BRAZIL: The Crickets of Altinho

When the first crickets appeared in Altinho in early October, no one thought much of it. After all, they were probably attracted by new mercury vapor lamps in the main square. Besides, far worse problems bedeviled the poor farming town of 4,500 in Brazil's barren Northeast, 100 miles from Recife, most notably a searing drought that had destroyed two harvests in the past three years.

The trouble was that the crickets kept coming, and they were twice the size of the common cricket found in the U.S. At night, the patter of...

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