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News Wrap: Aid reaches Indonesian island as earthquake death toll rises

In our news wrap Wednesday, the death toll from Indonesia’s powerful earthquake and tsunami has climbed to 1,407. More than 70,000 residents remain homeless, as humanitarian aid slowly trickles in. Also, the White House stepped up its denial that President Trump and his father engaged in legally dubious schemes to avoid inheritance taxes.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news, the confirmed number of dead in Indonesia's earthquake and tsunami rose again to more than 1,400. Some 70,000 people remain homeless, as aid slowly trickled in.

    Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News reports.

  • Jonathan Miller:

    People are trying to put their lives back together again. But when your home has been crushed and splintered as though it's been trampled by giants, it's hard to know where to start.

    The tsunami left little to salvage. Outside assistance is now getting in, food, water, earth movers, petrol tankers now coming down the wave-battered coastal strip into Palu.

    We went the other way, to Donggala, close to the quake's epicenter. The fishing port took a bashing. Only around 50 people died here, 20 still missing. Near the harbor, 33 houses were consumed by the raging sea. There are several dead bodies still in there.

    So close was this place to the epicenter, the first of several waves hit within a minute of the quake. Six members of Rainaldi's family died, including Al-Faril, his only son, just a toddler.

  • Andi Rainaldi (through translator):

    When it happened, my wife was holding the baby. She couldn't swim and she could not hold onto him. The baby was taken, and she was knocked unconscious by falling concrete. She was found a kilometer-and-a-half away, still alive. Her nose and ears were full of sand.

    After days of searching, we had found four bodies. My baby was found floating in the water.

  • Jonathan Miller:

    The Indonesian government has come under fire for reacting too slowly and its failure to get aid in fast enough. The military has airlifting applies in, but this area is remote. Roads were completely blocked and impassible for days. And in the mountains, most still are.

    Not far from Donggala, the former village of Lalisalura leveled by the tsunami. Today, on his second visit to the disaster zone, the Indonesian president met some survivors, who he told to be patient, promising help would arrive soon.

    Indonesians are used to living with earthquakes. This is a part of the world where tectonic plates collide and magma wells up. A seismic fault, the Palu-Koru fault, runs straight down the middle of Palu Bay them. And this is their third tsunami inside a century.

    Every generation has a tsunami story to tell. The tsunami of 2018 will be etched on the memories of another generation. The regularity of these events might bolster people's stoicism, but it doesn't make them any less deadly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That report from Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

    The White House today stepped up its denial that President Trump and his father engaged in legally dubious schemes to avoid inheritance taxes. The New York Times reported the allegations based on extensive reviews of the family's financial documents. The president called it — quote — "a very old, boring and often-told hit piece."

    And Press Secretary Sarah Sanders followed suit.

  • Sarah Sanders:

    The president's lawyer address some of the specific claims and walked through how the allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false and highly defamatory. There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The New York State Tax Department said it is reviewing the allegation.

    The president is ramping up pressure on Saudi Arabia over oil prices. At his rally last night, he pushed the Saudis again to help cut prices. And he suggested U.S. military power is the only thing keeping the Saudi monarchy in power. He said he has told Saudi King Salman that — quote — "You might not be there for two weeks without us."

    The United States has terminated a 1955 treaty on economic and consular ties with Iran. That came today after the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, ordered the U.S. to ease some of its economic sanctions against Iran on humanitarian grounds. Iran argues the sanctions violate the treaty.

    In Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that agreement long ago ceased to have any meaning.

  • Mike Pompeo:

    I will say what the practical fallout is. The Iranians have been ignoring it for an awfully long time. We ought to have pulled out of it decades ago today. Today marked a useful point, with the decision that was made this morning from the ICJ. This marked a useful point.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The court decision is supposed to be legally binding, but Pompeo said the body lacks jurisdiction.

    Separately, he said he looks forward to heading back to North Korea this weekend for talks on getting the North to give up its nuclear weapons.

    It turns out yesterday's poison scare at the Pentagon was a false alarm. Two envelopes gave off false indications of ricin at a mail screening facility, but officials now say they contain castor seeds from which ricin is derived and not the poison itself.

    The Salt Lake Tribune reports that a Utah man has been taken into custody as part of the investigation.

    In Chicago, testimony concluded in the trial of a white policeman Jason Van Dyke, accused of murdering a black teenager, Laquan McDonald. Yesterday, Van Dyke testified that he opened fire after McDonald brandished a knife, but dash-cam video show the teen moving away when he was shot 16 times. Closing arguments are set for tomorrow.

    This year's Nobel Prize in chemistry goes to two Americans and a Briton whose genetic work led to new biofuels and drugs. Frances Arnold at the California Institute of Technology is only the fifth woman to win the chemistry prize. The other winners today were George Smith of the University of Missouri and Gregory Winter at a molecular biology lab in Cambridge, England.

    The U.S. Senate gave final approval today to a bipartisan bill that aims to fight the opioid epidemic. It totals $8 billion over five years for law enforcement and public health measures. It also cracks down on illicit opioid shipments from other countries. President Trump is expected to sign it.

    Federal disaster officials tested a new emergency system this afternoon on cell phones for the first time. The warnings can include weather, child kidnappings and also presidential alerts.

    FEMA says that President Trump would be barred by law from using the system to send his own messages.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 54 points to close at 26828, another record. The Nasdaq rose 25 and the S&P 500 added two.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour", an interview with Russia's President Vladimir Putin; the Federal Reserve chairman discusses risks to the U.S. economy; and Miami learns to cope with the ever-present threat of climate change.

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