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Here Are Some of the World's Biggest Stories Outside of COVID-19

There’s a sex scandal in Korea, an oil price war between two giants, and a major locust infestation.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/FLICKR Rod Waddington
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The coronavirus has dominated global headlines for over a month now. As of Friday, March 27, there are more confirmed positive cases in the United States than in mainland China, where it was first reported in December 2019. It has spread to over 160 countries, with nearly half a million infected and more than 24,000 deaths. 

But supposing the virus didn’t exist, or its reach wasn’t as widespread as it is now, what other news would the world be talking about today?

Because most global news outlets have little news outside of the virus, we got some ideas from this Reddit thread.

1| Egypt and Ethiopia might go to war because of the Nile river

Ethiopia started building a dam near its border with Sudan so it could harness the power of the river to produce electricity, and hopefully, give its economy a boost. The problem is that Egypt thinks it might not get its share of water if Ethiopia’s dam is filled up too quickly. Talks between the two countries and Sudan, mediated by the US and the World Bank, broke down earlier this month, and it’s becoming increasingly likely that conflict might be inevitable.

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2| The scandal involving the former King of Spain, his alleged mistress and a Swiss love nest

Juan Carlos I, the father of Spain’s reigning King Felipe VI, is being investigated for alleged kickbacks stemming from a contract to buld a high-speed rail link to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Spanish paper El Pais reports that Swiss prosecutors have uncovered an alleged Swiss bank account with a $100 million deposit. According to El Pais, in 2012, $65 million was allegedly transferred from this account to Corinna Larsen, who is described as a close personal friend of Juan Carlos. Some 39 million euros from that money was then supposedly transferred to Larsen’s personal account, which she allegedly used to purchase an apartment in a Swiss ski resort as well as a mansion in North London worth 5.4 million euros. As more details about the scandal emerge, King Felipe VI has announced he is relinquishing any inheritance from his father and is also stripping him of his stipend.

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3| The ozone layer is healing, kind of

For years, we’ve been worried about the state of the earth’s ozone layer, where a gaping hole had been steadily growing. But according to NASA, in 2019, the hole in the ozone layer is the smallest on record since it was discovered. “It’s great news for ozone in the Southern Hemisphere,” said Paul Newman, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. “But it’s important to recognize that what we’re seeing this year is due to warmer stratospheric temperatures. It’s not a sign that atmospheric ozone is suddenly on a fast track to recovery.” Still, any news of the ozone hole getting smaller sounds like good news to us.

4| Billions of locusts are attacking Africa and the Middle East

Climate conditions favorable to locusts have allowed the insects to breed in unprecedented numbers in the Middle East. Today, hundreds of billions of locusts are wreaking havoc on at least 10 countries in East Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. There are reports that some swarms are as big as New York City and Luxembourg, threatening the food security of 25 million people.

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5| ‘Nth room’ case in South Korea

It’s a scandal that rocked an entire nation. Over 70 women, many of them underaged, were reportedly blackmailed into sending videos of themselves performing sexual acts and, in some cases, self-harm. The videos were then uploaded into chat apps, where people paid as much as $1,200 for access. The scandal first came to light in November 2019, but police identified the chat group’s leader, 24-year-old Cho Ju-bin, on March 25.

6| Oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia

If you’ve noticed how much cheaper diesel and gasoline are these days, you have the coronavirus to thank. Well, that and the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Besides a slowing of the global economy caused by the virus, the two countries have been locked in a tug-of-war involving oil prices since early March. According to Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia and Russia have been working together to manage oil prices for the past three years but the two had a falling out over Riyadh’s insistence that they agree to cut oil supplies by 1.5 million barrels a day. Moscow rejected the plan, which sent the price of oil plummeting. Low oil prices may, on the surface, be good (who doesn’t like cheap gas?), but that also means the world economy is in rough shape, which can’t be good for anyone in the long-term.

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7| Venezuela’s President is charged in the US for drug trafficking

The US has long had a contentious relationship with the President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro. But on Thursday, March 26, the Trump administration kicked things up a notch when it charged Maduro, along with his Vice President for the economy, Minister of Defense and Supreme Court Chief Justice, and many of his top aides, with narco-terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking and other criminal charges. The US Department of State also said it is offering a reward of up to $15 million leading to the arrest of Maduro. 

8| You might soon be able to see a comet streak across the sky with just your eyes

Here’s something you don’t see every day. Comet Y4 (aka ATLAS) was discovered in late December 2019, and according to Astronomy.com, it’s going to keep getting brighter and will be visible to the naked eye soon. The site cautions that there’s a chance it might disintegrate as it makes its approach closer to Earth, but if all goes well, we should be treated to a spectacular show sometime in late May 2020.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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