US News: a cricket plague, oily pennies, and moving incentives

Published 5:00 pm Friday, June 23, 2023

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Every now and then, I like to take a look at news stories about things happening around the world. But this week, I decided to switch it up a bit and browse through what’s happening in different parts of the United States instead.

There are all sorts of things going on with our neighbors across the country. Some are head-scratching strange, while others are interesting for other reasons.

Here are a couple of stories from the Associated Press that caught my eye this week:

The residents of Elko, Nevada are having a Mormon problem. I don’t mean people who identify with Mormonism, the religion. I’m talking about Mormon crickets, a bright red insect with a tendency for cannibalism. (Technically, they aren’t really crickets but a kind of katydid, which is why they’re a lot larger than your standard cricket.) The town has been plagued by a swarm of them since early June, and they’re expected to stick around until at least August.

The problem is that they smell terrible (“akin to burning flesh,” according to the article) and stick to shoes and tires, meaning that drivers have to be careful driving on the cricket-covered highways. One of the local hospitals even hired a couple of temporary workers to clear the entrance so patients could enter. They called themselves the “Cricket Patrol.”

These infestations have happened before in the past, including devastating crops from Mormon settlers in Utah in earlier days. Allegedly, seagulls saved the day by eating all the crickets during that particular plague.

Maybe some seagulls might make their way to Nevada to help out the folks of Elko this summer.

In slightly more depressing news, members of Louisiana’s legislature are now expressing their “regret” for hastily passing their state’s new budget, after realizing they accidentally cut their Department of Health funding by $100 million.

That’s apparently what you get for waiting until the last minute to get things done. According to AP News, the legislature approved the budget in the final 30 minutes of their session, and provided little or no explanation for a bunch of added amendments. One lawmaker even admitted that he signed off on it without reading the amendment documents at all, citing a lack of time.

Louisiana’s governor said he would do what he could to restore the funding shortfall, though fixing the problem might take a special session of the legislature.

I hope our state lawmakers are taking note on what not to do as they continue to work on North Carolina’s budget. We certainly don’t want to find ourselves in a similar situation caused by procrastinating and not communicating well.

Across the country in Hawaii, one of the world’s most active volcanoes is taking a break.

Kilauea, which is Hawaii’s second largest volcano, has been erupting on and off since September 2021. It took a brief break in December and then again in March. Thankfully, the volcano’s eruptions over the past almost two years haven’t threatened any communities, like it has in the past.

People who want to witness the eruption (or at the moment, its aftermath) have been visiting Volcanoes National Park for good safe views of the natural wonder. Those not in Hawaii can also watch a livestream video instead.

Isn’t it nice to enjoy the spectacular wonders of Mother Nature sometimes?

A story that is not as nice recently happened in Atlanta. An auto repair shop owner was ordered by a judge to pay almost $40,000 to nine of his workers for unpaid overtime and damages.

The business owner was in court after accusations that he retaliated against a former employee. That employee said he was owed a final $915 paycheck, so the business owner decided to be really petty about it: he dumped $915 in oil-covered pennies in the driveway of the employee.

The price of that pettiness was an investigation – where it was found that he also violated federal overtime provisions – and the court-ordered fine. His lawyer said in a statement that the business owner’s actions don’t reflect his “true character” and “unfortunately, emotionally charged decisions can come back and bite you in the rear end.”

The real question I have is this: where did guy get 91,500 dirty, oily pennies from?!

Lastly, there’s an interesting program in West Virginia that is working to bring in out of state workers to offset population loss. The public-private program, called “Ascend West Virginia,” takes applications for people who work remotely to move to certain areas of the state. In return, these new residents receive cash and free passes to local attractions such as whitewater rafting, horseback riding, skiing, and more.

The program launched in 2021 in four areas of the state, but a fifth location has recently been added. Apparently, almost 300 workers have already taken up the offer, and the program has a 98 percent retention rate so far. It was launched initially through a $25 million gift to West Virginia University.

Among all 50 states, West Virginia saw the biggest percentage decrease in population according to the most recent census. They also have the distinction of being the only state with fewer residents now than it had in 1950.

While I don’t know that a similar program would have the same success here locally, it’s really fascinating to me to see how other places are combatting the problem of population decline. Maybe our local leaders can think outside the box for ways to draw in more people to the Roanoke-Chowan area too.

There is certainly a lot going on everywhere every day, and we can learn a lot of different things just by simply seeing what’s happening in our country too.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.