Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXIII Number 1, January 2015

  Thursday, January 22, 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 10, 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 15, 6:30 PM.  Rights 
Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
group. This month we read, "A Marker to 
Measure Drift" by Alexander Maksik.


Hi All

Happy New Year and best wishes to all!

Hope everyone had a great holiday season and 
that 2015 will be a better year for human rights 
all over the world.

One of our Group 22 members, Laura Brown, 
received a response from President Obama 
regarding a letter she sent on Ebola.  See a copy 
of the letter in this newsletter.


Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, February 15, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena

BOOK REVIEW by Norman Rush
The New York Times, Aug. 23, 2013

A Marker  
to Measure Drift

by Alexander Maksik
Can the literary novel ever really get its arms 
around the problem of human evil? It keeps 
trying - a difficult assignment for the poor 
beast. In any case, an undaunted Alexander 
Maksik has brought his skills to this very 
problem. His second novel, "A Marker to 
Measure Drift," recounts a season of homeless 
exile in the life of a 24-year-old Liberian woman 
fleeing an episode of gruesome violence 
incidental to the overthrow of the tyrant Charles 
Ghankay Taylor, in 2003. Maksik has produced 
a bold book, and an instructive one.
"Marker" is an aftermath novel. Jacqueline, its 
heroine, suffers from unbearable suppressed 
memories, from remorse over failures to have 
anticipated the bloody destiny ordained for her 
family. The dangers and indignities of flight and 
destitution, stark as they are, weigh less than her 
mental torment. Maksik is, of course, hardly the 
first American writer to set a tale in the context 
of African brutality. The grim fact is that for 
some of the more absolute forms of malevolence 
- communal violence gone mad, for one - 
Africa has been a recurrent theater.
Despite the consensus view that the continent 
has, in the last 20 years, risen brilliantly in terms 
of G.D.P. growth, explosive gains in elite 
income, improved infrastructure and better 
governance, outbreaks of mass violence 
continue in conflicts taking place at the edges of 
public consciousness. Think of Uganda, Nigeria, 
Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo. 
Susan Minot's new novel, "Thirty Girls," to be 
published next year, concerns a victim of the 
crazed insurgency led by Joseph Kony in 
Uganda. Mark Lee's 1998 novel "The Lost Tribe" 
deals with an unnamed Central African republic 
most likely based on Uganda. Dave Eggers's 
2006 novel "What Is the What" dramatizes the 
fate of one of the Sudanese Lost Boys. Philip 
Caputo set his 2005 novel "Acts of Faith" in 
Sudan, where the unending civil war seemed to 
be coming to an end. It is returning in fire. The 
subject renews itself, alas, and the geography 
accommodating violence expands: the faith-
based slaughters proceeding in Syria, 
Afghanistan and Iraq (still!) await their literary 
Maksik writes, credibly, across the boundaries 
of gender and, in this book, race. He has written 
before from a woman's point of view. One 
narrator of his first novel, "You Deserve 
Nothing," is a young Frenchwoman who 
determinedly seduces her instructor at an 
international school in Paris. The book received 
praise as an evocation of disordered passions, as 
an erotic fantasia along the lines of James 
Salter's novel "A Sport and a Pastime." (Later, it 
came to light that the book was apparently a 
roman ˆ clef, when the humiliated woman 
Maksik seems to have based his heroine on 
accused him of violations of confidence.)
By way of contrast, the heroine of "A Marker to 
Measure Drift" is a blameless young woman 
who has been rescued from death almost 
happenstantially by her French journalist lover 
as he scrambles to leave a Monrovia falling into 
the hands of an armed rabble of murderous 
teenagers. Thereafter permanently abandoned 
by her Frenchman, penniless, she is forced to 
cobble together an existence, sleeping in caves or 
unfinished buildings, in the crevices of the 
tourist milieu on the island of Santorini.
"Marker" is a study of scarred consciousness 
struggling to come to terms with the violence 
done to it in a moment of cataclysmic horror. 
Jacqueline needs to relive and transmit the truth 
of her descent into hell if she is to renew the 
desire to keep living. (A classic realization of the 
drive to disarm evil by retelling may be found in 
Ant—nio Lobo Antunes's novel "The Land at the 
End of the World," based on the author's 
experiences as an army medic in Angola during 
Portugal's last colonial war.)
In a way, Jacqueline's struggle stands as a 
metaphor for the literary novel itself when it 
engages enormity. Readers can't help wanting 
"the one bright book of life" to end at least 
consolingly, if not straight-up happily. There is a 
homiletic bias to the stories novelists tend to tell 
best. Maksik finds his own way of squaring the 
circle of disaster and hope, signaled late in the 
book by a shift from past to present tense.
Is Maksik's grueling depiction of a woman in 
torment successful as a work of fiction? I think it 
is. The point of view is convincing. As for any 
idiosyncrasies the reader may be looking for in 
Jacqueline's voice as a child of Liberia, they are 
few - as might be expected, given her 
background as a thoroughly westernized 
member of the country's ruling elite who has 
been educated in Britain. Her place of refuge, 
outdoor Santorini, is keenly described, the 
details of the setting jaggedly selected, in the 
same way they might impress themselves on a 
harried, homeless young woman. The mechanics 
of trying to stay fed and sheltered are given 
plausibly enough. Maksik's narrative style, 
using short, declarative sentences and sentence 
fragments, fits the story's tenor and pace.
The sustained representation of Jacqueline's 
search for release, for haven, has moments of 
bleak poetry: "She couldn't say that she was 
leaving, that she had somewhere to be. If she did 
she'd have to walk in the direction of that place 
and there was no place."
Jacqueline is afflicted with flashbacks, not of the 
violence in her past, but of moments that should 
have been forewarnings. Illusory images of her 
father and mother accompany her. They 
dispense irrelevant advice. It's a bad dream 
Jacqueline inhabits, but Maksik makes the 
reader share it. The novel is a tense read. Will 
this unprotected woman, haplessly wandering, 
fall prey to predators of the European kind? 
That's a concern. She's also careless about where 
she leaves her passport.
"A Marker to Measure Drift" isn't constructed to 
go deep into the heart of darkness, the 
wellsprings of the terrible killing in West Africa. 
Maksik brings us to the scene, ultimately, but 
not through it. The story ends there.
The question of complicity on the part of 
Jacqueline's family in Charles Taylor's reign of 
terror comes up in a serpentine way at different 
points. "Later," Maksik writes, "she listened to 
the BBC as the U.N. unsealed Taylor's 
indictment: murder, torture, rape, sexual 
slavery, terrorism, looting, the unlawful 
recruitment of child soldiers. . . . Her father 
looked at her and smiled a cold smile, a smile 
that meant, What I'm about to say is the last 
we'll speak of it. . . . He said, 'That's Ghankay. 
Exceptional men have exceptional habits.' "
It is of course made evident that the degree of 
guilt Jacqueline faces serves only to make her 
suffering worse. Those who destroyed Taylor 
were achieving revenge, after all.
A piety frequently turns up in reviews of 
contemporary novels set in violent African 
venues: that such works can't help raising 
consciousness, leading to moral pressure, 
leading to change. How much truth there is in 
that I don't know. We keep hearing it. It's a 
hope. And I'm sure this hope resides in the heart 
of Alexander Maksik, who has illuminated for 
us, with force and art, an all too common species 
of suffering - grievous, ugly and, 
unfortunately, a perennial.
Norman Rush is the author of "Whites," "Mating" 
and "Mortals." His new novel, "Subtle Bodies," will 
be published next month.

Alexander Maksik is the author of the novels 
You Deserve Nothing and A Marker to Measure 
Drift, which was named a New York Times 
Book Review Notable Book of 2013. His writing 
has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American 
Nonrequired Reading, Harper's, Tin House, Harvard 
Review, The New York Times Magazine, The 
Atlantic, Salon, and Narrative Magazine, among 
other publications. He is a contributing editor at 
CondŽ Nast Traveler, and his work has been 
translated into more than a dozen languages. A 
graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he has 
received a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from 
the Truman Capote Literary Trust and The 
Corporation of Yaddo.

Amnesty Group 22 member gets 
response from President Obama

by Laura Brown

As a frequent letter writer for Amnesty 
International's urgent actions for the past 6 
years, I can count on one hand (while making 
the peace sign!) the number of times officials 
have written back. Once, I got a letter from the 
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs in Prague, 
assuring me of his government's support for 
Roma families that had been displaced. More 
recently, on the first day of Winter Session at 
GCC, I found a large, stiff manila envelope from 
the White House waiting for me in my teacher's 
box. It was a personal response from President 
Obama on the issue of Ebola. According to a 
New York Times article, "Picking Letters, 10 a 
Day, That Reach Obama," a staff member 
chooses ten letters a day that are delivered to 
President Obama at the White House, and mine 
appeared to have been among them.

I had sent off a letter September 26, praising the 
president for his substantial commitment to 
fight Ebola. I was very impressed that he had 
decided to take this humanitarian action, 
countering those who said it wasn't our 
problem. At the time, he pledged to help West 
African nations with a $1 billion-plus plan. "We 
need a broader effort to stop a disease that could 
kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific 
suffering, destabilize economies, and move 
rapidly across borders," Obama said, as reported 
by the Voice of America.

Just three days after the president promised 
immediate action on the crisis, the first Ebola 
patient diagnosed in America, Thomas Eric 
Duncan, was admitted to a hospital in Dallas 
with advanced symptoms, and later died. The 
World Health Organization reported on January 
7, 2015, that there have been at least 8,000 deaths 
from Ebola and that there is "no identifiable 
downward trend" in Guinea. So, it will take 
continued involvement and commitment on the 
part of all those who can help to get the upper 
hand on this disease. I know our president is 
committed, because he told me so! Never 
underestimate the value of a well-timed letter.

Gao Zhisheng

by Joyce Wolf

Five months ago, China released human rights 
lawyer Gao Zhisheng from prison, but he is still 
not free. He lives now with his wife's parents in 
Xinjiang Province, essentially under house 
arrest, subject to 24-hour police surveillance.

Radio Free Asia reported on January 8 that Gao 
is allowed a brief phone call every few days 
with his brother Gao Zhiyi, who said that Gao's 
mental health "seems OK now." (Subjected to 
torture and solitary confinement during his 
three years in Shaya Prison, Gao could barely 
speak when he was first released.)

The RFA article does not mention the current 
state of Gao's physical health, nor can I find any 
recent online updates about whether he has 
been able to obtain the dental and medical 
treatment that he urgently required after his 

We would very much like to send Gao Zhisheng 
messages of support and New Year greetings, 
but it is not possible to send him anything by 
mail now, according to the Facebook page
However, this page posted the following request 
on January 7:
"Tell us in the comments below why Gao 
inspires you. Feel also free to share this post to 
raise more awareness on Gao and his work for 
defending activists and religious minorities in 
China. (Falun Gong Practitioners, Victims of 
medical malpractice, Christians...). Thank you 
and Happy New Year!"

If you are on Facebook, please respond or click 
on Like. If you would like to respond but don't 
have a Facebook account, you can send your 
comment to and we will 
post it for you. 

For current news updates, you can check the 
Twitter account dedicated to Gao Zhisheng, His wife, 
who escaped to exile in the U.S. in 2009, posts in 
Chinese at

Here's hoping that 2015 may finally be the year 
that sees Gao Zhisheng truly free and reunited 
with his family!

By Stevi Carroll

Andrew Brannan: 1st execution of 2015

The state of Georgia, infamous for the execution 
of Troy Davis, holds the 'honor' of performing 
the US's first execution of 2015.  

Andrew Brannan volunteered to serve in the US 
Army in 1968. His combat experience in 
Vietnam earned him two Army Commendation 
Medals and a Bronze Star.  In 1984, Veterans 
Administration doctors diagnosed Mr. Brannan 
with post-traumatic stress disorder. By 1990, his 
condition deteriorated, and he was granted 100 
percent disability. In 1996, Mr. Brannan's 
doctors further diagnosed him as being bipolar.

In January 1998, Mr. Brannan was stopped by 
Officer Kyle Dinkheller. Mr. Brannan had been 
driving 98 mph.  The video camera in Officer 
Dinkheller's vehicle recorded Mr. Brannan's 
erratic  behavior which included cursing, 
dancing in the street, and saying "shoot me."  
After a scuffle, Mr. Brannan went to his car, took 
out a high-powered rifle, and shot to death 
Officer Dinkheller. (How Mr. Brannan had 
access to a high-powered rifle given his mental 
conditions is a topic for another discussion.)

In a statement just prior to his execution January 
13, Mr. Brannan said, "I extend my condolences 
to the Dinkheller family, especially Kyle's 
parents and his wife and his two children."

In response to Mr. Brannan's execution, Sister 
Helen Prejean posted on Facebook, "We send 
our young people into conflicts where they 
witness and experience horrors most of us will 
never know, and we fail to provide them with 
the support they need when they return home 
and face disability and demons as a result of 
those experiences. Where is our culpability in 
this? When do we say no to piling horror upon 

George Junius Stinney, Jr. - Conviction 

In 1944, George Stinney, Jr., 14, and his sister, 
Aime Ruffner, eight, were tending a cow 
grazing in a field. Two white girls came up to 
these young African-American children and 
asked about where to find some plants. Aime 
told them she did not know and the white girls 
left.  Later the white girls were found dead in a 
ditch, their skulls crushed by a 12-inch drift pin, 
a piece of metal used to hitch railroad cars 

Without his parents' knowledge, George 
Stinney, Jr. was taken from his home and to jail.  
His trial was overseen by an all-male, all-white 
jury.  His lawyer presented no witnesses in 
George's defense and barely cross-examined the 
states few witnesses. George was found guilty 
and was executed in the electric chair 53 days 
after his conviction.

While George Stinney, Jr. did confess, Circuit 
Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen said during her 
recent ruling on the case that George was 
separated from his parents, had no lawyer 
present, and may have been "coerced into 
confessing to the crimes due to the power 
differential between his position as a 14-year-old 
black male apprehended and questioned by 
white, uniformed law enforcement in a small, 
segregated mill town in South Carolina."

The family of George Stinney, Jr., is "thrilled 
and relieved" with this exoneration, but as 
Miller W. Shealy, Jr., a lawyer who helped argue 
this case said, "It's difficult for them to celebrate 
because no one's coming home and no one's 
getting out of prison."

Frankie Baily-Dyches, a relative of one of the 
murdered girls, said, "I believe he confessed.  
He was tried and found guilty by the laws of 
1944 ... and it needs to be left as is."

George Stinney, Jr., above, was 14 years old 
when he was executed in the electric chair in 
South Carolina in 1944.  He was the youngest 
person executed in the US in the 20th century.

Ohio Puts Executions On Hold

First, those pesky European pharmacies refused 
to sell the drugs US prison authorities use to 
execute people.  They said they didn't want their 
drugs used to kill people, so prison authorities 
decided they would use compounding 
pharmacies in the US to produce the lethal mix 
that could be injected into the death row inmates 
veins to kill them.  This was followed by a few 
'botched' executions during which the person 
being executed writhed - perhaps in pain - and 
gasped for breath.  The Ohio Department of 
Rehabilitation and Corrections is delaying their 
upcoming executions during the time they need 
to secure their lethal drugs.  The two-drug 
regimen of midazolam and hydromorphone will 
be scrapped as they add thiopental sodium to 
pentobarbital, a drug already used. The 
paperwork for this change had to be filed with 
US District Judge Gregory Frost 30 before Ohio's 
next scheduled execution on February 11.  At 
this point, Warren Henness and Ronald Phillips 
have their executions stayed. For Ohio and other 
death penalty states, the saying could be "Better 
dying through chemistry."  With that said, let's 
remember that should Tennessee not be able to 
have access to lethal injection drugs, their 
electric chair is charged up, legal, and ready to 

United Nations General Assembly Resolution

In December 2014, 117 countries voted to 
support a UN resolution calling for an 
international moratorium on the use of the death 
penalty.  This is the fifth time the General 
Assembly has voted on this issue, starting in 
2007 when 104 nations cast 'yes' votes.

The most recent resolution included an addition 
that focuses on the rights of foreign nationals.  
The 1963 Vienna Convention requires the 
notification of foreign nationals of their right to 
inform their consulate or embassy of their 
detention.  This is important because in 
Southeast Asia, drug mules receive the death 
penalty, and some domestic workers in Saudi 
Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries are 
arrested and do not understand the judicial 
process nor the language in which the process is 
carried out.  The International Court of Justice 
ruled in 2004 the US violated the 1963 Vienna 
Convention when authorities did not inform 51 
Mexican nationals of their rights to notify the 
Mexican consulate of their detentions, and in 
2014, Edgar Tamayo and Ramiro Hernandez, 
two of the Mexican nationals this ruling referred 
to, were executed in Texas.

The United States was among the 38 nations to 
vote against the UN resolution calling for a 
worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.

Life After Justice

What happens to people who are released from 
prison, especially if they were wrongfully 
convicted?  These exonerees are not given the 
same re-entry services that parolees receive. 
Recidivism rates vary depending on the crime 
and can be as high as  70%. The Life After Justice 
Center wants to curtail these statistics to help 
former inmates successfully re-enter society.  
The founders are Antoine Day and Jarrett 
Adams. Mr. Day was convicted of first-degree 
murder and sentenced to 60 years in prison.  
After ten years, his sentence was overturned.  
Mr. Adams was released from prison more than 
nine years into his prison term when the 7th 
Circuit reversed his conviction because of 
ineffective assistance of counsel. To see a short 
video about these two men who are working to 
help others, go to

Stays of Execution
7	Warren Henness	Ohio
8	Christopher Roney	Pennsylvania
13	Mark Edwards	Pennsylvania
14	Rodney Reed		Texas 
				(new date set)
15	Dennis Reed		Pennsylvania
15	Richard Vasquez	Texas
				 (new date set)

December 2014

9	Robert Holsey		Georgia
			Lethal injection - 1-drug
10	Paul Goodwin		Missouri
			Lethal injection - 1-drug

January 2015
13	Andrew Brannan	Georgia
			Lethal injection - 1-drug
15	Johnny Kormondy	Florida
			Lethal injection - 3-drug
15	Charles Warner	Oklahoma
			Lethal injection - 3-drug

Jorge L‡zaro Nunes dos Santos 
     BRAZIL                                 10
Liu Ping 
     CHINA                                  13
Rampyari Bai & Safreen Khan
     INDIA                                   9
Moses Akatugba 
     NIGERIA                                10
Murad Shtwei 
     TERRITORIES                            12
Women & Girls of 
     EL SALVADOR                             9
Raif Badawi 
     SAUDI ARABIA                           12
Chelsea Manning 
     USA                                     5
Darrell Cannon & Anthony Holmes 
     USA                                     4
Hadiya Pendleton 
     (USA):                                  6
TOTAL                                       90

UAs                                        35
POC  (thank-you card to Sen. Boxer)         1
Total                                      36
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.