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May 1, 2014

Bees Are Disappearing, But Gardeners Can Help

Bees are pulling a disappearing act. Honeybees are vanishing from their hives. Bumblebee numbers have crashed so radically that some species are believed extinct. Even native solitary bees are in decline. Food supplies dependent upon pollinators are threatened.

But gardeners can help.

There is no single explanation for what is causing the pollinator losses, said Matt O’Neal, an associate professor of entomology at Iowa State University.

``There are multiple sources of stress,’’ he said. ``There are your basic pests, also pathogens like viruses, pesticide exposure and land use practices reducing the kinds of forages bees can feed on. It looks like a combination of all those.’’

As insect pollinators, bees broaden our diets beyond meats and wind-pollinated grains. An estimated one-third of all foods and beverages are made possible by pollination, mainly by honeybees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. Pollinators also are essential for flowering plants and entire plant communities.

``Common species are disappearing at a dramatic rate. I’m terrified in the extreme,’’ said Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director with The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, Ore. ``I worry in particular about pollinator species with limited ranges and that have unique habitat requirements that are being threatened. A lot of species are dropping out of the landscape.’’

You don’t have to become a beekeeper to restore or boost bee populations. Gardeners can:

• Plant flowers and create green spaces, especially in urban areas. Leave patches of bare soil, rocks and brush piles for use by ground-dwelling native bees. Add caterpillar host plants. ``I can’t recommend particular plants for all areas of the country but I can recommend the concept,’’ O’Neal said. ``Provide pollen and nectar throughout the (growing) season. Plant the right habitat. Every state has land grant agencies and agents. Look to them for help.’’

• Install bee hotels around the yard by drilling holes in wood blocks and creating reed or bamboo bundles. They provide instant habitat and can be built on the cheap. ``Another thing you can do is plant woody plants (elderberries, raspberries, sumac) with branches that have soft insides,’’ Vaughan said. ``Grow these shrubs up and then cut them back to expose the stems. Carpenter and mason bees will nest in them.’’

• Eliminate or change the way you apply pesticides. Don’t use them on plants that are blooming. Apply them at night when bees are less active. Spray from ground level to reduce drift, and create buffer zones next to agricultural areas. Rethink the use of herbicides, which reduce pollinator food sources by removing flowers from the landscape.

• Add signage to advertise the presence of pollinators. Bees often range several miles from their hives or nests. Place pollinator habitat signs around pastures, community gardens, city parks, bike trails or suburban yards to promote conservation.

What it comes down to is providing at least two important things, Vaughan said: ``Plant wildflowers that provide a high succession of bloom. Have home gardens free of chemicals. Get into natural gardening.’’

Recommended reading:

``Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies’’ (Storey Press, 2011)

Freed After 24 Years In Prison, Man Knows ‘God Has A Plan’

New York (AP) The day Jonathan Fleming was cleared of the murder that put him behind bars for almost 25 years, he strode out of a courthouse to congratulations from passers-by, a steak dinner with his family and the start of a new life.

The weeks since have been a mix of emotional highs and practical frustrations. He spent an evening as a VIP guest at a boxing match and slept that night on a cousin’s couch. He marveled at strangers donating thousands of dollars to help him but doesn’t yet have a place of his own.

He had his first meeting with a son he learned was his while in prison, even as he prepares to visit another son serving a prison term of his own.

``Coming back, you know, it’s been hard. ... It’s a lot to have to catch up on,’’ Fleming says. But, he says: ``I’m looking forward to it. Because I’m just so happy to be out here.’’

Fleming was cleared April 8 after prosecutors said they now believe what he had been saying all along: that he was on a family vacation in Disney World when a friend was shot dead in Brooklyn in 1989.

Defense investigators located witnesses who said Fleming wasn’t the gunman. And prosecutors found previously undisclosed documents in their own files that supported Fleming’s alibi, including a hotel phone bill he paid in Orlando, Fla., about five hours before the shooting.

During his years in prison, Fleming wrote letters to prosecutors, meditated, took vocational courses and logged disciplinary penalties for drug possession, creating disturbances and other infractions. He says he gave up being angry about his conviction but never lost hope he’d be freed.

Jonathan Fleming on the day he was freed

When the word finally came, ``the feeling—you have no idea,’’ he says. ``I just sat down on my bed, and I cried.’’

After dropping into 2014 from 1989, Fleming spent a recent day opening the first bank account he’s had in his 51 years, learned to use his new iPhone and got an email address set up by one of his lawyers.

It has a ``14’’ in it, for the year he was freed.

``Should have said `24’— the years that I did,’’ he says, laughing.

For all he had to celebrate, Fleming also was facing a struggle to get on his feet. He left prison with less than $100 and no permanent home. He’s getting divorced from his second wife, and his ailing, 71-year-old mother in Brooklyn can’t take him in because she is already accommodating other relatives.

Lawyers Taylor Koss and Anthony Mayol plan to file false-conviction suits that could eventually net substantial sums, and a stranger launched an online campaign that has raised more than $32,000 for Fleming so far. To get by in the meantime, Fleming has signed up for food stamps and taken out a loan against a potential lawsuit settlement.

Fleming is among more than 1,350 inmates exonerated nationwide in the last 25 years. Studies have found those exonerated often confront challenges finding jobs and housing, rebuilding family relationships and grappling with the psychological legacies of their experiences.

One legacy that haunts Fleming is regret over his 33-year-old son in prison, the one he left behind when he was arrested. The Disney World trip had been that son’s ninth birthday present.

``Sometimes I feel like I failed him because I really feel if I was out there, I don’t think he’d be in prison now,’’ says Fleming, who is planning a visit.

He’s also been reconnecting with his other three sons, including one born while he was in prison and a 32-year-old son he didn’t know he had until after he was behind bars. Fleming visited him and his family in Pennsylvania.

``They had a cookout,’’ he says. ``Made me really feel at home.’’

Fleming doesn’t want to talk about his life before his arrest. He’d had other brushes with the law; prison system records show he had served about a year in an auto-theft case.

What he will say is: ``I’m not going to pick up where I left off. It’s a new day.’’

``A New Day’’ is his working title for a book he started writing in prison and hopes to publish someday. He also wants to go to college, maybe law school, to help other inmates challenge convictions and to advise young people about staying out of trouble.

``I’m excited to move forward,’’ Fleming says. ``Because I know God has a plan for me.’’

Yeah, It’s True. The Dude Has Had His Own Festival For Years

By SANDY COHEN

AP Entertainment Writer

Los Angeles (AP) There were bowling pins, bathrobes, white Russians, and even The Dude himself.

Jeff Bridges and his band performed Friday at Lebowski Fest, but Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1998 campy crime comedy ``The Big Lebowski’’ was still the night’s biggest star.

Fans of the Raymond Chandler-flavored film filled the Wiltern Theater in midtown Los Angeles to capacity for the annual celebration of the cult classic, which has been staged around the country since 2002. The two-day festival was last weekend, and on Saturday there was a costumed bowling party.

``It’s the people here that are so awesome,’’ said Steve Lewis, a veteran of seven Lebowski Fests. ``It’s a community.’’

The 37-year-old made his own Army dog tags to meticulously recreate one of John Goodman’s costumes from the film. Lewis traveled to festivals in New York and Louisville with his friend J.D. Lloyd, who searched eBay to find the exact sweater Bridges wears in the film. (“That’s a real Pendleton,’’ Lewis said. ``That was expensive.’’) Lloyd has been to 11 Lebowski Fests and estimates he’s seen the film more than 100 times.

Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski

Matt Goforth, a bartender working the event in costume, said he’d been looking forward to the shift for six months.

``First of all, I knew it was going to be a good crowd. Second of all, it’s a fantastic movie. Thirdly, Jeff Bridges’ band is amazing,’’ Goforth said. ``It’s fun. I’ve had my picture taken maybe 35 times. It’s just a great atmosphere.’’

The Wiltern Theater was decorated with inflatable bowling pins and the drink menu featured white Russians _ renamed Wiltern Caucasians, perhaps in political protest _ ``made with Ralphs half-and -half.’’ The film opens with the Dude writing a check for 69 cents to buy half-and-half from a Ralphs supermarket to make his favorite cocktail.

Minor stars from the film signed autographs in the lobby before appearing onstage. Among them was Luis Colina, a film editor who said he was working on the Coen brothers’ 1994 film ``The Hudsucker Proxy’’ when they decided to write him into ``Lebowski.’’ Colina plays the angry Corvette owner who threatens to ``kill’’ the Dude’s car.

Bridges and his band performed a 30-minute set that included songs from ``Crazy Heart,’’ the 2009 film for which he won the best actor Oscar. Kyle Gass, the other half of Jack Black’s band, Tenacious D, opened the evening by singing tunes from ``The Big Lebowski.’’

But fans were most rapt by the movie they’d all seen before. The night culminated with a screening, during which they shouted out some lines and applauded for others.

For Kim Hudson, who came across the movie by accident during a hung-over morning with her husband, Lebowski Fest is a chance to dress up and have fun with fellow fans. The 57-year-old wore a giant homemade hat that looked like a spread of bowling pins. A graphic artist helped her print the image onto foam board, which she hot-glued to a boy’s bicycle helmet.

When asked how many times she’s seen the film, she responded, ``Drunk or sober?’’

Connor Linnerooth traveled from North Dakota to celebrate his 20th birthday at Lebowski Fest. He wore a red bodysuit and carried oversized scissors like the Nihilist character that terrorizes the Dude in his dreams. Linnerooth even spoke in the character’s accent during an interview.

``Lebowski, he is a very cool guy,’’ he said. ``I love the movie and I’m a big fan of it, and I really wanted to be around other people who are also big fans of the movie.’’

So what is it about this film that draws such a devoted following?

Mike Sullivan, a four-time festival-goer who says he’s memorized the movie, has an idea.

``What you got here,’’ he said, ``is a bunch of pot-smoking hippies having a good time.’’

Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .

Online:

www.lebowskifest.com

 

 

 

 


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