Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXIII Number 8, August 2015

JULY AND AUGUST.  Meetings will resume 
on September 24.
  Tuesday, September 8, 7:30 PM. Letter 
writing meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner 
of Hill and California in Pasadena. In the 
summer we meet outdoors at the "Rath al 
Fresco," on the lawn behind the building. This 
informal gathering is a great way for 
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty.
  Sunday, September 20, 6:30 PM.  Rights 
Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
group. This month we read "Indonesia Etc.: 
Exploring the Improbable Nation" by 
Elizabeth Pisani.


Hi everyone

School started last week (the early start 
calendar) and we are up and running with Tdap 
(vaccine required for 7th grade entry)! So far our 
region is in the lead with 96% of 7th graders in 

Hope you all had a nice summer. I didn't work 
this year and it was nice to relax and have the 
time off.

AIUSA has closed the case for Gao Zhisheng  so 
we are in the process of obtaining another 
prisoner of conscience. Alexi is looking into 
cases in Cuba and Iran.


[Breaking News. Group 22 just received a case 
dossier on Iranian prisoner of conscience Narges 
Mohammadi. Here's a link to the Wikipedia 
article about her: ]

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, Sept. 20,  
6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena
Indonesia Etc.:
Exploring the Improbable Nation
By Elizabeth Pisani

[The New York Times Sunday Book Review]
AUG. 1, 2014

This year, three of the world's largest 
democracies are holding national elections -- 
vast polls spread over several days and 
thousands of miles of territory, involving more 
than a billion voters. Two of these elections have 
attracted intense media coverage, or will. India's 
national elections, which took place in May, 
swept out of office the long-ruling Congress 
Party and handed government of a rising 
economic and political power to the Hindu 
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Brazil's 
elections, which will be held in October, are 
coming on the heels of the World Cup, one of 
several high-profile events that have marked the 
country's emergence as the second giant of the 

The third election, Indonesia's presidential vote 
on July 9, has been mostly ignored by the 
international media, even though Indonesia, 
with a population of about 250 million, ranks as 
the fourth- largest country in the world, as well 
as the biggest economy in Southeast Asia.

In "Indonesia Etc.: Exploring the Improbable 
Nation," Elizabeth Pisani, a journalist, 
epidemiologist and on-and-off resident of 
Indonesia, readily acknowledges the 
archipelago's feeble presence on the global 
stage; her friends back in London look at her 
quizzically when she mentions the country. 
Though she had flirted with Indonesia for 
decades, she finally tires of the world's 
ignorance and chooses to take a break from 
work to travel the islands, offering a primer and 
a quick history lesson on this awakening 

Through her journey, too, she hopes to 
understand not only how a country as
diverse and far-flung as Indonesia - at least 
13,000 islands, many with their own unique 
cultures - has stayed together but also why, 
despite having had an average income similar to 
Malaysia's and Singapore's 60 years ago, it now 
lags badly behind. Today, some 105 million 
Indonesians live on less than $2 per day, though 
much of the country is blessed with fertile 
volcanic soil, rich fishing grounds,  abundant 
natural resources and a demographic dividend, 
in which the country has a high ratio of 
working-age people to elderly. And in an era 
when authoritarian China is poised to become 
the world's largest economy and democracy is 
floundering throughout the developing world, 
perhaps Pisani's study of Indonesia can help 
answer the question of whether democracy is 
even compatible with the high growth needed to 
foster development in these emerging giants.

Pisani knows that the only mental images 
outsiders may have of Indonesia hail from Java, 
the island containing nearly 60 percent of the 
country's population:  Wayang shadow puppets 
moving behind a translucent screen, luminous 
batik cloths and the grim-faced former dictator 
Suharto, who ruled between 1967 and 1998. 
From the time of independence in 1949, Javanese 
elites have monopolized politics, the military 
and other major institutions.

Pisani's strategy for countering Java's 
dominance is to explore the other Indonesia - 
the forgotten parts of a forgotten country. Her 
journey spans a year and 26,000 miles, and she 
rarely takes comfortable vehicles. She jumps 
five-daylong ferries to the most obscure islands 
and cadges journeys along rutted roads on the 
backs of motorbikes, which leave one's bottom 
bruised. Her rule for the trip,  she declares, is 
"just say yes" to any invitation.

She not only visits Indonesia's forgotten areas; 
she clearly identifies with their residents, 
writing with passion and telling detail. On the 
island of Sumba, near northern Australia, she is 
adopted by the matriarch of one village, and 
moves in with the woman's family for a time. 
Eventually, Pisani becomes so involved in the 
rituals of this Sumba village that she finds 
herself carrying a squawking chicken to a local 
mystic, who will kill it, read its entrails and tell 
her fortune; later, she joins a massive animal 
sacrifice on Sumba in honor of a recent death. 
Her book is loaded with such anecdotes in 
places that seem the opposite of cookie-cutter 
Southeast Asian megacities. She watches 
supposedly forbidden whale hunts on the island 
of Lembata, near East Timor. She is suddenly 
swept into the wedding of a friend's brother. 
She stumbles into a revivalist Christian 
congregation in Ambon, amid the fabled Spice 
Islands, a congregation that seems to have been 
airlifted from a Texas megachurch.

For someone who focuses on Indonesia, like 
myself, these anecdotes are tasty morsels, and 
rare. I had heard almost nothing, for example, 
about the sparsely populated Sangihe islands, 
between Sulawesi and the southern Philippines, 
where tuna fishing is the only industry. Here, 
Pisani says no to an offer for once, with good 
reason -- it's a chance to join a four-day fishing 
trip on the open Pacific in a rickety outrigger 
with only a shoddy tarpaulin for cover.

Unfortunately, these anecdotes rarely cohere 
into more than collected stories about 
Indonesia's outer provinces. Pisani introduces 
some broad themes that could help explain the 
country's simultaneous survival and failure, but 
she doesn't expand on them effectively. 
Indonesia, she suggests, has "welded so much 
difference together" through collectivism in 
villages and clans -- collectivism that makes 
people more secure in their daily lives. Its 
citizens have generally fostered a level of 
cultural tolerance rare in such large nations. Yet, 
she suggests, it has failed to change the 
byzantine bureaucracy, feudal political 
hierarchies and entrenched corruption left by 
the Dutch colonizers and then the Suharto 

At times, she also tries to introduce the 
nonexpert to the country's myriad cultures but 
stumbles with strange analogies, calling 
Indonesia a "Bad Boyfriend" -- it excites your 
senses but then angers you with its flaws. For 
the most part, she remains content to drift back 
into anecdotes rather than pull them together.

Worse, though Indonesia certainly is more than 
just Java, the book does not really grapple with 
Java or several of the other populous Indonesian 
islands.  Mostly ignoring the bigger islands 
means that Pisani's picture of Indonesia, though 
different from those of many Indonesia 
specialists, is badly skewed in another way. She 
basically leaves out any discussion of about 
three-quarters of the country's population, and 
makes only passing mention of Jakarta's 
governor, Joko Widodo, the winner of the July 
presidential elections and the first post-Suharto 
era politician to run Indonesia. It's as if someone 
tried to write a book about America but ignored 
40 of the states.

Javanese elitism or not, it is simply impossible to 
understand the staggering changes Indonesia 
has undergone since the end of the 1990s, 
including decentralization, a rapid transition to 
democracy and growing relationships with both 
China and the United States, without truly 
considering how decisions are made in Jakarta 
and other major urban centers. Instead, Pisani 
falls back on easy clichˇs about Jakarta, reform 
and the population itself. She deplores the rapid 
change and construction in the seemingly 
soulless capital, without seriously examining the 
positive aspects of all this growth, a strange 
omission for a public health specialist. She 
disdains the pork-barrel politics that come with 
greater direct democracy, as politicians jostle to 
deliver projects to their districts and sometimes 
skim a percentage for themselves. But this kind 
of patronage is necessarily curtailed by the 
transparency of democracy, and in the long run 
far healthier than the opaque and 
unreconstructed Suharto period. (Pisani herself 
acknowledges that in the latter part of Suharto's 
time, "all the growth" went "into a handful of 
pockets," though she still paints a fairly rosy 
picture of the Suharto era.) She too often 
portrays Indonesians as accepting their fate in 
life, a fatalism not apparent in this spring's 
parliamentary elections, when Indonesian voters 
tossed out about half the incumbents.

In the end, Pisani rediscovers her Bad Boyfriend 
idea, in a thin epilogue that again attempts to 
boil down what she has learned about Indonesia 
but soon turns into another anecdote. And 
another opportunity to know the unknown 
giant is lost.

Elizabeth is an epidemiologist who has spent 
over a decade working on the defining epidemic 
of our age - HIV. She's done research and 
worked as an advisor for the Ministries of 
Health of China, Indonesia, East Timor and the 
Philippines, and has also provided analysis and 
policy advice to UNAIDS, the World Health 
Organisation, the World Bank, US Centres for 
Disease Control and many others. She is 
especially interested in trying to ensure that HIV 
prevention programmes are guided by sensible 
analysis of high quality information. In 2010, she 
founded the public health consultancy Ternyata. 
For more information about her life as a nerd, 
please go to her professional site: Ternyata - 
Public Health Consultancy

In a previous existence, Elizabeth was a foreign 
correspondent for Reuters, The Economist and 
the Bangkok-based Asia Times, posted in Hong 
Kong, New Delhi, Jakarta, Hanoi and Brussels. 
She covered everything from conflicts 
(Tiananmen Square, the Aceh civil war) to 
markets (Asian stocks, currencies and 
commodities, EU trade policy). One of her first 
features for Reuters tracked the effect of the 1986 
stock market crash on the fortunes of night-club 
hostesses in Hong Kong. You can read some of 
her writings here.

Her education was somewhat scattered, but she 
ended up with an MA in Classical Chinese from 
Oxford, an MSc in Medical Demography from 
the London School of Hygiene and Tropical 
Medicine and a PhD in Infectious Disease 
Epidemiology, also from London.

Elizabeth loves to gossip, and can do so in 
French, Spanish and Bahasa Indonesia; she fakes 
Mandarin Chinese well enough, too. She travels 
more or less constantly, retreating as often as 
possible to the southwest of Ireland, where she 
indulges an enthusiasm for sea kayaking.

Elizabeth welcomes discussion on the issues 
raised in this blog and in her book The Wisdom 
of Whores. You can comment directly on the 
website, or e-mail her through the Contacts 

By Stevi Carroll

Connecticut May Not Execute Death Row 

This month the Connecticut Supreme Court 
ruled in State v. Santiago that "(t)he court 
declared that following the prospective repeal of 
the death penalty, execution of prisoners no 
longer comports with contemporary standards 
of decency and no longer serves any penological 

As more states opt not to execute and others 
abolish the death penalty, I have to wonder 
along with Sam Wright, "a dyed-in-the-wool, 
bleeding-heart" public interest lawyer when he 
asks, "is Santiago a sign that the end of the death 
penalty is near?"

Hooray for the Connecticut Supreme Court and 
the state's ACLU and may many more states, 
including our own California, follow the 

People of Faith & the Death Penalty

A meme that sometimes floats around the 
internet says a variation on
"Lord, protect me from your followers."

As we see 'religious' people commit acts of 
violence from murdering doctors who, along 
with other medical work they do, perform 
abortions to blowing up mosques to demeaning 
and degrading people who do not worship the 
same way they do, we can begin to scratch our 
heads and come to believe that yes, we need 
protection from 'true believers'.

Enter the death penalty.  In May of this year, 
lawmakers in Nebraska voted to make the state 
the 19th one to ban the death penalty.  While 
many secular activists worked tirelessly to 
secure this ban, people of faith were also 
actively involved in moving people's thinking 
along the road the abolition.

Leaders of many faiths, including Catholics, 
Methodists, Presbyterians, evangelical 
Christians and Episcopalians, spoke to their 
congregants in sermons, homilies, and bulletins. 
Rev. Lauren Ekdahl, a minister at the First 
United Methodist Church in Gering, argued that 
he sees the death penalty as a sin that punishes 
one death with another death.  He said, 
"...murder is murder in God's eyes..."

An article titled "The Growing Faith-Based 
Movement To End The Death Penalty and 
Protect Prisons" 
3680096/faith-movement-prisoners/) noted that 
the United States' largest religious group, 
Christians, is founded on the belief in Jesus 
Christ, who himself was executed and whose 
execution is recalled during religious holidays, 
in many sermons, and with the symbol of the 
faith, the cross upon which Jesus was killed.

For Catholic Christians, Pope Francis was clear 
in March when he said the death penalty should 
be abolished.  He said, "Today the death penalty 
is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime 
committed. ... The death penalty is cruel, 
inhuman and degrading. ... It does not bring 
justice to the victims, but only foments revenge."

Even as faith leaders speak out on behalf of the 
abolition of the death penalty, their followers 
hold different positions.  Two-thirds of mainline 
Protestants, over fifty percent of Catholics, and 
seventy-one percent of white evangelical 
Christians still publicly endorse the death 

For both those sentenced to death and those 
who believe death is justified perhaps the words 
of Sr Helen Prejean will prove true: People are 
more than the worst thing they have ever done in 
their lives.

Our work to transform hearts and attitudes, and 
abolish the death penalty continues.

Bernie Sanders and the Death Penalty

May 1, 2015, during an interview on "The Thom 
Hartmann Show," a caller asked Bernie Sanders 
about the execution of mentally ill people.  In 
response, Mr. Sanders was clear not only on his 
position regarding the death penalty used to kill 
mentally ill people but others in general. He 
said, "I think people have been executed who 
were not even aware of what was going on, and 
that's not something that a civilized nation 
should be engaged in. But in general, this is 
what I think. Look, there are people who 
commit horrendous, horrendous, horrendous 
crimes: we all know that. And we are furious at 
them, we can't understand their barbarity. But I 
think, as with so much violence in this world 
today, I just don't think the state itself, whether 
it's the state government or federal government, 
should be in the business of killing people. So 
when you have people who have done terrible, 
terrible things they're gonna spend the rest of 
their lives in jail, and that's a pretty harsh 
punishment. But I'm against capital 

While as mentioned above, many people in the 
US support the death penalty, a Pew Research 
Center survey from March 2015 shows a decline 
among those who favor it with political party 
affiliation perhaps guiding attitudes.


Stays of execution

13	Tracy  Beatty		TX
27	Maurice Patterson	PA  (stay likely)
28	Hector Morales	PA  (stay likely)


12	Daniel Lopez*		TX 	
	Lethal Injection 1-drug (pentobarbital)

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

UAs                                                               18
Total                                                              18
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.