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Year's Top News Filled With Battles Over Culture, Territory

While the headlines told many different stories, the thread connecting much of the news was a decisive torching of moderation

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    FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 2, 2016 file photo, Jerry Lambert, left, a supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and Asa Khalif, with the Black Lives Matter movement, scuffle, after Khalif took Lambert's sign, outside the location where Trump was to meet with African American business and civic leaders in Philadelphia.

    Fed up with Europe's union across borders? Reject it. Disgusted with the U.S. political establishment? Can it.

    The news in 2016 was filled with battles over culture and territory that exposed divisions far deeper than many realized. But people confronting those divides repeatedly rejected the prospect of middle-ground solutions and the institutions put in place to deliver them.

    While the headlines told many different stories, the thread connecting much of the news was a decisive torching of moderation, no matter how uncertain the consequences.

    "You're not laughing now, are you?" Nigel Farage, a leader of the so-called Brexit campaign told the European Parliament after voters in Great Britain spurned membership in the continental union. "What the little people did ... was they rejected the multinationals, they rejected the merchant banks, they rejected big politics and they said actually, we want our country back," he said.

    London Investigates Terrorist Incident

    [NATL] London Investigates Terrorist Incident

    Police in London responded to what officials are calling a terrorist incident outside Parliament on March 22.

    (Published Wednesday, March 22, 2017)

    Farage was speaking only about the United Kingdom. But his observation that many people well beyond Britain shared that disdain for working within the system was borne out repeatedly in the year's biggest headlines.

    In a U.S. presidential campaign fueled by anger and insults, in Syria's brutal war and Venezuela's massive protests, in fights over gay rights and migration, opposing sides rejected not just compromise but the politics of trying to forge it.

    That was clear from the year's first days, when armed activists took over a national wildlife refuge in Oregon's high desert, opposing the federal government's control of public lands.

    "It needs to be very clear that these buildings will never, ever return to the federal government," LaVoy Finicum, an Arizona rancher among the activists, told reporters. Weeks later, federal agents stopped vehicles outside the refuge, arresting eight of the activists and fatally shooting Finicum when he reached into a jacket that held a loaded gun.

    Globetrotter Guests on Class' Famed Handshake Line

    [NATL] Globetrotter Guests on Class' Famed Handshake Line

    North Carolina grade school teacher Barry White Jr. greets each member of his 5th grade class with a personalized handshake every morning. Video of White delivering these handshakes went viral earlier this year. Today, the teacher had another surprise for his students when Harlem Globetrotter Zeus McClurkin showed up to deliver the handshakes. McClurkin has played with the Harlem Globetrotters for six seasons, and in addition to delivering the famous handshakes, he also offered the students some sage advice: listen to your teachers.

    (Published Wednesday, March 22, 2017)

    Even in the rare cases when compromise prevailed, it was viewed with suspicion.

    When a deal took effect in January limiting Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief on sanctions, it marked the culmination of prolonged negotiation by President Barack Obama's administration. But the pact was repeatedly attacked by critics in both countries, including Donald Trump, saying it gave the other side too much.

    "The wisest plan of crazy Trump is tearing up the nuclear deal," a leading Iranian hardliner, Hossein Shariatmadari, told his country's news agency.

    In mid-February, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep, leaving a vacuum on a court where he had long been the leading conservative voice. Barely an hour after Scalia's death was confirmed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell staked out an uncompromising position on what lay ahead.

    "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice," McConnell said, disregarding the fact that U.S. voters had twice elected Obama. "Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

    North Carolina lawmakers prompted protests and counter-protests when they rushed through House Bill 2, voiding local gay-rights ordinances and limiting bathroom access for transgender people. Companies, the NBA and others followed through on threats to move jobs, games and performances out of the state, amplifying the division.

    Tensions over U.S. policing bled into a third year. In July, a sniper killed five Dallas police officers during a protest over shootings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. A South Carolina jury failed to reach a verdict in the trial of an officer caught on video fatally shooting a black man fleeing a traffic stop.

    Division, though, was hardly limited to the U.S.

    Little Girl Takes Pope’s Skullcap

    [NATL] Little Girl Takes Pope’s Skullcap

    A girl had the chance to get up close and personal with Pope Francis on March 22 and used the opportunity to grab his skullcap right off his head.

    (Published Wednesday, March 22, 2017)

    In Venezuela, triple-digit inflation and shortages of food and medicine fueled 6,000 protests throughout the year that brought millions into the streets. But the government of President Nicolas Maduro, blamed by many voters for the chaos, blocked a recall campaign.

    "If you're going to shoot me because I'm hungry, shoot me!" a young man shouted at a soldier during one protest in Caracas.

    In Colombia, voters narrowly rejected a deal between the government and a guerrilla group to end a 52-year civil war. Even when lawmakers approved a renegotiated deal, the peace remained fragile.

    In Brazil, senators impeached President Dilma Rousseff for manipulating budget figures, though many of the lawmakers were, themselves, tarred by accusations of corruption. South Korean President Park Geun-hye was stripped of power in December amid allegations she let a close friend use the government for financial gain.

    Dangerous Flash Floods, Landslides Wipe Through Peru

    [NATL] Dangerous Flash Floods, Landslides Wipe Through Peru

    El Nino rains that followed a terrible drought in Peru led to mudslides, flooding and overflowing rivers. The floods have displaced more than 100,000 people and have killed scores across the country. Meteorologists worry that it could get worse, as more rain is expected through April.

    (Published Tuesday, March 21, 2017)

    Meanwhile, Syria's war entered its sixth year. But despite pressure by the U.S. and its allies, Russia and the government of President Bashar Assad unleashed an assault on Aleppo to wipe out rebels, driving up the toll in a conflict that has already claimed as many as 500,000 lives.

    "This is a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians and to kill anybody and everybody who is in the way of their military objectives," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, accusing Syria and Russia of war crimes.

    "As long as war crimes are at question," a Russian government spokeswoman said, "the Americans should start with Iraq."

    In Yemen, cease-fires broke down, extending a nearly two-year civil war. But with Syria capturing most international attention, a famine resulting from the turmoil was mostly overlooked.

    Girl Saved During Hurricane Katrina Reunites With Rescuer

    [NATL] Girl Saved During Hurricane Katrina Reunites With Rescuer

    During Hurricane Katrina, Master Sergeant Michael Maroney was a pararescue jumper, flying over New Orleans picking up survivors in the devastating aftermath of the 2005 disaster, when he saw a little girl -- LaShay Brown -- below. 

    Brown was stranded without food or water when Maroney found her. On Saturday at her Junior ROTC Ball in Waveland, Mississippi, she reuinted with her rescuer.

    (Published Tuesday, March 21, 2017)

    As the fighting continued, terrorist strikes spread fear well beyond the Middle East.

    A bombing at Brussels' airport in March and another attack in June at Istanbul's airport by gunmen with explosives killed a total of nearly 80 people. More than 70 died when a bomb went off in a park in Pakistan, with a faction of the Pakistani Taliban claiming responsibility. In July, a terrorist drove a truck into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, killing 86 and injuring more than 400 others. Islamic State claimed responsibility.

    In June, security guard Omar Mateen opened fire inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in the deadliest mass shooting ever in the U.S. In a call to police during the attack, which killed 49, Mateen — a U.S. citizen born to parents who immigrated from Afghanistan three decades earlier — said he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State group.

    A day later, Trump pointed to the attack in a renewed call to ban Muslim immigrants to the U.S., while suggesting that American Muslims were turning a blind eye to terrorists in their midst.

    Watch Un-Bear-Ably Cute Pandas Play on Slide

    [NATL] Watch Un-Bear-Ably Cute Pandas Play on Slide

    A young panda cub at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding tried to climb a slide. He wasn’t successful, but hopefully he’ll learn to climb it soon. In 2016, 30 panda cubs were born here at the center, moving them off of the "Endangered" species list to "vulnerable."

    (Published Tuesday, March 21, 2017)

    "We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer," Trump said.

    Still, there were moments when the obstinacy that characterized so much of the news was set aside.

    When boxing great Muhammad Ali died in June, a figure whose outspokenness on race, religion and other issues once made him a deeply polarizing figure was eulogized as an inspiration.

    In March, Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928, affirming a contentious move to resume ties after more than a half century of hostility. But the death of Cuba's Fidel Castro in November renewed criticism of the U.S. opening, with Trump threatening to "terminate the deal."

    The hard line typified the outspokenness that attracted many voters. Critics lambasted the campaign for feeding prejudice against minorities and denigrating women, warning that Trump could not win.

    But each time Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton appeared to open a gap between herself and the billionaire developer, a scandal over her use of a personal email server while serving as secretary of state returned to the headlines.

    When FBI Director James Comey reignited the issue in late October by announcing his agency had found new emails, Clinton's popularity fell even as early voting began. Trump clinched victory by winning states representing an Electoral College majority, though Clinton captured more than 2.8 million more votes nationwide.

    "Now it's time for America to bind the wounds of division," Trump told supporters in his first speech as president-elect.

    The election's shocking outcome was arguably the year's biggest news story. But Trump's speech made headlines in no small part for sounding a note of moderation that was jarringly out of place in a year of discord.