Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXII Number 10, October 2014

  Thursday, October 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, November 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, November 16, 6:30 PM.  Rights 
Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
group. This month we read "Crossing 
Mandelbaum Gate" by Kai Bird.


Hi All

A lot has been happening in the human rights 
world this month.  Malala Yousafzai, the 
Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban, won 
the Nobel Peace Prize along with Kailash 
Satyarthi, an Indian activist who fights against 
child labor.

Pro-democracy students have been 
demonstrating in Hong Kong over local 
elections.  Our friend Ann Lau has been 
involved in organizing support for the HK 
protestors here in LA. Let's hope the HK 
students are successful.

Con Carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, November 16, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena

BOOK REVIEW by Neil MacFarquhar
The New York Times, April 16, 2010

Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age 
Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978

by Kai Bird
When playing the "conquer the world" board 
game Risk as an adolescent growing up in a 
well-to-do Cairo suburb, Kai Bird avoided 
occupying the Middle East. So did his American 
friends. Their very surroundings schooled them 
in the difficulty of holding the crossroads of 
three continents. 
Bird's education in the region's seemingly 
endless cycles of war and armistice actually 
began when he was 4. In 1956, his father, 
Eugene Bird, an adventurous sort if not a 
terribly worldly one, moved his young family 
from Oregon to East Jerusalem, where he was to 
begin his new job as the American vice consul. 
Kai Bird at Giza, above, 1958. From Crossing 
Mandelbaum Gate.

The 1948 Arab-Israeli war had left the city 
divided in two, with soldiers, minefields and 
coiled barbed wire gashing an often tense cease-
fire line between Palestinian East and Israeli 
West. The line also divided the twin pillars of 
Kai's life. The family's rented house stood on the 
Arab side, but Kai attended the Anglican 
Mission School across the barbed wire. So he 
was driven almost daily through Mandelbaum 
Gate, the single crossing, its name drawn from 
the remnants of a once splendid family villa on 
the spot. (Technically the "gate" was two facing 
Ordinary Arabs and Jews could not cross, but 
Kai was an outsider. "My perspective was 
privileged," he writes. The schoolboy's 
commute across the chasm dividing the Middle 
East continued in a sense through more than 
two decades, culminating in his marriage to 
Susan Goldmark, the American-born daughter 
of Holocaust survivors. It is Bird's various 
transits that inform his memoir, "Crossing 
Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the 
Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978."
The result is a meandering family scrapbook 
cobbled together with an earnest, condensed 
history of the region during those years. It 
illuminates a common experience among 
expatriates who crisscross the Middle East 
without being emotionally bonded to any side. 
They grow frustrated that the Arabs and Israelis 
- whom they come to know as two vital, 
charming, urbane, hospitable peoples - cannot 
see past the sense of their own victimhood to 
accept the other as a neighbor. 
"Most of the time I feel like telling Jews and 
Arabs alike that the best thing the U.S. could do 
is leave them their silly pile of rocks to fight over 
- for we couldn't care less," Bird's mother, 
Jerine, wrote in a letter. (Bird relies heavily on 
his parents' letters to reconstruct the family 
Ultimately, many foreigners do walk away, 
saddened that both sides would rather stunt 
their futures than compromise. Bird did. After 
leaving the Middle East, he worked as an editor 
at The Nation and wrote a string of biographies 
about major American figures, winning a 
Pulitzer Prize in 2006 together with Martin J. 
Sherwin for their book about J. Robert 
But he was pulled back to the Middle East both 
by the dramatic tales of his in-laws' fleeing Nazi 
Austria and by nostalgia for his childhood spent 
among Palestinians, Saudis, Lebanese and 
Egyptians. Ignoring the region, he writes, was 
an "abdication."
The Birds experienced the Middle East at a more 
innocent time. In 1965, Eugene was assigned to 
Cairo, and the family started its Egyptian 
sojourn with a three-week road trip in an 
American station wagon across North Africa 
from Casablanca. 
This being the Middle East, however, each 
decade was punctuated by at least one major 
crisis. During the 1956 Suez war, Bird was 
evacuated from Jerusalem to Beirut, which he 
fondly remembers for his sudden access to 
hamburgers. At the start of the next war, in 
1967, he was evacuated from Cairo to Greece; he 
packed his snorkeling gear. The United States, 
Bird notes, once made considerable progress in 
the Middle East by not hesitating to throw its 
weight around. The Eisenhower administration, 
for example, brokered a cease-fire during the 
Suez crisis by threatening Israel with economic 
Revisiting the Middle East after an extended 
hiatus, Bird sometimes strains to braid himself 
into current events. Maadi, his teenage home, he 
notes, was also where Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al 
Qaeda's second in command, was raised. Bird 
never met him, but writes, "I can easily imagine 
myself bicycling past the 14-year-old Ayman." 
Bird makes occasional mistakes. It was Tahseen 
Bashir, a witty Egyptian diplomat, who uttered 
the famous phrase that (except for his 
motherland) Middle Eastern countries were 
merely "tribes with flags." Bird attributes it to 
former President Gamal Abdel Nasser. The 
Arabic for a consultative council, or majlis al-
shura, is rendered incorrectly as majlis al-shurwa. 
And while Bird covers a lot of history, 
sometimes he tries to do too much too quickly, 
resulting in groaning sentences like this one 
about Saudi Arabia: "In the early morning hours 
of Nov. 20, 1979, some 300 to 500 extremists, led 
by a former national guardsman, Juhayman ibn 
Muhammad ibn Saif al-Uteybi, seized control of 
Islam's holiest shrine, the Grand Mosque of 
Mecca, which surrounds the Kaaba, the granite 
cuboidal structure draped with a black silk 
curtain, to which Muslims turn in prayer." 
Still, Bird sprinkles his book with engaging 
miniature portraits of overlooked characters and 
events. There is George Antonius, the Jerusalem 
author of a seminal work, "The Arab 
Awakening," with his utopian vision of a 
democratic, multiethnic Palestine with all Jews, 
Arabs and Christians living as equal citizens. 
And there is Hillel Kook, confronting the United 
States about rescuing Europe's Jews and then 
battling to keep Israel secular. Bird also recounts 
how the Saudi royal family ruthlessly put down 
a budding labor movement in the oil fields - 
political suppression feeding the tumor of 
Muslim extremism. 
Bird experienced the Arab world at a distance, 
mostly from inside the cloister of American 
diplomatic compounds and expatriate schools. 
But the final quarter of the book, devoted to his 
in-laws' escapes from the Nazis, gains vibrancy 
from his closeness to his subjects. Here the book 
rips along like a spy novel (even though we 
know how it comes out). Will Viktor Goldmark 
survive the war in a southern Italian internment 
camp or be dispatched to a more certain fate? 
When Helma BlŸhweis uses her fluent German 
and Aryan looks to work as a secretary at a 
Luftwaffe command center in Rome, will the 
officers discover that she is a Jew hoping to steal 
authentic letterhead for the resistance? 
By the end, the book has succeeded in 
explaining the perspectives of two peoples who 
view the Middle East conflict through different 
lenses. One filters it through the Holocaust, or 
Shoah, the other through the Nakba, the Arabic 
word for the disaster wrought by Israel's war of 
independence. Bird tells the sad twin stories of 
Mrs. Goldmark, his mother-in-law, being unable 
to reclaim her lost home in Graz, just as Dr. 
Vicken Kalbian, a Palestinian family friend in 
East Jerusalem, cannot recover his confiscated 
Jerusalem house. 
These are mirror images, but the trauma 
engendered blocks each side from seeing its 
reflection in the other. What's more, Bird argues, 
outsiders, in Washington in particular, have 
exploited the conflict for their own interests 
rather than pursuing true reconciliation. 
At the age of 5, Bird attended a reception with 
his parents at Jerusalem's landmark American 
Colony Hotel, where an elderly American 
heiress offered $1 million to anyone who could 
solve the Arab-Israel dispute. Tugging on his 
father's sleeve, he says, "Daddy, we have to win 
this prize." Sadly, more than 50 years later, no 
one has.

 Kai Bird is the co-author with Martin J. Sherwin of 
the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, American 
Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert 
Oppenheimer (2005), which also won the National 
Book Critics Circle Award for Biography and the 
Duff Cooper Prize for History in London. He wrote 
The Chairman: John J. McCloy, the Making of the 
American Establishment (1992) and The Color of 
Truth: McGeorge Bundy & William Bundy, Brothers 
in Arms (1998). He is also co-editor with Lawrence 
Lifschultz of Hiroshima's Shadow: Writings on the 
Denial of History and the Smithsonian Controversy 
(1998). He is the recipient of fellowships from the 
John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Alicia 
Patterson Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. 
MacArthur Foundation, the Thomas J. Watson 
Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, the 
Rockefeller Foundation's Study Center, Bellagio, Italy 
and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for 
Scholars in Washington DC. He is an elected member 
of the Society of American Historians and a 
contributing editor of The Nation. He lives in Miami 
Beach with his wife Susan Goldmark.

Security with Human Rights
By Robert Adams

The Terrifying Reason 64% of Mexicans Fear 
by Esmeralda Lopez, Amnesty International USA 
Country Specialist for Mexico
September 5, 2014

My desire to end torture in Mexico runs deep. 
Years ago it became too dangerous for me to 
visit my family in Mexico because they are only 
hours from Ciudad Juarez, a hot spot of 
violence. Some officers point to incidents of 
violence and the high crime rate as justification 
for use of torture. But I know torture is not the 

The problem of torture in Mexico
Torture is illegal, unjustifiable, and not the 
means to tackle violence. Ironically instead of 
feeling shame about the indiscriminate use of 
torture by Mexican police and armed forces, 
Mexican authorities have been dismissive if 
not dishonest in responding.
In May 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on 
Torture concluded that torture is widespread in 
Mexico. In response, the Mexican government 
touted sentencing 119 persons for torture, but 
the truth is only four people have been 
convicted and sentenced for torture.
Why the discrepancy between the official story 
and reality? At the heart of the problem, the 
institutions tasked with tackling torture lack 
either the tools or the political will. The 
National Commission of Human Rights 
(CNDH), a national government body, 
investigates complaints of torture by federal 
authorities. However it does not document 
complaints of torture by state or municipal 
officials. Even when the Commission makes a 
recommendation it rarely results in a prompt 
and impartial criminal investigation.

What can be done
While the creation of a human rights 
commission has been a significant first step in 
the battle against torture, its failure to 
investigate and prosecute fully complaints of 
torture highlights the systemic problem of 
impunity the Mexican government allows to 
Amnesty International has documented cases of 
torture in Mexico for over five decades. While 
the nature of the problem has shifted 
significantly over those fifty years, it has yet to 
disappear. Just this week, Amnesty International 
issued a new report that makes clear the new 
and continued urgency of speaking out now to 
end the nightmare of torture and ill-treatment 
in Mexico today.
The report finds high levels of torture by the 
military and law enforcement. It is clear that 
impunity for those acts is ongoing and a serious 
human rights concern in Mexico: Sixty-four 
percent of Mexicans live in fear of being 
tortured if they are detained by state authorities. 
Two in every three people! And for good reason: 
Mexico has seen a 600% increase in torture and 
other ill-treatment over the last decade.

The face of torture
Claudia Medina Tamariz makes up one piece of 
this hellacious statistic. On August 7, 2012, the 
navy broke into her home, took her to a naval 
base, beat her, and subjected her to electric 
shocks. They accused the mother of three of 
being a member of a violent criminal gang and 
forced her to sign a confession she wasn't 
allowed to read. Claudia has made repeated 
appeals, but to date, no one has been held 
accountable for Claudia's torture. She, like 
countless other survivors of torture in Mexico, is 
still waiting for justice.

Stopping torture starts now
The problem of torture in Mexico is real and 
deep. But the solution is also real and present. 
Don't make Claudia stand alone. And don't let 
it take another decade -or another day-to stop 
torture in Mexico. Act today to stand with 
Claudia and help end torture in Mexico now!

By Stevi Carroll

Bang the drums, beat the cymbals! No one's 
been executed since I last wrote this column.  
Now with that said, Texas and Missouri have 
prisoners awaiting execution October 28 and 29 

The Innocent Walk As Free People

Manuel Velez

Early in October, Manuel Velez left the Texas 
prison system, and death row, a free man. In 
2008, Mr. Velez was convicted of murdering his 
girlfriend's year-old son because of injuries 
found on the baby after he died.  The injuries, 
however, were inflicted when Mr. Velez was in 
Tennessee working construction.  While in 
custody, he signed a statement in which he 
confessed to hurting the child, but an article in 
Texas Monthly said the language in the statement 
contained "curiously sophisticated language," 
especially for a man who is functionally illiterate 
in both Spanish and English and who has an IQ 
of 65.

The ACLU's Capital Punishment Project and the 
American Bar Association's Capital 
Representation Project took over Mr. Velez's 
case and enlisted the firms Carrington, 
Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, LLP and 
Lewis, Roca, Rothberger LLP to work pro bono 
on it. These lawyers discovered Mr. Velez's 
attorneys, Hector Villarreal and O. Rene Flores, 
did not present the evidence that Mr. Velez was 
in Tennessee at the time the injuries were 

In 2012 when during a retrial, attorneys 
Villarreal and Flores argued "that people in 
impoverished South Texas were entitled to a 
lower standard of defense than those in more 
prosperous precincts." The judge, Elia Cornejo 
Lopez, disagreed.

Mr. Velez is only one of 12 of the over 500 death 
row inmates on the Texas death row who have 
been exonerated since 1982.

Susan Mellen

For 17 years, Susan Mellen sat in prison, 
convicted of a murder she did not commit.  
Fortunately, she was sentenced to life without 
the possibility of parole, so when Deidre 
O'Connor from Innocence Matters looked into 
her case, she was still alive.

Testimony from June Patti, known by her police 
officer sister as a pathological liar and a habitual 
giver of false tips, was used to convict Ms 
Mellen. Her connection to the murdered man, 
Richard Daly, was that she was his former 
girlfriend.  Three gang members were later 
linked to the crime and one was eventually 
convicted of the murder.  Another gang member 
took a polygraph test and admitted Ms Mellen 
was not at the scene of the murder. 

Ultimately, Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold 
ruled Ms. Mellen had inadequate representation 
by her attorney at the trial and he overturned 
her conviction. After 17years, Ms Mellen is 
reunited with her children, Julie Carroll, 39; 
Jessica Besch, 26; and Donald Mellen, 25.  She 
also has met, held, and hugged her 16-month-
old grandson, Aidan.

As the judge said when she thanked him for her 
freedom, "Good luck."  

We as a nation are quite fortunate to have 
groups such as the ACLU's Capital Punishment 
Project, the American Bar Association's Capital 
Representation Project, and Innocence Matters.

Amnesty International Points to Florida

The US continues to be in the top five countries 
worldwide to use the death penalty alongside 
Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.  As 
executions continue to decline, Amnesty is 
concerned about Florida's Timely Justice Act.

The Timely Justice Act allows Florida to execute 
inmates as quickly as possible after their appeals 
are exhausted.  One troubling aspect of Florida's 
use of the death penalty is that it allows for a 
simple 7-5 verdict by a jury to sentence someone 
to death. 

Amnesty International's Chiara Sangiorgio said, 
"One of the biggest concerns we had this year 
was the adoption of legislation in Florida that 
aims at streamlining executions." As we've seen 
in the cases of Manuel Velez and Susan Mellen, 
they could have been streamlined to deaths of 
the innocent. 

Botched Executions

Given the number of lethal injection executions 
that have caused us to pause because of the 
length or pain inflicted on the dying, the topic of 
botched executions comes to mind. Now 
according to some of the comments following 
articles addressing these executions, the people 
are dead; therefore, the executions are not 

With that said, a recent article, "The U.S. 
Supreme Court: Clearing the Way for Botched 
Executions Since 1879," addresses the history of 
these events.  If you are so inclined, go to
to check it out.

Shout Out

Here's to author Louise Penny who in The Long 
Way Home has her main character, Chief 
Inspector Armand Gamache - retired homicide 
detective, say he, too, had found that like Sr. 
Helen Prejean, "people are more than the worst 
thing they have ever done in their lives."

Many thanks to Louise Penny for embedding 
that piece of wisdom in her novel.

Executions Stayed
13	Hubert Michael	Pennsylvania

7	Billy Ray Irick		Tennessee
15	Larry Hatton		Texas
15	Raymond Tibbets	Ohio

Gao Zhisheng

by Joyce Wolf

Please see our September newsletter for actions 
for Gao Zhisheng in regard to President 
Obama's upcoming trip to China Nov. 10-12.

UAs                        19
Total                      19
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.