Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Mexico Abolishes the Death Penalty

I thought Rights Readers should have some sort of equivalent to lighting up the Colosseum on the occasion of New Mexico abolishing the death penalty. How about this "Fire Up" slideshow from AI's celebration of the 60th anniversary of the UDHR?

Gov. Richardson's press release can be found here. His reasoning covers many standard abolition arguments and not surprisingly coming from the former diplomat includes this,
From an international human rights perspective, there is no reason the United States should be behind the rest of the world on this issue. Many of the countries that continue to support and use the death penalty are also the most repressive nations in the world. That’s not something to be proud of.
To track legislative progress in other states, bookmark this handy table from the Death Penalty Information Center. More on legislative maneuvers in the NYT article. And for lack of a better place to share, see this article for positive development on the federal level (also affecting California).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Girl Effect

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a TimeGreg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea is now out in picturebook and young reader versions. The NYT takes a look. While we are being reminded of this powerful story centered on children, especially girls, how about a little women's history month PSA:

For more see: Girls Count: A Global Investment & Action Agenda

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Our March Author: Edwidge Danticat

Brother, I'm Dying (Vintage Contemporaries)Let's start with a little excerpt from a 60 Minutes interview with Edwidge Danticat about her uncle's asylum case, detailed in our March book, Brother, I'm Dying.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Once you get past the obnoxious audio ad, this Washington Post slideshow, 'Faking Symptoms' -- An Asylum Seeker's Ordeal, is also a worthy visual companion to the book.

There is no shortage of interviews and one can never go wrong with NPR's Terry Gross. Even better there is this exposé of detainee medical abuse The Death of Richard Rust which also explores the Dantica case and the report Homeland Security made as followup- "a whitewash."

National Book Foundation interview,
JG: What was the hardest part of your book to write - and why was it so challenging?
ED: The hardest part was reading the government documents involved in my uncle's death.
Every encounter he had with a government official seemed so unfriendly, so distant, so cold. You have a feeling that no one was responding to him as a person, as a human being.
Democracy Now! in the wake of Danticat's testimony before a congressional committee explores the book but also draws the author out on other human rights concerns,

ED: Amy, there are actually two films now that are out on this subject that are extraordinary. One is The Price of Sugar, and one is a film called Sugar Babies that I narrate that deals with these issues. I think it’s powerful what these protesters were saying, the focus that—to focus some of the heat also on the sugar industry and the United States and the fact that actually in one of the documentaries, one of the sugar barons who actually functions here in Florida and has had a conflict with migrant labor in Florida and that are still unresolved, you know, with lack of pay—the same issues that you have with some of these bateys in the Dominican Republic. And he says something like, you know, one out of—you know, half of the sugar—he’s in every cereal box, or something to that effect, that we consume his sugar in the United States, and people may not realize that there are some subsidies that are provided to these sugar-producing families in the Dominican Republic to produce the sugar that we use here in the United States. So these issues, certainly they’re connected, the issues of migration and the fact that these children are “in transit” for their entire lives. People who have been in the Dominican Republic for fifty, sixty years are considered “in transit.” These issues and the conditions in the bateys are very important. But also it’s important for people who live here to realize, you know, it’s not disconnected from you, because this is supported by the sugar we consume here in the United States.
Foreign Policy In Focus asks Danticat what she would like to see from Obama,
Miller: What should the next president of the United States do to improve conditions with (and within) Haiti?
Danticat: I think he or she should support the leader the Haitian people have chosen for themselves and not impose U.S. choices on the people. Haiti is a very close neighbor and should not be neglected.. Aid should be given toward building infrastructure and long-term institutions so that every couple of years there is not a forced regime change that requires putting out more fires.
In lieu of an author's website, good places to explore are this compilation of NYT articles and reviews and The New Yorker has more memoir and fiction by the author online. UCSB has a wide-ranging interview and lecture here available on YouTube, probably of more interest to those who have read her fiction in addition to Brother. Danticat weighs in on the efficacy of torture, "Does It Work?" in the Washington Post.

Amnesty International details current concerns for refugees and asylum seekers here. The Dantica case has mostly disappeared from the website but here is an AIUSA statement submitted to a U.S. Senate investigating committee.

Finally, UNICEF brings a happier story out of Bel Air.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Response from Jarvis Jay Masters

Jarvis Jay Masters sent this response to Amnesty International Group 22:
"Dear Stevi, I want to extend my thanks to you and all the others at Amnesty International Group 22. Your card this evening that shared with me of your group's book discussion, and the time you gave to my own book, Finding Freedom, is a Gift to me. This means so much to get your card, to hear of your group's time to my book, and to especially say Thank You to you and to Candy! Again, Thank you."

Stevi moderated the discussion of our January selection, Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row, and gave us the opportunity to sign cards for Jarvis. She also asked our group to pose for a photo to mail to him along with the cards.
If you read Jarvis's book and are moved, as we in Rights Readers were, by the compassion and peace he has somehow managed to achieve in the soul-destroying environment of San Quentin's Death Row, you can write to him at
Jarvis Jay Masters
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974

He is permitted to receive gifts of postage stamps, which he really appreciates.
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