Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
At our table we were collecting signatures for a petition for Cathy Henderson, an inmate on Texas death row scheduled to be executed on April 18. Sister Helen is her spiritual advisor. We are sad to report that Ms. Henderson lost her last Supreme Court appeal today. We'll keep you all abreast of actions you can take on her behalf, meanwhile you can visit this website to learn more about her case.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
"This sentence is yet another slap in the face of freedom of expression in Egypt," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Program Director. "The Egyptian authorities must protect the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, even if the views expressed might be perceived by some as offensive. Amnesty International considers Amer to be a prisoner of conscience who is being prosecuted on account of the peaceful expression of his views."Supporters have set up a Free Kareem! website. Global Voices Online tracks reaction among fellow bloggers. For more on Egptian internet activists and the issue of torture, see this recent article in the Nation. Of course we will link to any Amnesty action as it becomes available.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: conservative Member of Parliament Gerald, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their two children, Toby — whom Nick had idolized at Oxford — and Catherine, highly critical of her family's assumptions and ambitions.
As the boom years of the eighties unfold, Nick, an innocent in the world of politics and money, finds his life altered by the rising fortunes of this glamorous family. His two vividly contrasting love affairs, one with a young black clerk and one with a Lebanese millionaire, dramatize the dangers and rewards of his own private pursuit of beauty, a pursuit as compelling to Nick as the desire for power and riches among his friends. Richly textured, emotionally charged, disarmingly comic, this is a major work by one of our finest writers.
"Bordertown" is being endorsed by Amnesty International, which reviewed draft versions of thescreenplay and provided feedback on the movie's factual accuracy, said Bonnie Abaunza, director of Artists for Amnesty, an L.A.-based program of Amnesty International USA that works with artists and entertainers to raise awareness of human rights issues.No US release date yet, but we'll keep you posted!
In an interview, Abaunza said that although the movie is told in the style of a thriller, it is rooted in hard, disturbing facts. A prologue at the beginning of the film gives context to the story of the murders, and a number of scenes, including one shot inside a Mitsubishi television plant, lend authenticity to the story's socioeconomic setting, she said. Though she believes the movie will be "accessible to the public," Abaunza added, "this is not 'Star Wars,' this is not 'Lord of the Rings.'
"There are some very hard political statements made in this movie, about NAFTA, CAFTA, about corporations," she said, referring to the free trade agreement among Mexico, Canada, Central American countries and the United States.
Monday, February 19, 2007
But it was hard to escape the conclusion that it might all be too little too late. There are people of genuine goodwill working for the oil companies, many of whom are determined to find a way to earn that elusive and much talked-about “SLO” (social license to operate) that makes it possible for their employers to work in peace in the Delta. But increasingly, alongside good intentions and innovative approaches to community and media relations, there is also a mood of resignation and gathering despair, a feeling that things may have gone too far, too deep, in a way that no amount of goodwill can turn around. “The Pope himself could not fix things now,” was the way one activist described the situation of the Delta to me. “He would just be corrupted or killed or co-opted by one group or another. Today, every little boy in Nigeria is talking about ‘big money,’ not hard work. People are assassinating one another to become local councillors. How can you turn something like that around?”The author of this article, John Ghazvinian, has a book coming out which could well be a future Rights Readers selection.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Meanwhile on the grimly serious side, we included an action in this month's newsletter on a group of approximately 70 unarmed Tibetans who were trying to flee China were shot at by the Chinese border control troops. The shooting was witnessed by an international group of mountaineers who videotaped one person, a 17 year old nun Kelsang Namtso, die at the scene and two others fall. At least 25 members of the group, 10 of whom were children, were taken into custody while the rest managed to escape to Nepal. Here's the video:
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
Kiran Desai shares time with her mother, novelist Anita Desai on NPR's Fresh Air.
A short interview at the National Book Critics Circle blog.
A Guardian interview and another report on negative reaction to the book in Kalimpong.
The Turkish author Orhan Pamuk has reportedly left his home country to live in America amid fears for his life. The Nobel laureate is believed to be at risk of assassination in Turkey following the murder of Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink last month. Threats appeared to have been made against Pamuk by the man who confessed to orchestrating the murder.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
One of the other biggest problems is that, from the point of extraction, the first point where the diamond is found and mined, to its first point of export, there are no certificates or guarantees. There are pledges that the diamonds that are being offered for export under the protections of the Kimberley Process are conflict-free.Visit the NewsHour website to view or read the whole transcript of the interview.
But, you know, I've been to some of these mines in Sierra Leone. And, you know, we're talking about very unindustrialized mines. You know, the diamonds are extracted by human labor and physically handed hand-to-hand from one person to the next.
And it's very simple, in fact, to move diamonds that are from conflict zones into legitimate parcels that are being offered under the protection of the Kimberley Process certificate.
Monday, February 12, 2007
... We'd emerge to the tops of monasteries limpet to the sides of the rock, surrounded by chortens and prayer flags, the white facades catching the light of the sunset, all straw gold, the mountains rugged lines of indigo... Buddhism was ancient here, more ancient than it was anywhere else, and we went to a monastery that had been built, they said, when a flying lama had flown from one mountaintop to another, from Menak Hill to Enchey, and another that had been built when a rainbow connected Kanchenjunga to the crest of the hill. Often gompas were deserted because the monks were also farmers; they were away at their fields and gathered only a few times a year for pujas and all you could hear was the wind in the bamboo. Clouds cam through the doors and mingled with the paintings of the clouds. The interiors were dark, smoke-stained, and we'd try to make out the murals by the light of butter lamps... (page 169)
Saturday, February 10, 2007
By that, they did not mean bloodier or more savage. Instead, they wanted "24" to show torture subjects taking weeks or months to break, spitting out false or unreliable intelligence, and even dying. As they do in the real world.Apparently, there has been a huge increase in the quantity and quality of scenes depicting torture on television since 9/11,
From 1996 to 2001, there were 102 scenes of torture, according to the Parents Television Council. But from 2002 to 2005, that figured had jumped to 624, they said. "24" has accounted for 67 such scenes during its first five seasons, making it No. 1 in torture depictions, according to the watchdog group.Just as I've followed the treatment of the death penalty in popular entertainment over the years, I had wondered how torture was being treated in television and film and how this affects public perceptions of torture. What the article points out, is that that public includes men and women serving in the military,
The increase in quantity is not the only difference. During this uptick in violence, the torturer's identity was more likely to be an American hero like "24's" Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) than the Nazis and drug dealers in pre-9/11 days. The action-packed show, which drew a hefty 13.6 million viewers last week, was among the first and certainly the most prominent to have its main character choke, stab, or electrocute — among other techniques — information out of villains.
"It's unthinkable that Capt. Kirk would torture someone," said Danzig.
Even in Iraq, such series can sometimes substitute for or trump military training, and transmit a dark message to soldiers.Human Rights First is behind this effort and has set up a website, Primetime Torture, for the initiative. The site includes clips from several televsion series, a brief interview with Tony Lagouranis and guidelines for how torture can be depicted more authentically.
"Everyone wanted to be a Hollywood interrogator," said Tony Lagouranis, a former U.S. Army interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq who spoke to the creative teams from "24" and "Lost." "That's all people did in Iraq was watch DVDs of television shows and movies. What we learned in military schools didn't apply anymore."
For a perspective on recent films that depict torture, check out this opinion piece from A.S. Hamrah for the Los Angeles Times.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Thursday, February 08, 2007
On a more serious note, here are a couple of articles on the intersection of human rights and global warming. First from an article in Amnesty Magazine by Ross Gelbspan,
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the rights to secure shelter, food, health, and the tools for basic sustenance — all of which are endangered by the extreme weather, disease outbreaks, crop failures, and famine caused by global warming. The impact of an increasingly unstable climate falls disproportionately on people in poor countries. They are hit hardest — not because nature discriminates against the poor, but because developing countries cannot afford the kinds of infrastructures, such as back-up food reserves, redundant generating systems, and accessible healthcare facilities, needed to buffer the effects of global warming.And from openDemocracy:
...there must be a conscious reframing of the climate-change debate in terms of human rights. One group of the world's peoples (namely the poor and vulnerable) have found that their right to live and prosper has been harmed by the actions of another group of people (namely the rich).Something to keep in mind as we plan our usual run of "Earth Day" events this spring. Hmmm... this has really turned into Science Week here at Rights Readers!
Update: Always alert for a book-related link, we note that Mark Hertsgaard, author of Rights Readers selection, Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of Our Environmental Future has weighs in at The Nation. Plus another article at openDemocracy observes tensions between the developed and developing world already heating up over global warming at the African Union meeting.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
"This is the second time that these six medical professionals have been sentenced to death by Libyan courts. In this trial, as in their earlier one, confessions which they have repeatedly alleged were extracted from them under torture were used as evidence against them, while defence lawyers were not allowed to bring in international expertise and the evidence produced by Libyan medical experts was questioned by international medical experts."Declan Butler, a reporter for Nature, has a blog which may be of some interest to our Most Loyal Readers who are interested in the intersection of science and public health with human rights. He has tracked this case closely and has a resource page for those who wish to take action.
And finally, while I was roaming the Amnesty site for more information on the case I stumbled on this fascinating report released last summer, Caring for human rights: Challenges and opportunities for nurses and midwives. Check it out!
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Monday, February 05, 2007
Abani, the Hemingway/PEN Prize-winning author of Graceland, reveals a side of Los Angeles rarely seen. Black, an East L.A. mural artist, lives above a tattoo parlor/coffee shop that becomes the unexpected setting for several recent sightings of the Virgin Mary. As he grapples with the phenomenon and his own journey of self-discovery, larger social issues of poverty, ethnicity, and religion are raised.Abani was also interviewed recently on KPCC (scroll down for audio link).
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Friday, February 02, 2007
Since the start of the Iraq war, tens of thousands of heavily-armed military contractors have been roaming the country -- without any law, or any court to control them. That may be about to change, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow P.W. Singer notes in a Defense Tech exclusive. Five words, slipped into a Pentagon budget bill, could make all the difference. With them, "contractors 'get out of jail free' cards may have been torn to shreds," he writes. They're now subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the same set of laws that governs soldiers. But here's the catch: embedded reporters are now under those regulations, too.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Humes, a Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author of School of Dreams and Over Here, tackles the controversy over the Dover, PA school board's decision to mandate the teaching of a new blend of science and religion called “intelligent design.” The maelstrom that followed its decision split the town in half and became the subject of a national media fixation. In Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion & the Battle for America's Soul, Humes casts his journalistic eye on characters from both sides of the conflict, making each of them appear sympathetically human. If you've ever wondered what happens when science and religion collide, this is the book for you.