The Boston Citgo sign, all 3,600 square LED feet of which has served as the backdrop to Red Sox games since 1965, is now officially a "pending landmark."

Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

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The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.


Growing Resistance, Oregon Hazelnuts Battle Blight

Feb 18, 2013
Originally published on February 18, 2013 6:42 am

Although Oregon is known for many exports — from timber to hipster irony — few people are aware that it's actually the country's leading source of hazelnuts.

Growers estimate that 99 percent of the United States' crop comes from Oregon's Willamette Valley. Just a few years ago, the industry was on the verge of collapse due to a disease called Eastern filbert blight. Now, years of research have brought blight-resistant breeds to fruition.

The disease first hit the region in the late 1980s. Infected trees develop cankers, which gradually kill off the branches.

"It's just like cancer for trees, there's no real answer to it yet," says Tanner Koenig, a young farmer who grew up fighting blight. "It's just some of them have a 20-year lifespan left, some of them, it's five. Some orchards, we're taking trees out already."

Farmers initially struggled with handling the disease. They tried to cut off trees at the base (that actually led to new growth, which was more susceptible to the disease). They also sprayed the trees in the fall with copper-based fungicides --only to later find that the sprays were only effective on new bud growth, which happens in the spring.

The growers' association taxed its members and put the funds into research, which developed a regimen that extended the life of infected trees. But it came at a high cost in terms of manpower, as Koenig explains.

"It's a constant battle. I have four guys who prune every day from the first of November until the end of March," he says. "It takes two guys to stack up all the branches all winter long, and then they spray about four times for it in the springtime."

While farmers struggled to keep trees alive, researchers struggled to find a solution that would save the industry: a blight-resistant hazelnut. Shawn Mehlenbacher, professor of horticulture at Oregon State University, has been working on developing the resistant hazelnuts for more than 25 years.

Creating special breeds is a long process. It takes eight years to grow a hazelnut generation, and each new variety must go through several generational crosses before it's ready for testing.

Even determining whether the strain is resistant takes time. After Mehlenbacher infects a tree with blight, he has to wait 16 months to see if it gets the disease.

Mehlenbacher didn't start his work from scratch. The first cross-pollination to develop trees with blight resistance happened in the late 1970s. Scientists happened upon a blight-resistant pollinator in the fields — with a gene they named gasaway — and began the slow process of breeding trees that shared that resistance, as well as producing prolific, tasty nuts. By the time farmers were really hurting, OSU could offer plants that were not perfect, but had at least some resistance, taking longer to become stricken with blight.

"The first release by the OSU breeding program that really had an impact on the industry was [the Lewis breed], in 1997," Mehlenbacher says. "It was planted quite widely — kept the industry alive for another decade."

These semi-resistant varieties served as bridge for farmers, helping them hang on until fully resistant trees were introduced.

Now, those trees — pioneer breeds like Jefferson, Yamhill, Santiam and others — are all over the Willamette Valley. Admittedly, in tree years, these varieties haven't been around very long. But farmers are putting their hope in them, replacing blighted trees with these new varieties.

Most farmers continue to spray and prune the old trees, trying to keep them going as long as possible.

But some, like Rich Birkemeier, are just cutting the expense. This winter he's pulling up about 1,500 of the semi-resistant Lewis trees that have finally gone under and planting the new, fully resistant trees in their place.

Birkemeier expects to see these new, blight-resistant trees still bearing nuts by the time his grandchildren are working the farm.

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