, Mother Jones, Harper's, Vogue, 
Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, The San 
Francisco Chronicle, More, The Village Voice, The 
London Review of Books and many other 
publications. She is the former Jerusalem 
correspondent for The New Yorker and a long-
time contributing editor at The Nation. She 
teaches in the Literary Journalism program at 
the University of California at Irvine, and lives 
in Los Angeles.   

Gao Zhisheng

by Joyce Wolf

Last week on January 16 the U.S. Congress Tom 
Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) 
held a hearing titled "Defending Freedoms 
Hearing – Highlighting the Plight of Prisoners of 
Conscience around the World." Geng He, wife 
of Group 22's adopted prisoner of conscience 
Gao Zhisheng, was a featured witness. The 
hearing was chaired by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), 
who himself adopted Gao Zhisheng's case back 
in 2012 and pledged to continue advocating 
until China released Gao.

Here are excerpts from

"Background: In December 2012 the Tom Lantos 
Human Rights Commission (TLHRC), in 
conjunction with the U.S. Commission on 
International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and 
Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), launched 
the Defending Freedoms Project (DFP) with the 
aim of supporting human rights and religious 
freedom throughout the world with a particular 
focus on prisoners of conscience. 

The Lantos Commission's first hearing of 2014 
will address the plight of prisoners of 
conscience, who are currently unjustly detained 
by repressive governments around the world. 
By highlighting several such cases, the hearing 
will explore strategies for securing the release of 
prisoners of conscience, the need to shine a 
bright light on some lesser known cases, the 
historical precedent for effective advocacy 
campaigns and the importance of human rights 
as a central factor in U.S. foreign policy.

WITNESS LIST: Panel II: Ms. Geng He, Wife of 
Imprisoned Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Gao 
Zhisheng, Accompanied by Mr. Jared Genser, 
Founder, Freedom Now and Pro Bono Counsel 
for Gao Zhisheng."

NTDTV interviewed Geng He after the hearing: 
"Geng He said, 2014 was a year of hope to her 
and her children, as according to the CCP's 
announcement in 2011, Gao should return home 
during this year. In addition, Geng He hoped 
that all media and those people who cared about 
Gao's case, kept watching over the supposed 
release of Gao in 2014."

In other news, the documentary "Transcending 
Fear: The Story of Gao Zhisheng" is now 
available on DVD. Our copy is on order. You 
can also watch it online for $1.99.

January 31 marks the start of the Year of the 
Horse according to the Chinese calendar. So let's 
send New Year greetings to Gao Zhisheng in 
remote Shaya Prison.

Gao Zhisheng
Shaya Prison
P.O. Box 15, Sub-box 16
Shaya County, Aksu Prefecture
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 842208
People's Republic of China


by Robert Adams

 "A Person Under Surveillance is No Longer 
Free": Why We Care About Obama's Speech 
By Naureen Shah, Advocacy Advisor at Amnesty 
International USA
January 17, 2014

Who does U.S. surveillance impact? Millions of 
people around the world, including activists, 
scholars, artists and journalists. Not only can the 
U.S. government keep their emails, phone calls 
and other activities under watch, but it can share 
that information with other governments – 
including governments that target and retaliate 
against anyone they view as a political dissenter. 
The result: a climate of fear, where people worry 
that their emails or phone calls could endanger 
themselves or anyone with whom they 


Journalists like Naomi Klein interview political 
activists around the world for articles that 
expose repressive governments and 
"Some of my sources will decline to share 
information with me if they believe their 
communications are being monitored by the 
United States," Klein wrote in a 2008 
affidavit for the lawsuit Amnesty v. Clapper, 
which challenged U.S. surveillance law.
Klein said some of her sources feared that by 
communicating with her, they risked retaliation 
by the U.S. government -- denials of visas or 
placement on a "watch list."
More often, Klein said, these political activists 
feared "that the United State will share 
information about them...and that their own 
governments will retaliate as a result."


Protesters and activists around the world are 
vulnerable to U.S. spying on the content of their 
emails and Internet activity. That's because U.S. 
law -- under section 702 of the Foreign 
Intelligence Surveillance Act -- permits 
surveillance "to acquire foreign intelligence 
information" of people reasonably believed to 
be outside the United States.
But the law does not require the government to 
demonstrate that surveillance targets are foreign 
agents, engaged in criminal activity, or 
connected even remotely with a designated 
"terrorist organization" or "terrorist." 
Surveillance need only be for the purpose of 
gathering "foreign intelligence information," a 
term that's so broadly defined that it can include 
any information that relates to U.S. "foreign 
affairs." That could include emails about 
peaceful protests outside international meetings, 
human rights conferences, or activists' meetings 
on just about any issue with a connection to U.S. 
foreign policy.


Mass surveillance like the kind authorized 
under current U.S. law creates a climate of fear, 
where creative thinking and expression are 
As Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei put it: "When 
human beings are scared and feel everything is 
exposed to the government, we will censor 
ourselves from free thinking. That's dangerous 
for human development."
Ai Wei Wei was arrested in China in 2011 and 
detained without charge, but later released.
"Privacy is a basic human right, one of the very 
core values. There is no guarantee that China, 
the U.S. or any other government will not use 
the information falsely or wrongly," he 
recently wrote.


Surveillance undermines freedom of expression 
by making people afraid to speak out or share 
their ideas – including writers and authors. A 
recent PEN America study found that 85% of its 
members who responded to the survey feared 
government surveillance. Nearly a quarter had 
deliberately avoided certain topics in phone or 
email conversations, and another 9 percent had 
seriously considered it.
As an open letter signed by Nobel laureates 
Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetze, and hundreds of 
other authors put it: "A person under 
surveillance is no longer free."


Everyone has the right to associate freely – and 
without arbitrary government snooping.
But the U.S. government can use section 215 of 
the USA PATRIOT ACT to collect phone records 
of religious, political and activist organizations 
and their members – to learn who they are 
talking to, when and for how long. Collection of 
this "metadata" can create a chilling effect. As 
Rev. Rick Hoyt of the First Unitarian Church of 
Los Angeles, who joined a lawsuit, put it: "Our 
church members and our neighbors who come 
to us for help should not fear that their 
participation in the church might have 
consequences for themselves or their families. 
This spying makes people afraid to belong to 
our church community."


If your emails, online chats or Skype calls 
mention a person or topic of "foreign 
intelligence" interest – say, Pussy Riot's 
release or Pope Francis – they may be surveilled 
even if the U.S. government doesn't believe you 
yourself have any "intelligence" value.  That's 
because section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence 
Surveillance Act permits surveillance of emails 
and other communications about a target – not 
just those to or from a target. So if you aren't a 
U.S. citizen or permanent resident – and even if 
you are – you are susceptible to surveillance 
based on your beliefs and interests. And we are 
still talking about spying without any notice, let 
alone a day in court to challenge these invasions 
of your right to privacy.
Mass surveillance threatens human rights and 
human dignity – that's why we need President 
Obama to put human rights at the center of 
surveillance reform. 

By Stevi Carroll

Justice or Revenge?
Michael Lee Wilson

January 9, 2014, Michael Lee Wilson said, "I feel 
my whole body burning" as he was executed 
with the drug pentobarbital.  Since 2011, the 
Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck has 
refused to sell pentobarbital for use in US 
executions.  This has caused authorities in states 
that execute to go to compounding pharmacies 
that will create the drug for executions.  These 
pharmacies produce unregulated drugs that 
have less rigorous testing and may contain 
contaminants that cause significant pain.  Jerry 
Massie, the Oklahoma Department of 
Corrections spokesperson did not comment on 
the source of the pentobarbital used to kill Mr. 

Dennis McGuire

Now that the manufacturers of the drugs 
authorities in our penal system use to execute 
human beings will not sell the drugs to the State 
governments that execute, new drug 
combinations must be used.  January 16, 2014, 
officials in Ohio put into practice a combination 
of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller 
hydromorphone.  The eighth amendment of the 
US Bill of Rights tells us that agents of our 
government cannot inflict cruel and unusual 
punishments.  These words are part of why 
those people in our country who support the 
death penalty and the officials they elect have 
fine tuned executions from the first execution on 
American soil of Captain George Kendall by 
firing squad in 1608, before we were the United 
States, to hangings to Sing-Sing's Old Sparky 
and his buddy electric chairs first used in 1890 to 
the gas chamber beginning in the 1920s.  Lethal 
injection was adopted as a more humane 
alternative thus assuring no cruel and unusual 

Dennis McGuire's execution on January 16th in 
Ohio calls this into question.  Depending on the 
news source, Mr. McGuire's death took from 15 
to 26 minutes.  During that time, "McGuire was 
still for almost five minutes, then emitted a loud 
snort, as if snoring, and continued to make that 
sound over the next several minutes. He also 
soundlessly opened and shut his mouth several 
times as his stomach rose and fell. ...A coughing 
sound was Dennis McGuire's last apparent 
movement, at 10:43 a.m." (Washington Post 
1.16.14)  This article goes on to say that 
"Attorneys for the state persuaded a judge that the 
Constitution does not entitle condemned prisoners to 
die painlessly, so long as the punishment is not 

Dennis McGuire's adult children who were 
present at their father's execution are filing a 
suit in federal court.  What they saw were 19 
minutes during which their father convulsed 
and appeared to gasp for air. His son said, "I 
watched his stomach heave, I watched him sit 
up against the straps on the gurney. I watched 
him try to breathe but it appeared to me he was 
suffocating." His daughter said, "He was 
gasping for air and his head kept coming up and 
he kept making horrible noises."

The lawsuit Mr. McGuire's family will file 
sometime during the week of January 20th could 
influence the death penalty in Ohio and 
throughout our nation.

Learn More About The Death Penalty

Laura Dimon published 'Chilling Testimony Of 
Death Row Executioners Casts Dark Shadow 
Over Entire System' on the website PolicyMic 
January 15, 2014.  The article includes Texas's 
lack of public defenders for capital cases, a 
murder victim's mother's appeal to spare the 
killer, a chaplain's account of the distress the 
condemned feel after they are strapped to the 
gurney, and the toll on prison employees who 
take part in executions. 

To read the article, go to

2013:  Fewer Executions

Prosecutors seem to be relying less on the death 
penalty and executions are fewer.  While 39 
executions nationwide may seem to me to be 39 
too many, 2013 is only the second time in 19 
years that the numbers been lower than 40.  
Texas led the pack with 16; Florida was a distant 
second with seven.  Seven more states filled out 
the 39: Oklahoma-six; Ohio-three; Arizona and 
Missouri-two each; and Alabama, Georgia, and 
Virginia-one each.

Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the 
death penalty and was the sixth state to do so in 
the past six years.   A 2013 study shows that 
only 2% of counties in the country are 
responsible for the majority of death penalty 
cases.  These include: The top ten counties 
among the two percent of counties responsible 
for more than half of the nation's death row 
population are: Los Angeles County, CA; Harris 
County, TX; Philadelphia County, PA; Maricopa 
County, AZ; Riverside County, CA; Clark 
County, NV; Orange County, CA; Duval 
County, FL; Alameda County, CA; and San 
Diego County, CA.
The top ten counties among the two percent of 
counties responsible for over half of the 
executions since 1976 are: Harris County, TX; 
Dallas County, TX; Oklahoma County, OK; 
Tarrant County, TX; Bexar County, TX; 
Montgomery County, TX; Tulsa County, OK; 
Jefferson County, TX; St. Louis County, MO; and 
Brazos County, TX. Just four counties in Texas 
(out of 254) account for almost half of all 
executions in the state. Three counties in 
California produce more than half of the state's 
death row - the largest in the country. 

Hope may be on the horizon, but we in 
California have work to do.

Daniel Villegas

After nearly two decades in prison, Daniel 
Villegas has been exonerated.  As a 16 year old, 
Mr. Villegas was arrested and charged in a 
drive-by shooting.  While he was in custody, he 
was told that if he didn't confess, "he would be 
raped in prison and given the death penalty."  
That would be quite an offer for a 16-year-old 
high school dropout.
Mr. Villegas's supporters included people 
involved in ‘The Innocence Project," an 
advocacy organization from Northwest 
University Law School.  Although Mr. Villegas 
is out of prison, the prosecuting attorneys will, 
within a week of his release in mid January, 
decide whether or not the case should go back to 

Upon his release, Mr. Villegas went to Pius X 
Catholic Church to celebrate and give thanks. 
Even as he is deciding what to do with the rest 
of his life, for now he is thankful. "Now I can 
just wake up when I wake up and I don't got to 
wake up at three in the morning for breakfast." 
Mr. Villegas is 37 years old.

Stays of Execution

3	Askari Muhammad*		Florida
17	Cecil Davis		        Washington

15	Rigoberto Avila		Texas
15	Billy Ray Irick			Tennessee
16	Edgardo Cubas		Texas
                         (Foreign National Honduras)
22	Edgar Tamayo			Texas
                 (Foreign National Mexico)


3	Jerry Martin**			Texas
			1-drug pentobarbital
10	Ronald Lott			Oklahoma
			3-drug w/ pentobarbital
11	Allen Nicklasson		Missouri
			1-drug pentobarbital
17	Johnny Dale Black		Oklahoma
			3-drug w/ pentobarbital

7	Askari Muhammand*		Florida
	3-drug w/ midazolam hydrochloride

9	Michael Wilson		Oklahoma
			3-drug w/ pentobarbital

16	Dennis McGuire		Ohio
	2-drug midazolam & hydromorphone

** volunteer- an inmate who waived ordinary 
appeals that remained at the time of his 

POC                     9
Write-a-Thon Cases    113

POC              8
UAs             24
Total           32
To add your letters to the total contact

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code C1-128
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.