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A swarm of desert locusts in Sanaa, Yemen, in July. Photo: Mohammed Mohammed/Xinhua via Getty Images

Locusts in swarms the size of Manhattan have been ravaging crops through East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia and could be "a bigger threat in some of these countries than COVID-19," according to Gro Intelligence CEO Sara Menker.

What's happening: The impact of the locusts is starting to eat into the respective countries' GDP and have a devastating effect on local economies.

  • Gro Intelligence analysts tell Axios they are expecting "significant impact to agricultural production in India, along with Pakistan and East Africa."
  • India recently surpassed Brazil to become the biggest sugar producer in the world and about 40% of the planted area of sugarcane is in a main agricultural province currently under threat from locusts.
  • In June, Fitch Ratings warned that locusts could shake east Africa’s macroeconomic stability.

Yes, but: "Locust outbreaks in the significant cereal and protein exporters are rare, so significant disruptions in the international food supply chain are unlikely," Gro analysts note in an email.

  • "However, locusts may significantly impact countries which already face food insecurity, which can lead to localized supply shocks rippling through the international economy due to, for instance, currency crises or increased migration."

Why it's happening: The massive increase and spread of the locusts is linked to climate and climate patterns, Menker says.

Between the lines: Dino Martins, executive director of the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya, calls the locusts a warning from nature.

  • "As terrifying and as dramatic as they are, there is a deeper message, and the message is that we are changing the environment," he told the Harvard Gazette, noting local environmental degradation, overgrazing, deforestation and the expansion of deserts are creating ideal conditions for more locusts to breed.

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Reality check: Here are a few things every one of us can do to stay safe and sane in coming months:

Biden's debut nightmare

President-elect Biden speaks in Wilmington on Nov. 24. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

A dim, gloomy scene seems increasingly set for Joe Biden's debut as president.

The state of play: He'll address — virtually — a virus-weary nation, with record-high daily coronavirus deaths, a flu season near its peak, restaurants and small businesses shuttered by wintertime sickness and spread.

Using apps to prevent deadly police encounters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Mobile phone apps are evolving in ways that can stop rather than simply document deadly police encounters with people of color — including notifying family and lawyers about potential violations in real time.

Why it matters: As states and cities face pressure to reform excessive force policies, apps that monitor police are becoming more interactive, gathering evidence against rogue officers as well as posting social media videos to shame the agencies.

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