Los Angeles, Oct 15 (AP/UNB)— Twenty-five people were taken to hospitals with mostly minor injuries following a series of crashes involving at least two cars and a bus that crashed through a concrete divider on a Los Angeles highway, authorities said.
Five patients were in serious condition following the collisions shortly after 1 p.m. that shut down all lanes on Interstate 405 in the city's San Fernando Valley area, Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman Margaret Stewart said. The 20 others were in fair condition with minor injuries. A total of 40 people were evaluated at the scene, she said.
The California Highway Patrol was investigating the cause of the pileup on the key north-south artery. It wasn't immediately known how many people were on the bus or where it was headed.
Television news footage showed a white charter bus marked "Transit Systems" splayed sideways but upright across southbound lanes in the North Hills neighborhood. Its skid marks indicated it had gone sideways on the northbound side and then through the divider, City News Service reported.
The bus's front end was crumpled, and emergency window exits were popped open. An SUV next to it had extensive front-end damage.
At least one crashed vehicle was in northbound lanes, which were reopened by about 2:30 p.m. The southbound side remained closed hours later, backing up traffic for miles. Some motorists stuck in their cars walked off the freeway, apparently in search of toilets or drinks, City News Service reported.
The patients in serious condition were three women, ages 49, 60 and 88, and two men, ages 30 and 69, Stewart said.
Nobody answered at a phone number listed for Los Angeles-based Transit Systems bus company.
Dubai, Oct 15 (AP/UNB) — Saudi Arabia on Sunday threatened to retaliate for any sanctions imposed against it after President Donald Trump said the oil-rich kingdom deserves "severe punishment" if it is responsible for the disappearance and suspected murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
The warning from the world's top oil exporter came after a turbulent day on the Saudi stock exchange, which plunged as much as 7 percent at one point.
The statement was issued as international concern grew over the writer who vanished on a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul over a week ago. American lawmakers threatened tough punitive action against the Saudis, and Germany, France and Britain jointly called for a "credible investigation" into Khashoggi's disappearance.
Turkish officials have said they fear a Saudi hit team killed and dismembered Khashoggi, who wrote critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The kingdom has called such allegations "baseless" but has not offered any evidence Khashoggi ever left the consulate.
Already, international business leaders are pulling out of the kingdom's upcoming investment forum, a high-profile event known as "Davos in the Desert," and the sell-off on Riyadh's Tadawul stock exchange showed that investors are uneasy.
The exchange dropped by over 500 points, then clawed back some of the losses, ending the day down 264 points, or more than 4 percent. Of 188 stocks traded on the exchange, 179 ended the day with a loss.
"Something this big would definitely spook investors, and Saudi just opened up for foreign direct investment, so that was big," said Issam Kassabieh, a financial analyst at Dubai-based firm Menacorp Finance. "Investors do not feel solid in Saudi yet, so it's easy for them to take back their funds."
In an interview scheduled to air Sunday, Trump told CBS' "60 Minutes" that Saudi Arabia would face strong consequences if involved in Khashoggi's disappearance.
"There's something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that was the case, so we're going to have to see," Trump said. "We're going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment."
But the president has also said "we would be punishing ourselves" by canceling arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The sales are a "tremendous order for our companies," and if the Saudis don't buy their weaponry from the U.S., they will get it from others, he said.
In a statement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the kingdom warned that if it "receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the kingdom's economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy."
"The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures or repeating false accusations," the statement said.
The statement did not elaborate. However, a column published in English a short time later by the general manager of the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite news network suggested Saudi Arabia could use its oil production as a weapon. Benchmark Brent crude is trading at around $80 a barrel, and Trump has criticized OPEC and Saudi Arabia over rising prices.
"If the price of oil reaching $80 angered President Trump, no one should rule out the price jumping to $100, or $200, or even double that figure," Turki Aldakhil wrote.
It's unclear, however, whether Saudi Arabia would be willing to unilaterally cut production.
Aldakhil added that Saudi arms purchases from the U.S. and other trade could be at risk as well. "The truth is that if Washington imposes sanctions on Riyadh, it will stab its own economy to death, even though it thinks that it is stabbing only Riyadh!" he wrote.
Prince Mohammed has aggressively pitched the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment. But Khashoggi's disappearance has led several business leaders and media outlets to back out of the upcoming investment conference in Riyadh called the Future Investment Initiative. They include the CEO of Uber, a company in which Saudi Arabia has invested billions of dollars; billionaire Richard Branson; JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon; and Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Counselor Ahmed Hafez, said Egypt is following with concern the repercussions of the case of Khashoggi, and stressed the importance of revealing the truth of the matter through a transparent investigation, while emphasizing the gravity of pre-empting investigations and directing groundless accusations.
Khashoggi has written extensively for the Post about Saudi Arabia, criticizing its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women's rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving. Those policies are all seen as initiatives of the crown prince.
Washington, Oct 14 (AP/UNB) — Freed American pastor Andrew Brunson fell to one knee in the Oval Office and placed his hand on President Donald Trump's shoulder in prayer on Saturday, asking God to provide the president "supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him."
Trump welcomed Brunson to the White House to celebrate his release from nearly two years of confinement in Turkey, which had sparked a diplomatic row with a key ally and outcry from U.S. evangelical groups.
Brunson returned to the U.S. aboard a military jet shortly before meeting the president. He was detained in October 2016, formally arrested that December and placed under house arrest on July 25 for health reasons.
"From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that's not bad," Trump said.
Brunson's homecoming amounts to a diplomatic — and possibly political — win for Trump and his evangelical base. Coming on the heels of the confirmation of a conservative justice to the Supreme Court, Brunson's return is likely to leave evangelical Christians feeling good about the president and motivated get to the polls in the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Brunson appeared to be in good health and good spirits. When he asked Trump if he could pray for him, the president replied, "Well, I need it probably more than anyone ese in this room, so that would be very nice, thank you."
Brunson left his chair beside Trump, kneeled and placed a hand on the president's shoulder. As Trump bowed his head, Brunson asked God to "give him supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him. I ask that you give him wisdom in how to lead this country into righteousness."
He continued: "I ask that you give him perseverance, and endurance and courage to stand for truth. I ask that you to protect him from slander from enemies, from those who would undermine. I ask that you make him a great blessing to this country. Fill him with your wisdom and strength and perseverance. And we bless him. May he be a great blessing to our country. In Jesus' name, we bless you. Amen."
Brunson, originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, had lived in Turkey with his family for more than two decades and led a small congregation in the Izmir Resurrection Church. He was accused of committing crimes on behalf of Kurdish militants and to aid a Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, accused by Turkey of engineering the failed coup. He faced up to 35 years in jail if convicted of all the charges against him.
Administration officials cast Brunson's release as vindication of Trump's hard-nosed negotiating stance, saying Turkey tried to set terms for Brunson's release but that Trump was insistent on Brunson's release without conditions. Trump maintained there was no deal for Brunson's freedom, but the president dangled the prospect of better relations between the U.S. and its NATO ally.
"We do not pay ransom in this country," Trump said.
Where previous administrations kept negotiations over U.S. prisoners held abroad close to the vest, Trump has elevated them to causes célèbres, striking a tough line with allies and foes alike.
Trump thanked Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had resisted the demands of Trump and other high-level U.S. officials for Brunson's release. Erdogan had insisted that his country's courts are independent, though he previously had suggested a possible swap for Brunson.
The U.S. had repeatedly called for Brunson's release and, this year, sanctioned two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum imports citing in part Brunson's plight.
Trump said the U.S. greatly appreciated Brunson's release and said the move "will lead to good, perhaps great, relations" between the U.S. and fellow NATO ally Turkey, and said the White House would "take a look" at the sanctions.
Trump asked Brunson and his family which candidate they voted for in 2016, saying he was confident they had gone for him. "I would like to say I sent in an absentee ballot from prison," Brunson quipped.
Evangelical voters overwhelmingly voted for the president despite discomfort with his personal shortcomings, in large part because he pledged to champion their causes, from defending persecuted Christians overseas to appointing conservative justices to the Supreme Court. In the space of seven days, less than a month from the midterm elections, Trump delivered on both fronts.
Prominent evangelical leaders such as Tony Perkins have championed Brunson's case, as has Vice President Mike Pence. First word of Brunson's arrival back on American soil Saturday came from Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Perkins tweeted just after noon that he had landed at a military base outside Washington with Brunson and his wife, Norine.
Erdogan said on Twitter that he hoped the two countries will continue to cooperate "as it befits two allies." Erdogan also called for joint efforts against terrorism, and he listed the Islamic State group, Kurdish militants and the network of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016.
Relations between the countries have become severely strained over Brunson's detention and a host of other issues.
A Turkish court on Friday convicted Brunson of having links to terrorism and sentenced him to just over three years in prison, but released the 50-year-old evangelical pastor because he had already spent nearly two years in detention. An earlier charge of espionage was dropped.
Hours later, Brunson was flown out of Turkey, his home for more than two decades. He was taken to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for a medical checkup.
"I love Jesus. I love Turkey," an emotional Brunson, who had maintained his innocence, told the court at Friday's hearing.
Brunson's release could benefit Turkey by allowing the government to focus on an escalating diplomatic crisis over Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to The Washington Post who has been missing for more than a week and is feared dead after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, was killed in the consulate; Saudi officials deny it.
Trump maintained the two cases were not linked, saying Brunson's release amid the Khashoggi investigation was "strict coincidence."
Turkey may also hope the U.S. will now lift the tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports, a move that would inject confidence into an economy rattled by high inflation and foreign currency debt.
But Brunson's release doesn't resolve disagreements over U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, as well as a plan by Turkey to buy Russian surface-to-air missiles. Turkey is also frustrated by the refusal of the U.S. to extradite Gulen.
Mexico Beach, Oct 14 (AP/UNB) — Search and rescue personnel are continuing to comb through the ruins of a small Florida Panhandle community destroyed by Hurricane Michael, which has left hundreds thousands without power and without easy access to supplies.
So far, one body has been found in Mexico Beach, but authorities say there is little doubt the death toll will rise.
Crews with dogs went door-to-door Saturday in Mexico Beach, pushing aside debris to get inside badly damaged structures in a second wave of searches following what they described as an initial, "hasty" search of the area. About 1,700 search and rescue personnel have checked 25,000 homes, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.
Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds (249 kph) and heavy storm surge. The tally of lives lost across the South stood at 15, including the victim found in the rubble of Mexico Beach, where about 1,000 people live.
"Everything is time consuming," said Capt. Ignatius Carroll, of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue task force. "You don't want to put a rush on a thorough rescue."
More roads were passable along the storm-ravaged coast as crews cleared downed trees and power lines, but traffic lights remained out and there were long lines at the few open gas stations.
About 4,000 members of Florida's national guard have been called up to deal with the storm, including 500 added on Saturday. Nearly 2,000 law-enforcement officials have been sent into the Panhandle.
Schools will stay closed indefinitely, a hospital halted operations and sent 200 patients to hospitals elsewhere in Florida and in Alabama, and more than 253,000 customers in the Panhandle remain without power.
"Everybody just needs to help each other right now," Scott said after meeting with emergency responders in the Panama City area.
"You feel sorry for people," Scott said. "They might have lost their house. They worry about their kids getting into school. You know, people don't sit and have a whole bunch of extra money in the bank just waiting for a disaster."
Some residents were packing up and getting as far away as they could.
Jeff and Katrina Pearsey, with a ruined rental home in the Panama City area and no indication of when they could again earn a living, said they were heading to Bangor, Maine, where Katrina once worked as a nurse. Several trees came down on their property, including one that smashed through the roof.
"We're getting our stuff and we're going," said Jeff Pearsey, 48. "We're probably done with Panama City."
Michael was one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever make landfall in the U.S. While most residents fled ahead of the storm's arrival, others stayed to face the hurricane. Some barely escaped with their lives as homes were pushed off their foundations and whole neighborhoods became submerged.
Hector Morales, a 57-year-old restaurant cook, never even thought of evacuating. His mobile home wasn't on the beach but when it suddenly began floating during the hurricane, he jumped out and swam to a fishing boat and clambered aboard.
"I lost everything," Morales said. "But I made it."
How many others were not so fortunate was still not clear. By one count, state officials said, 285 people in Mexico Beach defied mandatory evacuation orders and stayed behind. It's unclear how many people stayed behind in nearby communities.
One who did, Albert Blackwell, was preparing on Saturday to cover holes in the roof of his apartment and take a chain saw to trees that fell and broke his windows just outside Panama City.
"I'm the idiot that rode it out here in this place," said Blackwell, 65, sweat dripping from his face. He doesn't plan to leave; he wants to protect his home from looters.
Emergency officials said they've received thousands of calls asking about missing people, but with cellphone service out across a wide area, they found it impossible to know who among those unaccounted for were safe but just unable to dial out to friends or family.
Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said he expected the death toll to rise. Searchers were trying to determine if the person found dead in Mexico Beach had been alone or was part of a family.
Authorities have set up distribution centers to dole out food and water to victims. They've also set up a triage tent to treat residents stepping on nails and cutting themselves on debris.
President Donald Trump announced plans to visit Florida and hard-hit Georgia early next week but didn't say what day he would arrive. On Saturday he approved federal disaster aid relief for four Alabama counties affected by the storm.
Trump spoke with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and "reiterated that the federal government is fully available," the White House said Saturday.
"We are with you!" he tweeted.
Dhaka, Oct 12 (UNB) - Hurricane Michael left "unimaginable destruction" as it ploughed into coastal areas of Florida, the state's governor, Rick Scott says.
"So many lives have been changed forever," he said. "So many families have lost everything."
The worst hit areas of Florida's north-west coast saw houses ripped from their foundations, trees felled, and power lines strewn across streets, reports BBC.
Hurricane Michael struck on Wednesday with winds of 155mph (250km/h).
It weakened to a storm as it moved inland towards the north-east, but at least six people have died, most of them in Florida.
More than 370,000 people in Florida were ordered to evacuate but officials believe many ignored the warning.
Governor Scott said the US Coast Guard carried out 10 missions overnight, saving at least 27 people.
Which areas are worst affected?
Michael ploughed into Florida's Panhandle coast near the town of Mexico Beach at 14:00 (18:00 GMT) on Wednesday, one of the strongest storms to ever hit the US mainland.
Ranked four on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale and with a storm surge of 9ft (2.7m), it lifted homes from their foundations and heavily damaged others in districts closest to the sea in Mexico Beach, CNN helicopter footage showed.
Twenty survivors were found in the town overnight, AP reports, but 285 had refused to obey warnings to evacuate.
Head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, called Mexico Beach "ground zero" due to the damage.
Trees were downed in Panama City, northwest of Mexico Beach, buildings flattened, boats and electrical cables scattered.
Apalachicola, with 2,300 residents, was also badly affected, the mayor reporting that downed cables were making it difficult to get through the town.
Debris and floodwater are also making some of the worst-hit areas difficult to reach.
Governor Scott urged residents not to return until the authorities "make sure things are safe", given the danger from power lines and other debris.