'Bus driver from heaven' rescued children from California wildfire

Paradise, California (CNN)--Kevin McKay drove the school bus along gridlocked, dark roads as pockets of fire burned all around. Nearly two dozen elementary school children were on board with him.

Smoke began to fill the bus, so McKay took off a shirt. He and two teachers on the bus tore it into pieces and doused them with water. The children held the damp pieces of cloth to their mouths and breathed through them.
 
He had been on the job, driving the bus for Ponderosa Elementary School in the northern California city of Paradise, only for a few months. Now, McKay was ferrying the 22 stranded children to safety as the Camp Fire scorched everything in its path. It would take five hours for them to reach safety.
 
The fire had broken out early November 8, forcing many to evacuate Butte County.
 
Video of Paradise before and after Camp Fire
Video of Paradise before and after Camp Fire 01:05
 
McKay, 41, grew concerned early. He had seen wildfires before, he said.
 
"But the fact that it was coming down in 1,000 places, it was unheard of," McKay told CNN in an interview Sunday in a park in Chico, a city southwest of Paradise.
 
His son, mom and girlfriend had already evacuated to a hotel in Chico that morning.
 
"That freed me up to focus completely on this terrifying situation," McKay said.
 
Family members of other students had already picked up their children.
 
But nearly two dozen students were stranded because their family members hadn't made it to the school. McKay discussed evacuating the students with Ponderosa's principal.
 

'It felt like Armageddon'

Abbie Davis, a 29-year-old kindergarten teacher at Ponderosa, and Mary Ludwig, 50, who teaches second grade, evacuated with McKay and the students.

Ludwig recalled the "the sky was really menacing."

The view from the bus as the teachers and students evacuated.
"It was very scary. It felt like Armageddon," she said Sunday.
 
"It just kind of looked like we'd be headed into Mordor," McKay recalled, referring to the realm of the evil lord Sauron in "The Lord the Rings" books and films.
 
As McKay drove away from the school on roads thick with smoke, the bus became stuck in the gridlock of vehicles trying to leave Paradise. Should they abandon the bus, they wondered?
 
Davis and Ludwig walked the bus aisle, comforting students.
 
As the smoke intensified, young lungs filled up. One student complained of being tired. Davis saw other kids dozing off.
 
The adults had to improvise. There was only one water bottle on the bus. McKay took off his shirt. They tore it up and doused the strips of cloth with water, so the students could use them to breathe properly, they recalled.
 
The bus was caught in the gridlock of hundreds of other vehicles trying to evacuate.
"That seemed to help," McKay said.
 
During the journey, McKay and the teachers also created their own emergency plan: Pair little kids with the big kids. Take roll. Get phone numbers. Review how to operate the emergency exits, first aid kit and the fire extinguisher.
 

'Paradise is lost'

Fourth-grader Charlotte Merz, 10, said she tried to stay calm and recalled "going to my happy place" on the journey.
 
The smoke made it hard to see. "It was so crazy, and there were fires left and right everywhere you looked," she said.
 
Search for remains continues after wildfire
Search for remains continues after wildfire 02:01
 
McKay said: "That's when we realized -- it's a silly statement, but Paradise is lost."
 
At one point, a car sideswiped them, McKay recalled. It sounded like someone was punching the bus, Davis said. They saw other traffic collisions.
 
Along the way, they picked up a passenger. She was a preschool teacher from an elementary school in the nearby city of Biggs whose car had broken down.
 
Davis said she thought she was going to die several times along the journey. At one point, they prayed, Ludwig said.
 
Hours later, parents and children were reunited. McKay said Davis' husband hugged him so hard, he "damned near lifted me off the ground."
 
The Camp Fire is now the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, killing 77 people and leaving nearly 1,000 people unaccounted for. The blaze had seared 150,000 acres as of Sunday evening, and was 65% contained.
 
nurse survives california wildfire nichole jolly bts nr vpx_00000922
Nurse in fire told husband she was going to die 03:22
 
Recounting their escape Sunday, McKay was modest. Safety is an important part of a bus driver's role, he said, and he must have paid attention to those classes.
But Davis and Ludwig said McKay was a true hero.
 
"We had the bus driver from heaven," Ludwig said.
 
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Trump, after the elections

As we all know, the so-called midterm elections were held in the United States on Tuesday.

They took place in a normal labor day, because US authorities do not give them great importance.

When they closed, Donald Trump branded them “a tremendous success” for his candidates.

In this kind of elections, characterized by the indifference of a large number of voters, the average turnout has been about 40 percent.

Although a clear victory of Democrats was foreseen, the high turnout did not prevent the polls to reflect again the existing deep polarization in the country.

Washington Post columnist Dan Balz said on Wednesday that “the general rules of the voting in the House and the Senate, as well as the polls, reflected that the differences, which have defined United States during the presidency of Trump, remain and seem to strengthen”.

He added “That lays the foundations for very competitive presidential elections within two years”.


According to the analyst, Trump will seek his reelection in 2020.

New Yorker columnist Susan Glasser wrote “Democrats yet haven’t left Trump’s 2016 victory behind” and added that many believed the current polls would dilute the image that follows them since that year”.

But a few hours ago, Trump’s opponents won control of the House, in addition to picking two governor seats in such states as Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Both were key for his election in 2016.

For their part, Republicans along with Trump, spread out an alarmist discourse on immigration, its caravans and Democratic plans.

Glasser thought that both parties should do a soul searching before the new Congress takes over in January.

Bruce Miroff, American Presidency expert at the University of Albany, told EFE last week: “Trump would take no responsibility if his party loses the majority in the House of Representatives. For him, winning is always his business, losing is never his fault”.

Everything takes place amidst the widespread crisis that hits U.S. and that they will fail to solve not even with the mountain of dollars allocated for their military spendings in the current budget.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

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USA Praises Bolsonaro for Leaving Brazilian People without Doctors

Brasilia, Nov 16 (Prensa Latina) Despite leaving millions of Brazilians without medical care for contemptuous statements against Cuban health professionals, President-elect Jair Bolsonaro was praised by the United States, Brasil 247 website posted on Friday.

The site refers to the applause given on social media by U.S. Assistance Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Kimberly Breier, for the position of the future Brazilian president, which forced the departure of Cuban physicians from the 'More Doctors' program.

Brazil 247 posts that 'Bolsonaro's pressure on Cuban doctors, in a clear sign of harmony with U.S. foreign policy, was praised by the United States government.'

The Cuban Ministry of Health (MINSAP) announced on Wednesday that it was withdrawing the Cuban doctors from the program, started in August 2013 by former President Dilma Rousseff, following the modifications announced by Bolsonaro.

Such alterations suppose unacceptable conditions and breach the guarantees agreed from the beginning of the initiative that were ratified in 2016 with the renegotiation of the term of cooperation between the Pan-American Health Organization and the Brazilian Ministry of Health, and the cooperation agreement between the regional health entity and the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, the MINSAP statement says.

The website warns that due to the withdrawal of Cuban doctors, at least 24 million Brazilians will not receive medical attention and the threat hangs over other initiatives such as the Family Health Program.

Former Brazilian Health Minister Alexandre Padilha, who participated in the implementation of the program, told the press that this withdrawal will have a terrible impact on the health system, as Cuban doctors worked in the most vulnerable regions. 'They are in the Amazon, in rural towns and favelas'.

Cuban doctors are not only qualified, but they are specialists in rural medicine, something that the Brazilian health system lacks, Padilha said.

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North Korea Conducts New Weapon Test, South Destroys Guard Post

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon reassured that Seoul would not pursue economic cooperation with Pyongyang until “significant progress” has been made on denuclearization. 

North Korean President Kim Jong-un inspected and successfully tested a newly developed tactical weapon, the country’s state media said. The Korean Central News Agency did not specify the exact type of weapon or when the test occurred.

RELATED: Cuba’s Diaz-Canel Meets North Korean Kim Jong-un

"This result today is a justification of the party's policy focused on defence, science and technology, another display of our rapidly growing defence capabilities to the whole region, and a ground-breaking change in strengthening our military's combat capabilities," the KCNA report said.

“After seeing the power of the tactical weapon, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un was so excited to say that another great work was done by the defence scientists and munitions industrial workers to increase the defence capability of the country." 

An analyst from Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies, Shin Beomchul, noted that “it’s a North Korea-style coercive diplomacy. North Korea is saying ‘if you don’t listen to us, you will face political burdens,” said analyst.

Recently, South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon reassured that Seoul would not pursue economic cooperation with Pyongyang until “significant progress” has been made on denuclearization. Cho made the remark Thursday during a visit to Washington, also adding that improving inter-Korean relation would help, not hinder the process.

However, on Thursday, South Korea advanced the hope for a unified peninsula by destroying guard posts near the border with North Korea, in accordance with an agreement made by the two states. Smoke billowed into the sky signaling that a contained explosion, by the South, had initiated the pledge to destroy guard posts.

Seoul invited journalists to observe the action which fulfilled a pledge made when the neighbors signed a unification pact, in September. The Koreas agreed to dismantle or disarm nearly one dozen guard posts, each.

Last week, the two Koreas withdrew troops and firearms from some of the guard posts - which are located in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) - along the shared border, prior to conducting the demolition.

According to reports, South Korea had about 60 posts inside the DMZ, while The North was an estimated 160. There are an estimated 2 million landmines planted in and near the zone.

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Washington always turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia, says ex-CIA officer on Khashoggi case

The White House is far more interested in ensuing Saudi Arabia’s stability than punishing it for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, former CIA officer Bob Baer said.

We’ve always turned a blind eye to what’s going on in Saudi Arabia – right from the very beginning,” Baer told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday. He stressed that the close ties between the nations make Washington reluctant to attack the kingdom not only with regards to the Khashoggi case but also on the issues of human rights abuses and the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen.

 
© Global Look Press/ Aurelien Morissard

Dissident journalist and The Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi disappeared in early October after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia claims that he was killed during a spontaneous “fistfight,” and has pledged to investigate his death. Turkish officials, meanwhile, insist that the Saudis dispatched a ‘death squad’ to assassinate the journalist. His body still hasn’t been located.

Khashoggi’s murder sparked international outrage. US President Donald Trump warned that the kingdom will face a “severe punishment” if it had indeed put out a hit on the journalist. The US, however, chose to keep the existing arms deals with the Saudis and said it didn’t believe the nation’s leadership was behind the dissident’s demise.

Washington is more interested in maintaining Saudi Arabia’s stability than searching for the truth and criticizing Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, Bob Baer argued. The kingdom remains among the prime buyers of US-made arms and Washington’s strategic ally in the region.

“Saudi Arabia is a volcano right now. We don’t have players there on our side [other than MBS],” Baer, who is now an author and commentator, said. “What worries the White House is that this country could pop.”

According to the recent New York Times report, the audio recording of Khashoggi’s murder, given to the CIA by Turkey, reveals how a member of the ‘kill team’ instructed a superior to “tell your boss” about the mission’s success. The US intelligence officers believe that “boss” in question is MBS, the paper reported.

At the same time, Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, who himself didn’t listen to the tape, strongly suggested that it was “not the conclusion” the officers have made.

Bob Baer found it hard to agree with Bolton and noted that the Crown Prince “is in control” of all Saudi security services. “The Saudis don’t have rogue operations – ever. It has never occurred.”

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Rouhani to Trump: 'We Will Defeat You'

The United States' reimposed sanctions on Iran will not be tolerated, according to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who says, "The Americans will definitely be defeated in this path. The path they have chosen is wrong and incorrect."

The United States has chosen the wrong path in reimposing sanctions on Iran and will be defeated, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

RELATED: US Reimposes Iran sanctions, Tehran Slams Trump's 'Bullying'

Washington reinstated sanctions targeting Iran's oil industry on Nov. 5 as it seeks to force the Islamic Republic to accept tougher curbs on its nuclear program, halt its development of ballistic missiles as well as its support for proxy forces in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

"The Americans will definitely be defeated in this path. The path they have chosen is wrong and incorrect," Rouhani said. "If they are being honest and they are looking for regional security, this is not the path. If they are being honest and respect the Iranian people, this is not the path."

He added, "They have made themselves more infamous in the world and in front of our people. It's clear for everyone that the incorrect and cruel sanctions of America will harm the dear and honorable people of our country."

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Tuesday that Washington intends to step up enforcement of sanctions on Iran and "squeeze them very hard."

President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions after he withdrew the United States from world powers' 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, reached before he took office.

The other signatories - Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China remain committed to the deal. Iran has said it will stay in it only if the other powers preserve its economic benefits against U.S. pressure.

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CNN Sues White House Over Barring Of Reporter Jim Acosta

"The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta's First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process," the news network said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

Washington: CNN sued Donald Trump's administration Tuesday, alleging the White House violated journalist Jim Acosta's rights under the constitution by revoking his press credentials following a heated exchange with the US president.

"The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta's First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process," the news network said in a statement announcing the lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington.

"We have asked this court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process," CNN said. "If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials."

The White House had suspended Acosta's hard pass after he sparred at a news conference with the president, who demanded that the reporter yield the microphone and called him a "rude, terrible person" when he did not immediately comply.

Acosta persisted with questions and a White House intern tried to take the microphone from the CNN journalist -- an incident the Trump administration characterize as misconduct against the female aide.

Acosta banishment from the White House marked an escalation in tensions between the president and his chief media antagonist.

The White House Correspondents' Assocation welcomed CNN's lawsuit, saying "revoking access to the White House complex amounted to disproportionate reaction to the events."

"We continue to urge the administration to reverse course and fully reinstate CNN's correspondent," WHCA president Olivier Knox said in a statement.

"The President of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him."

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US sanctions hit Iranian cancer patients struggling to get life-saving meds

US sanctions are driving up the cost of cancer treatment in Iran, patients and doctors say – as restrictions reimposed on Tehran by Washington make it harder to buy life-saving medication and equipment.

Ali Shokri, a Tehran resident battling cancer, had his second round of chemotherapy after the US sanctions kicked in. The cost of each session jumped from 10 million Rial ($240) to 20 million ($475), Ali told Ruptly video agency on Monday, adding that the price hike isn’t the only problem cancer patients now face.

“The drugs can’t be found easily like before, and we have to look for them several times in different pharmacies.”

Marjan Shirazi, whose husband suffers from cancer, said that the drugs that used to be available before sanctions have now become “more expensive and rarer.”

The US assurance that the restrictions are meant to hurt the Iranian government is “an absolute lie” since the pressure from them “is directed on people as well,” she told Ruptly.

Doctors are stressing that punitive measures against Tehran make it harder – and in some cases completely impossible – to import supplies required for life-saving treatment. “When they impose sanctions on our banks, the money can’t be transferred easily to a foreign country to buy medications,” noted Ali Kazemian, who runs the Cancer Institute at the Imam Khomeini Medical Center. The doctor noted the US sanctions often block the imports of vital medical equipment.

Washington reinstated sanctions on the country after President Donald Trump had pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program – a move condemned by the EU, Russia and China, who are also signatories of the deal. The first round of restored sanctions was enacted in April, while the second lot came into force last week. The sanctions target Iran’s oil, banking and shipping industries.

READ MORE: Iranian central bank disconnected from SWIFT messaging – US treasury

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, said that the sanctions have “no impact” on the national economy. Officials in Tehran are pledging to continue oil production and foreign trade, as well to defend the country’s traditional shipping routes.

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