Thursday, May 31, 2007

Persepolis at Cannes

So Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis took the jury prize at Cannes. Meanwhile, Iran protests. I can see the Little Marjanes of today visiting Tehran's black market vendors only instead of buying contraband Michael Jackson tapes it will be Persepolis DVDs. Doesn't that make you smile? There's a little more on the film here including a very brief French trailer.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Our Visit with Congressman Schiff

Yesterday, several members of our Amnesty chapter made a visit to Congressman Adam Schiff's district office here in Pasadena. While we will be waiting to see what actions Rep. Schiff takes as a result of our discussion, we all felt it was a very productive visit.

We spoke first about our concern for human rights in Eritrea, and urged him to contact Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (as several other Congresspersons have already done) to ask her to inquire into the status and treatment of Eritrean prisoners of conscience, including imprisoned opposition figures, journalists and religious leaders. Rep. Schiff appeared very receptive to this request. We were happy to have informed him of our on-going interest in the human rights crisis in Eritrea as we know it is easy to overlook among the more headline-grabbing international conflict zones.

We had noted Congressman Schiff's interest in press freedom from his website. You can read a recent floor speech he gave on World Press Freedom Day here and it appears that he intends to be a leader on this issue. This is good news for our work on behalf of Eritrean journalists, as well as Russian journalists such as the late Anna Politkovskaya (Rights Readers selection Putin's Russia). But we also thought this was a great opportunity to ask the Congressman's support for the Global Online Freedom Act (H.R. 275) which would help ensure that the Internet remains an open forum for free expression in every part of the world, and help American companies resist pressure from authoritarian governments to compromise their principles. The act may help to prevent cases such as Chinese Journalist and Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience Shi Tao whose identity was revealed to Chinese authorities by Yahoo! and who subsequently received a ten year sentence for exercising his right to free speech. You can help urge the Congressman to support this legislation by taking action here.

Finally, we got ahead of Amnesty's effort to turn activists out to lobby for fair judicial proceedings for Guantanamo detainees in conjunction with the annual International Day for Survivors of Torture in late June and asked for Rep. Schiff's support for H.R. 1416 The Habeas Restoration Act. The right to challenge one’s detention in front of an independent court is one of the most fundamental protections against arbitrary detention and other human rights violations. We're all proud of our judicial tradition and these are the principles we want to export not hide from! Rep. Schiff emphasized that he opposed the revocation of habeas and was very receptive to supporting this bill, commenting that he might look into a broader approach. (Broader is good! How about we close Guantanamo?!) In any case we suggest that you urge Rep. Schiff to become a co-sponsor of the bill here.

You can also take action on H.R. 275 and H.R. 1416 at Congressman Schiff's website.

We'll keep you up to date on these actions when we get more information.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

For September: Enrique's Journey

For September, we have selected Enrique's Journey based on Sonia Nazario's Pulitzer-winning L.A. Times feature,

In this astonishing true story, award-winning journalist Sonia Nazario recounts the unforgettable odyssey of a Honduran boy who braves unimaginable hardship and peril to reach his mother in the United States.
When Enrique is five years old, his mother, Lourdes, too poor to feed her children, leaves Honduras to work in the United States. The move allows her to send money back home to Enrique so he can eat better and go to school past the third grade.

Lourdes promises Enrique she will return quickly. But she struggles in America. Years pass. He begs for his mother to come back. Without her, he becomes lonely and troubled. When she calls, Lourdes tells him to be patient. Enrique despairs of ever seeing her again. After eleven years apart, he decides he will go find her.

Enrique sets off alone from Tegucigalpa, with little more than a slip of paper bearing his mother’s North Carolina telephone number. Without money, he will make the dangerous and illegal trek up the length of Mexico the only way he can–clinging to the sides and tops of freight trains.

With gritty determination and a deep longing to be by his mother’s side, Enrique travels through hostile, unknown worlds. Each step of the way through Mexico, he and other migrants, many of them children, are hunted like animals. Gangsters control the tops of the trains. Bandits rob and kill migrants up and down the tracks. Corrupt cops all along the route are out to fleece and deport them. To evade Mexican police and immigration authorities, they must jump onto and off the moving boxcars they call El Tren de la Muerte–The Train of Death. Enrique pushes forward using his wit, courage, and hope–and the kindness of strangers. It is an epic journey, one thousands of immigrant children make each year to find their mothers in the United States.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Our May Author: Caroline Elkins

As the author the Pulitzer-winning Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya, I expected to find more interviews with Caroline Elkins. For what it's worth here's one from NPR. And here's a profile from the History News Network. This Boston Globe piece has some good quotes,
Elkins said, ``When I was writing, there was a bit of damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't. If you wrote a book like this and didn't have an opinion, people would say, `For God's sake, how can you possibly not have an opinion about this?' But if you express anything that hints at partiality, people will say you're not impartial enough."
and from one of her critics,
Kenyan historian Bethwell Ogot questioned Elkins's honesty in quoting anonymous settlers' confessions of tortures: ``How do we know these are not fabricated confessions intended to paint the British in the worst possible light?" he wrote in The Journal of African History. In a review in the Times of London, historian Lawrence James wrote, ``Like other American academics, [Elkins] is an heir of the [American] war of independence and schooled to believe that all empires are intrinsically evil, corrupting and integral to the `old Europe' of current American demonology. . . . The reputation of the British empire can withstand the defamation of holier-than-thou American academics."
Gotta love those Brits! But they aren't all like that... the New Statesman offers a counter view. Plus they offer a bit of psychoanalysis from Michela Wrong (Rights Readers selection, I Didn't Do It for You : How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation). I must say that the piece made me a bit uncomfortable.

NPR, the Guardian and the BBC (here and here) report on the efforts of the Mau Maus to seek restitution. The BBC report contains a tantalizing sidebar of audio/visual offerings (Terence Gavaghan "I feel no guilt") that don't function for me. Best of luck to those with different computer configurations. Finally, for a sense of how the Mau Mau rebellion was presented to the British public at the time it was happening, check out this YouTube video.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Blood Diamond Curriculum Guide

Blood DiamondI've noted that the blog is getting search queries for discussion questions on the film, Blood Diamond, and since I didn't mention in my previous post on the subject I thought I would provide this helpful pointer to the Blood Diamond Curriculum Guide even if you're not planning a discussion on the subject, you might find some interesting information in this package.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy May Day!

It's May Day and as usual people the world over are out on the streets celebrating my bir... er, parading for immigrant rights and other worthy causes.

And hey look, its a present from Senator Feinstein!

Have a great day even if you just celebrate by admiring some tulips or having a bit of fun on a swing.
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