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Austria set to make COVID shots compulsory after bill clears parliament

By Francois Murphy VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria's lower house of parliament passed a bill on Thursday making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory

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Anger as NCAA drops protection for trans athletes after attacks on champion swimmer Lia Thomas

After much public discussion on whether swimmer Lia Thomas, who is transgender, should compete in women’s events, the NCAA met on Wednesday and announced that there would be changes to its policies regarding transgender athletes. These changes could mean Lia Thomas, part of the Penn Athletics women’s swimming team, will not be able to compete in the upcoming NCAA Championships. Under the former policy, trans women were allowed to compete in women’s events if they had undergone a year of hormone-suppression therapy. The new policy means they have to follow the rules of the national and international governing bodies – which require a certain testosterone level. The changes were not accompanied by new medical or legal evidence. It is unclear as to whether Ms Thomas would be able to prove these testosterone levels. The Independent has contacted Ms Thomas for comment. The new policy has sparked anger among sports fans who feel the NCAA is simply “passing the buck”. “Rather than working diligently to create a comprehensive and sensible policy … pass the buck to each individual #sport governing body,” said sports coach Linda Blade on Twitter after the news. “The NCAA has simply passed the buck, ignoring that there is a lot more to this issue than testosterone levels,” commented another Twitter user. The College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America had said it is “disappointed” with the NCAA.Penn Athletics told The Independent that it will support its student Lia Thomas and will “work with the NCAA regarding her participation under the newly adopted standards for the 2022 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships”. “Approximately 80 per of US Olympians are either current or former college athletes,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a press release. “This policy alignment provides consistency and further strengthens the relationship between college sports and the US Olympics.” Lia Thomas started smashing women’s swimming records this year. She was on the men’s swimming team for three years previously, but after transitioning she joined the women’s team. The previous NCAA 2011 policy, which has now been scrapped, stated that it would “ensure transgender student-athletes fair, respectful, and legal access to collegiate sports teams based on current medical and legal knowledge”. The new policy states that there will be “a sport-by-sport approach to transgender participation that preserves the opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.” Read More NCAA adopts new policy for transgender athletes Football games send viewers to TV on cold weekend Transgender athlete ban, backed by Noem, clears committee

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France to loosen COVID curbs in February, allowing popcorn in cinemas again

(Refiles with tweaked headline) By Sudip Kar-Gupta and Marc Angrand PARIS (Reuters) -France will ease work-from-home rules from early February

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California's battle to cut emissions with biofuels burns in new truck engines

By Laura Sanicola (Reuters) - Renewable diesel is touted as a cleaner-burning fuel, but a recent study has shown the

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UN approves resolution condemning denial of Nazi Holocaust

The U_N_ General Assembly has approved an Israeli-sponsored resolution condemning any denial of the Holocaust and urging all nations and social media companies “to take active measures to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial or distortion.”

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Sony A7000 avant-garde soundbar takes advantage of a free run as Bose naps

The first impression of the Sony A7000 is that it is massive. In fact, it is a few inches wider than a 55-inch TV we have tested this with

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US official lays out Biden’s China strategy, says India’s role ‘critical’

The official said the administration’s approach to China rested on the analysis that while competition is particularly pronounced in the Indo-Pacific, it is playing out globally

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Two toy trains non-functional in Pune gardens, PMC approves one more for Rs5.47 crore

PMC had erected two toy trains, one at Peshwe Garden near Saras Baug and another train at Katraj garden. Both the toy trains are in a shabby state and are non-functional

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BMC finalises ward boundaries for 236 seats, elections by March end

A senior BMC official said that they plan to increase three seats across the city in eastern and western suburbs, followed by the island city

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Students demand SPPU to interfere in exam form issue

As many students have not paid the college fees, college administration is avoiding to inward such forms of students. So, students are demanding the university to issue a circular just like last year instructing colleges to inward exam forms

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Covid positivity rate at 35%, hospital cases show gradual rise in Pune

Rise in active Covid cases in Pune has also seen more home isolations and hospitalisations since January 1

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330,797 vehicles ‘bypass’ Pune-Mumbai Expressway toll tax; RTI activist demands probe

The statistics related to toll tax published by MSRDC on its website has revealed that 330,797 vehicles did not pay the mandatory toll tax on Pune-Mumbai Expressway in December 2021

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Pamela Anderson 'splits' from husband

Pamela Anderson has reportedly split from her husband, Dan Hayhurst, after just over a year of marriage.

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U.S. consumer watchdog to scrutinize for-profit colleges' student loan programs

By Katanga Johnson WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will begin examining for-profit colleges' in-house private

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Energy price cap set to almost double to £2,400 this year, industry leader warns

Energy bills could almost double by October if the price cap rises sharply for a second time, adding to a 50 per cent jump in April, an industry leader has warned. Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive of trade body Energy UK, said the price cap could rise to £2,400 in October following an increase to "around £2,000" in April, as suppliers pass on the costs of soaring wholesale gas prices. Ofgem’s price cap is currently £1,277 for an average household but is almost certain to rocket this year. A little over three months ago it stood at £1,138. Addressing a media webinar on the energy bills crisis, Ms Pinchbeck said of the price rise: “We haven’t seen anything like this, not in my career or in any of the people who sit on my board.” She said that although wholesale prices were expected to drop, “they are still three times higher than we expect to see at this time of the year, and described the situation as “enduring”. Ofgem is due to announce the new level on 7 February, with pressure growing on Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, to announce measures to support households and deal with a crisis that has seen 27 suppliers cease trading. Ms Pinchbeck said suppliers were currently losing between £400 and £600 a year for each of the roughly 15 million customers on standard variable tariffs, which must be kept at the price cap level or lower. Wholesale gas prices have fallen back from record highs reached at the end of last year but remain significantly above the level of previous winters. Markets indicate that prices are expected to remain elevated throughout 2022 and for much of next year, piling further pressure on households facing an income squeeze from tax hikes and inflation. The chancellor is understood to be considering a range of options including an expansion of the Warm Home Discount, a £140 payment to help people on low-incomes pay for their energy. Also being considered is a government-facilitated loan scheme for suppliers to help them absorb the current price spike without having to pass on all of the cost to customers in one go. The money could be recovered through bills over several years. If agreed, it could allow Ofgem to keep the price cap lower than it would otherwise be. The plan has an added benefit to the Treasury in that, by lowering bills, it would hold down the rate of inflation. Billions of pounds of government debt is linked to the inflation rate, which has jumped to a 30-year high, pushing up interest repayments the Treasury must pay to bondholders. Suppliers and campaigners have called for more drastic action. On Thursday, the Social Market Foundation (SMF) think tank called on the government to give one-off cash payments to people unable to pay their energy bills. The SMF’s chief economist, Dr Aveek Bhattacharya, wrote that a cheque for £300 should be sent to households that did not have a higher rate taxpayer, with an additional £200 for those on universal credit or legacy benefits. He argued that an £8.5bn programme of direct cash payments, known as “helicopter money”, would be the simplest and most effective way of dealing with big energy price rises. He said: “An emergency cash payment would also have the benefit of being a clear one-off intervention, whereas other proposals would risk committing the government to costly ongoing subsidies, that it would find politically difficult to end.” Read More Energy bills could increase again in October after predicted 50% jump in April ‘No indication’ of announcement of measures to combat energy price hikes Energy price rise to ‘devastate’ UK’s poorest families without urgent action Zero-interest periods offered on credit cards expected to increase Labour motion to cut VAT on energy bills defeated in Commons Ovo blasted for ‘cuddle pets to keep warm’ advice but ministers have no better ideas

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What does ‘nocebo effect’ mean - and how does it relate to placebos?

A “placebo effect’’ occurs when a medical patient is given a treatment that has no pharmacological therapeutic benefit as part of a trial programme, such as a saline injection or a sugar pill, but which nevertheless produces an improvement in their health. Its mirror-image is the “nocebo effect”, which sees the patient suffer adverse side effects in the same circumstances despite the treatments posing no actual threat to their wellbeing. The latter phenomenon is making headlines because a new study has suggested that it could explain nearly two-thirds of negative impacts reported in response to Covid-19 vaccines. Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, assessed data from 12 clinical trials of coronavirus vaccines and compared the rate of adverse events reported by participants who had received the jab to the rate of side effects experienced by those who had been given only a placebo injection containing no vaccine serum. According to the study, which was published in the journal JAMA Network Open, adverse effects were reported by 22,578 placebo recipients (nocebo responses) and by 22,802 people who really did get a vaccine dose. After the (bogus) first jab was administered, 35 per cent of the placebo recipients complained of symptoms like fever while 19.6 per cent reported headaches and 16.7 per cent fatigue. Another 16 per cent reported more localised symptoms, including pain at the site of injection, soreness or swelling. Meanwhile, 46 per cent of those who did receive the vaccine likewise experienced at least one systemic adverse event after their first jab while two-thirds reported at least one more localised symptom. After the second dose, the analysis found that side effects among the placebo group fell to 32 per cent reporting systemic events and 12 per cent reporting local effects, while those really given the vaccine reported a greater number of side effects, with 61 per cent experiencing adverse systemic events and 73 per cent local events. The researchers said they suspect the higher rate of side effects in the vaccine group the first time around may have led participants to anticipate more in the second instance but insisted this was only a hypothesis. Overall, the study suggests that the nocebo effect could account for over three-quarters of all adverse events reported after a first jab by the vaccine group and nearly a quarter of all local effects –and nearly half of side effects complained of after a second dose. “Nonspecific symptoms like headache and fatigue – which we have shown to be particularly nocebo sensitive – are listed among the most common adverse reactions following Covid-19 vaccination in many information leaflets,” the study’s senior author Ted J Kaptchuk, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. “Evidence suggests that this sort of information may cause people to misattribute common daily background sensations as arising from the vaccine or cause anxiety and worry that make people hyper-alert to bodily feelings about adverse events. “Our findings lead us to suggest that informing the public about the potential for nocebo responses could help reduce worries about Covid-19 vaccination, which might decrease vaccination hesitancy,” Dr Kaptchuk concluded. Read More ‘Nocebo effect’ may be behind two-thirds of Covid vaccine symptoms, study suggests When can I get my Covid booster jab? Everything you need to know Average daily booster jabs in UK drops below 100,000 Covid-19 Omicron variant symptoms: Which signs to look for Customers boycott Starbucks after coffee chain reverses vaccine mandate for workers No more work from home - everything you need to know about new UK guidance

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Austrian lawmakers pass Europe's strictest Covid-19 vaccine mandate

Austrian Parliament voted for European Union's strictest Covid-19 vaccine mandate on Thursday, making it compulsory for Austrian residents over the age of 18 to get the shot.

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McDonald's expanding test of McPlant burger in US stores

McDonald’s is expanding sales of its meatless McPlant burger to hundreds of locations

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Fulton County DA requests special grand jury to probe Trump's election interference

A Georgia district attorney investigating former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state has requested a special grand jury to gather evidence and compel witnesses to testify in relation to her probe.

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CDL Announces On-Air Talent Lineup for Kickoff Classic 2022

Here's a breakdown of the CDL broadcast's talent lineup for the league's first in-person event of the year.

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Fund urged for sex abuse victims at youth detention center

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella says spending $100 million to settle sexual abuse claims at the state's youth detention center is the right thing to do for both victims and the government

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Vision Fund CEO Says Private Markets Are ‘Overvalued’

(Bloomberg) -- Private markets are “overvalued” and must “rebalance,” said SoftBank Group Corp. Vision Fund Chief Executive Officer Rajeev Misra.

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Defending champ Algeria dumped out of African Cup

Defending champion Algeria has been dumped out of the African Cup of Nations in the group stage with a 3-1 loss to Ivory Coast

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GM to deliver electric SUV Cadillac Lyriq to customers in 'few months'

(Reuters) -General Motors Co's pre-production version of electric SUV Cadillac Lyriq have been assembled and the final production version is

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Stocks rise on Wall Street as investors review earnings

Stocks rose in afternoon trading on Wall Street Thursday, trimming some of the week’s steep losses as investors gauge the latest corporate earnings and monitor rising inflation’s impact on the economy

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