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Photo: Set in stone

A peek at the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall in Washington, Sunday, August 21, 2011. Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The public got its first glimpse of the MLK Memorial on Monday as it was unveiled in Washington, D.C. The memorial will be officially dedicated on Sunday, August 28, which is the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The entire $120 million memorial consists of a 30-foot statue of King emerging from stone and a 450-foot-long granite wall that is inscribed with 14 of King’s quotations from his speeches and books. It sits on the National Mall near the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.

The statue has provoked some controversy over the decision to select Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin as head sculptor for the project. Some have argued that the likeness of Dr. King looks too confrontational with his arms crossed, and others have claimed that the face appears to have Asian features. The design was chosen by the the children of the civil rights leader, Martin Luther King III and Bernice King, who have been reported to be very pleased with the likeness.

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

‘Reverse brain drain’ in the U.S.

In a State of the Union address that may now seem like it was delivered years ago, President Obama addressed the nation’s need to “win the future” through encouraging America’s dominance in entrepreneurship and technological innovation. And yet, the country’s economic downturn and the American immigration system seem to be driving away many of the very innovators needed to accomplish this.

A recent report released by the Kauffman Foundation, a research and policy center focused on entrepreneurship, delves into some of the reasons that Chinese and Indian professionals who become educated in the U.S. are increasingly being drawn back to their home countries to start businesses there. The report, entitled “The Grass Is Indeed Greener in India and China for Returnee Entrepreneurs,” surveyed U.S.-educated professionals from both India and China on the reasons why they decided to make the return to their home countries to start up businesses there instead of in the U.S.

In the past, underdevelopment and a dearth of business opportunities for highly skilled workers provided the “push” factors that encouraged professionals to bring entrepreneurial ventures to the U.S.  But the economic downturn, rising business opportunities elsewhere, and the difficulty of obtaining a U.S. visa are hampering these workers from setting up startups and business ventures in the U.S. Of more than 1,000 respondents surveyed in the Kauffman report, 60 percent of Indian respondents and 90 percent of Chinese respondents said that rising economic opportunities in their home countries was a very important factor in encouraging their return home. Lower costs of operations as well as access to local markets were other significant factors drawing these professionals back to their home countries.
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Clashes continue in Tripoli, as Western officials say Gadhafi regime is ‘crumbling’

This post is being updated as information becomes available.

Libyan rebels said Sunday that they had begun to converge on the capital of Tripoli, Moammar Gadhafi’s last remaining stronghold, in what opposition forces and Western officials said could be a last, decisive challenge to the autocrat’s four-decade-long rule. The International Criminal Court, meanwhile, confirmed that rebels had apprehended Gadhafi’s influential son and heir apparent, Saif al-Islam, who has been sought by the court for months on charges of war crimes.

Video from the streets of Tripoli, posted online by bloggers affiliated with the opposition movement, seemed to show residents gathering in celebration of the rebels’ advance and singing the Libyan national anthem, the first signs of anti-Gadhafi sentiment in the capital in months. But there were still reports of clashes throughout the city, including in the easternmost district of Tajoura. According to opposition bloggers who posted excerpts of his remarks, a rebel spokesman, Mahmoud Shammam, said late Sunday evening, “We are controlling most of Tripoli, but right now we cannot say we control everything.”

Rumors quickly began to spread that Gadhafi himself had been captured amid the clashes, or that he may have fled to a sympathetic country, such as Algeria. A vaguely worded statement from the ICC initially led some journalists and opposition leaders to believe that Gadhafi had been arrested along with his sons. That report was later discredited, but a spokesman for the Libyan opposition in Britain, Guma El-Gamaty, wrote on his Twitter account late Sunday evening that “Gadhafi himself may have been arrested in Alamiriya district outside Tripoli.” An opposition contact, meanwhile, told the @feb17voices Twitter feed, run by UCLA graduate student John Scott-Railston, that there were “many doubts that Gaddafi remains in Tripoli.”

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Photo: Attack during prayers

Villagers clean the floor of a mosque targeted by a suicide bomber in the Pakistani tribal area of Khyber on Friday, Aug. 19, 2011. Thirty-four people were killed and many more wounded when the explosion occurred during morning prayers. Photo: AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad

As Democrats despair over Obama, there’s one issue left that could re-energize his base

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg officiates the marriage ceremony of Jonathan Mintz, left, and John Feinblatt, Sunday, July 24, 2011 at Gracie Mansion in New York. Photo: AP Photo/Office of the Mayor, Edward Reed

Earlier this month,  after a deluge of depressing economic numbers, President Obama received one more dose of bad news: More voters in the Democratic stronghold of New York, considered the most heavily Democratic large state by National Journal’s Almanac of American Politics, disapprove of his performance than approve of it, 49 percent to 45 percent. With his national poll numbers at an all-time low of 41 percent, according to Gallup, the president might reasonably assume that at least died-in-the-wool liberals would be behind him. Apparently, that’s not the case.

As the president seeks to reclaim the momentum by, among other things, touring the Midwest on a campaign-style bus, there’s clearly some amount of disillusionment setting in among Democrats. Nationally, they still largely approve of Obama’s performance  — the RealClearPolitics average approval rating among Democrats stands at 79 percent — but that’s without a Republican challenger to articulate a full-throated critique of Obama’s record and highlight his failure to create more jobs and speed up the faltering recovery. And the poor numbers in reliably liberal New York suggest that Obama’s national approval among Democrats may be soft. At town halls across the country, Democratic voters are expressing deep dissatisfaction with the president’s strategy of casting himself as a centrist and courting independent voters rather than appeasing the base.

Liberal commentators and strategists, then, are beginning to suggest that Obama abandon that strategy. The president, they say, should invest more time and energy in shoring up his support among the liberals who put him in office in the first place — who catapulted him to the Democratic nomination and, in the general election, helped him mount one of the most formidable and sophisticated grassroots organizing campaigns in American history. That infrastructure is now virtually nonexistent, its members demoralized — and not just in Democratic strongholds like New York. In Pennsylvania, a key swing state, Democratic approval of Obama’s job performance is 10 points lower than the national average.

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Study finds Mexican immigration to the U.S. on the decline

Photo: Ben Amstutz/Flickr

As election season nears, immigration will undoubtedly be cast into the national spotlight as a hot-button campaign issue for many candidates. But as public officials make broad statements about U.S. immigration policy — widely acknowledged to be a broken system — a new study shows that the reality of immigration may be far different from what the political rhetoric implies.

A new study from the Pew Hispanic Center and the RAND Corporation focusing on Mexican migration patterns into the U.S. (pdf) shows that immigration from Mexico has waned in recent years, and that fewer Mexicans are leaving for the U.S. “The number of Mexicans annually leaving Mexico for the U.S. declined from more than one million in 2006 to 404,000 in 2010 – a 60% reduction,” the report states.

However, while Mexican immigration to the U.S. declined over the past decade, the study also shows that the Mexican-American population grew rapidly. From 2000 to 2010, births increased the Mexican-American population by 7.2 million, while immigration increased it by 4.2 million. The decade marked a turnaround from the previous two decades, when the number of new immigrants outpaced the number of births in the Mexican-American community.

What’s the impetus for such a shift? The report explains:

On the U.S. side, declining job opportunities and increased border enforcement may have made the U.S. less attractive to potential Mexican immigrants. And in Mexico, recent strong economic growth may have reduced the “push” factors that often lead Mexicans to emigrate to the U.S.

Although the report focuses on all immigration from Mexico, the data has implications for undocumented immigrants in particular. More than half of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. are undocumented, the data notes, and the majority of all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are from Mexico. However, the Immigration Policy Center, a DC-based research group, states that these new trends indicate that “immigrants from Mexico are parents to a new generation of Mexican-Americans who are U.S. citizens.” They also conclude that the deportation-centric approach favored by U.S. immigration policy may be a poor fit for the kind of immigration patterns currently in place.

Two sides of the Mubarak trial: Justice, or humiliation?


CAIRO, Egypt — I arrived here at the police academy, where the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is being held, early in the morning. Clashes had erupted between the pro- and anti-Mubarak crowds during his first appearance on August 3, and I wanted to speak to some of the protesters to understand how they felt.

Mubarak, who stepped down on February 11, has been charged with complicity in the killings of over 800 people during the 18 days of protests that toppled his regime earlier this year. His two sons, Alaa and Gamal, are being charged with corruption.

A large screen had been set up outside the court to broadcast the trial to the crowds that had gathered there to express their support for, or opposition to, Mubarak. As I found, the opinions of the protesters were sharply divided.

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Prominent Republicans distance themselves from anti-Islam rhetoric

Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, steps off his campaign bus as he visits the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak

As the Republican presidential campaign takes shape, the race has been noted so far for its decidedly hostile tone toward Islam. Some candidates have criticized the perceived influence of Islamic culture on American laws and customs; others have proposed restrictions on Muslim participation in politics. As we’ve reported, much of that sentiment is rooted in the rhetoric of the so-called “counter-Jihad” movement, which seems particularly obsessed with the alleged encroachment of Shariah law on American life. The shift in Republican attitudes toward Islam is especially surprising given that former President George W. Bush made a concerted effort to cultivate warm relations with the Muslim community.

Not all Republicans, however, have embraced the anti-Islam rhetoric that has colored the GOP primary. Last week, for example, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, seen as a leading contender for president in either 2012 or 2016, offered a forceful and widely praised defense of a Muslim judge, Sohail Mohammed, whom he had appointed to a state judicial post. “The folks who criticize my appointment of Sohail Mohammed are ignorant,” Christie said. “They’re criticizing him because he’s a Muslim-American.” Of the anti-Shariah movement, Christie added: “This Shariah law business is crap. It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”

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Arab-American middle-schoolers dispel stereotypes in a post-9/11 world

The upcoming tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks prompts national reflection on the ways in which the attacks profoundly changed our world. But some of the people who are perhaps impacted most by the September 11 attacks are those who have no recollection of the event at all.

At the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Mich., Arab-American middle-school students with no memory of the events of September 11, 2001 use photographs and stories to present snapshots of their lives growing up in a post-9/11 world and to counter the stereotypes that have proliferated since the launch of the global war on terror.

The photo exhibit, titled “In the Heart of Arab America: A Middle School Perspective,” can be viewed online at the Living Textbook website. The students are from the journalism class of McCollough-Unis School in Dearborn, and 28 of the 29 students are Arab-American.

Some of the stories are extremely ordinary. In one feature, entitled “Thanksgiving at the Zahra’s,” student Mohamad Zahra describes his family’s annual Thanksgiving ritual:

Thanksgiving is the day when my whole family gathers at my house to celebrate. Before we set it up, I would help out.

We all get different kinds of food. Some people get the turkey and some get other kinds. We had turkey, salad, rice with meat, lasagna, shrimp, hummus and tabouleh. The dessert was cake, ice cream and Oreo cookie pie.

After we eat, we start cleaning up. When we are done, the parents go upstairs and my cousins go downstairs and start to play with the Wii. This is what we do on Thanksgiving.

A photo from "Thanksgiving with the Zahras" by Mohamad Zahra at Unis Middle School

Other accounts delve into the experiences of Arab-American children just beginning to explore the realities of a post-9/11 world. In a blog post on the project’s website, student Samira Maatouk describes attending a protest against Rev. Terry Jones, the notorious Florida pastor who threatened, and eventually staged, a public Qu’ran burning.

Jones was already talking when we arrived. He was comparing himself to Martin Luther King Jr. He was trying to make a point about the Qu’ran, even though he’s never read it. He thinks that it teaches us to do things that are bad. The Qu’ran doesn’t teach us to do bad things.

I’ve never read the Quran, either. But my Mom and Dad have taught me about it.

I think Jones just came to Dearborn to get attention. He knew that he would get attention because he was talking about Arabic people. And Arabic people, they don’t like people talking about them, especially when they’re saying things that aren’t true. We don’t like that.

Dearborn is home to one of the country’s largest Arab-American communities. The Arab American National Museum, the first of its kind in the U.S., opened in 2005 to dispel stereotypes of Arabs in the U.S. and around the world. The students’ stories and photos were collected during the 2010-2011 school year, through a project sponsored by the Asian American Journalists Association.