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Boots to cut 4,000 jobs as John Lewis to shut eight stores, putting 1,300 jobs at risk – business live | Business

British health and beauty retailer Boots plans to cut 4,000 jobs and close 48 optician stores, in the latest major blow to the country’s retail sector from the COVID-19 crisis.

British brands including John Lewis and Harrods have announced thousands of job cuts in the last two weeks after the pandemic forced customers to shop online and many remained reluctant to return to the high street even as restrictions eased.

Walgreens Boots Alliance, the owner of the retailer, said on Thursday its most significant COVID-19 impact had come in Britain, with footfall down 85% in April, forcing it to take an impairment charge of $2 billion.

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U.S. Senate returns to Washington amid concerns about coronavirus risk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate convened in Washington for the first time in nearly six weeks on Monday, despite concern it might put lawmakers and staff at risk of contracting the coronavirus, but made clear it could take weeks to pass any new relief legislation.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) talks to reporters inside the U.S. Capitol as senators returned to Capitol Hill amid concerns that their legislative sessions could put lawmakers and staff at risk of contracting the coronavirus in Washington, U.S., May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Party leaders raised partisan differences as soon as the Senate opened over the next step in how to combat the pandemic, nominations for senior government posts put forward by President Donald Trump and even the decision to return.

“If it’s essential that the brave healthcare workers, grocery store workers, truck drivers and many other Americans continue to carefully show up for work, then it’s essential that their U.S. senators carefully show up ourselves and support them,” Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer accused McConnell of calling senators back to pursue a Republican political agenda, not help the country.

“As we return to work under the cloud of crisis, Senate Republicans should concentrate on helping us recover from COVID-19, not confirming right-wing judges or protecting big businesses that threaten to put workers at serious risk,” Schumer said.

Democrats and Republicans are at odds over the contents of any new coronavirus legislation. Democrats want up to $1 trillion to help state and local governments. Republicans are demanding liability protections for businesses, as a condition for moving forward on any bill.

Trump said during a Fox News town hall on Sunday that he would not consider any measure that did not include a payroll tax cut.

With Washington still under a stay-at-home order, lawmakers were advised by the congressional physician to wear masks, stay six feet (2 meters) apart and limit the number of staff on Capitol Hill.

Senators wore masks during their first vote on Monday evening, walking into the chamber only one or two at a time and raising their hands, mostly in medical gloves, to indicate their approval.

The Senate confirmed Robert Feitel as inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by 87 to 0.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives chose to remain in recess this week because of potential health risks and has not announced when it will reconvene.

With some Democrats warning the Senate’s return could risk spreading the virus, the Trump administration last week offered Congress 1,000 coronavirus tests.

McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned down the offer over the weekend, which drew fire from Trump.

“By Congress not wanting the special 5 minute testing apparatus, they are saying that they are not ‘essential,’” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, also said he disagreed with the decision in an interview with Politico.

Senate committees scheduled nomination hearings on Tuesday, for Republican U.S. Representative John Ratcliffe as director of national intelligence and Brian Miller, a White House lawyer, tapped to oversee the Treasury’s handling of coronavirus relief funding.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and David Morgan; additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert; writing by David Morgan and Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatisnand Tom Brown

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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To Reduce Coronavirus Risk, U.S. Clergy Rethink Customs : Shots

Catholic worshipers attend Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Celebrating Holy Communion without shared wine is fine, in the age of COVID-19, many churches have decided.

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Catholic worshipers attend Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Celebrating Holy Communion without shared wine is fine, in the age of COVID-19, many churches have decided.

Artem Vorobiev/Getty Images

Before she was the interim minister at the Central Christian Church of Austin, Janet Maykus was a chaplain in health care settings, a job that required training in infectious disease control. So when she heard reports of the coronavirus spreading in some U.S. communities, she knew it was time to overhaul religious practices at her church.

Last Sunday, instead of offering Communion wine in a shared cup from which all congregants drink, Maykus’ service did away with the wine altogether. Also gone for now is the practice of intinction, or dipping the consecrated bread or wafer in the wine.

Communion, in her church, is now offered only as bread — dispensed by elders who first disinfect with hand gel before using tongs to pick up the individual pieces and place them in congregants’ hands — all to avoid contaminating the bread basket with any germs that might be on their fingers.

“I don’t want to be alarmist,” Maykus says, “but as I told our congregation on Sunday, we’re a part of creation and we share this creation with viruses. And so we need to learn how to learn to live with them in a way that makes everyone safe.”

As more cases of coronavirus are confirmed in the U.S., clergy across the country are reconsidering a variety of practices during religious services. Infectious disease experts praise the move.

The Episcopal Dioceses of Los Angeles this week told its congregations to stop offering Communion wine. Christian religious leaders at the regional level of various denominations in Chicago, Seattle, Houston, San Francisco and elsewhere have taken similar actions. Some, like the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, are asking clergy not to use the shared Communion cup.

Hilary Babcock, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University, says that’s a good idea. “I advocate for people not sharing food utensils, glasses and cups. So, in general, I think that’s higher-risk than if there is a way to allow people to have individual cups or individual containers that they are using and either disposing of or having cleaned afterwards.”

Although Communion wine does contain alcohol, it’s probably not enough to kill the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, adds Caitlin Rivers, an infectious disease specialist with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

The coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets that can be produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks — and those droplets can find their way to people nearby, or land on a surface that you end up touching — contaminating your hands. And if you shake hands, you might pass those germs on.

So in many houses of worship of all faiths, handshakes are being discouraged, sometimes replaced with alternatives like waves or elbow bumps. At the Prayer Center in Orland Park, Ill., Imam Kifah Mustapha says he’s advised people not to shake hands after prayer, as many commonly do, and he’s telling people that if they are sick, they are exempted from obligations to attend daily prayers and Friday sermons.

Mustapha notes that washing most of the exposed parts of the body — including the nose, hands, face, neck and feet — prior to prayers is already part of Islamic religious practice. “We already have a hygiene perspective from our religious tenants,” he says. Even so, he notes, the center — where about 1,800 people come for Friday sermons — is also vigorously disinfecting common areas after the service.

Rivers says now is a good time for religious leaders to think through all the parts of their services “and identify all of the times when people come in contact either with each other or with a shared common service, and then try to decide whether those moments can either be removed from the service or whether there is another meaningful, comfortable replacement that could stand in for that.”

While experts advise staying three to six feet away from an infected person to avoid catching the coronavirus, Trish Perl, chief of the infectious diseases division at UT Southwestern Medical Center notes that people attending religious services, or other events, are often spaced much closer than that to each other.

“A lot of times you’re putting vulnerable people together — the elderly — etc.,” Perl says. “So, to me, that’s the risk.”

Other epidemiologists note that the main driver of how the virus has spread so far does not seem to be the sort of temporary, casual contact experienced in church services, but rather “household-level infection — the kind of prolonged exposure family members face when living with or caring for somebody who is sick with the virus. (A religious group in South Korea that was the center of a COVID-19 outbreak in recent weeks had some particular practices that may have increased the spread there, observers say.)

Rivers adds that if coronavirus starts circulating widely in their community, people considered to be at high risk of developing severe disease if infected — like the elderly and those with underlying health conditions — should consider staying home from services. “Or maybe [find] a replacement for that need — like a one-on-one phone call with your religious leader could be helpful.”

“I think every congregation is is going to have to find something that works for them,” Rivers says.

Maykus of the Central Christian Church of Austin says she’s already thinking about how to keep ministering if coronavirus starts spreading in her community, because she has a number of elderly and immunocompromised congregants. If that happens, she says, she could conduct services from her home and broadcast them online for congregants to watch from theirs.

“I emphasize the need to find replacements for further transmission opportunities that lower the risk, because attending religious services is really meaningful to a lot of people,” Rivers says. “And I think advising that nobody do that anymore is not a practical solution.”

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what is the risk in the Alps this week?

Staying safe when skiing or snowboarding in the mountains is crucial – an important part of that is being aware of the risk of avalanche where you are, being prepared when heading off piste, and knowing what to do should an avalanche happen.

The Telegraph Ski & Snowboard has teamed up with Henry Schneiwind from Henry’s Avalanche Talk (HAT), to provide up-to-date avalanche safety reports from the Savoie region of the French Alps, which includes popular resorts such as Courchevel, Méribel, Val Thorens and Les Menuires in the Trois Vallées as well as Val d’Isère, Tignes, La Plagne, Les Arcs, La Rosière and La Tania.

What is the current avalanche risk in the Northern French Alps/Savoie?

The avalanche risk is currently between a low 1/5 to a moderate 2/5. 

In terms of avalanche risk, there’s currently an extremely minimal risk to off-piste skiers and boarders, mainly from rare release of glide cracks. 

What does this mean for off-piste skiers and snowboarders?

There is currently minimal avalanche danger. That isn’t to say ‘none’ – even a small avalanche on a steep slope above a cliff could have disastrous consequences. The main risk to the off-piste skier at the moment is one of losing control, falling, and sustaining a sliding accident on steep, hard icy snow.

Where is most at risk at the moment?

The highest risk to skiers and snowboarders is, as always, on steep slopes exposed to terrain traps. This is particularly the case now, with a lot of hardened or crusted snow on steep slopes above cliffs and rocks.

Stay in control when traversing or skiing down, to avoid going for a long, potentially very dangerous slide. Use ski crampons when walking up on icy traverses. 

There’s been very little glide crack avalanche activity over the last few days. But still keep an eye on these cracks and don’t hang around under them for long, or tour up underneath them. If anywhere receives a substantial amount of fresh snow (20 cm or more) that risk will increase in the short-term.

How does the forecast look for the coming week?

High pressure is still in charge, so the snowfall this weekend will be minimal. There are signs that snow may appear after January 25, but it will be patchy until the high pressure completely collapses.

Friday January 17

Snowfall in the afternoon and especially in the evening. Beautiful at daybreak becoming cloudy from the west in the morning. The precipitation is highest in the evening, it continues the following night slowly becoming weaker. 

Saturday January 18

Some snow at dawn then the clouds dissipate throughout the day. Wind generally weak outside the ridges and peaks.

Sunday January 19

Persistent low clouds over the west, under around 1,500m . This sea of ​​clouds tears apart during the afternoon only.

Monday January 20

Variable weather in Haute-Maurienne and Haute-Tarentaise as weather blocked by clouds overflowing from Italy bringing some snowflakes. Less and less cloudy going towards the North-West of the region.

Tuesday January 21

 A beautiful day, largely sunny after dissipation of grey morning weather.

Wednesday January 22

Beautiful, mild and always sunny, above the probable morning greyness; possible sea of ​​clouds at night.

Thursday January 23

Beautiful and mild.

Tip of the week

If we get 10cm or more new snow, then be very wary of steep, shady northeast, north and northwest slopes. The frissette (gobelet, facets) will be underneath and the slope could slide away from underneath you. If there is more 20cm or fallen or windblown snow that it could avalanche and bury you.

Make the best of the stable snowpack and dry weather to get out for a bit of ski touring. Even if there’s no powder snow out there, there’s always a good adventure to be had, and using touring skis and skins gives us a lot more flexibility with areas of the mountain we can reach.

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Kim Jong Un’s Frustration and the Risk of Hybrid Warfare

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‘The risk of #Brexit happening without a ratified deal still exists’ Phil Hogan 

European Commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan

Speaking at his first event in Ireland as the European Commissioner for Trade (6 December), Phil Hogan addressed what he described as the ‘seemingly endless’ question of Brexit, as well as other pressing trade issues.  

Hogan is hoping that next week’s UK general election will provide clarity and unblock paralysis. He told Irish business leaders that ‘we are not out of the woods yet’ and that the risk of a ‘no deal’ Brexit still exist. He advised the audience of Irish businesses to continue with their work on preparedness given the lack of certainty. The Commissioner appeared to unwittingly acknowledge that a new government, of any hue, will not deliver clarity on what the UK’s situation will be at the end of 2021. 

EU still in the dark about what the UK wants 

Hogan accused the British media of quoting him out of context when he said that he thought that a deal was achievable before the end of 2020. He said the truth was that there was no accurate way to predict how long it would take to negotiate a deal with the UK as there was no precedent. He said that the UK needs to focus on content, the ‘nuts and bolts’ not timing. 

Hogan said he was still in the dark about what type of Free Trade Agreement the UK ultimately want. He said that the UK must outline preferences, define its offensive and defensive interests for each stage of the negotiations, consider the necessary trade-offs and compromises. He urged UK negotiators to involve also stakeholders in defining each stage of negotiations and to have a frank discussion about pros and cons. He said that there was little point negotiating a deal without knowing whether it will gain domestic approval. 

Hogan said the new agreement will secure that there was no hard border on the island of Ireland, but did not address the checks and controls that would apply across the Irish Sea. Today, the Labour Party revealed the contacts of a report on future arrangements written by Her Majesty’s Treasury. Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Brexit Keir Starmer accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of lying about his deal when he has made repeated claims that it would mean no customs checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.  

Hogan told his audience that he warmly welcomed the deal’s commitment to maintaining EU state aid and VAT rules in Northern Ireland, enforceable in the European Court of Justice.  

Making a point that has been made by the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, he made it clear that given the EU’s geographical proximity and economic interdependence the EU would expect solid guarantees in relation to state aid, labour, environmental protection and tax arrangements. He said that the EU has made it abundantly clear that an ‘ambitious’ deal will be contingent on these guarantees.  

It is the UK’s desire to diverge from these EU level-playing-field standards that will be highly problematic. During the campaign Johnson has promised that he will introduce new state aid rules, that will allow the government to intervene more in the economy.  

Hogan lamented that many in the UK had not yet ‘woken up’ to the fact that anything other than EU membership would be greatly inferior to the status quo. 


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Hair Dyes And Straighteners Linked To Higher Cancer Risk, Especially For Black Women : Shots

Hair dyes and straighteners contain chemicals that are being studied for their health effects.

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Hair dyes and straighteners contain chemicals that are being studied for their health effects.

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New research raises concern about the safety of permanent hair dye and chemical hair straighteners, especially among African American women. The study was published Wednesday in the International Journal of Cancer.

Previous research in animals has found links between certain chemicals in hair dye and straighteners and cancer. But findings from other human studies on the association between hair dyes and straighteners and cancer have been inconsistent. This large, prospective study provides firmer evidence of a link.

Researchers analyzed data from an ongoing study called the Sister Study, looking at medical records and lifestyle surveys from 46,709 women between the ages of 35 and 74. Women answered questions about their use of hair dyes and straighteners. While earlier studies on hair dye and cancer risk included mostly white women, the new study includes 9% African American women.

Researchers found that women who used permanent hair dye or chemical straighteners were at higher risk of developing breast cancer.

“The association was notably higher among black women,” says epidemiologist Alexandra White, study author and an investigator with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who studies environmental risk factors for breast cancer.

After eight years of follow-up, White found permanent hair dye use was associated with about a 7% higher risk of developing breast cancer among white women, “whereas in black women that risk was about 45 percent.”

That risk was even higher among black women who dyed their hair frequently, every one or two months.

Researchers don’t know which ingredients in the products might be of concern. The study did not look at the specific ingredients in the products women were using, only at whether they had used the product and whether they developed breast cancer.

All women in the Sister Study were already at high risk for breast cancer since they had a sister who had breast cancer.

Researchers note that in the United States, breast cancer incidence remains high for all women and appears to be increasing for non-Hispanic black women, who also are more likely to be diagnosed with more aggressive forms of the disease and more likely to die from it.

Hair products contain more than 5,000 chemicals, according to researchers, including those with mutagenic and endocrine-disrupting properties such as aromatic amines, which can raise cancer risk, according to White.

When it came to chemical straighteners, risk didn’t vary by race. Both black and white women who used hair straighteners were about 30% more likely to develop breast cancer than those who didn’t use the products. However, black women are more likely to use them, with about 75% of black women in the study reporting they straighten their hair.

“For the chemical straighteners one of the big concerns there is formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen,” says White. She notes that in the early 2000s just before the study began, Brazilian keratin treatments came on the market. This new treatment, commonly called a Brazilian blowout, contains formaldehyde, while earlier hair straightening treatments did not.

The study findings should be understood in context, says Dr. Otis Brawley, a medical oncologist with Johns Hopkins University. The actual risk found for use of these hair treatments is quite low, he adds, especially compared with other known carcinogens like tobacco or radiation. “This is a very weak signal that these things might be causing cancer in the population,” he says.

Much more research is needed, he says, to know for sure how risky these products are. For example, long-term clinical trials with a control group and placebo would be more definitive, but this type of study “would be difficult if not impossible to do.”

“Sometimes science just cannot give us the answers that we want it to give us,” says Brawley.

In the meantime, Brawley says, there are certain lifestyle factors that have stronger evidence of a link to cancer and are more important for women to focus on. “It is for certain that obesity, consuming too many calories and lack of exercise is a risk factor for breast cancer, a definite risk factor,” he says, while the findings of this study only add up to a “perhaps” when it comes to risk.

Dr. Doris Browne, a medical oncologist and former president of the National Medical Association, suggests women start a conversation with their doctor about their risk for breast cancer.

“I think it’s important for women, particularly African American women, not to panic every time a study comes out,” she says. “But it should raise questions for our primary care providers.”

For example, Browne suggests doctors and patients discuss the use of hair products like dyes and straighteners along with other aspects of a “social history” like alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity and living near environmental contaminants.

According to Browne, the key lesson from this study for both doctors and patients is that “when we are aware of a new association (of breast cancer risk) we need to increase our surveillance” to include this potential risk factor in doctor-patient discussions.

For both races, there was no increased risk for women who used semi-permanent or temporary dyes, the kind that eventually wash out with shampooing. To reduce risk, researcher White says women might want to choose these products instead.

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