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Why you should spend more time in bookstores

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Watch out, world.

Bookstores are making a comeback.

According to Harvard University, after Amazon launched in 1995, the number of independent bookstores in the United States plummeted by 43 per cent in only five years. But now, right alongside high-waisted jeans and record players, bookstores are making a comeback.

The American Booksellers Association reported a 35 per cent growth in the number of independent booksellers. Why? Well, according to Ryan Raffaelli, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, the increase can be attributed to the ‘3 Cs’: convening, curation, and community.

I was flipping through an issue of Monocle Magazine a few months back that ranked the world’s most liveable cities. And what was one of its criteria? the number of independent bookstores.

I thought that was an ingenious little variable that does indeed make cities so much more liveable. What else connects us so deeply with local business owners, fellow book lovers, and our incredible shared earthling history and culture?

Bookstores are a central public hub for events. Toronto’s oldest bookstore Glad Day bookshop hosts drag-themed brunches, Indigo offers talks and signings with authors including Jodi Picoult, James Frey, and David Sedaris, and the Toronto Public Library often hosts author talks and Q&As with disreputable authors including myself. I’ve even hosted episodes of my podcast 3 Books in bookstores, including my conversations with Dave Barry at Books and Books in Coral Gables and with Judy Blume in her own bookstore down in Key West.

And, never mind events, they’re a central public hub for books. They are chock full of two-inch thick compressed volumes of the best thinking from the best brains in the history of the universe. All thoughtfully laid out on tables and shelves in front of you.

I love talking to the staff, who work until midnight every night of the week, at Seekers Books in the Annex; getting a book from the world’s first Biblio-Mat (book vending machine) from The Monkey’s Paw on Bloor St. W. in Dufferin Grove; and staring at the incredible graffiti wall upstairs at Mables Fables on Mount Pleasant Rd. where children’s book authors have drawn doodles and cartoons for more than 30 years. I get a sense of home, comfort and intimacy from bookstores that a computer will never replicate.

When I interviewed Chris Anderson of TED on my 3 Books podcast he explained that one of the goals of the TED conference is to provide a huge amount of incongruent ideas that stir together in your brain in unique ways so lightning bolt ideas flash and process. That’s what bookstores do, too. You walk past Seneca’s letters on minimalism from 2,000 years ago before flipping through modern art books on forest therapy before getting sucked into a brand new novel by someone you’ve never heard of and would never have found any other way.

And, can I get something else off my chest?

I hate online recommendation engines.

There, I said it.

They just recommend the same 25 books to me over and over again.

What I want is someone who knows me, who has sold me books for years, who knows what I like, knows what I don’t, knows what I find too hard, and, maybe most importantly, knows what I’m going through right now. Sound impossible? It absolutely isn’t. I can spend hours getting suggestions from Sarah at Another Story Bookshop on Roncesvalles Ave., Lorna at Indigo Manulife Centre, or Kyle at Type Books on Queen St. W.. In fact, on my nightstand right now I have Cherry by Nico Walker, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown, and The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young. All recommendations from these three booksellers.

Let’s go back to Glad Day bookshop which I mentioned earlier. Not only is Glad Day Toronto’s oldest bookstore, but it’s also the oldest surviving LGBT bookstore in the world. Glad Day was founded in 1970 by Jearld Moldenhauer, who ran the bookstore out of his home in the Annex. Word spread that it was a safe space for members of the LGBT community to express their love of reading and purchase books and the store eventually moved to a house in Kensington Market, then to Yonge St., and eventually to 499 Church St.

Doesn’t that say something about what bookstores represent?

A place people come together, a place to share thoughts and ideas, and a safe escape from our sometimes overwhelming now into a different path, a different mind and a somewhat tangential narrative of life that we get to simply slip into for a while.

Who cares?

Well, books help us develop empathy, compassion and understanding for each another. Critical skills for any parent, teacher, or leader. The Annual Review of Psychology published a groundbreaking report in 2011 that stated books are medicine. Books are medicine! They create empathy and intimacy and happiness. Turns out our brain’s mirror neurons fire when we read about new experiences because we feel like we’re there.

It’s that line by George RR Martin: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… the man who never reads lives only one.”

Books are my favourite vacations, book lovers are my favourite people, and bookstores are my favourite places.

Our city is full of so many incredible bookstores.

I hope to see you at one of them soon.

Neil Pasricha is the bestselling author of The Book of Awesome and The Happiness Equation. His new podcast 3 Books is a Top 100 Ranked iTunes Podcast where each chapter uncovers and discusses the three most formative books of inspiring individuals. Check it out at www.3books.co.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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