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MLK remembered

and more news briefs

Issue: "Remembering 9/11," Sept. 10, 2011

Washingtonians took time off work the week of Aug. 22 to see the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. Standing on a 4-acre plot alongside the Tidal Basin between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, the new memorial depicts the civil-rights leader standing arms folded and holding a paper, part of a 30-foot stone edifice with an inscription from his 1963 "I have a dream" speech: "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope."

Almost all of the memorials along the National Mall are to presidents or wars: King is the first African-American to be memorialized there. President Obama is set to deliver a dedication speech at the memorial Aug. 28, with a quarter million expected to attend. A private foundation, working on this project since the 1980s, raised almost all of the $120 million for the memorial, with about $10 million coming from Congress.

MLK controversy

The MLK Memorial became the subject of controversy when the King family insisted on receiving royalties for quotes and images in the memorial, amounting to over $800,000. Then the private foundation overseeing the memorial selected a Chinese sculptor, Lei Yixin, to sculpt the civil-rights leader, eliciting protests that an American-if not an African-American-should have done the sculpture. The foundation said artistic ability was the sole criterion for selecting the sculptor.

World Youth Day

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An estimated 1.5 million Catholic youth from around the world gathered in Madrid, Spain, for World Youth Day on Aug. 21. With the backdrop of high youth unemployment in Europe and youth riots in Britain, Pope Benedict XVI urged youth to find a "solid foundation" in their faith. "Many people have no stable points of reference on which to build their lives, and so they end up deeply insecure," he told the boisterous crowd, which had camped under the stars Saturday night for Mass on Sunday morning. On the papal plane heading to the event, Benedict said that youth need a moral foundation, but so do economic policies: "The economy doesn't function with self-regulation, but needs an ethical reason to function for mankind," he said. Benedict has visited Spain three times as he campaigns to reverse the decline of Catholicism in Europe.

Green card green light

The Obama administration announced on Aug. 19 that it would review the deportation cases of 300,000 illegal immigrants, giving those without a criminal background an opportunity to stay in the United States and apply for a work permit. Authorities say the move would free up immigration enforcement resources so that they can focus on illegal immigrants who pose a threat to the country, rather than cases of illegals who were brought to the country as children, have family in the military, or are supporting family members.

Critics say that by allowing the illegal immigrants to stay, the administration is failing to enforce immigration laws. Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, believes President Barack Obama is overstepping his executive power by "helping individuals violate federal law and avoid the sanctions that Congress provided." The decision comes after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act, which could have created a pathway for young illegal immigrants with a high-school diploma to become citizens.

New old conflict

A fresh wave of violence in southern Israel that killed eight Israelis in mid-August launched a series of retaliatory strikes and jeopardizes the already frail relationship between Israel and Egypt. Palestinian militants crossed into southern Israel through the porous Egyptian desert and ambushed a bus on Aug. 18, killing six Israeli civilians and two security personnel. Israel responded with a series of airstrikes that killed 15 Palestinians-mostly gunmen Israel says were involved in the attack. While pursuing militants on the Israeli-Egyptian border, Israeli forces mistakenly killed five Egyptian security officers, sparking increased hostilities between the two countries. Egypt threatened to pull its ambassador from Tel Aviv, and Israel promptly issued a rare apology for the deaths.

Before the dust could settle, Palestinians in Gaza bombarded southern Israel with more than 80 rockets the weekend of Aug. 20, killing one person and critically injuring two others. Israel's new Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepted some of the rockets.

Lea Malul, the public affairs director for Barzelai Medical Center in Ashkelon, said they are back to "abnormal living habits" once again: "Our people, patients, families, children, and all loved ones are constantly under attack, bombarded in their own homes, struck with severe fear and anxiety yet with a powerful will to continue with an attempt at some normalcy." According to The Washington Times, a U.S. intelligence investigation identified a new terrorist group linked to the bus attack: al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula.

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