Thursday, March 30, 2006

Camp Darfur: Pasadena Preview on Sunday

Area Amnesty International volunteers are planning to join a coalition of human rights and religious activists at Camp Darfur this April. For five days, Camp Darfur will bring attention to the genocide and refugee crisis in Darfur, Sudan. Organizers aim to educate people across Los Angeles and the country about life in a refugee camp and the horrors being faced every day by refugees in Darfur, by recreating life in the camps and including interactive presentations, music, video, film, photography, expert speakers, legislators and dialogue (click for details). Camp Darfur begins April 7 at 6:30 p.m. and runs until April 11 at Lennox Middle School, 11033 Buford Ave., Lennox. Organizers Lorna Miller and Gabriel Stauring of Camp Darfur will be offering a preview of the event at All Saints Church (132 N. Euclid Avenue) in Pasadena, this Sunday, April 2 at 10:15 AM. Drop by on Sunday for more info about how to get involved or if you want to volunteer via Amnesty, contact Amy at the Western Regional office:

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

For June: The Noodle Maker

We have selected the short story collection, The Noodle Maker, by Ma Jian for June. Please note that the paperback edition of this book will be released in April 4.

From the highly acclaimed Ma Jian comes a satirical and powerfully written novel--excerpted in The New Yorker--about the absurdities and cruelties of life in post-Tianamen China. Two men, a writer of political propaganda and a professional blood donor, meet for dinner every week. During the course of one drunken evening, the writer recounts the stories he would write, had he the courage: a young man buys an old kiln from an art school and opens a private crematorium, delighting in his ability to harass the corpses of police officers and Party secretaries while swooning to banned Western music; a heartbroken actress performs a public suicide by stepping into the jaws of a wild tiger, watched nonchalantly by her ex-lover. He is inspired by extraordinary characters, their lives pulled and pummeled by fate and politics, as if they were balls of dough in the hands of an all-powerful noodle maker.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Triangle Anniversary and Child Labor Today

Rights Readers who enjoyed David Von Drehle's Triangle: The Fire that Changed America will appreciate this opinon piece, "The Factories of Lost Children", in the NYT on the recent anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The author, Katherine Weber, (who has written a forthcoming novel on the fire Triangle), makes the connection between child labor then and now:

But we will also never know how many children were among the dead on May 10, 1993, in Thailand when the factory of the Kader Industrial Toy Company (a supplier to Hasbro and Fisher-Price) went up in flames. Most of the 188 workers who died were described as teenage girls.

We will never know with any certainty how many children died on Nov. 25, 2000, in a fire at the Chowdhury Knitwear and Garment factory near Dhaka, Bangladesh (most of the garments made in Bangladesh are contracted by American retailers, including Wal-Mart and the Gap), where at least 10 of the 52 trapped in the flames by locked doors and windows were 10 to 14 years old.

And we will never know how many children died just last month, on Feb. 23, in the KTS Composite Textile factory fire in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The official death toll has climbed into the 50's, but other sources report that at least 84 workers lost their lives. It's a familiar story: crowded and unsafe conditions, locked exits, hundreds of undocumented female workers as young as 12, a deadly fire. There may never be another tragic factory fire in America that takes the lives of children. We don't lock them into sweatshops any more. There are child labor laws, fire codes.

But as long as we don't question the source of the inexpensive clothing we wear, as long as we don't wonder about the children in those third world factories who make the inexpensive toys we buy for our own children, those fires will occur and young girls an d boys will continue to die. They won't die because of natural catastrophes like monsoons and earthquakes; they will die because it has become our national habit to outsource, and these days we outsource our tragedies, too.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

New Amnesty Report on Brazil

Amnesty's lastest report on Brazil "We have come to take your souls": the caveirão and policing in Rio de Janeiro is another in a long line of reports concerned with policing the favelas. This summary from a similar report from 2005 contains a compelling rundown of statistics on the on-going violence in these communities. Here's an action related to the current report: Link

At our last meeting I recalled that there is a documentary attached to the City of God DVD about violence in the favelas. I've confirmed that-- it's called Notícias de uma Guerra Particular. Of course I recommend City of God itself, as well as the documentary Bus 174 which I saw at the Amnesty International Film Festival a few years ago.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Brazil: Landless Movement

A little bit about the Landless Movement-- Friends of the MST has a news ticker and photos about what's going on with the movement. The BBC has this slideshow. Multimedia can be found at the Landless Voices Web Archive including this gallery of photos by Sebastiao Salgado. And of course I can't resist this gallery of children's drawings.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Brazil: Photography

Robb highlights the work of several Brazilian photographers in A Death in Brazil. First there is the war photography of Flavio de Barros including this haunting image described in the book. Robb compares this image to the work of Sebastião Salgado. Here is a gallery of this work on the Landless Movement: Terra and here are the photos he refers to depicting workers "like ants." Finally, at the very end of the book there is a reference to Pierre Verger, who has his very own Foundation with lovely online photo albums. I'm a sucker for the Bolivian masked dancer.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pasadena Events: Solovky Power, Sister Janet Harris

This Sunday, March 26, at 10:15 AM, Documentary filmmaker Marina Goldovskaya will be speaking about her efforts to document the history of the Soviet gulag and her film "Solovky Power" at All Saints Church in Pasadena (132 N. Euclid Avenue). This event is in Sweetland Hall on the ground floor. Solovky Power is a groundbreaking documentary on the history of a concentration camp that was one of the first to become known as the Gulag. For more information check out this CNN interview with the filmmaker. Amnesty International Group 22 volunteers will be there making the modern-day "gulag" analogy with actions on Guantanamo and the US practice of outsourcing torture.

NO MATTER HOW LOUD I SHOUT : A Year in the Life of Juvenile CourtAlso at All Saints this Sunday, Sister Janet Harris, advocate for incarcerated youth, will be speaking, (same time, only downstairs in the "Forum." I blogged a few months back about this case and the story keeps getting better:
Mario's StorySix years ago, a persistent nun persuaded a large law firm to take, pro bono, the case of a young man she believed to be wrongfully accused of murder. In December 2005, Mario Rocho's conviction was overturned. All Saints' Senior Warden Bob Long, a partner at Latham & Watkins, was the lead attorney on the case. Sister Janet Harris was Mario's advocate. This journey to justice attracted a documentary team who captured the story on film, a short segment of which will be shown in this presentation. Harris came to know Mario Rocho at the Inside Out Writing Program she founded at LAÕs Central Juvenile Hall. A former high school teacher and chaplain, Harris has been an advocate for troubled youth in Southern California for 35 years. Come and be inspired by what happens when individuals put their heart for justice together with their education and training and don't give up!
Hope to see a few of you at these events!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Brazil: Modern Slavery

Veteran Rights Readers will recall the chapter on Brazil in Kevin Bales' excellent book on modern slavery, Disposable People, Here are a couple of news items on recent efforts to erradicate slavery in Brazil: "The hunt for slave outposts in the Amazon", "Raids across Brazil free 4,000 slaves". By the way, Bales' is still on the case with this recent report: Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Brazil: History of Slavery

For browsing the historical references in A Death in Brazil:

The Library of Congress has a bilingual site, still in development, United States and Brazil: Expanding Frontiers, Comparing Cultures. Check out the Colonial Period section for more information on slavery in Brazil illustrated with engravings and old maps.

And here's a recent article about the uncovering of a mass grave exposing the bones of as many as 20,000 slaves.

A bit more in the way of historical links, lending visuals to the narrative, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis and Euclides da Cunha have Wikipedia sites with engravings, and da Cunha has his own site. Here's an engraving of Zumbi de Palmares.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Lend a Hand to Bhopal!

Despite the rain (we were able to move our table indoors) at the LA County Environmental Education Fair last weekend, we were able to coax 110 children to lend their handprints to our effort get clean water to the people of Bhopal. Adult petitioners came through for us as well. You haven't missed your chance! Here's the online petition: Link

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Brazilian Food

Before we get to the serious stuff, here are a couple of links of a culinary nature: CookBrazil offers straightforward recipes for many of the dishes referenced in Robb's A Death in Brazil. For a sexier presentation (do not visit on empty stomach!) try this food blog and click on a post to find recipe, commentary and slobber worthy photo.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

This Month's Author: Peter Robb

Just finishing up A Death in Brazil. Let's start the supplementary links off with a bit of background on the author...

Here's a short radio interview transcript and here's a newspaper profile. A tidbit about his method:

"I'm not a great reader of history, but I like plundering books for the interesting bits," he says. "Where all the information is so remarkable and entertaining that there is no effort involved in reading it – I admire that. You've got to keep people interested, and interested in things they might not think they're interested in. Maybe people who don't care about slavery might want to read about Brazilian cuisine. One employs the arts of seduction."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bringing Bhopal to LA Environmental Education Fair

This Saturday Group 22 members will once again be tabling at the Los Angeles Environmental Education Fair and we'll once again be calling attention to the campaign for justice for the people of Bhopal, India. Right now activists are marching from Bhopal to Delhi to publicize the health and environmental issues still stemming from the chemical accident in Bhopal more than 20 years ago. You can follow the marchers progress at this blog. There's a new focus and factsheet for each day as well as pictures and maps. More insights and pictures at this blog. Amnesty's part in this campaign and actions you can take to support the marchers are available here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

For Women's Day: Too Much Time

In honor of International Women's Day I'd like to highlight Amnesty's new report Abuse of Women in Custody: Sexual Misconduct and Shackling of Pregnant. The report surveys laws, policies and practices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons regarding custodial sexual misconduct and the shackling of inmates who are pregnant or giving birth. If the report is too dry for you, skip to the multimedia presentation, Too Much Time, featuring the photography of Jane Evelyn Atwood and if you're short on time, skip the intro and go to part two of the presentation and just view the photos and listen to the commentary on "Vanessa's Baby." California residents can breathe a sigh of relief that our legislature just passed a law barring the shackling of women in labor, but its just appalling that it took this long... or that it would be necessary in the first place! Note: Atwood's photojournalism is also available in book form- Too Much Time: Women in Prison

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Deadline" Viewing and Discussion this Thursday

Join us this Thursday, March 9 at 7:00 PM at the Metro Gallery (64 North Raymond Avenue, Old Pasadena) as our friends at Conscientious Projector lead a (free!) screening and discussion of the film Deadline. The film tells the story of Governor George Ryan of Illinois, a tough-on-crime, pro-death penalty Republican who late 2002, came face to face with a flawed criminal justice system in his state that had sentenced 13 mien to die who were ultimately proven innocent and freed. He responded first with a series of historic hearings, then altered the course of U.S. jurisprudence by granting clemency to every inmate of Illinois' death row. His courageous action has fostered a nationwide campaign for moratoriums on executions that continues today in several states, including California. More info at the film website.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Naguib Mahfouz Update

The BBC radio program "The World" has a piece on the efforts of Naguib Mahfouz (Rights Readers' selection The Day the Leader was Killed) to get his novel Children of the Alley, banned nearly 50 years ago in Egypt, published there once again.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Arundhati Roy on Bush in India

Arundhati Roy (Rights Readers' selection: The Cost of Living) weighs in on Bush in India.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Cartoon Controversy

The controversy over the Danish cartoons has died down (although its just made an appearance locally), but I wanted to point out a couple of links of note: Art Spiegelman and Joe Sacco dialogue in The Nation, but of more interest considering our recent interest in things Algerian, here is an interview with an Algerian cartoonist who has received death threats from Islamists and harrassment from the government at the same time.
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