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EU life expectancy drops across bloc amid virus pandemic

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A man jogs as it snows, at Cinquantenaire park during a cold spring day in Brussels, Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

BRUSSELS — Life expectancy across much of the European Union has dropped last year, as the 27-nation bloc struggled with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The EU statistical agency Eurostat said Wednesday that “following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, life expectancy at birth fell in the vast majority of the EU member states.” It said the biggest drop was in Spain, with a loss of 1.6 years compared with 2019.

Bulgaria followed with a loss of 1.5 years, followed by Lithuania, Poland and Romania, which all saw a drop of -1.4 years. Denmark and Finland were the only nations to see a rise in life expectancy, with 0.1 years.

There was no overall EU statistic available since Ireland hadn’t reported data.

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‘Fairy doors’ open hearts in California neighborhood

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'Fairy doors' open hearts in California neighborhood

A California community has bonded over a profusion of tiny, colorful wooden doors that are popping up all over.

The so-called “fairy doors” in Alameda, an island community adjacent to Oakland, have been around for years but they’ve grown in number since the pandemic.

So many of the brightly colored, diminutive portals have turned up at the bottom of trees, fences and benches that an army of volunteers has created a Facebook group to celebrate and map the phenomenon — helping fairies and human fans alike find them during self-guided walking tours.

Fred Hogenboom and his daughter are credited with launching the fairy door movement in Alameda about seven years ago, only to watch it grow.

“It’s a great phenomenon that was embraced by the whole community,” Hogenboom told SFGate.com.

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Video shows lightning torch tree outside Wisconsin school

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Video shows lightning torch tree outside Wisconsin school

Mother Nature sparked a sensation outside of a Wisconsin high school.

A large evergreen towering outside the building came tumbling down in an instant after being struck by a bolt of lightning, video shows.

The lightning strike outside of Wautoma High School, about 90 minutes west of Green Bay, Wisconsin, came just before 8:30 a.m. Thursday as the students were getting ready to take a test, according to Fox 11 News.

The bolt sent a flaming light through the entire center of the tree in the blink of an eye, causing it to immediately crumble into a heap.

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Author reveals how his brother killed his mother in new memoir

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Author reveals how his brother killed his mother in new memoir

Most memoirs are a recounting of the author’s own life and experiences. “Everything is Fine” by Vince Granata (Atria Books), out April 27, is a memoir of an entire family — and a tragedy that forever changed its members. 

Granata was an only child for the first 4 ½ years of his life. On the day his mother and father returned home from the hospital, he remembers writing “welcome home mommy” in sidewalk chalk outside their Connecticut home. His parents had arrived home with not one but three siblings in tow — triplets Christopher, Timothy and Elizabeth. It was a joyful event. But the birth of his siblings put in motion a tragedy that would take years to unfold. 

On July 24, 2014, his brother Tim, 24, attacked and killed their mother in the family home. Claudia Dinan Granata was 58. Tim suffered from schizophrenia. “I won’t take the medication, the medication destroys me, takes my mind, takes me away from God,” he ranted to his mother on the morning of the attack. He had frequently threatened suicide. 

“Tim’s demons, electric in his ill mind, convinced him that the woman who had made him peanut butter sandwiches when he was a grass-stained child was the source of his constant pain,” Granata writes. “…After he killed her, he dialed 911, sitting on our front steps, clutching a white Bible.” 

This is a memoir about a horrifying crime, but it is also a book about mental illness, and the family’s ongoing attempts to get help for Tim in a system that is hopelessly flawed. Tim was hospitalized at the Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital in February 2014. In the weeks leading up to the murder, there were numerous signs that he needed to return, but he refused to go back. 

“Eventually, I had no choice but to look at loss and pain, at all the pieces of my family’s story that I didn’t think I could ever understand,” Vince writes. “It was this process, recognizing the pieces, struggling to put them in order, that almost destroyed me. It’s also what allowed me to live again.” 

Tim was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

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