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Thursday, August 07, 2003  

The news desk

  • Iraqi youths to get artificial limbs
  • An Iraqi child who was dismembered by American bombs and appeared likely to disappear into obscurity is scheduled to get artificial arms. Another injured boy will also be treated.

    LONDON, England -- Iraqi bomb victim Ali Abbas, who lost his arms and his parents in a U.S. raid early in the Iraq war, has arrived in Britain for artificial limb surgery.

    The 13-year-old flew to Royal Air Force base Northolt in west London Thursday with his uncle and Ahmed Mohammed Hamza, a 14-year-old boy who lost his left leg below the knee and his right hand during a bombardment.

    The boys are to be fitted with prosthetic limbs at Queen Mary's Rehabilitation Center in Roehampton, southwest London.

    This is an outcome that media, including bloggers who wrote about Ali's plight, can rightfully pat themselves on the back in regard to. Without the publicity we generated, I don't believe Ali would have been given a second thought.

    However, I am concerned about the providers saying the children will be treated only until they reach adulthood. Artificial limbs are difficult to fit and wear out. It is not unusual for several protheses to be tried before a design that works is found. Since young people's bodies change more, it is particularly important to offer continued medical and prosthetic assistance.

    The Kuwaiti and British providers are also assuming the boys will be able to support themselves when they turn 18 or 21. That probably will not occur unless they receive special vocational assistance. Again, as I said weeks ago, the government of the United States should be compensating innocent victims of its war economically. That is the best possible solution to Ali's plight.

  • Hawash pleads guilty
  • The last of the Portland Seven to be indicted, Maher Hawash, will be taking singing lessons. He has agreed to testify against his codefendants in return for a short sentence after pleading guilty to one of the charges.

    A former Intel software engineer admitted Wednesday that he and five other men were prepared to take up arms and die as martyrs if necessary to defend the former Taliban government in Afghanistan.

    Maher "Mike" Hawash's surprise plea deal with federal prosecutors requires him to testify against his alleged co-conspirators in exchange for a seven to 10-year prison sentence. Experts say Hawash's cooperation strengthens the government's case against the remaining six defendants.

    Noticeably absent from Wednesday's hearing were the throngs of friends and supporters who publicly protested on Hawash's behalf at previous hearings.

    Hawash pleaded guilty to one count: conspiring to contribute services to the Taliban. The charge relates to his participation in an October 2001 trip in which he and five other men flew from Portland to China in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Afghan battlefield. A seventh defendant never left the country.

    Hawash admits to having traveled abroad for the purpose of attempting to join the Taliban, which fought American forces in Afghanistan. He says he funneled money to other members of the seven, some of which he provided himself. Absent a plea bargain, he might have gotten a life sentence.

    I am still absorbing this news and will likely have more to say about it later. If you have not read my eight-part series on the Portland Seven, I hope you will take a look at it the archives.

  • Clinton cheered on book tour
  • I wasn't able to get close enough to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) to shake her hand or ask her any questions, but still enjoyed the festive mood at yesterday's book signing here.

    Hillary Rodham Clinton -- former first lady, current U.S. senator and likely future presidential candidate -- received a rock-star reception Tuesday when she swept into Portland to promote her memoir, "Living History."

    Dozens of fans camped out overnight in front of the downtown Borders Books & Music store to get a free ticket for the book signing. A popular groupie accessory: buttons that blared, "I'd vote for Hillary!"

    So when she strode in shortly after 4 p.m. wearing a pantsuit and pearls, hands trembled, necks craned, smiles twitched with anticipation. The crowd broke into applause.

    Clinton's tour is very much a book tour. Her brief time in each city is devoted to signing away. However, the Oregonian was able to speak with her.

    "I've had the best time at these events, I must confess," Clinton said in a brief telephone interview. "My only complaint is my right hand."

    The senator reiterated her belief that writing a measured memoir is the best course for a still active politician. I agree. Letting it all hang out can wait until she has retired.

    Readers have been supportive. Living History is No. 2 on The New York Times bestseller list.

    5:16 PM