Bennett Abrams

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Bennett Abrams, who created artificial trees of steel, foam and mulch that decorated hotels and shopping malls around the world, died of lung cancer Aug. 3. He was 72.

Abrams, the co-founder of NatureMaker in Carlsbad, died at his San Marcos home, said his longtime friend and business partner, Gary Hanick.

A self-taught artist and naturalist, Abrams referred to his virtual flora ranging from five-story oaks to tiny bonsai pines as ``eco-art.''

Among his projects were an Amazon rainforest for a Legoland in Windsor, England, a redwood forest for the American Wilderness Experience in Ontario, and a Vietnamese jungle commissioned by the First U.S. Army Division Museum in Wheaton, Ill.

While plastic plants were common in the 1970s, Abrams strove to fabricate trees so lifelike they could pass for the organic versions from as close as two feet away. He first experimented with faux plants in the 1980s and developed a technique using welded steel frames coated with wet mulch that was molded to resemble bark and painted in natural colors.

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Bill Martin Jr.

COMMERCE, Texas (AP) _ Bill Martin Jr., educator and best-selling author of hundreds of children's picture books such as ``Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?'' and ``Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom,'' died Wednesday. He was 88.

Martin, who suffered from Parkinson's disease for years, died at his home, said longtime friend and collaborator Michael Sampson.

Martin, a member of the International Reading Association's Hall of Fame, published his first book, ``The Little Squeegy Bug,'' in 1945 while serving during World War II.

In 1962, he moved to New York to head the school division of book publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston. A decade later, he quit to become a full-time writer.

He moved to Texas in 1994 to be closer to Sampson, his writing partner. The two have co-authored 16 books.

The books had simple, rhythmic verses and often featured colorful, bold artwork by longtime contributing artist Eric Carle.

``Bill's many books for the very young have been an introduction to literature to millions of children, here and abroad,'' Carle said.

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Milton Pollack

NEW YORK (AP) _ Milton Pollack, who was appointed a federal judge by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967 and oversaw many notable corporate corruption cases, died Friday. He was 97.

He died of complications from surgery, his family said.

One of Pollack's most prominent cases was that involving Drexel Burnham Lambert's bankruptcy, which encompassed claims against the company itself and several of its executives including Michael Milken. Pollack ultimately approved a settlement of more than $1 billion in that case; the amount was later reduced.

In 1975, he sentenced Jane Alpert, a member of the Weather Underground activist group, to 27 months in prison for conspiring to bomb a federal building in New York during the Vietnam War and then jumping bail.

He was still working as late as last year, when in October he tossed out eight lawsuits that sought to hold Merrill Lynch & Co. responsible for investor losses during the Internet stock bubble.