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Prayers, fear in tsunami-struck Indonesian towns as toll tops 400

Prayers, fear in tsunami-struck Indonesian towns as toll tops 400A small Christmas service was held near a stretch of Indonesia’s tsunami-struck coastline Tuesday, as panicked residents in one coastal town tried to flee after rumours spread that another deadly wave was about to smash into the coast. It turned out to be a false alarm, but widespread fears about a repeat disaster — and warnings that clean water and medicine supplies were running low — rippled across the region as the death toll from Saturday’s volcano-triggered disaster topped 400. Thousands more have been displaced, with many left homeless after houses were flattened by the killer wave.



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Joe Biden tops key 2020 poll as he mulls whether he is too old to run for president

Joe Biden tops key 2020 poll as he mulls whether he is too old to run for presidentJoe Biden, Barack Obama’s vice-president, has emerged as an early frontrunner among Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination with a dominant lead among voters in Iowa, who will be the first to state their preference next year. A new CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll finds 32 per cent of likely caucusgoers saying they back Mr Biden as their first choice, ahead of 19 per cent for Bernie Sanders and 11 per cent for Beto O'Rourke, the telegenic campaigner who came close to an against-the-odds win in Texas last month. The results have Democrats salivating about a dream ticket that matches a 76-year-old veteran, who is popular with blue-collar voters, with Mr O’Rourke, a 46-year-old with a knack for producing viral videos. “It’s early days and a lot can change but it could be a way to get past the age issue with Joe,” said a Democratic strategist who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of endorsing a candidate. “Then again, it’s two white men.” Mr Biden has not yet decided whether he will join a crowded field of contenders. However, he has done little to dispel the speculation and has touted his age as an advantage. Profile | Joe Biden “I’ll be as straight with you as I can. I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president,” he said during a speech at the University of Montana earlier this month. “The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse that I've worked on my whole life.” His supporters say he is best placed to woo back the parts of the Rust Belt and middle America that were unimpressed with Hillary Clinton’s run and defected to Donald Trump in 2016. But doubts remain that the Democrats are in danger of losing the youth vote if they plump for Mr Biden or the likes of Mr Sanders, 77, or Elizabeth Warren, 69. The Associated Press reported at the weekend that Mr Biden was talking to friends and long-time supporters about whether he was too old to run for the White House. They have floated the idea of teaming up with Mr O’Rourke. Mr O'Rourke excited Democratic voters and individuals donors in Texas, a usually staunch Republican state. Beto O'Rourke is mulling a 2020 run after a strong midterm showing Credit: Sergio Flores/Reuters The three-term Congressman initially ruled himself out of a 2020 run but is now considering capitalising on his sudden national profile. He became famous for livestreaming almost every aspect of his life during the midterm campaign when he came within three percentage points of a giant-killing victory over Ted Cruz. Iowa is a critical state for would-be presidents. It represents the first votes of the election cycle as, come February 2020, party supporters gather in caucuses to select their preferred candidate. The winner has gone on to clinch the nomination in every contested primary season since 2000. Among other notable contenders, Ms Warren, the Massachusetts Senator, polled eight percent and Kamala Harris, the California Senator, won the backing of five percent of respondents in the new poll. Last week the New York Times reported that Mr Sanders and Ms Warren had met to discuss their rival presidential ambitions, but that neither had tried to dissuade the other from running, nor had they agreed to a joint-ticket.  Ms Warren, a noted progressive like Mr Sanders, has drawn fierce criticism for publishing the results of a DNA test to prove that she has Native American ancestry. The move followed Mr Trump, who mockingly dubbed Ms Warren "Pocahontas", alleging such claims were false.



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Time running out for survivors as Indonesia toll tops 1,400

Time running out for survivors as Indonesia toll tops 1,400The death toll in Indonesia’s twin quake-tsunami disaster passed 1,400 Wednesday, with time running out to rescue survivors and the UN warning of “vast” unmet needs that have fuelled looting. Indonesian soldiers have been ordered to fire on those raiding stores on the quake and tsunami-struck island of Sulawesi, a colonel told AFP, after desperate survivors emptied shops of food and water.



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Indonesia clamps down on looting as quake-tsunami toll tops 1,200

Indonesia clamps down on looting as quake-tsunami toll tops 1,200More than 1,200 people are now known to have died in the quake-tsunami that smashed into Sulawesi, Indonesia said Tuesday, as police pledged to clamp down on looting by survivors taking advantage of the chaos. There were reports of officers firing warning shots and tear gas to ward off people ransacking shops in Palu, a coastal city ravaged by a 7.5-magnitude quake and the tsunami it spawned. Almost 200,000 people are in need of urgent help, the United Nations says, among them tens of thousands of children.



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Mega Millions jackpot tops $500 million for only fourth time

Mega Millions jackpot tops $  500 million for only fourth timeIt follows a March 27 Mega Millions drawing that was the twenty-third in a row without a jackpot-winning ticket. Friday’s 11 pm ET (0300 GMT) jackpot drawing will be for the tenth largest prize ever offered in the United States. The Mega Millions record is $ 656 million won in 2012.



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Amazon's Jeff Bezos tops 2018 Forbes' billionaires list

Amazon's Jeff Bezos tops 2018 Forbes' billionaires listThe online retail giant's CEO is the richest man in the world, followed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett. Elly Park reports.



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UN backs Syria ceasefire as death toll in rebel enclave tops 500

UN backs Syria ceasefire as death toll in rebel enclave tops 500The UN Security Council has unanimously demanded a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, as new air strikes on the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta took the civilian death toll from seven days of bombing to more than 500. After the council vote on Saturday, Syrian warplanes backed by Russian air power launched new raids on a town in Eastern Ghouta, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.



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The Latest: Group says Syria death toll tops 100 for the day

The Latest: Group says Syria death toll tops 100 for the dayBEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):



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Poll: Oprah tops Trump with likely voters in 2020 election

Poll: Oprah tops Trump with likely voters in 2020 electionPresident Donald Trump was asked whether he would beat Oprah Winfrey in a presidential contest on Tuesday, to which he replied, “Yeah I’ll beat Oprah. According to the latest Rasmussen Reports survey released on Wednesday, 48 percent of likely U.S. voters would choose Oprah — an iconic entertainment mogul — while 38 percent would opt for the current Republican president. An additional 14 percent are “undecided” on the matchup, signaling Oprah — who has no political or government experience to date — could potentially gain or lose support if she decided to roll out a presidential platform.



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Air New Zealand tops world airline awards 2018

Air New Zealand tops world airline awards 2018For the fifth year in a row, safety and product rating site Airlineratings.com has named Air New Zealand the world's best airline 2018. 



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