Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXIV Number 3, March 2016

  Thursday, March 24, 8:00 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, April 12, 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, April 17, 6:30 PM.  Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion group. This 
month we read "Foreign Gods, Inc." by Okey 

Hi everyone

March marks the death of our former Group 22 
co-coordinator, Lucas Kamp, last year from 
pancreatic cancer.   Let's continue to keep Group 
22 strong in his memory.

There is a vigil in April to mark the birthday of 
Iranian human rights activist Narges 
Mohammadi that Alexi has helped organize.  
See Alexi's article for further information. 

Con Carino,

Next Rights Readers meeting: 
Sunday, April 17 
 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd
Foreign Gods, Inc.
by Okey Ndibe

Human Rights Book Discussion 
Keep up with Rights Readers at

Okey Ndibe (born 1960) is a novelist, political 
columnist, and essayist. Of Igbo ethnicity, Ndibe 
was born in Yola, Nigeria. He is the author of 
Arrows of Rain and Foreign Gods, Inc., two 
critically acclaimed novels published in 2000 
and 2014 respectively. Ndibe is one of the 
foremost respected and admired contributors to 
the social and political essence of Nigeria.  
[from Wikipedia]

The New York Times
Trying to Filch the Blessings of the Idol Rich
'Foreign Gods, Inc.,' by Okey Ndibe

Okey Ndibe's razor-sharp "Foreign Gods, Inc." 
steps into the story of a Nigerian-born New 
Yorker called Ike, just as everything in his life 
has begun to go horribly wrong. The only thing 
worse than Ike's present situation is the plan he 
makes to remedy it.

Ike, whose name is correctly pronounced EE-
kay, has an Amherst degree cum laude in 
economics. But his accent has kept him from 
finding a job. So he works as a cabby, with 
customers who call him "Eekay," which means 
"buttocks" in Igbo. He has made a bad marriage 
to a woman who walked off with his savings, 
and debts now overwhelm him. The only thing 
he has of value is something of age-old mystical 
significance that is not exactly in his possession. 
And, intellect notwithstanding, he gets the 
bright idea of acquiring and selling it from a 
trendy article in New York magazine.

A friend sends Ike the article about an art 
gallery called Foreign Gods Inc., which gives 
this book its terrifically apt title. Only in 
mimicking a slick American idiom does Mr. 
Ndibe falter, and that's probably to his credit. 
(From the fake New York magazine: " 'A 
summons to heaven doesn't come easy or 
cheap," says a gallery patron, referring to the 
place's most expensive upper floor.") But the 
gist of the piece is that a dealer named Mark 
Gruels traffics in deities from faraway places, 
which mean nothing but money to either him or 
his customers. As the book begins, Ike arrives at 
the gallery to see a tanned woman holding a 
squat statue to her breast, leaving Foreign Gods 
and getting into her BMW.

Ike is desperate enough to believe that Gruels 
will pay big money for Ngene, the powerful war 
god that presided over the Nigerian region 
where he was raised. Mr. Ndibe has his own 
memories of war to draw upon: He grew up in 
the midst of the Biafran war and was a Nigerian 
journalist and academic before coming to the 
United States, as a protˇgˇ of Chinua Achebe. 
He has had a distinguished teaching career and 
is the author of one earlier novel, "Arrows of 
Rain" (2000). But "Foreign Gods, Inc.," which 
arrives early in January, will still have the 
impact of an astute and gripping new novelist'
Not far into the book, Ike is on his way back to 
Nigeria with only one plan in mind: to steal 
what he thinks is an inanimate object and bring 
it back to New York. That scheme alone is 
evidence of how far he has strayed from his 
roots, and how much of a re-education awaits 

At first, he is simply struck by the physical 
changes to his native land: Where did all those 
zinc-roofed concrete buildings with satellite 
dishes come from? But then the sense memories 
of the place begin to seduce him, and he falls 
into a swoon of reminiscence that would be 
enchanting, if it were not constantly interrupted 
by the harsh realities of his relatives and former 

Ngene the war god plays some mysterious role 
in all of this. Much of the village's hardship 
dates back to the disruptive visit of a British 
missionary who was determined to teach the 
superiority of Christianity to Nigerian pagans. 
Even this takes the form of materialism, as the 
increasingly mad Englishman, Stanton, insists 
that his God is more powerful because he owns 
everything, while the Nigerian gods possess 
nothing. Nothing but the hearts and minds of 
their followers.

Stanton is gone, but in his wake he left bitter 
divisiveness and a terrible conflation of religion 
and greed. So Ike returns to find that his mother, 
who for years has had Ike's sister bombard him 
with plaintive, begging letters ("Mama wonders 
if you want us to eat sand"), has fallen under the 
spell of a pastor who sees religious commitment 
in terms of dollar signs.

The influence of America is everywhere, and so 
are its own foreign gods: Ike finds impoverished 
Nigerian kids watching old reruns of Michael 
Jordan playing basketball, talking about what 
they would do if they were as rich and widely 
worshiped as he once was. They'd buy houses. 
Cars. Shirts with brand names on them. And 
pizza, even though not one of these kids has 
ever tasted it. They've just seen people eat it on 
American TV, and the people look happy after 
they do.

Ike's journey through his past is so richly 
evocative that he and the reader may almost 
forget what he went home to do. But by the time 
he turns his attention to Ngene, whose high 
priest is Ike's uncle, it's clear that Ngene is more 
than just a wooden artifact. The past has proved, 
to anyone who would take heed, that Ngene is 
powerful, indestructible, vengeful and not easily 
subject to the whims of others. So a great deal 
more than art dealing is at stake as Ike enacts the 
final stage of his crazy, misbegotten plan.

Throughout "Foreign Gods, Inc.," Ike's hard-
won urban Americanness, the kind that allowed 
him to drive a New York taxi, slowly 
evaporates. It is replaced by a more primal, 
physical life, as he becomes more attuned to 
sounds and smells, especially to the stinks of 
suffering, failure and fear.

Mr. Ndibe invests his story with enough dark 
comedy to make Ngene an odoriferous presence 
in his own right, and certainly not the kind of 
polite exotic rarity that art collectors are used to. 
At one point, the novel compares him to the 
demonic Baal, and Ngene shows many signs of 
wishing to live up to that reputation. In Mr. 
Ndibe's agile hands, he's both a source of satire 
and an embodiment of pure terror.


Narges Mohammadi

by Alexi Daher

As in previous years, Amnesty has been doing 
an annual Nowruz (Iranian New Year) in 
solidarity to prisoners of conscience in Iran and 
their families.  You can access the action from 
the Individuals at Risk page of the Amnesty 
International USA website:
or from the Iran page:

The seven cases for this year include: Seven 
leaders of Iran's Baha'i community; physicist 
Omid Kokabee; human rights defender Narges 
Mohammadi; journalist Hossein Ronaghi 
Maleki; artist Atena Farghadani; student and 
women's rights activist Bahareh Hedayat; and 
human rights attorney Abdolfattah Soltani. 

We are midway in our planning for the Narges 
Mohammadi vigil, on her birthday April 21. 
Please reserve the date: April 21st, 2016 at 5:30 
pm, and join us in solidarity to demand the 
immediate release of Narges Mohammadi and 
to bring awareness to the global community that 
human rights violations continue to be a blatant 
21st Century problem. 

Invitations to join the vigil can now be 
forwarded to the community, organizations, and 
local Amnesty groups. If you know a group who 
would want to be involved, would want to 
organize vigils, or join in other solidarity actions 
on that day, they can contact me at

Invitation to the Vigil:

Human Rights Violations STILL a Blatant 21st 
Century Problem

Join Amnesty International, Caltech Pasadena 
Group 22 
Vigil on Thursday, April 21st, 2016 at 5:30 pm

To Support, Never Forget the Legacy and 
Demand the Immediate Release of 
Human Right Defender Narges Mohammadi 

On Thursday, April 21, 2016, Narges 
Mohammadi's birthday will be marked with a 
candlelight vigil at (location TBD). The vigil will 
take place in honor of Narges Mohammadi, who 
fought and is still fighting for human, women, 
and children's rights in Iran.  She is currently a 
prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for her 
peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of 
expression, association, and peaceful assembly. 

The right to privacy and the right of free speech 
have consistently been under attack by 
controlling governments and entrenched powers 
whether in the East or in the West; packaging 
them as Salil Shetty, Secretary General of 
Amnesty International, says, "in opposition to 
national security, law, and order" and 
contributing to the "crushing of civil society." 
As a collective and global community we have 
the moral obligation to stand in solidarity and 
call on governments to defend international law 
and to protect people's rights. 

This event is part of an international 
collaboration with local and International 
Amnesty Groups in Belgium, Germany, 
Denmark and the USA, demanding Narges 
Mohammadi's immediate release and renewing 
our commitment to continue to bring awareness 
on human rights violations around the globe 
and its devastating impact on individuals, their 
families, and their communities. 

Amnesty International Group 22 (Caltech/ 
Pasadena) encourages the community 
throughout Los Angeles to join us at (location 
TBD) at 5:30 pm.  Individuals can participate 
through Twitter by tweeting this action's 
hashtag, #UnitedforNarges. On April 21st, the 
day of the vigil, participating Groups and 
individuals will video stream the events of April 
21, tweet, and retweet, connecting all the vigils 
through streams of pictures and videos. 

Community members can participate 
independently by placing a lit candle in their 
front window beginning at 5 pm. Take a picture 
and tweet it with the action's hashtag 
#UnitedforNarges on April 21, to shine a light 
on human rights abuses, and as a sign of hope 
that all detained individuals-at-risk, like Narges 
Mohammadi, are immediately released.

If you and your own group want to be involved 
and organize vigils or other solidarity actions on 
that day, you can contact Alexi Daher at, or via Twitter at 

By Stevi Carroll

The Justice that Works Act of 2016

I spoke with Terry McAffrey, Amnesty's 
California coordinator for The Justice that 
Works Act of 2016.  He said he would send 
some petitions to me for us to use to get 
signatures needed for it to be on the ballot.  I 
will pass them out when I get them - I hope by 
our monthly meeting on the 24th.  He will be in 
LA for a meeting on April 12th, and after that, I 
will have more to report.

Pope Francis

In February, Pope Francis once again called for a 
worldwide abolition of the death penalty. He 
combined it with prison conditions generally 
and said "all Christians and people of goodwill 
are called today to work not only for the 
abolition of the death penalty, but also in order 
to improve prison conditions, in respect for 
human dignity of persons deprived of liberty."  
He appealed to Catholic politicians to make 
"courageous and exemplary gesture and ensure 
that no convicted inmate is executed during the 
church's Holy Year of Mercy, which ends on 
November 20." (We can remember that Supreme 
Court Justice Antonin Scalia's final legal action 
was to let Gustavo Garcia, a man in Texas, be 
executed a few days before Pope Francis's 

It (the death penalty) does not render justice to the 
victims, but rather fosters vengeance.
- Pope Francis, March 20, 2015

Something's Happenin' Here

For some reason, people who might be thought 
of as strong supporters of the death penalty are 
saying something completely different.  In both 
Utah and Washington state people intimately 
connected to the execution of the death penalty 
are on the record as opponents of it.  

Creighton Horton, a prosecutor in Utah with 30 
years' experience, wrote in an op-ed earlier this 
month that he has come to believe the death 
penalty does not make us safer. He does believe 
individuals who commit what are now capital 
crimes "should never be allowed the 
opportunity to victimize society again."  One of 
his concerns is that innocent people may be 
sentenced to death.  He also has seen how use of 
the death penalty can be unfair to the victims' 
families since the time from sentencing to 
execution may be extended which denies the 
families 'closure'.  When a person is found 
guilty of murder and is sentenced to life without 
parole, Mr. Horton said then "the victims' 
families are able to move on with their lives." 

Utah State Senator Steve Urquhart (R) 
introduced a measure to abolish Utah's death 
penalty, but unfortunately had to withdraw it in 
mid March because while he came close to 
having the needed support "there were enough 
lawmakers on the fence in the GOP-controlled 
House of Representatives that the debate would 
have taken hours and irritated legislators."  And 
even if he had gotten enough support, 
Republican Governor Gary Herbert might have 
vetoed it.  Some of the conservative lawmakers 
who favor abolishing the death penalty think 
the years of appeals delay any justice that might 
be served and others express concerns that the 
government could execute someone who has 
been wrongly convicted. 

I see a positive opening in Utah.

In Washington state, 78 people have been 
executed since 1904 (while Texas has executed 
four people already in 2016, just a little 
perspective here).  Even with that small number 
in Washington, 56 former and retired judges 
have urged the Washington Supreme Court to 
declare the death penalty unconstitutional.  
Retired judges are not given to take a side 
publicly on an issue, but these judges see this 
situation as one of fairness where assuring 
fairness is difficult because of the arbitrary 
nature of the death penalty.  

These judges signed the American Civil 
Liberties Union's friend-of-the-court brief along 
with the League of Women Voters of 
Washington, Murder Victims' Families for 
Reconciliation and several faith organizations.

Presently, nineteen states and the District of 
Columbia do not have the death penalty.  
Perhaps we will see more to follow, even 

Ah yes, and then there's Virginia

We remember how difficult it has become to get 
those lethal injection drugs.  On March 7th, the 
Virginia state Senate approved a bill that makes 
the electric chair the default method of execution 
should those drugs not be available. At this 
time, the bill has been sent to Governor Terry 
McAuliffe (D) who has not said whether or not 
he will sign it.

Romell Broom

September 15, 2009, the executioners at the 
death chamber located in the Southern Ohio 
Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, tried to 
execute Romell Broom.  After two hours and 18 
attempts to find a vein into which the lethal 
drug could flow, his execution was called off.  
On March 16 with a 4-3 decision, the Ohio 
Supreme Court authorized the state to try for 
the second time to execute him.  The reasoning 
in this case is interesting and I will take it from 
the Death Penalty Information Center's article: 

Justice Judith Lanzinger, writing for the 
majority, said the event was not a failed execution 
because setting the IV line was only a "preliminary 
step" to an execution and the execution itself 
"commences when the lethal drug enters the IV line." 
The majority reasoned that "because the attempt did 
not proceed to the point of injection of a lethal drug 
into the IV line, jeopardy never attached." The court 
denied Broom an evidentiary hearing on his claim 
that a second execution attempt would constitute 
cruel and unusual punishment, assuming that prison 
personnel would this time adhere to the state's 
execution protocol. It wrote: "Strict compliance with 
the protocol will ensure that executions are carried 
out in a constitutional manner and can also prevent 
or reveal an inmate's attempt to interfere with the 
execution process. We simply are unable to conclude 
that Broom has established that the state in carrying 
out a second attempt is likely to violate its protocol 
and cause severe pain." Justice Judith French 
dissented, saying, "The majority's decision to deny
Romell Broom an evidentiary hearing on his Eighth 
Amendment claim is wrong on the law, wrong on the 
facts, and inconsistent in its reasoning. If the state 
cannot explain why the Broom execution went 
wrong, then the state cannot guarantee that the 
outcome will be different next time." In a separate 
dissent, Justice William O'Neill wrote, "Any fair 
reading of the record of the first execution attempt 
shows that Broom was actually tortured the first 
time. Now we embark on the task of doing it again." 
Dr. Jon Groner, who examined Broom shortly after 
the 2009 botched execution, described the attempts at 
accessing Broom's veins as, "somewhere between 
malpractice and assault." Broom's attorneys said 
they intend to seek further review in other courts."

Stays of Execution
14	Daniel Blank		LA
15	Thomas Meadows	PA
16	Ricky Javon Gray	VA
16	Jeffrey Martin		FL
17	Mark James Asay	FL
18	Christopher Johnson	PA
23	Alva	Campbell	OH

9	Coy Wesbrook		TX
	Lethal Injection 1 drug (Pentobarbital)

POC                       6
UAs                      12
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.