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World

    The aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made her first public appearance in about six years, state media reported Sunday, quelling rumors that she was purged or executed by her nephew. According to a Korean Central News Agency dispatch, the name of Kim Kyong Hui was included in a list of top North Korean officials who watched a performance marking Lunar New Year's Day with Kim Jong Un at a Pyongyang theater on Saturday. North Korea’s main newspaper also released a photo showing Kim Kyong Hui sitting near Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, at the Samjiyon Theater. Kim Kyong Hui, 73, was once an influential figure in North Korea as the only sister of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un. She held a slew of top posts such as a four-star army general and a ruling Workers’ Party departmental director. She was also believed to have played a key role in grooming Kim Jong Un as the next leader after Kim Jong Il suffered a stroke in 2008. Kim Jong Un eventually inherited power after his father died of a heart attack in late 2011. Kim Kyong Hui’s fate had been in doubt after Kim Jong Un had her husband, Jang Song Thaek, executed for treason in December 2013. He was once considered the North’s No. 2. Days after Jang’s execution, Kim Kyong Hui’s name was mentioned in a KCNA dispatch as a member of a funeral committee for another top official. But she missed a state ceremony commemorating the second anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death days later. Her name had since never been mentioned in North Korean state media until Sunday's KCNA report. Some North Korea monitoring groups in Seoul and foreign media outlets had speculated Kim Jong Un had his aunt also executed or purged, or she died of health problems. Outside experts said Kim Kyong Hui had long suffered from liver and heart problems and high blood pressure. Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang at South Korea's private Sejong Institute said Kim Kyong Hui’s reemergence suggested Kim Jong Un was attempting to strengthen a unity of his ruling family as he’s pushing to harden his position toward the United States in stalled nuclear negotiations. Cheong, however, predicted that Kim Kyong Hui won’t likely regain her political influence as she has no position in the North’s powerful Politburo, whose memberships have already been filled with new figures.
  • The new virus accelerated its spread in China with 56 deaths so far, and the U.S. Consulate in the epicenter of the outbreak, the central city of Wuhan, announced Sunday it will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight. Chinese President Xi Jinping called the outbreak a grave situation, and the government stepped up efforts to restrict travel and public gatherings while rushing medical staff and supplies to Wuhan, which remains on lockdown. Anyone traveling from Wuhan is now required to register with community health stations and quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, according to an order from the National Health Commission. The latest figures reported Sunday morning cover the previous 24 hours and mark an increase of 15 deaths and 688 cases for a total of 1,975 infections. The government also reported five cases in Hong Kong, two in Macao and three in Taiwan. Small numbers of cases have been found in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France and Australia. Canada said it discovered its first case, the man in his 50s who recently flew from Wuhan to Guangzhou, China, and then on to Toronto. A notice from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said there would be limited capacity to transport U.S. citizens on the Tuesday flight from Wuhan that will proceed directly to San Francisco. It said that in the event there are not enough seats, priority will be given to to individuals “at greater risk from coronavirus.' The French Consulate also was considering an evacuation of its nationals from the city. It said it's working on arranging a bus service to help French citizens leave Wuhan. French automaker PSA Group said it will evacuate its employees from Wuhan, quarantine them and then bring them to France. The Foreign Ministry said it was working on 'eventual options' to evacuate French citizens from Wuhan “who want to leave.” It didn't elaborate. An Ethiopian student in Wuhan told The Associated Press that it's becoming difficult to buy food and the situation was worsening. “There are more than 100 Ethiopian students who are studying in Wuhan, and 300 in Hubei province,' said the student, who spoke on condition of anonymity for his safety. 'We fear that we will be sick soon. Our school didn't arrange anything ... (other than) giving us masks.' He did not say which school. Also Sunday, two of Hong Kong's biggest attractions, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, announced they were closing for the time being. “As a precautionary measure in line with prevention efforts taking place across Hong Kong, we are temporarily closing Hong Kong Disneyland park out of consideration for the health and safety of our guests and cast members,' the park said in a statement. It said a reopening date would be announced based on the advisement of local authorities. Travel agencies have been told to halt all group tours, and concern is growing over the potential impact of millions of people traveling back to the cities after the Lunar New Year holiday ends on Thursday. The vast majority of the infections and all the deaths have been in mainland China, but fresh cases are popping up. Singapore reported its fourth case on Sunday, a 36-year-old man from Wuhan. The Health Ministry said he did not exhibit any symptoms on his flight. He developed a cough the next day, sought treatment on Jan. 24 and was immediately isolated. South Korea confirmed its third case, according to Yonhap news agency. In the heart of the outbreak where 11 million residents are already on lockdown, Wuhan banned most vehicle use, including private cars, in downtown areas starting Sunday. The city will assign 6,000 taxis to neighborhoods to help people get around if they need to. Wuhan plans to build a second makeshift hospital with about 1,000 beds to handle the growing number of patients. The city has said another hospital was expected to be completed Feb. 3. Medical workers in Wuhan have been among those infected and local media reported a doctor died on Saturday morning. The 62-year-old physician worked at the ear, nose and throat department at Hubei Xinhua Hospital. He was hospitalized on Jan. 18 and died a week later. Xinhua also said medical supplies are being rushed to the city, including 14,000 protective suits, 110,000 pairs of gloves and masks and goggles. The National Health Commission said it is bringing in medical teams to help handle the outbreak, a day after videos circulating online showed throngs of frantic people in masks lined up for examinations and complaints that family members had been turned away at hospitals that were at capacity. The Chinese military dispatched 450 medical staff, some with experience in past outbreaks, including SARS and Ebola, who arrived in Wuhan late Friday to help treat many patients hospitalized with viral pneumonia, Xinhua reported. The new virus comes from a large family of what are known as coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a cold. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath. It can worsen to pneumonia, which can be fatal. China cut off trains, planes and other links to Wuhan on Wednesday, as well as public transportation within the city, and has steadily expanded a lockdown to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of more than 50 million — greater than that of New York, London, Paris and Moscow combined. A growing number of cities and provinces were enacting their own travel restrictions to contain the virus. The city of Shantou, almost 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southeast of Wuhan, was banning bus, taxi, ferry and car-hailing services from Monday. Only those authorized would be allowed to enter the city to maintain supplies or provide services. Shantou has reported two cases, with another 96 in the surrounding province of Guangdong. Elsewhere, long-distance, inter-provincial bus services had been suspended, including those to and from Beijing. The rapid increase in reported deaths and illnesses does not necessarily mean the crisis is getting worse but could reflect better monitoring and reporting of the virus. Those killed by the virus have mostly been middle-aged or elderly people, sometimes suffering from other conditions that weaken their ability to fight back. It is not clear how lethal the new coronavirus is or even whether it is as dangerous as the ordinary flu, which kills tens of thousands of people every year in the U.S. alone. ___ Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto, researcher Henry Hou and video journalist Dake Kang in Beijing and Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, contributed to this report.
  • France and a major automaker said Saturday that they are moving to get citizens out of a locked-down Chinese city where a deadly outbreak of a new virus originated and has spread worldwide. French automaker PSA Group says it will evacuate its employees and their families from Wuhan in central China, quarantine them in another major Chinese city and then bring them back to France. The Foreign Ministry said French officials were studying “eventual options' for all its nationals to leave if they wish. It comes a day after France announced that three cases of the new virus are being treated in two French hospitals — the first confirmed in Europe. All the patients are Chinese who had recently returned from China and are doing well, officials said. A leading infectious disease specialist treating two of the patients said the illness appears less serious than comparable outbreaks in the past, like SARS, and that the chance of a European epidemic appears weak now. The respiratory virus has spread to a handful of other countries from Wuhan, which is under strict rules to isolate the city of 11 million. The virus has sickened more than 1,200 people and killed at least 41. The vast majority of the infections and all the deaths have been in mainland China. The virus comes from a large family of what are known as coronaviruses and causes cold- and flu-like symptoms. It can worsen to pneumonia, which can be fatal. PSA Group did not say how many employees would be part of an evacuation. In a series of tweets, the automaker said transportation, housing and other organizational considerations are being worked out. PSA, which sells its Peugeot and Citroen cars in China, has a joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Corp. in Wuhan. PSA said it was working closely with Chinese authorities and the French Consulate. The French Foreign Ministry's statement made no mention of PSA's plans. The automaker did not say how long the quarantine period would last. However, French medical experts have said the incubation period for the virus appears to be 14 days. PSA also said it is working with Chinese partner DFM and authorities to take care of Chinese employees. It didn't elaborate. French authorities cautioned against panic at home but were concerned about its citizens in Wuhan and those arriving in France, which has direct flights to China. Starting Sunday, medical teams will be at France's airports, notably Paris' Charles de Gaulle, to help passengers arriving from Chinese cities with questions or medical needs, French health chief Jerome Salomon said. Dr. Yazdan Yazdanpaneh said the two patients at Paris’ Bichat-Claude Bernard Hospital are a couple from Wuhan. The 31-year-old man and 30-year-old woman arrived in France on Jan. 18 without symptoms, but developed them soon afterward, the doctor said. They were taken Friday to Bichat and tested positive for the virus, Yazdanpaneh said. The two are staying in separate, specially equipped rooms where air enters but cannot escape to guard against transmission. They are doing well, but Yazdanpaneh could not speculate when they might be released. Ways in which the virus can be transmitted remain unclear. Yazdanpaneh, a leading French expert who heads Bichat’s infectious diseases unit, said that cases imported from China were “not a surprise” and that France had prepared, including by developing a test that provides rapid results for suspected cases. On the other hand, he said, the chance of “an epidemic in France or in Europe is weak, extremely weak.” “This illness is a lot less serious — and we don’t say this based on two patients, but talking to our international colleagues — than, for example, SARS,” Yazdanpaneh said, referring to the 2002 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome that killed hundreds of people. The mortality rate for the virus identified last month is thought to be less than 5%, whereas it was double that for SARS, he said. The “virulence and dangerousness” of the new strand of coronavirus 'is something you evaluate by looking at the number of deaths over the number of infections,' said Jerome Salomon, France's health chief. “The number of deaths is increasing but more slowly than the growing number of cases.” He added that authorities think “there are many more cases than those that have been confirmed, which automatically brings down the mortality rate.” But Salomon stressed a series of unknowns, including the source. “We still need data,” he said. ___ Alex Turnbull in Paris contributed to this report.
  • Former Canadian Cabinet minister Peter MacKay criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday as he officially announced he is running to be leader of Canada's Conservative Party. MacKay served as foreign minister and defense minister in ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government. He is widely considered the favorite after other high profile Conservatives declined to run. The 54-year-old Nova Scotia native stepped down from politics in 2015 just before Harper lost to Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party. MacKay said Canadians are fed up with phony diplomacy that doesn't yield results. He said leadership requires diplomacy measured by outcomes and 'not selfies or photo opps or dressing up for dancing.' Trudeau won a second term in Canada's October elections despite losing the majority in Parliament. It was a strong result for Trudeau following a series of scandals that had tarnished his image as a liberal icon. 'We are in danger of more years of Justin Trudeau, of more years of arrogant and disconnected Liberal governments making life harder for the people they say they want to help,' MacKay said. As leader of the Progressive Conservative party, MacKay helped form the current Conservative Party of Canada after the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Western-based Canadian Alliance in 2003. Like Trudeau, MacKay is also the son of Canadian politician — his father was a cabinet minister in former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's government. Trudeau is the son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. MacKay is a trained lawyer and former prosecutor. He was also instrumental in creating the annual Halifax International Security Forum. Current Conservative leader Andrew Scheer stepped down last month after weeks of infighting following a disappointing performance in October's election. MacKay joked that when he told his 6-year-old he was running, his son told him he would vote for him but didn't know who else was running. “MacKay may very well get acclaimed,' said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.
  • Juan Guaidó, the man who one year ago launched a bid to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, on Saturday paid a visit to Spain, where a thriving community of Venezuelans and a storm among Spanish political parties awaited him. Venezuela's main opposition leader is on an international tour to bolster support for his U.S.-backed effort to remove Maduro and lead the country until a presidential election deemed to be transparent can be held. After stops in London, Paris and the Davos Economic Forum earlier this week, where Guaidó was received by the European Union's leadership and heads of government including Britain's Boris Johnson and France's Emmanuel Macron, Guaidó is walking into a kerfuffle in the Spanish capital. It's his position as a challenger to Maduro's legitimacy that puts Spain in a tricky balancing act. Despite being one of the nearly 60 countries that last year recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president, Spain's new left-wing coalition has not granted the politician an audience with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Instead, Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya held a brief meeting with the 36-year-old politician. That has earned Sánchez strong criticism from his political opposition, which includes three parties spanning from the ideological center-right to the far-right. The Socialist leader has governed since earlier this month in partnership with the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos (United We Can) party, whose members have shown strong support for Maduro's government. But the criticism turned into a full-scale opposition-led offensive against Sánchez after media disclosed this week details of a secretive encounter at Madrid's airport between a member of his Cabinet and Venezuela's vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, who is banned from stepping into EU territory. Transport Minister José Luis Ábalos, a key figure in Sánchez's Socialist party, first denied the episode, then argued that he had been at the airport last Sunday at midnight on a private visit to welcome Venezuela's Tourism Minister Félix Plasencia, a friend of his who was in Madrid for a tourism fair. Finally, on Friday, the government changed again the initial account to explain that Ábalos had been compelled to greet Rodríguez and that he had convinced her not to attempt to enter Spain because that would violate EU sanctions. Although Spanish police sources told The Associated Press that Rodríguez never left the airport and that she technically didn't enter the country, the Spanish government has been in damage control mode over its handling of the episode. After days of silence, Sánchez addressed the controversy for the first time on Saturday, saying that he had no intention of dismissing Ábalos as the conservative opposition demanded. “He did everything in his hands to avert a diplomatic crisis. And he succeeded,' Sánchez said. As a powerful ally of Maduro, Rodríguez is on an EU sanction list and barred from entering the territory of any of the bloc's members since mid-2018. Since the first reports of the encounter at the airport appeared in media late on Thursday, neither the Venezuelan vice president nor Maduro's government have publicly commented on the trip. At the Madrid city hall, Guaidó received the city's Golden Keys from its conservative mayor, José Luis Martínez Almeida. “There are some who are still attempting to call for moderation and dialogue to keep us disengaged, perhaps answering to their own interests,” the mayor said, in a clear reference to Sánchez's left-wing coalition. Guaidó thanked the warm reception and said he took it as a “a recognition and a boost to the struggle of millions of Venezuelans.' The Venezuelan politician was expected to lead a march through the center of the Spanish capital demanding the end of Maduro's government and free presidential elections in Venezuela. Earlier in the morning, dozens gathered at the gates of Spain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, protesting instead against Guaidó's visit and referring to the politician as “clown” and “puppet” of the U.S. “No to imperialist interference in Venezuela and Latin America,” read a big banner that also showed support to “Venezuela's people and Nicolás Maduro.”
  • A blueprint the White House is rolling out to resolve the decades-long conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is as much about politics as it is about peace. President Donald Trump said he would likely release his long-awaited Mideast peace plan a little before he meets Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz. The Washington get-together offers political bonuses for Trump and the prime minister, but Trump's opponents are doubting the viability of any plan since there's been little-to-no input from the Palestinians, who have rejected it before its release. “It's entirely about politics,” Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, said about Tuesday's meeting. “You simply can't have a serious discussion about an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and only invite one side to come talk about it. This is more about the politics inside Israel and inside the U.S. than it is about any real efforts to get these two sides to an agreement.' Jared Kushner, a Trump adviser and the president's son-in-law, has been the architect for the plan for nearly three years. He's tried to persuade academics, lawmakers, former Mideast negotiators, Arab governments and special interest groups not to reject his fresh approach outright. People familiar with the administration’s thinking believe the release will have benefits even if it never gets Palestinian buy-in and ultimately fails. According to these people, the peace team believes that if Israeli officials are open to the plan and Arab nations do not outright reject it, the proposal could help improve broader Israeli-Arab relations. For years, the prospect of improved ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors had been conditioned on a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the administration believes that a change in regional dynamics – due mainly to rising antipathy to Iran – will boost Israel’s standing with not only Egypt and Jordan, which already have peace deals with the Jewish state, but also Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf nations, these people say. There have been signs of warming between Israel and the Gulf states, including both public displays and secret contacts, and the administration sees an opening for even greater cooperation after the plan is released, according to these people. Trump, for his part, told reporters on Air Force One this week that “It's a plan that really would work.” He said he spoke to the Palestinians “briefly,” without elaborating. Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for the Western-backed Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, says that's not true. “There were no talks with the U.S. administration — neither briefly nor in detail,' he said. “The Palestinian position is clear and consistent in its rejection of Trump’s decisions regarding Jerusalem and other issues, and everything related to the rejected deal.” Abbas ended contacts with the administration after it recognized disputed Jerusalem as Israel's capital two years ago. The Palestinians' anger mounted as Trump repeatedly broken with the international consensus around solving the conflict and took actions seen as biased toward Israel's right-wing government. The White House has cut off nearly all U.S. aid to the Palestinians and closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington. In November, the Trump administration said it no longer views Jewish settlements in the occupied territories as inconsistent with international law, reversing four decades of American policy. The Palestinians view the settlements as illegal and a major obstacle to peace, a position shared by most of the international community. Tuesday's meeting offers benefits to both leaders while they are under fire at home. The meeting allows Trump to address a high-profile foreign policy issue during his impeachment trial, while Democrats are arguing for his ouster. Moreover, if the plan is pro-Israel as expected, Trump hopes it will be popular with his large base of evangelicals and maybe sway a few anti-Trump Jewish voters his way. According to AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of the American electorate, 79% of white evangelical voters in the 2018 midterms approved of the job Trump was doing as president, while 74% of Jewish voters disapproved. Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of the 8 million-member Christians United for Israel, said in a statement that Trump 'has shown himself to be the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history, and I fully expect his peace proposal will be in line with that tradition.” For Netanyahu, the meeting allows him to shift press coverage Tuesday when Israel's parliament convenes a committee that is expected to reject his request for legal immunity from charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. “The ‘Trump peace plan’ is a blatant attempt to hijack Israel’s March 2 election in Netanyahu’s favor,' tweeted Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist for Israel's Haaretz newspaper and the author of a biography of Netanyahu. Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival ahead of the election. The decision to bring Gantz along is likely aimed at forestalling any criticism that the U.S. administration is meddling in the election. But in Israel, the meeting and the unveiling of the plan will be widely seen as a gift to the prime minister. The prime minister has noted that it was his idea to invite Gantz, putting his rival in a position where he could not say no to a meeting that could make him look like a bystander at the White House event. In Congress, Trump's announced release of his Mideast plan has caused hardly a ripple against the backdrop of the impeachment drama. Asked on Friday what he thought about the expected rollout, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said: “I'm on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and we've not heard anything about it.” Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the committee chairman, defended the administration's work on a plan. “I think the people who are working on this are working on this in good faith,' Risch said in the halls of Congress, shortly before Trump's impeachment trial resumed. “I think the people who are trying to do it really are acting in good faith, hoping they can come up with a solution.” __ Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Washington and Joseph Krauss and Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
  • Heavy rains caused flooding and landslides in southeast Brazil, killing at least 11 people, authorities said Saturday. Two people died on Saturday in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais state, civil defense officials said. A total of 11 have died in the state since Friday, they said. More rain is expected in Minas Gerais as well as other parts of Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
  • Britain officially leaves the European Union on Jan. 31 after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. Difficult negotiations setting out the new relationship between Britain and its European neighbors will continue throughout 2020. This series of stories chronicles Britain’s tortured relationship with Europe from the post-World War II years to the present. —- By the time Tony Blair had won in a landslide in 1997, he had made the Labour Party decidedly pro-European. Britain, he insisted, would be at the “heart of Europe.” Euro-enthusiasts like Blair thought, and still do, that Britain is just too small to prosper economically outside the European Union so Britain's national interest is best-served by being a committed member of the bloc. The image of the young prime minister on a bike in Amsterdam a few weeks after his election triumph with other European leaders symbolized the new approach, a break with the past. Blair built bridges initially. He signed up to the EU's social chapter that his predecessor John Major had negotiated an opt-out from. This incorporated into British law an array of rights such as the equal treatment of men and women and the maximum working week. All went smoothly for Blair at first and there was a real debate about Britain joining the euro single currency, which had launched relatively smoothly in 1999. He carried a lot of authority, not least because the British economy was in the midst of an unprecedented period of economic growth and peace had been achieved in Northern Ireland through the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998. But the Sept. 11 attacks changed everything. Blair's decision to back the U.S.-led war in Iraq in 2003 put him at odds with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the main pretext behind the war, did untold and lasting damage to Blair. Plans to join the euro stalled and Blair’s European enthusiasm hit a roadblock. After the Brexit vote in June 2016, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Blair had to take his share of the blame for failing to make the case strongly enough of the benefits of political union within the EU. Notwithstanding that view, the cause of Europe hasn't had as wholehearted a supporter at 10 Downing Street as Blair since his departure in 2007. ___ Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
  • The hum of millions of locusts on the move is broken by the screams of farmers and the clanging of pots and pans. But their noise-making does little to stop the voracious insects from feasting on their crops in this rural community. The worst outbreak of desert locusts in Kenya in 70 years has seen hundreds of millions of the bugs swarm into the East African nation from Somalia and Ethiopia. Those two countries have not had an infestation like this in a quarter-century, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region with devastating hunger. “Even cows are wondering what is happening,' said Ndunda Makanga, who spent hours Friday trying to chase the locusts from his farm. 'Corn, sorghum, cowpeas, they have eaten everything.” When rains arrive in March and bring new vegetation across much of the region, the numbers of the fast-breeding locusts could grow 500 times before drier weather in June curbs their spread, the United Nations says. “We must act immediately,” said David Phiri of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, as donors huddled in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, a three-hour drive away. About $70 million is needed to step up aerial pesticide spraying, the only effective way to combat them, the U.N. says. That won't be easy, especially in Somalia, where parts of the country are in the grip of the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group. The rose-colored locusts turn whole trees pink, clinging to branches like quivering ornaments before taking off in hungry, rustling clouds. Astonished by the finger-length insects, children dash here and there, waving blankets or plucking at branches to shake the locusts free. One woman, Kanini Ndunda, batted at them with a shovel. Even a small swarm of the insects can consume enough food for 35,000 people in a single day, said Jens Laerke of the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva. Farmers are afraid to let their cattle out for grazing, and their crops of millet, sorghum and maize are vulnerable, but there is little they can do. About 70,000 hectares (172,973 acres) of land in Kenya are already infested. “This one, ai! This is huge,” said Kipkoech Tale, a migratory pest control specialist with the agriculture ministry. “I’m talking about over 20 swarms that we have sprayed. We still have more. And more are coming.” A single swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometer of farmland, an area the size of almost 250 football fields, regional authorities say. One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60 kilometers long by 40 kilometers wide (37 miles long by 25 miles wide). Kenya needs more spraying equipment to supplement the four planes now flying, Tale said. Ethiopia also has four. They also need a steady supply of pesticides, said Francis Kitoo, deputy director of agriculture in southeastern Kenya's Kitui county. “The locals are really scared because they can consume everything,” Kitoo said. “I’ve never seen such a big number.” The locusts eat the fodder for animals, a crucial source of livelihood for families who now worry how they will pay for expenses like school fees, he said. His own concern about the locusts? “They will lay eggs and start another generation,” he said. A changing climate has contributed to “exceptional' breeding conditions, said Nairobi-based climate scientist Abubakr Salih Babiker. Migrating with the wind, the locusts can cover up to 150 kilometers (93 miles) in a single day. They look like tiny aircraft lazily crisscrossing the sky. They are now heading toward Uganda and fragile South Sudan, where almost half the country faces hunger as it emerges from civil war. Uganda has not had such an outbreak since the 1960s and is already on alert. The locusts also are moving steadily toward Ethiopia’s Rift Valley, the breadbasket for Africa’s second-most populous country, the U.N. says. “The situation is very bad but farmers are fighting it in the traditional way,” said Buni Orissa, a resident of Ethiopia’s Sidama region. “The locusts love cabbage and beans. This may threaten the shaky food security in the region.” Even before this outbreak, nearly 20 million people faced high levels of food insecurity across the East African region long challenged by periodic droughts and floods. As exasperated farmers look for more help in fighting one of history's most persistent pests, the FAO's Locust Watch offers little consolation. “Although giant nets, flamethrowers, lasers and huge vacuums have been proposed in the past, these are not in use for locust control,” the U.N. agency says. “People and birds often eat locusts but usually not enough to significantly reduce population levels over large areas.” Still, it offered recipes. One suggested seasoning in Uganda is chopped onion and curry powder. Then fry. ___ Anna reported from Johannesburg. Frank Jordans in Berlin and Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, contributed.
  • The death toll from a strong earthquake that rocked eastern Turkey climbed to 29 on Saturday night as rescue crews searched for people who remained trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, officials said. Speaking at a televised news conference, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said earlier in the day that 18 people were killed in Elazig province, where Friday night's quake was centered, and four in neighboring Malatya. The national disaster agency later updated the total with seven more casualties. Some 1,243 people were injured, with 34 of them in intensive care but not in critical condition, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said. On Saturday afternoon, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the hardest-hit areas and attended the funeral of a mother and son killed in the quake. He warned people against repeating “negative” hearsay about the country being unprepared for earthquakes. “Do not listen to rumors, do not listen to anyone’s negative, contrary propaganda, and know that we are your servants,” Erdogan said. Various earthquake monitoring centers gave magnitudes ranging from 6.5 to 6.8. for the earthquake, which hit Friday at 8:55 p.m. local time (1755 GMT) near the Elazig province town of Sivrice, the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said. It was followed by 398 aftershocks, the strongest of them with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1, the disaster agency said. Emergency workers and security forces distributed tents, beds and blankets as overnight temperatures dropped below freezing in the affected areas. Mosques, schools, sports halls and student dormitories were opened for hundreds who left their homes after the quake. “The earthquake was very severe. We desperately ran out (of our home),” Emre Gocer told the state-run Anadolu news agency as he sheltered with his family at a sports hall in Sivrice. “We don’t have a safe place to stay right now.” While visiting Sivrice and the city of Elazig, the provincial capital located some 565 kilometers (350 miles) east of Ankara, Erdogan promised state support for those affected by the disaster. “We will not leave anyone in the open,” the Turkish leader. Earlier, a prosecutor in the capital Ankara announced an investigation into “provocative” social media posts. The Anadolu news agency reported that Turkey’s broadcasting authority was also reviewing media coverage of the quake. At least five buildings in Sivrice and 25 in Malatya province were destroyed in the disaster, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said. Hundreds of other structures were damaged and made unsafe. AFAD reported that 42 people had been rescued as search teams combed wrecked apartment buildings. Television footage showed emergency workers removing a woman from the wreckage of a collapsed building 19 hours after the main earthquake struck. A prison in Adiyaman, 110 kilometers (70 miles) southwest of the epicenter, was evacuated due to damage its more than 800 prisoners transferred to nearby jails. AFAD said 28 rescue teams had been working around the clock. More than 2,600 personnel from 39 of Turkey’s 81 provinces were sent to the disaster site. Unmanned drones were used to survey damaged neighborhoods and coordinate rescue efforts. “Our biggest hope is that the death toll does not rise,” Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said. Communication companies announced free telephone and internet services for residents in the quake-hit region. United Nation's Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply saddened by the loss of life and destruction of property in the wake of an earthquake in Elazig province, Turkey,” according to a statement from his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric. Neighboring Greece, which is at odds with Turkey over maritime boundaries and gas exploration rights, offered to send rescue crews to assist the Turkish teams. Erdogan appeared to reject the offer of outside assistance during his visit to the city of Elazig, telling reporters, “Our state does not need anything.” Turkey sits on top of two major fault lines and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people. A magnitude 6.0 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010.