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JERUSALEM — It was vintage Ariel Sharon: His hefty body bobbing behind a wall of security men, the ex-general led a march onto a Jerusalem holy site, staking a bold claim to a shrine that has been in contention from the dawn of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

What followed was a Palestinian uprising that put Mideast peace efforts into deep-freeze.

Five years later, Sharon, who died Saturday at 85, was again barreling headlong into controversy, bulldozing ahead with his plan to pull Israel out of the Gaza Strip and uproot all 8,500 Jewish settlers living there without regard to threats to his life from Jewish extremists.

His allies said the move was a revolutionary step in peacemaking; his detractors said it was a tactical sacrifice to strengthen Israel’s hold on much of the West Bank.

Either way, the withdrawal and the barrier he was building between Israel and the West Bank permanently changed the face of the conflict and marked the final legacy of a man who shaped Israel as much as any other leader. He was a farmer-turned-soldier, a soldier-turned-politician, a politician-turned-statesman — a hard-charging Israeli who built Jewish settlements on war-won land, but didn’t shy away from destroying them when he deemed them no longer useful.


Africa sees violent, deadly start to 2014; Thousands killed, children beheaded

NAIROBI, Kenya — The death tolls are huge and the individual incidents gruesome. One estimate says nearly 10,000 people have been killed in South Sudan in a month of warfare, while in neighboring Central African Republic combatants in Muslim-vs.-Christian battles have beheaded children.

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a very violent start to 2014, with raging conflicts in South Sudan and Central African Republic, as well as continued violence in Congo, and attacks in Somalia and Kenya.

Compared to decades past, Africa and its people are suffering from fewer conflicts today, but several recent outbreaks of violence are cause for concern, said J. Peter Pham, director of the Washington-based think tank Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. The conflicts also lack strong international peacekeeping, he said.

“Peacekeeping in Africa, whether under the formal auspices of the United Nations or those of the African Union, suffers today from the same two limitations which they have been burdened with since the very first U.N. peacekeeping mission, the 1960-1964 operation in the Congo (ONUC), namely lack of political will resulting in a weak mandate and lack of adequate forces,” he wrote by email.

The conflict that broke out in South Sudan on Dec. 15 saw violence radiate across the country as ethnic groups targeted each other. Shortly afterward Uganda dispatched troops and military equipment to aid South Sudan’s central government from breakaway units of that country’s military.


$12-an-hour minimum wage in California? Proposal could push level to highest among states


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Democrats across the nation are eager to make increasing the minimum wage a defining campaign issue in 2014, but in California a proposal to boost the pay rate to $12 an hour is coming from a different point on the political compass.


Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley multimillionaire and registered Republican who once ran for governor and, briefly, U.S. Senate, wants state voters to endorse the wage jump that he predicts would nourish the economy and lift low-paid workers from dependency on food stamps and other assistance bankrolled by taxpayers.


A push for bigger paychecks for workers at the lower rungs of the economic ladder is typically associated with Democrats — President Barack Obama is supporting a bill in Congress that would elevate the $7.25 federal minimum to over $10 an hour.


But entrepreneur Unz, 52, is a former publisher of The American Conservative magazine with a history of against-the-grain political activism that includes pushing a 1998 ballot proposal that dismantled California’s bilingual education system, an idea he later championed in Colorado and other states.


Two decades ago, as a 32-year-old, the theoretical-physicist-turned-software-developer tried to unseat then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a fellow Republican. After a long break on the political sidelines, Unz’s reappearance has startled members of both major parties, and his proposal — if it goes to voters in November — could unsettle races from governor to Congress.


Dallas group set to auction permit for black rhino hunt in fundraiser that’s sparked outrage


DALLAS (AP) — Hunt the black rhino to save the black rhino.


That’s the Dallas Safari Club’s approach to a fundraiser for efforts to protect the endangered species. The group hopes to raise more than $200,000 Saturday by auctioning off the right to shoot and kill a black rhinoceros in the African nation of Namibia.


But the auction has drawn howls from critics, including wildlife and animal rights groups, and the FBI earlier this week said it was investigating death threats against members of the club.


Ben Carter, executive director of the Safari Club, defended the auction. He said all money raised will go toward rhino conservation efforts. He also said the rhino that the winner will hunt is old, male and nonbreeding — and that the animal was likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife.


Carter added that wildlife experts say culling a herd is an acceptable habitat management practice.


James Franklin leaving Vanderbilt, approved, announced as Penn State’s next football coach


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State has hired James Franklin as its next head coach.


Franklin, 41, who led Vanderbilt to bowls in all three of his seasons there, replaces Bill O’Brien, who left the Nittany Lions after two years to coach the NFL’s Houston Texans. Penn State made the announcement Saturday, after the school’s compensation committee met to finalize the contract.


That committee approved the hiring by a 6-0 vote Saturday morning, and Franklin was introduced later in the day.


“Our program requires a very special kind of leader,” Penn State President Rodney Erickson said, calling Franklin a “special talent.” ‘’We ran a careful and deliberate search process and I believe we’ve found the right person to lead our program.”


Franklin won 24 games with the Commodores and is a Pennsylvania native with strong ties in-state. Penn State officials met with him this week in Florida. He will be asked to build off a foundation that O’Brien set amid scandal. Despite a lack of scholarships, a bowl ban and player defections from the late Joe Paterno’s roster, O’Brien led the Nittany Lions to two winning seasons (8-4, 7-5) while restoring some tempered enthusiasm in Happy Valley.

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