10 major news events no one paid attention to last week because of the coronavirus pandemic

ncolarossi@businessinsider.com (Natalie Colarossi)
A school of fish hoover over coral on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, which is experiencing its third mass bleaching event in five years.

Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

  • The coronavirus pandemic has dominated headlines over the past two months, as countries scramble to contain their outbreaks and the death toll climbs higher each day.
  • But news is happening outside of this crisis.
  • From a stock-dumping investigation in the US senate, to coral bleaching in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, here are 10 major world events that you may have missed last week.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.


The coronavirus pandemic has swept the globe, infecting more than 850,000 people and killing at least 41,000 as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

For the past two months, headlines have been dominated with news of the virus, as countries scramble to contain the outbreak and the death toll creeps higher each day.

But there is still news happening outside of the crisis.

Here are 10 major world events you may have missed in just the past week, as COVID-19 news continues to take center stage.

Four US Senators were accused of insider trading as the coronavirus began to spread across the country. The FBI is reportedly investigating and they haven't been charged with any crimes.

Sen. Richard Burr listens during opening remarks at the Senate Intelligence Committee's hearing on major threats facing the US on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2017.

Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Republican Sens. Richard Burr, James Inhofe, and Kelly Loeffler, as well as Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, were accused of selling massive stock holdings as the coronavirus began spreading across the US, raising questions as to whether or not they were briefed on the public health emergency and knew it would throw financial markets into upheaval.

Each senator sold millions of dollars worth in stock between late January and early February, right around the time that the first cases of the coronavirus were reported in the US, Senate records show.

Burr of North Carolina came under the harshest scrutiny due to his position as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which allowed him to receive numerous briefings on the threat of the coronavirus spread.

Burr sold 33 different stocks on February 13, some in hotel chains, which were collectively worth between $628,000 and $1.7 million, according to Senate records. ProPublica was first to report the news.

In addition, a secret recording NPR obtained revealed that Burr addressed the coronavirus with a much more serious tone in a private meeting with business leaders in late January, as opposed to his public statements.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has called for his resignation.

CNN reported that the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the senators.

The US charged Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro with drug trafficking and conspiring to "flood the United States with cocaine."

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a press conference at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela.

Matias Delacroix/AP Photo

Last week, the US indicted Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, accusing him of turning the country into a criminal enterprise for the benefit of drug traffickers and terrorist groups.

Prosecutors in New York even accused Maduro, with the help of Colombian rebels and the Venezuelan military, of conspiring "to flood the United States with cocaine" and use the drug trade as a "weapon against America."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would offer up to $15 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Maduro and up to $10 million for his associates.

PG&E agreed to plead guilty on 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter after starting a 2018 wildfire in California.

The Camp Fire burns along a ridge top near Big Bend, Calif., on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.

Noah Berger/AP

Two years ago, PG&E equipment started the Camp Fire that ravaged Northern California and the town of Paradise, ultimately killing 84 people.

Last week, the company agreed to plead guilty to the charges and pay $4 million in fines. The utility also agreed to fund restoration efforts for residents who lost access to water from the Miocene Canal, which the fire destroyed.

This marks the second time PG&E was found guilty of starting a wildfire, according to The Los Angeles Times. The first case happened in 1997, after a fire burned a dozen homes in Nevada.

Colorado became the 22nd state to repeal the death penalty.

Death-penalty opponent holds a sign during a protest to end capitol punishment.

Amber Hunt/AP

On March 23, Colorado became the 22nd state in the US to repeal the death penalty. The punishment was only administered once since it was reinstated in the state in the 1970s, in a rape and murder case in 1997.

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed the decision into law, which marks a growing trend for states to eliminate the use of capitol punishment. According to a 2019 poll, 60% of Americans said they would prefer life in prison over execution as the most severe form of punishment in the US.

All inmates with prior death sentences in Colorado have been commuted to life without parole.

An Australian white supremacist pleaded guilty for killing 51 people last year in deadly New Zealand mosque attacks. He faces life in prison.

Students display the New Zealand national flag next to flowers during a vigil in Christchurch on March 18, 2019, three days after a shooting incident at two mosques in the city that claimed the lives of 50 Muslim worshipers.

Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

On March 25, the Christchurch shooter pleaded guilty for killing 51 worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand last year.

The attack marked the deadliest act of violence in New Zealand's history, and led to the abolishment of semiautomatic weapons, and a global effort to restrict online racism.

He was a known white supremacist, and shared extreme right-wing imagery and racism against Muslims on social media days before the attack. The gunman pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder, and one count of terrorism. He faces life in prison.

A deadly locust plague in Africa rages on, threatening millions with food scarcity.

An Ethiopian girl attempts to fend off desert locusts as they fly in a farm on the outskirt of Jijiga in Somali region, Ethiopia January 12, 2020

Giulia Paravicini/REUTERS

Africa's worst locust plague in decades has been threatening the continent for months, and has now spread across Iran, Yemen, and other parts of the Middle East.

The Horn of Africa — specifically Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia —  are experiencing widespread breeding and swarms, which could leave millions of people without food or livelihood, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

The plague prompted Somalia to declare a national emergency in February, and has already resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of acres of crops.

Desert locusts are ravenous creatures, known for their speedy growth and enormous appetites, causing the UN to call on the international community to help this crisis.

Scientists reported that large parts of Australia's Great Barrier Reef have been bleached for the third time in five years.

Ariel photo shows corals turned white from bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef.

Shutterstock/Edward Haylan

Last Thursday, scientists reported warm waters have bleached large portions of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, marking the third time in five years that global warming has threatened one of the world's most important ecosystems.

Mass bleaching events also occured in 2016 and 2017, as a result of warm waters placing stress on the coral, which causes it to lose its color and weaken. Severly bleached coral can die.

Scientists said the Great Barrier Reef remains compromised from heat stress that occurred last summer, and during the warmer-than-usual months of February and March.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system, supporting thousands of species of fish and mollusks, and providing livelihood to Australia through tourism and fishing.

Scientists warn that global warming remains the greatest threat to the reef, and if sweeping measures aren't taken to protect this massive marine ecosystem, the reef could be gone by 2050.

Benny Gantz, a former Israeli army chief, has agreed to form a unity government with Benjamin Netanyahu, effectively ending Israel's political deadlock.

FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White in Tel Aviv, Israel

Reuters

In a surprising move toward unity, Benny Gantz has agreed to join forces with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after years of outspoken political rivalry.

Gantz, a former Israeli army chief, had attempted to end Netanyahu's rule in three separate elections, and vowed to never join a government that his rival let. But he changed his mind last week, in order to help Israel unify and fight the coronavirus pandemic.

This effectively means that Netanyahu has secured a new term as prime minister, and Israel's political deadlock is seemingly over, with Gantz taking over as speaker of Israel's parliament.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a $1 billion cut in aid to Afghanistan, after political leaders failed to reach a peace agreement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Washington.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US would cut $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan this year, after failing to convince the country's squabbling political rivals to come to a peace agreement during a meeting in Kabul.

Pompeo attempted to mediate between President Ashraf Ghani, and Afghan former chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah — political rivals who both claim to be president — in order to secure peace negotiations with Afghanistan moving forward.

But after the leaders failed to reach an agreement, Pompeo announced his frustrations by withdrawing $1 billion in US aid to the country for 2020, and potentially another $1 billion for next year.

Pompeo said the US could restore the aid if "Afghan leaders choose to form an inclusive government that can provide security and participate in the peace process," according to The New York Times.

Data released by the US Census Bureau show that US population growth is on the decline, and could be further threatened by the pandemic.

An empty maternity ward.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Last Thursday, the US Census Bureau released data that showed the US population is growing at its slowest pace since 1919. The data was collected in the 12 months leading up to July 2019, well before the coronavirus outbreak took hold.

One demographer told The New York Times that if the pandemic results in as many deaths as the worst case projections predict, than we could see more deaths than births for the first time in US history.

Birth rates and immigration, forces that drive a country's growth, have both declined, while death rates have had a recent uptick.

If the coronavirus outbreak continues at an alarming rate, the US could see a swift population decline.

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