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Pollinator program aims to save rusty patched bumblebee



High school football: Ninth-ranked Woodbury rolls past Eagan 48-15


ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — Sue Gray is trying to attract an endangered species into her Becker township yard — a rusty patched bumblebee.

She hasn’t had much luck yet.

After all, the rusty patched bumblebee has declined by 87% in the last 20 years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But they are not without their champions.

Gray is among a throng of Minnesotans changing their landscapes to better support that endangered bee and all pollinators.

A growing state program called Lawns to Legumes promises residents their yards “can BEE the change.” It offers coaching, technical assistance and grant funds to individuals and groups to plant native flowers and grasses that will support bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds.

This summer lawmakers put roughly $2 million toward Phase 2 of the Lawns to Legumes program which was first funded in 2019.

“This program has gotten interest around the nation,” said Dan Shaw, senior ecologist with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. He helped develop the Lawns to Legumes program.

A yard in Duluth, Minnesota, has been partially covered with pollinator friendly plants as part of the Lawns to Legumes program which funds coaching and grants to expand pollinator habitat across the state.

“It’s being seen as a really effective model for how to benefit pollinators within a state and help get residents across the state involved,” Shaw told the St. Cloud Times.

Minnesota named the rusty patched bumblebee the state bee in 2019 to draw attention to the importance of pollinators in Minnesota’s ecosystems. Many residents are already on board.

“The residents of the state are the ones that are leading this movement to protect pollinators and incorporate pollinator habitats into residential landscapes,” Shaw said.

Pollinators face many challenges from habitat loss and decreasing plant diversity to extreme weather, pesticides, invasive species and more.

Sue Gray planted her Lawns to Legumes plot in fall 2020, and it is still filling out a year later, she says. Here are some native sky-blue asters and showy goldenrod growing in her Becker township garden.

Gray, the Becker master gardener, planted native prairie plants for pollinators before she connected with the Lawns to Legumes program. Through the program she added 100 square feet of pollinator habitat last fall. Her plot includes wild lupine (one of her favorites), showy-orange butterflyweed, goldenrod as well as little bluestem and prairie dropseed grasses.

“It’s a fun learning experience and it also benefits the pollinators,” said Gray, who is a retired teacher.

The program is not just for master gardeners or people with ample yards.

There are workshops, coaching and technical supports for participants, as well as up to $300 grants for individuals. There’s also funding for demonstration neighborhood projects, which are plantings on a larger scale.

New gardeners can start small, such as with a six feet by six feet plot, Shaw said.

“What we consider a pollinator pocket garden can provide a lot of benefit for pollinators and can be a really good starting point to understand the process of installing a pollinator garden and then those plantings can be added on to over time,” Shaw said.

Lawns to Legumes also supports the creation of pollinator lawns, the planting of a larger pollinator meadow or planting native trees and shrubs that benefit birds and insects, he said.

Plus humans and our communities can benefit from these kinds of plantings. They provide spots of “nearby nature,” which show kids the wonders of the natural world and bring neighborhoods together, Shaw said.

“Pollinator plantings essentially become living systems,” he wrote in a follow-up email. “They provide benefits to the biodiversity and health of soils, sequester carbon, … help manage excess water and provide flower resources during drought, provide nesting and forage resources for bees and support birds and other organisms.”

The Lawns to Legumes program includes grants to individuals and community groups. This photo shows a solo pollinator garden supported by the program after it has filled out.

All Minnesotans are eligible including renters.

The application period opened at the end of August and will close Feb. 15.

In the first year of the program 7,500 people applied.

Gray was not accepted with her first application, but she tried again and got in. She recommends it.

Now they’re entering Phase 2 of the program. And Shaw expects a Phase 3 expansion as well.

“In some ways we really are seeing a change in how people manage their landscapes. They’re really thinking about how pollinators can be benefited … and that’s what we want to see,” Shaw said. “We want to see a large-scale change in how we think about our landscapes and how we manage them for wildlife.”

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Apple once threatened Facebook ban over Mideast maid abuse



Apple once threatened Facebook ban over Mideast maid abuse

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Two years ago, Apple threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from its app store over concerns about the platform being used as a tool to trade and sell maids in the Mideast.

After publicly promising to crack down, Facebook acknowledged in internal documents obtained by The Associated Press that it was “under-enforcing on confirmed abusive activity” that saw Filipina maids complaining on the social media site of being abused. Apple relented and Facebook and Instagram remained in the app store.

But Facebook’s crackdown seems to have had a limited effect. Even today, a quick search for “khadima,” or “maids” in Arabic, will bring up accounts featuring posed photographs of Africans and South Asians with ages and prices listed next to their images. That’s even as the Philippines government has a team of workers that do nothing but scour Facebook posts each day to try and protect desperate job seekers from criminal gangs and unscrupulous recruiters using the site.

While the Mideast remains a crucial source of work for women in Asia and Africa hoping to provide for their families back home, Facebook acknowledged some countries across the region have “especially egregious” human rights issues when it comes to laborers’ protection.

“In our investigation, domestic workers frequently complained to their recruitment agencies of being locked in their homes, starved, forced to extend their contracts indefinitely, unpaid, and repeatedly sold to other employers without their consent,” one Facebook document read. “In response, agencies commonly told them to be more agreeable.”

The report added: “We also found recruitment agencies dismissing more serious crimes, such as physical or sexual assault, rather than helping domestic workers.”

In a statement to the AP, Facebook said it took the problem seriously, despite the continued spread of ads exploiting foreign workers in the Mideast.

“We prohibit human exploitation in no uncertain terms,” Facebook said. “We’ve been combating human trafficking on our platform for many years and our goal remains to prevent anyone who seeks to exploit others from having a home on our platform.”

This story, along with others published Monday, is based on disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal counsel. The redacted versions were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including the AP.

Taken as a whole, the trove of documents show that Facebook’s daunting size and user base around the world — a key factor in its rapid ascent and near trillion-dollar valuation — also proves to be its greatest weakness in trying to police illicit activity, such as the sale of drugs, and suspected human rights and labor abuses on its site.

Activists say Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, has both an obligation and likely the means to fully crack down on the abuses their services facilitate as it earns tens of billions of dollars a year in revenue.

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HelloFresh, EveryPlate and more now part of extended onion recall



You may need to toss your onions as salmonella outbreak has been linked to the vegetable

If you haven’t already thrown out your onions, you should check your vegetables again.

The Food and Drug Administration has extended the onion recall, caused by a salmonella outbreak, to several more brands. The salmonella outbreak was first reported last week and initially only included fresh whole red, white or yellow onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource.

The recall now includes onions from HelloFresh, EveryPlate, Potandon Produce LLC and Keeler Family Farms.

HelloFresh said in a statement on Saturday they recommended disposing of onions received during the specified time period

“HelloFresh has been informed by one of its ingredient suppliers that it is conducting a voluntary recall of its onions due to the potential presence of salmonella bacteria,” the company said. “Please discard all onions received from July 7, 2021, through Sept. 8, 2021.”

The CDC is still working to determine if other onions and suppliers are linked to the outbreak.

Officials said recently both individuals and businesses should check onions and if it is unknown where they are from, throw them away. It is also recommended to wash and sanitize any surfaces that may have come in contact with these onions.

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Just what are “The Facebook Papers,” anyway?



Just what are “The Facebook Papers,” anyway?

The Facebook Papers project represents a unique collaboration among 17 American news organizations, including The Associated Press. Journalists from a variety of newsrooms, large and small, worked together to gain access to thousands of pages of internal company documents obtained by Frances Haugen, the former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower.

A separate consortium of European news outlets had access to the same set of documents, and members of both groups began publishing content related to their analysis of the materials at 7 a.m. EDT on Monday, Oct. 25. That date and time was set by the partner news organizations to give everyone in the consortium an opportunity to fully analyze the documents, report out relevant details, and to give Facebook’s public relations staff ample time to respond to questions and inquiries raised by that reporting.

Each member of the consortium pursued its own independent reporting on the document contents and their significance. Every member also had the opportunity to attend group briefings to gain information and context about the documents.

The launch of The Facebook Papers project follows similar reporting by The Wall Street Journal, sourced from the same documents, as well as Haugen’s appearance on the CBS television show “60 Minutes” and her Oct. 5 Capitol Hill testimony before a U.S. Senate subcommittee.

The papers themselves are redacted versions of disclosures that Haugen has made over several months to the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging Facebook was prioritizing profits over safety and hiding its own research from investors and the public.

These complaints cover a range of topics, from its efforts to continue growing its audience, to how its platforms might harm children, to its alleged role in inciting political violence. The same redacted versions of those filings are being provided to members of Congress as part of its investigation. And that process continues as Haugen’s legal team goes through the process of redacting the SEC filings by removing the names of Facebook users and lower-level employees and turns them over to Congress.

The Facebook Papers consortium will continue to report on these documents as more become available in the coming days and weeks.

“AP regularly teams up with other news organizations to bring important journalism to the world,” said Julie Pace, senior vice president and executive editor. “The Facebook Papers project is in keeping with that mission. In all collaborations, AP maintains its editorial independence.”

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