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Columns

November 26, 2013

Thanks ... giving: 2013's hunger strike round-up

When Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be the federal holiday, Thanksgiving, he invited his fellow citizens to use it as a day of atonement; a day to pray for orphans, widows, mourners and sufferers of what he described as the "lamentable civil strife."

This is the 160th anniversary of that proclamation. Somehow a day of "humble penitence" has evolved into candying already-too-sweet tubers and mauling your neighbors at the local Walmart for a $30 Furby Boom.

I offer my list of the notable hunger strikes of 2013: Those people who have forgone food as a means of publicizing grievances.

1. California Prison Inmates

September ended the largest hunger strike in California prison history. Some 30,000 inmates refused meals for months to call for an end to indefinite solitary confinement. The practice of extreme and prolonged isolation has become a norm in America: 81,622 prisoners are in solitary confinement according to the most recent data the federal government released-California prisons alone house 11,730 of them.

Because of the prisoners' widespread hunger strike, they were promised legislative hearings on this issue.

2. Guantanamo Bay Prisoners

At its peak in July, of the 166 men being held indefinitely in Gitmo, 106 were refusing to eat. There are 86 men cleared for transfer and yet they sit in our infamous offshore gulag. Their only tool of protest is declining sustenance. To thwart this they're being force-fed through an anguishing process involving stomach tubes. Obama's first promise as president was to shut down Guantanamo Bay. Of the force-feeding Obama said, "I don't want these individuals to die."

3. Iranian Dissidents

On Sept. 1, 52 people opposing Iran's totalitarian regime were shot dead in the detention center referred to as Camp Ashraf in Iraq. All of the victims were unarmed; many had their hands tied behind their back when they were killed. These executions were carried out by Iraqi Special Forces which are also responsible for taking seven hostages (one man and six women) from the outpost. The fear is they'll be turned over to Iran to face torture and subsequently executed. Exiled Iranians, some estimate as many as several hundred, in more than five countries have gone on a hunger strike asking for the hostages to be freed.

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The Iowegian wants readers to think about food prices. Are you paying more than you were last year for certain food items? According to a survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation, "the cost of 16 food items" increased by 3.5 over 2013, as reported by the Des Moines Register. So, the question of the week is, "Are you feeling the food price increase pinch?"

A. Yes, and it hurts.
B. No, I don't feel a thing.
C. Not sure.
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