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Showing posts from February, 2012

The other (wannabe) CIA

The release of some 5 million documents by WikiLeaks as part of a "Global Intelligence File" is an eye-opener.   There is wannabe CIA at work out there.  And the corporations and people associated with it are a force to be reckoned with.   Mother Jones puts what has been released into context - and it makes for frightening reading.
"Coca-Cola asked about stability problems in China in advance of the Beijing Olympics. Northrup Grumman asked—twice—about the possibility of Japan getting nuclear weapons. Intel asked about Hezbollah's presence in Latin America "and their general ability to blow things up." And the owner of the Radisson Hotel chain inquired: "[D]o you have an expected completion date for the Militant Islamist Perception Report we ordered?"

The 200-plus emails that have been released from WikiLeaks' cache of "Global Intelligence Files"—more than 5 million messages lifted from Stratfor, a private "global intelligence&qu…

He who pays the piper calls the tune

Who said that money doesn't buy influence!    This piece from the Global Times puts into context how big money can buy influence including directing policy outcomes.    And it's not confined to the USA.....
"The story begins in 1886, with an obscure court case in California, Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad. In that Supreme Court decision, a corporation was deemed to have the same legal protections under state law as any individual would have. It was originally intended to be used for enforcing a real-estate contract. But fast-forward to 2010. The Supreme Court decided in a new case, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission that corporations had the right to make unlimited financial contributions for political purposes, just as a person does.

Corporations and individuals are still limited to $2,500 in direct contributions to a political campaign for federal office. But they may give unlimited funds to a Political Action Committee (PAC), as long as t…

Rich people are #x^!*

Are you surprised by the revelations in this piece from CommonDreams?    Most won't be....
"A couple of new studies have found, somewhat unsurprisingly, that the rich really are different from the rest of us, but not in any way you'd want to emulate. One analysis by the Wall Steet Journal found that the rare 1% facing foreclosure get to stay in their mansions six months longer than regular folks faced with losing their homes. Another study by researchers at UC Berkeley found that rich folks, more nakedly governed by self-interest and thus more ethically-challenged, are far more likely to do slimy things: cutting others off at intersections, cheating to win a prize, stealing candy from kids, keeping the wrong change. An interesting note that Marx would revel in: It also found that if you suddenly win the Lottery, you likely will too."

A postscript to that Koran burning

Glenn Greenwald adds a postscript to his piece on Salon - on yesterday's post here on MPS  - on the burning of the Korans in Afghanistan and the American response to it.

"Beyond all these points, it’s perversely fascinating to watch all of this condescension — it’s just a book: who cares if it’s burned?  – pouring forth from a country whose political leaders were eager to enact a federal law or even a Constutional amendment to make it a criminal offense to burn the American flag (which, using this parlance, is “just a piece of cloth”). In fact, before the Supreme Court struck down such statutes as unconstitutional in 1989 by a 5-4 vote, it was a crime in 48 states in the nation to burn the flag. Here is what Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in dissent about why the Constitution permits the criminalization of flag burning (emphasis added):

The American flag, then, throughout more than 200 years of our history, has come to be the visible symbol embodying our Nation. It does…

China’s Billionaire Congress Makes Its US Peer Look Poor

If there was ever an indication of being a top-dog in China has its substantial financial rewards - bearing in mind that we are talking about a Communist country! - this report from Bloomberg that Chinese legislators leave their US Congressional colleagues in the shade is illuminating.
"The richest 70 members of China’s legislature added more to their wealth last year than the combined net worth of all 535 members of the U.S. Congress, the president and his Cabinet, and the nine Supreme Court justices.
The net worth of the 70 richest delegates in China’s National People’s Congress, which opens its annual session on March 5, rose to 565.8 billion yuan ($89.8 billion) in 2011, a gain of $11.5 billion from 2010, according to figures from the Hurun Report, which tracks the country’s wealthy. That compares to the $7.5 billion net worth of all 660 top officials in the three branches of the U.S. government.

The income gain by NPC members reflects the imbalances in economic growth in China…

No " food, glorious food", here

Do you recall the almost immortal phrase from Charles Dickens' Oliver "Food, Glorious Food"?   
If you follow what AlterNet discusses in this piece "Big Food Must Go: Why We Need to Radically Change the Way We Eat" it's high time we do something about the food we eat.  

"It is no longer news that a few powerful corporations have literally occupied the vast majority of human sustenance. The situation is perilous: nearly all of human food production, seeds, food processing and sales, is run by a handful of for-profit firms which, like any capitalist enterprise, function to maximize profit and gain ever-greater market share and control. The question has become: What do we do about this disastrous alignment of pure profit in something so basic and fundamental to human survival?

It is time -- now, not next year -- to de-occupy Walmart. And Archer Daniels Midland. And Tyson Foods. And Monsanto. And Cargill. And Kraft Foods. And the other large corporations …

Syria in graphic detail

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.    These photos - one of which is below -  from The Atlantic, prove the point to a tee.   View all photos here.

A bizarre "relationship"

From Tikun Olum a report of what can only be described as a bizarre "relationship":
"AP reports that Israel’s leading aerospace contractor has inked a $1.6-billion deal to supply Azerbaijan with drones, missiles, and other advanced military hardware, which would be used to arm a potential frontline state in the war against Iran. Israel has used such arms deals to create intimate military and intelligence links with nations as varied as Georgia, Russia and India.
Sheera Frenkel also reported recently on Azerbaijan as a Wild West outpost. It plays a major role in the war of nerves among Iran, Israel and the west. She interviews a Mossad agent who has served years there and only set foot in the Israeli embassy once. She tells of a country riddled with spy networks working one or both sides of the street. The officials of the government seem to be available to the highest bidder. It’s a bit like a central American or Caribbean country packed with corrupt drug dealers using t…

Destroying Korans in Afghanistan. US misses the point

The widespread unrest and violence in Afghanistan arising from the destruction of Korans by personnel at a US military base should come as no surprise to anyone who has even a remote understanding, and appreciation, for other religions and cultures.   It seems that the Americans haven't cottoned on that destroying the Koran is almost certain to cause the upheaval now underway in Afghanistan.

"Most American media accounts and commentary about the ongoing violent anti-American protests in Afghanistan depict their principal cause as anger over the burning of Korans (it’s just a book: why would people get violent over it?) — except that Afghans themselves keep saying things like this:

Protesters in Kabul interviewed on the road and in front of Parliament said that this was not the first time that Americans had violated Afghan cultural and religious traditions and that an apology was not enough.
'This is not just about dishonoring the Koran, it is about disrespecting our dead a…

They're back! WikiLeaks with 5 million 'Shadow Cia' emails

A lot of people will be sucking in their collective breaths when they see what WikiLeaks has just released.    No less than some 5 million "Shadow CIA' emails.
"WikiLeaks announced tonight that it is publishing documents it is calling "The Global Intelligence Files" which includes over 5 million e-mails from the US-based "Global Intelligence" company Stratfor, according to a statement the organization released Sunday night.
WikiLeaks has partnered with 25 media organizations to publish the documents including the McClatchy newspapers and Rolling Stone.

"The e-mails date between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US De…

Mikhail Khodorkovsky on the upcoming Russian election

Mikhail Khodorkovsky is an inmate of a prison colony in northern Karelia. Prior to his arrest in 2003, he was head of Yukos.    It will be recalled that Khodorkosky challenged Putin and since then has been charged, and convicted, on what many claim are trumped up charges.    He writes on the upcoming Russian election in an op-ed piece in the International Herald Tribune.
"It is my hope that we will see a large turnout, with my fellow citizens taking a long hard look at the four “candidates” who appear on the ballot, even if many voters would have preferred other candidates, who were not allowed to run.

The last time Putin ran for president he won resoundingly in the first round. We will have to wait to see what happens this time. But let’s be clear: If Putin is forced into a runoff, it will be an altogether different situation. A second round would confirm that the change we all seek is on its way; that an evolutionary and not a revolutionary approach can be the way forward. We do…

It all depends on your perspective

Credited to Patrick Chappatte, IHT

Homs update

The photos tell it the southern city of Homs continues to be relentlessly pounded by shells and the death toll and injuries rise daily.

Attempting to escape sniper fire in Homs
From France 24:

"Most images coming out of Homs these days show relentless shelling, sniper fire, horrible wounds, and corpses. However, one resident braved the snipers to take photographs showing daily life in Homs – a daily life that’s far from normal.

Mulham Al-Jundi took these pictures in the eastern Homs neighbourhoods of Bab Sbaa, Khalidié, Bayada, and Karm Al-Zeitoun over the course of several days this week. These Sunni-majority neighbourhoods are not in quite as desperate a situation as Baba Amr further to the south, which is completely cut off by the army, but they are nevertheless full of snipers and subject to frequent shellfire. Its residents lack many basic necessities, not the least of which is medical care.

We reached Al-Jundi on Skype, as he was recovering from being shot in the …

Out of Order

Credited to Nick Anderson

A quest for justice for Bradley Manning

The case against Bradley Manning, alleged leaker of information to WikiLeaks, continues unabated.    Anyone who values freedom and government accountability, should be watching the Manning "saga" - as that connected with Julian Assange - with concern.    It's a topic taken up by Logan Price in this op-ed piece in The Guardian'sComment is Free.  The question raised at a tribunal hearing - referred to in the second-last paragraph of this piece - is well worth remembering.

"In a small military court room at Fort Meade, two weeks after he was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize, I watched Bradley Manning appear before a judge – for the second time in his 635-day stint of pre-trial detainment. He sat silently while the prosecution read his 22 charges.

We won't hear his plea until the hearing is continued in March. Manning will likely be tried in early August. If all goes to plan for the prosecution, he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Before the charges wer…

Nuclear Iran: Reality v the hype

It is almost impossible to avoid the ever-louder calls for an attack on Iran because of what is said to be its increasing nuclear capacity.    Witness this, as reported on

"Sen. Joe Lieberman is leading a congressional move to push U.S. policy toward a more belligerent stance against Iran by urging President Obama to take action to "prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability."

The key policy change would shift the U.S. objective from preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons to that of preventing Iran from having the "capability" to make the weapons.

The resolution is sponsored by Lieberman, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bob Casey, D-Pa., and signed onto by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and 28 other senators.

Tough rhetoric about Iran usually invokes a "red line" that the Teheran regime would cross at its peril.
For example, any Iranian move to shut down shipping through the Straits of Hormuz would…

The Emperor's Messenger (Thomas Friedman) Has No Clothes

As readers of this blog know all too well, it is no friend of Thomas Friedman, author and op-ed writer for The NY Times.   He is superficial and all too often glib and bereft of any critical analysis.   He often comes across, as he did in Tahrir Square, as an American tourist posing as some sort of informed commentator.    A book just out about Friedman does not paint a flattering picture of the man.   truthout reports:
"What's scary about Thomas Friedman is not his journalism, with its underinflated insights and twisted metaphors. Annoying as his second-rate thinking and third-rate writing may be, he's not the first - or the worst - hack journalist.

What should unnerve us about Friedman is the acclaim he receives in political and professional circles.

Friedman's New York Times column appears twice a week on the most prestigious op-ed page in the United States; he has won three Pulitzer Prizes; his books are best-sellers; he's a darling of the producers of televisio…

Beware of that GM corn

Unless the populace takes action to protect its health and well-being, governments will increasingly allow the manufacturers or growers to tamper with food.    The French government is to be applauded for seeking to have Monsanto prevented from selling its GM corn.

"France has asked the European regulators to suspend the authorization to plant Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) MON810 corn. France's ecology minister says the decision is based on studies showing GM crops "pose significant risks for the environment."
The request is "based on the latest scientific studies" which show that the use of the GM crops "pose significant risks for the environment," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry pointed to a recent study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that raised concerns with another form of GM crop, BT11, that it said could also be applied to MON 810.

"If the European Union does not act, we can invoke the safeguard cl…

It most certainly is apartheid

Try as Israel and its supporters claim otherwise, anyone who witnessed or lived through the apartheid era in South Africa confirms that Israel, and its policies, has established an apartheid regime.     

John Dugard is a professor of international law, authored a comprehensive study of the law of apartheid and was for seven years the special rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.   He was interviewed on bitter lemons

"BI: Does the system in place in the occupied territories fit the UN definition of "apartheid"?

Dugard: The apartheid convention does list a number of "inhuman acts" and quite a number of those inhuman acts are committed by the [Israel Defense Forces] in the Palestinian territory. There are unlawful killings--here one speaks of "targeted assassinations". There is detention without trial and inhuman acts of the kind that are listed in the apartheid …

One effective way to take money out of American politics

Perish the thought for those who are now so largely funding the political agenda in America, but Professor Juan Cole, writing on truthdig suggests one effective way the large amounts of money pouring into electioneering could be curbed.    All too sadly it is unlikely to happen.
"Big money has always been a problem in American politics, but now humongous money threatens to capsize the ship of state. Billionaires are very, very good at getting rich, mostly through stealth monopolies, relatively sure things (e.g., casinos) or through riding investment bubbles. But they are seldom scientists, physicians or educators, and can often entertain rather cranky beliefs, such as climate change denial or misogyny. Thus, the GOP super wealthy, having produced the tea party in 2010, have now given us national candidates so extreme that they often seem to be running for Supreme Leader of Iran instead of president of the United States. Although the Citizens United ruling of the Supreme Court con…

Marie Colvin: Bearing witness

A fitting tribute to an intrepid journalist just killed in Homs, Syria - in what increasingly looks like a targeted killing.

"Hours before being killed in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times of London filed a story on the death of a two-year-old child from shrapnel wounds as his family watched, wailed, wept. Colvin was in the room; the camera stayed on the child as he struggled for breath. This is Assad's reality, she said: He is "shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.” Colvin bravely made it her own, too. Also killed was award-winning French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik, 28, and at least 80 Syrians.

"These are twenty-eight thousand civilians, men, women and children, hiding, being shelled, defenseless. That little baby is one of two children who died today, one of the children being injured every day. That baby probably will move more people to think, “What is going on, and why is no one stopping this murder in Homs that is happe…

Girl Guides in the USA are what?

Take a deep you read this more than breathtaking piece on CommonDreams about the threat posed by the Girl Guides in America.   
"Okay, deep breath here as we confront yet another insidious threat to our great Republic. Asked to sign an Indiana House resolution honoring the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, alert GOP lawmaker Rep. Bob Morris did some research and found "disturbing" evidence that the group is a “radicalized organization” and "tactical arm of Planned Parenthood" that supports abortion, promotes homosexuality, encourages girls to have sexy sex, believes in giving basic human rights to transgender females and otherwise works for "the destruction of traditional American family values." Understandably, Morris thus voted - alone - to oppose the resolution. He also plans to yank his daughters out of the grasp of these heathens and take them to American Heritage Girls Little Flowers, where they will "learn about values a…

Peaceful means to obtain justice

Mustafa Barghouthi, a doctor and member of the Palestinian Parliament, is secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party.  He writes in an op-ed piece in today's New York Times:

"Over the past 64 years, Palestinians have tried armed struggle; we have tried negotiations; and we have tried peace conferences. Yet all we have seen is more Israeli settlements, more loss of lives and resources, and the emergence of a horrifying system of segregation.

Khader Adnan, a Palestinian held in an Israeli prison, pursued a different path. Despite his alleged affiliation with the militant group Islamic Jihad, he waged a peaceful hunger strike to shake loose the consciences of people in Israel and around the world. Mr. Adnan chose to go unfed for more than nine weeks and came close to death. He endured for 66 days before ending his hunger strike on Tuesday in exchange for an Israeli agreement to release him as early as April 17.

Mr. Adnan has certainly achieved an i…

George Orwell alive and well at UNESCO

What can one say?...other than bizarre and that George Orwell is alive and well at UNESCO.
"WikiLeaks has lodged a strong protest with the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) for “banning’’ it from an international conference it is hosting at its headquarters in Paris on the impact of the whistleblower website’s activities.
* * *

UNESCO describes the 2-day conference on their website:

The conference “The Media World after WikiLeaks and News of the World” aims to gather leading media representatives, professional and “citizen” journalists and media law experts to exchange views on these issues and to discuss good practices in traditional professional journalism and citizen journalism in the digital era.

With a stunning 2 billion persons estimated to be using the Internet and producing 156 million public blogs in 2011, there has been a surge of social networks, user-generated content and micro-blogging that has enabled all Internet users to become …

Thankfully, an end to that 66 day hunger strike

Those who have followed the case of the Palestinian man detained, administratively, as the Israeli's describe it, without charge, and who has been on a hunger strike for 66 days, will be pleased to read this report from Al Jazeera that the fast has ended after a deal struck with the Israelis.     The whole matter highlights the travesty of Israeli actions.   The man is to be admired.   And what will the world do or say?   Don't hold your breath!
"A Palestinian detained by Israel, Khader Adnan, has agreed to end his 66-day hunger strike as part of a deal under which he will be released without charge, sources tell Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from Adnan's hometown of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, quoted officials as saying on Tuesday that "Adnan has informed his lawyers that he has suspended his hunger strike and agreed to the offer to serve his sentence until April 17".

A spokesperson for the Israeli Supreme Court earlier tol…

A "silent" and more "comfortable" war

What this piece "Uncle Sam, Global Gangster" on TomDispatch so clearly shows, is that warfare, as we have come to know it, is undergoing a seismic shift.      And even more troubling is that even in this era of Wikileaks, and possibly because of it, much of what will be happening will be unknown to the general populace.

"If all goes as planned, it will be the happiest of wartimes in the U.S.A.  Only the best of news, the killing of the baddest of the evildoers, will ever filter back to our world.

After all, American war is heading for the “shadows” in a big way.  As news articles have recently made clear, the tip of the Obama administration’s global spear will increasingly be shaped from the ever-growing ranks of U.S. special operations forces.  They are so secretive that they don’t like their operatives to be named, so covert that they instruct their members, as Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room blog notes, “not to write down important information, lest it be vuln…

The folks behind peddling the lie

This Los Angeles Timeseditorial encapsulates the war on climate change proponents being waged by the likes of The Heartland Institute.   What is troubling is who the companies are which fund this Institute.  Think AT & T and Pfizer and the like.
"The culture wars have been fought in the classroom for decades, waged over such issues as school prayer, the teaching of evolution and whether the Pledge of Allegiance should include the phrase "under God." But the conflict usually pits backers of religious instruction against secularists. The latest skirmish, by contrast, is centered on a scientific issue that has nothing to do with religious teaching: climate change.

Leaked documents from the Heartland Institute in Chicago, one of many nonprofits that spread disinformation about climate science in hopes of stalling government action to combat global warming, reveal that the organization is working on a curriculum for public schools that casts doubt on the work of climatolo…

An insight into vulture capitalism

Antony Loewenstein on his blog, here, has received, anonymously, a missive from a retired navy officer explaining vulture capitalism:
"Somebody’s civilian friends or benefactors have always been making money on our wars. The funny twist is how the “military industrial complex” of years gone by has evolved into a “personnel support complex” in addition. When I went to Iraq in 09 I brought all the learning CDs for Arabic in anticipation of that being the language I would need to know. When I came home I spoke more Hindi and Swahili. KBR and others take their contracts …and sub-contract to some Arab company,, like in Dubai. They in turn hire “third” world country employees for peanuts..say $500 a month…charge them a finders fee for the job and front them their airfare to Iraq. Then the worker has to work for 5 or 6 months to repay the debt before they can send dollar one home to their starving family in Nepal, India, Peru, Uganda or the Philippines. Sounding like slave labor yet? Ho…

Two State solution dead in the water

If you were one of those who still believes that there could be a two-State solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict think again.   The facts on the ground, as this piece by Director Jeff Halper of the The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions clearly shows, almost conclusively proves that a two-State solution is not longer a goer, if it ever was!  That being the case where to?
"Even as I write this, the bulldozers have been busy throughout that one indivisible country known by the bifurcated term Israel/Palestine. Palestinian homes, community centers, livestock pens and other “structures” (as the Israel authorities dispassionately call them) have been demolished in the Old City, Silwan and various parts of “Area C” in the West Bank, as well among the Bedouin – Israeli citizens – in the Negev/Nakab. This is merely mopping up, herding the last of the Arabs into their prison cells where, forever, they will cease to be heard or heard from, a non-issue in Israel and, eventuall…

Anthony Shadid: Vale to a great journalist (in the true sense)

Real journalists rightly pour scorn on those who claim to be journalists but are no more than stenographers of what they have been told or, as happened in Iraq during the invasion, reported from downtown Baghdad hotels - or being embedded with the American military - instead of being out in the field.
Anthony Shadid was your true old-fashioned reporter and journalist.    All too sadly, he died last week, in Syria, at the age of 43.
"The death of journalist Anthony Shadid, doing what he'd done for years to tell the story of a Middle East in turmoil to the rest of us, is a huge loss. We will miss his grace and gifts. More here and here. May his memory be a blessing."
- from CommonDreams

From NPR:
"Over the years, Anthony was beaten and abducted while covering the news. He knew he was taking risks. But he also knew (though his unassuming nature would have never let him say it) that he was fulfilling his life's mission, explaining the Arab world to Americans with a f…

The ramifications of any attack on Iran

Whilst the threat of Israel - perhaps with American support, openly or in the background - attacking Iran increases daily, the ramifications could be devastating and widespread - and not necessarily confined to the region.    If Washington and the EU thought an assumed ally, Pakistan, would be supporting and of material help in any attack on Iran, they need to think again.    The Nation newspaper, Pakistan, reports:
"Pakistan will not assist the US if it attacks Iran, Islamabad Friday assured Tehran.
Pakistan will not provide Americans airbases to launch attack on its neighbour, President Asif Ali Zardari said after the third trilateral summit of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

At the summit the three states expressed their resolve to work collectively for peace and stability in the region and enhancement of mutual cooperation in different sectors, particularly economy and trade.

Addressing a joint news conference, along with his Iranian and Afghan counterparts Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a…

Santorum: Another GOP presidential candidate to fear

Need anything more be added or said about to this op-ed piece "Santorum's Gospel of Inequality" in The New York Times excoriating GOP presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum.    Is Santorum really representative of the thinking of many in the USA?   Let's hope not....

“Santorum Praises Income Inequality.”

That was Fox News’s headline about Rick Santorum’s speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Thursday. Santorum said, “I’m not about equality of result when it comes to income inequality. There is income inequality in America. There always has been and, hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be.”

Unbelievable. Maybe not, but stunning all the same.

Then again, Santorum is becoming increasingly unhinged in his public comments. Last week, he said that the president was arguing that Catholics would have to “hire women priests to comply with employment discrimination issues.”

Also last week, he suggested that liberals and the president were leading religious people into op…

One man take on the system......and is suffering for it

The hunger-strike of one Palestinian one in Israel - 62 days so far - has not only brought worldwide attention to his plight but the whole "system" of detention of Palestinians by Israelis, the conditions under which Palestinians exist ("live" is hardly the appropriate word) in the West Bank and Israel itself and Israel's appalling legal (not "justice") system.

"A Palestinian man who has refused to eat since he was detained without charge two months ago by Israel “could die at any minute,” one of his lawyers told The Guardian newspaper on Thursday, day 61 of the hunger strike.

An Israeli medical charity’s report on the condition of the detained man, Khader Adnan, which was submitted in support of his appeal to Israel’s High Court, agreed that his life was in danger.

As Amira Hass reported for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz last week, Mr. Adnan, 33, was arrested in December at his home in the West Bank and began his hunger strike to protest “what he …