Trading one pest for another: Goodbye, cicadas; Begone, spotted lanternflies! | Five for the Weekend
Nymph stage spotted lanternflies. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).
Happy weekend, all.
Just when you think the bug parade across Pennsylvania has ceased, (bye, Cicadas!) pests like the nymph stage Spotted Lanternflies (SLF), pictured above, make their appearance.
I had the misfortunate of discovering SLFs at my home in Lebanon County this week, which means I spent most of the week plotting their demise.
According to the state Department of Agriculture, “the spotted lanternfly came to Pennsylvania in 2014 and has since spread to 34 counties across the commonwealth. To slow the spread and mitigate against harm, these counties are under a quarantine that relies on an educated population of residents and businesses to help contain the pest.”
SLFs are a serious threat to the state’s $132 billion agriculture industry, the department said in a statement earlier this week. Without mitigation efforts, SLFs could cost Pennsylvania up to $324 million annually and 2,800 jobs.
As always, your Top 5 Most-Read Stories of the week start below.
Cheers to a leisurely weekend.
The Pennsylvania state Senate committee chair in charge of overseeing elections said a forensic audit was a “very real possibility” Thursday after meeting with activists Wednesday.
Senate State Government Committee Chairman Dave Argall, R-Schuylkill, told the Capital-Star that he was considering subpoenas for ballot information, but had not considered which jurisdictions would be subpoenaed yet.
“There are a lot of things under consideration right now, and I told them to check back in a week or two and we hope to have some more detail,” Argall told the Capital-Star of the meeting.
The Pennsylvania Department of State, which administers elections, already conducted a risk-limiting audit of the 2020 election, which found “strong evidence” of the vote count’s accuracy, despite baseless claims to the contrary by former President Donald Trump.
From federal judges and local elections officials to Trump’s own attorney general, multiple parties have dismissed Trump’s fraud argument.
In response to rapidly rising case counts of the new Delta variant in the United Kingdom, acting Health Commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole is calling on city residents to become vaccinated.
In an open letter, she highlighted how the more transmissible Delta variant is causing case counts to surge again in the United Kingdom, increasing hospitalizations and hitting young people hard.
“About 10 percent of U.S. cases are now Delta variant,” Bettigole wrote “Given the rate at which it has increased in the U.K. and in the U.S., we should expect the majority of infections to be Delta variant by late July. And that could mean another big increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations in Philadelphia. It could mean that, but it doesn’t have to.”
“The good news, really the amazing news, is that people who are fully vaccinated are protected against this variant. But people who aren’t vaccinated at all, and people who only got one dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, are in danger,” she continued.
He might only have a year-and-a-half left in his second, and final term, but U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., apparently won’t be spending that time phoning it in.
The Lehigh Valley lawmaker, who’s the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, blasted out letters late last week to federal regulators asking them to review allegations of “prohibited personnel practices” by the Biden administration, according to a published report.
Toomey’s letters to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the federal agency, and its inspector general, came in the wake of a report by the insider magazine Government Executive, that the White House took “an unusually aggressive approach to clean house at the top career executive level within CFPB, including by offering separation incentives and launching investigations into staff members.”
Gov. Tom Wolf’s approval ratings have taken a post-pandemic hit among Keystone State voters, with barely four in 10 (39 percent) saying he’s doing an excellent or good job, down from 52 percent in July 2020, according to a new Franklin & Marshall College poll.
That 13-point drop is tied to a pessimism about the future among state residents, with only a third saying they believe the commonwealth is heading in the right direction, which is unchanged since the last Franklin & Marshall poll in March, but down significantly from the 57 percent who believed the state was heading in the right direction in October 2019.
Hopes were dashed this week for a bias-free foster-care system in Philadelphia after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia that a Catholic agency may decline to help certify LGBT couples as foster parents and still receive foster children for placement.
The high court noted that Philadelphia’s contract with Catholic Social Services permitted discretionary exemptions to its LGBT-inclusive anti-bias rules. Thus, CSS must be afforded such an exemption with respect to its anti-LGBT policies.
But some LGBT advocates also expressed relief that the ruling appears to be narrow in scope and doesn’t dramatically redefine how the First Amendment is applied to LGBT rights.
“We are gutted to know that foster children will be denied loving homes in Philadelphia,” Andy Marra, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, said. “Still, we are grateful that this ruling does not affect other publicly funded contractors and agencies. Across the country, governments can and must continue to enforce laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.
And that’s the week. See you all back here next weekend.
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