Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXVI Number 8, August 2018

  Tuesday, September 11, 7:30-9:00 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 next to the building. This 
informal gathering is a great way for 
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty. 
  Sunday, September 16, 6:30 PM. Rights 
Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
Group. This month we read "Notes on a Foreign 
Country" by Suzy Hansen.
  Thursday, September 27, 7:30-9:00 PM. 
Monthly Meeting at Caltech Y, 505 S. Wilson.

Hello all

Writing this on Rob's computer, as mine doesn't 
seem to want to work anymore... Summer is 
almost over, back to work and school.  Hope 
everyone has had a relaxing time off.  

Right now I'm reading Crazy Rich Asians, set in 
Singapore...which is described as foodie 
heaven. How about a food outing there, eh?!  
The descriptions of the various noodle dishes 
and curries etc are mouthwatering, also the 
desserts. A mixture of Chinese, Malay, 
Indonesian and Filipino cuisines...nothing 
human rights themed in this book, just pure fun! 
(sorry Martha!)

We watch with interest the trials of Trump 
associate Manafort and the president's attorney 
Michael Cohen.  Could this (finally) be the 
beginning of the end?

Sad to hear of John McCain's death from brain 
cancer yesterday.  You may not have agreed 
with some of his politics, but he was a rarity in 
Washington -- someone with integrity, courage, 
and in the end, nobility.  (I was a fan and 
considered voting for him in 2008 but for his VP 
pick lol)

Welcome to new attendees at our various 
activities and to long time member Veronica 
who has retired and has more time to devote to 
AI and other activities. Congratulations, 
Veronica. I will be joining you either this year or 
the next.

Con carino, 

Next Rights Readers Meeting

Sunday, September 16
6:30 PM

Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd 

Notes on a Foreign Country 
by Suzy Hansen

By Hisham Matar
Aug. 28, 2017

American Abroad in a Post-American World 
By Suzy Hansen

When I was 12 years old, living in Cairo, my 
parents enrolled me in the American school. 
Most of the Americans there appeared oddly 
stifled, determined to remain, if not physically 
then sentimentally, back in the United States. It 
seemed particularly inconvenient that they had 
ended up in an Arab country. The school's 
architecture and grounds did all they could to 
remedy this. Even the urinals and hand dryers 
had been shipped from America. It was as 
though they believed, as Suzy Hansen observes 
in her remarkably revealing book, "Notes on a 
Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a 
Post-American World," that "as you went east, 
life degraded into the past."

This was in the early 1980s, before the two gulf 
wars and the "war on terror," and yet even back 
then I wondered whether to be an American in 
the world was to be limited by a sort of 
imaginative obstacle. This is what concerns 
Hansen. According to her, the situation has 
gotten worse. "We cannot," she writes, "go 
abroad as Americans in the 21st century and not 
realize that the main thing that has been 
terrorizing us ... is our own ignorance - our 
blindness and subsequent discovery of all the 
people on whom the empire-that-was-not-an-
empire had been constructed without our 
attention or concern."

Born and raised in New Jersey, Hansen became 
a journalist (she is a contributing writer for The 
Times Magazine), moved to New York and, 
after September 11 - when Americans, as she 
puts it, "had all lost their marbles" - moved to 
Istanbul. Her book is a deeply honest and brave 
portrait of an individual sensibility reckoning 
with her country's violent role in the world. In 
the period between 9/11 and the election of 
President Trump, she lives in Turkey and travels 
to Greece, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iran and the 
Mississippi Delta. She uses these places, their 
complex histories and fraught present, as lenses 
through which to look at her own nation.

Hansen is not only unnerved by but also 
genuinely interested in the ways her country 
fails to "interrogate" itself. She asks why, given 
the extent to which America has shaped the 
modern Middle East - the lives it ended, the 
countries it fractured, the demons it created, its 
frantic and fanatical support of Israel - it "did 
not feel or care to explore what that influence 
meant." She is unsettled by how absent or 
illusive or, worse, unnecessary this fact is to 
many Americans, including herself - for, before 
anything else, "Notes on a Foreign Country" is a 
sincere and intelligent act of self-questioning. It 
is a political and personal memoir that 
negotiates that vertiginous distance that exists 
between what America is and what it thinks of 
itself. That dramatic, dizzying and lonesome 
chasm is Hansen's terrain.

One of the causes of this disparity, she proposes, 
is that "Americans are surprised by the direct 
relationship between their country and foreign 
ones because we don't acknowledge that 
America is an empire." She is curious about the 
nature of the impediment, about how 
"ignorance is vulnerable to the atmosphere it is 
exposed to." Without realizing it, she too had 
absorbed a fear of Islam and the idea that 
Muslims "were people that must be restrained." 
She admits, "My problem was that not only had 
I not known much about the Middle East, but 
what I did know, and how I did think, had been 
an obstacle to original and accurate and moral 

Hansen is doing something both rare and 
necessary; she is tracing the ways in which we 
are all born into histories, into national myths 
and, if we are unfortunate enough, into the 
fantasies of an empire. She traces the ways in 
which "Americans were in active denial of their 
empire even as they laid its foundations." She is 
interested in and does well to expose the 
machinery - the propaganda, the economic 
authoritarianism, the military might, the 
manipulative diplomacy, the myriad aid 
agencies and NGOs - that made this possible. 
She also shows the ways in which America, in 
its anti-Communist craze, has consistently 
supported the religious right in the Middle East 
and aided the rise of Islamic extremism. Hansen 
wants to uncover the lie, and this, of course, is 
both dangerous and hopeful, for as much as this 
book is a lament - what its author calls "a 
study in American ignorance" - it is also a plea.

The tone is at once adamant and intimate. This is 
a book that is spoken softly rather than 
screamed; and one senses that it took great 
personal discipline to be so. In fact, what is 
admirable is the extent to which Hansen 
implicates herself. She does this soberly and 
without self-pity. She is, to herself, independent 
but by no means innocent. The "foreign 
country" of the title is to be interpreted in 
different ways: as the writer's adopted country, 
Turkey; as her homeland, America, made new 
and unfamiliar by the journey she has taken; 
and, perhaps most poignantly, as the existential 
place she finds herself in relation to the present 
and the history that has led to it. She takes James 
Baldwin's words (he is as close as she gets to 
having a guide through this difficult landscape) 
and turns them on to herself, asking: "I ran the 
plantations, and I owned the slaves, and I lashed 
the whip - for everything?"

Strangely though, and as "un-American" as this 
book might seem, "Notes on a Foreign Country" 
is in fact a very American book. It is interested 
in personal transformation; it is both a record of 
conversion - "Once you realize that the way 
you have looked at the world has been 
muddled, you begin a process of shedding 
layers of skin" - and an optimistic attempt to 
convert. Because, as she writes, no one tells 
Americans that they will spend their first 
months abroad " feeling superior to everyone 
around them and to the nation in which they 
now have the privilege to live." Hansen wants 
to be the one to tell them.

The problem, however - and it is a problem to 
do with conversion - is that it is assumed that 
the question is one of persuasion. If only 
America were like Hansen: disquieted, self-
analytic and imaginative. Perhaps, in other 
words, Americans know that they feel superior 
and are quite content with their superiority. 
Perhaps their naivete, if that is what it is, is not 
as deep as Hansen imagines; perhaps they are 
aware of the myth of themselves and have 
simply decided it is too useful a myth to give 
up. For as she herself notes, "The largest 
existential threat to Americans might have been 
admitting the Afghans would be better off 
without them."

This is why Hansen's book is as much a gesture 
of despair as it is an expression of confidence in 
her people, that once they see what she saw and 
learn what she learned they would be 
persuaded. It is also an attempt at redemption 
- a word that appears in the final sentence of 
the book - for just like the Americans she 
criticizes, those who travel the world seeing 
nothing but themselves, Hansen too at times 
slips into a consciousness that looks at other 
countries in order to diagnose America's 
perversions, as though part of her purpose is not 
only to show but also demonstrate how, if you 
are fated to be American, everything, including 
your well-intentioned desire to see the world 
clearly, will most likely lead you back home.

Suzy Hansen is contributing writer to The New 
York Times Magazine and has written for many 
other publications. In 2007, she was awarded a 
fellowship from the Institute of Current World 
Affairs to do research in Turkey. She currently 
lives in Istanbul. Notes on a Foreign Country is her 
first book.

Security With Human Rights
By Robert Adams

Amnesty International USA calls on the 
Trump administration to halt possible 
deportation of Mauritanian asylum seekers in 
the US

Amnesty International USA calls upon the 
Trump administration to refrain from deporting 
Mauritanians who have sought refuge and 
safety in the United States without renewed and 
fair consideration of their claims for protection. 
Many of them had previously sought asylum 
based on fears of human rights abuses including 
possible enslavement and racial discrimination.
The Trump administration's aggressive anti-
immigration policies enforced by ICE would 
place hundreds and possibly thousands of 
Mauritanians at risk upon their return to the 
west African nation.

"The deportation of individuals back to an 
environment where they risk possible 
enslavement shows disdain for their human 
dignity and basic human rights and a complete 
violation of international law that flies in the 
face of decades of US traditions" stated Adotei 
Akwei, Amnesty international USA's Deputy 
Director of Advocacy and Government 

 "These are people that have built lives and 
communities in the United States, started 
families, raised American children, and would 
now face the threat of slavery, torture, and death 
in Mauritania."

Mauritanians deported from the United States 
would face the stigma of being perceived to be 
activists or dissidents and could face deadly 

In a March 2018 report entitled "A Sword 
Hanging Over Our Heads": The Repression of 
Activists Speaking Out Against Discrimination 
and Slavery in Mauritania, Amnesty 
International found that slavery and racial 
discrimination remain rife in Mauritania, 
despite the formal abolition of slavery in 1981, 
its criminalization in 2007 and its elevation to a 
crime against humanity in 2012. While there is 
no official data, international anti-slavery 
groups estimated the number of people living in 
slavery in 2016 to be up to 43,000, about 1% of 
the total population.

Amnesty International also concluded that the 
Mauritanian government continues to use 
repressive laws and disruptive tactics including 
prohibiting peaceful protests, using excessive 
force against demonstrators; banning human 
rights organizations and interfering with their 
activities; arbitrary arrest, torture and other ill-
treatment, vicious smear campaigns, assaults 
and death threats all carried out with complete 
impunity. This dangerous environment is 
worsening as the country gears up for 
parliamentary elections in September. The 
Mauritanian security forces have arrested 
journalists, opposition figures and anti-slavery 
activists in an apparent pre-election crackdown 
on dissent.

By Stevi Carroll

Pope Francis - Change in the Catechism of the 
Catholic Church

August 2, 2018, Pope Francis announced a 
revised teaching regarding the death penalty for 
the Catholic Catechism. While this revised 
Catechism acknowledges that the Church has in 
the past permitted capital punishment in limited 
circumstances, it has come to believe times have 

Prisons now have more effective systems of 
detention that insure the protection of other 
citizens from the convicted people. Inmates who 
would otherwise be sentenced to death retain 
the possibility of redemption. Additionally, 
Pope Francis called the death penalty 
'inhumane' and 'unacceptable,' echoing Sister 
Helen Prejean's belief that "People are more than 
the worst thing they have ever done in their 
lives." Pope Francis believes that capital 
punishment does not lead to justice but rather to 
vengeance and that is also discriminatory and 

This change will put pressure on elected officials 
worldwide to work for an end to executions and 
should this occur, the Vatican thinks this will be 
a 'banner social justice issue' for the Church. 
This change will also insure that "even the most 
far-flung parish priest will teach this to young 
children," said Serigio D'Elia, the secretary of 
Hands Off Cain, an association that works to 
abolish the death penalty worldwide. Perhaps 
grown ups will hear and understand this 
message, too.

Pope Francis made this decision working from 
the teachings of his predecessors, Pope John 
Paul II (10/78-4/05) and Pope Benedict XVI 

Billy Ray Irick

Who is fit for execution? Is the drug Midazolam 
appropriate to use in executions? On August 9, 
2018, these questions were on the minds of 
many people.

Billy Ray Irick was a troubled child who grew 
into a troubled adult. When he was six years 
old, he began to show signs mental health 
problems and possible brain damage. In concert 
with his mother's tying him up and beating him, 
he began mistreating animals. From the ages of 
8 to 13, he lived at the Church of God Home for 
Children in Sevierville, TN. Even though his 
parents rarely visited him, he was allowed a 
home visit in 1972 during which he used an axe 
to destroy a TV, a club to destroy a flower bed, 
and a razor to cut off his sister's pajamas she 
was wearing while she slept.

Fourteen years later Mr Irick raped and 
murdered a seven-year-old girl, Paula Dyer, in 
whose home Mr. Irick was living. An 
investigator working on this case discovered 
that no one had interviewed members of Paula 
Dyer's stepfamily. Had they done so they would 
have found out that just before the murder, Mr. 
Irick had chased a school-aged girl down the 
street while he brandished a machete. He said 
he did this because he 'didn't like her looks.' 
They also would have learned that Mr. Irick had 
been 'hearing voices' and 'talking with the 
devil,' and that 'the only person that tells me 
what to do is the voice.' Despite the reality that 
he at the very least suffered from dissociative 
disorder and may have been schizophrenic or 
intermittently psychotic, the state Supreme 
Court decided Mr. Irick was 'competent to be 

And then there is the drug used.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote 
the dissent regarding Mr. Irick's plea for 
leniency.  Her dissent stated that it was 'on the 
grounds of the torturous pain the lethal cocktail 
of drugs could cause.' Presently, the drug 
company Alvogen has sued to block the use of 
midazolam in executions in Nevada. Tennessee 
is one of 15 states that sides with Nevada against 
the company. 

Midazolam was used in Mr. Irick's execution. At 
about 7:30 PM on August 9, the drugs - 
midazolam as a sedative, the muscle-relaxer 
vecuronium bromide, and then potassium 
chloride to stop the heart - began to flow into 
Mr. Irick. By 7:34, he coughed and huffed in 
deep breaths. "An attendant began yelling 
"Billy" and checked the inmate and grabbed his 
shoulder, but there didn't seem to be any 
reaction. Two minutes later, Irick was not 
making any noise and began to turn dark 
purple. He was pronounced dead at 7:48 p.m." 

Mr. Irick's had been on death row for 32 years.

Those pesky drug companies and executions

As we know, drug companies have become 
squeamish about the use of their drugs in State-
sanctioned murder. The most recent company is 
a German pharmaceutical company called 
Fresenius Kabi. This company makes potassium 
chloride and cisatracurium besylate, two of the 
drugs used in the four-drug protocol of 
diazepam, fentanyl citrate, cisatraurium 
besylate, and potassium chloride. While the 
company takes no stand on the death penalty 
itself, it is concerned about the damage that 
could be done to its reputation, goodwill, and 
business relationships. The company says its 
products can only be sold by authorized dealers 
and that they have "contractually agreed to 
particular constraints, such as excluding sale to 
federal or state incarceration facilities."

In this cocktail of death, you may have noticed 
fentanyl citrate. Ah yes, the same drug that is 
now responsible for many overdoses and deaths 
in what has become our nation's opioid 
addiction problem. Carey Dean Moore is the 
first inmate on an American death row to be put 
to death using fentanyl citrate. 

The officials in Nebraska had not executed 
anyone since 1997 when the person was 
executed by the electric chair. In 2015, the 
Nebraska state lawmakers voted to abolish the 
death penalty, but Governor Pete Ricketts put in 
$300,000 of his own money to put the death 
penalty on the 2016 ballot where the voters 
approved the measure. With the help of drugs, 
Nebraska is back in the death penalty game. 

Death Penalty Information Center Executive 
Director Robert Dunham sees the incongruity in 
the use of fentanyl. He said, "It's somewhat 
ironic that at the same time that the Justice 
Department and states are talking about how 
dangerous fentanyl is and how it's created a 
national public health emergency that states are 
now turning to it as a supposedly safe way of 
killing prisoners."

Recent Exonerations
Dominic Lucci, Kenneth Gardiner, and Mark 
 - State: GA - Date of Exoneration: 7/12/2018
In 1992, Mark Jones, Dominic Lucci, and 
Kenneth Gardiner were sentenced to life in 
prison for murder in Savannah, Georgia. They 
were exonerated in 2018 based evidence hidden 
by police that the only witness had lied and that 
there were other suspects.

Brad Jennings
 - State: MO - Date of Exoneration: 7/12/2018
In 2009, Brad Jennings was sentenced to 25 years 
in prison for murdering his wife in Buffalo, 
Missouri. He was exonerated in 2018 by 
evidence concealed by the prosecution that the 
death was a suicide.

Shawn Williams
 - State: NY - Date of Exoneration: 7/13/2018
In 1994, Shawn Williams was sentenced to 25 
years to life in prison for murder in Brooklyn, 
New York. He was exonerated in 2018 after the 
sole eyewitness admitted that her identification 
was false and the product of coercion by 
Detectives Louis Scarcella and Stephen Chmil.

Marcel Brown
 - State: IL - Date of Exoneration: 7/18/2018
In 2011, Marcel Brown was sentenced to 35 years 
in prison for a murder in Chicago, Illinois. He 
was exonerated in 2018 after a witness recanted 
and a judge ruled that police improperly 
obtained his confession.

Bobby Joe Maxwell - State: CA
 - Date of Exoneration: 8/10/2018
In 1984, Bobby Joe Maxwell was sentenced to 
life in prison without parole for two murders on 
Skid Row in Los Angeles, California. The 
convictions were reversed in 2010 because the 
state's star witness was revealed to be a 
notorious jailhouse informant who had testified 
falsely in his trial.  In 2018, several months after 
Maxwell was left comatose by a heart attack, the 
case was dismissed.

Stays of Execution
1	David Sneed		OH
	Rescheduled for December 9, 2020 by  
	Gov. John Kasich on September 1, 2017.
14	Jose Antonio Jimenez		FL 
	Stay granted by the Florida Supreme 
	 Court on August 10, 2014.
30	Joseph Garcia		TX
	Rescheduled for December 4, 2018.

17	Christopher Young	TX 
	Lethal Injection - 1-drug (Pentobarbital) 
	 12 years from sentencing to execution
18	Robert Vaan Hook	OH 
	Lethal Injection 3-drug (Midazolam)  
	32 years from sentencing to execution

9	Billy Irick		TN 
	Lethal Injection 3-drug (Midazolam)  
	32 years from sentencing to execution
14	Carey Moore		NE 
	Lethal Injection 4-drug (Diazepam,  
	38 years from sentencing to execution

UAs                       24
POC                        8
Total                     32

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.