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The Latest: Sears, inundated by debt, seeks protection

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The Latest on the filing for bankruptcy protection by the Sears Holding Corp. (all times local):

6:40 a.m.

Sears is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company, inundated by debt and falling sales, said Monday that it would begin liquidation sales and close another 142 stores before the end of the year. The company that dominated the American retail landscape in the 20th century joins a long list of stores ravaged by changing technology and shopping patterns.

Some stores have pulled out of bankruptcy court and found some stability, but the future of other longstanding retail institutions like Toys R Us are more doubtful.



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MJ Akbar: Indian minister defiant amid #MeToo storm

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MJ Akbar, junior minister for foreign affairs in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and a former influential newspaper editor, has over the past week been accused by former female colleagues of groping, assault and harassment.

Responding to the allegations after returning to the Indian capital from an official visit abroad, Akbar called the allegations “false and fabricated” and questioned their timing, hinting at a political campaign against him as India prepares for general elections next year.

“Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge,” Akbar said in a statement tweeted out by him Sunday.

He said he would take legal action to protect his name. “Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections. Whatever be the case, now that I have returned, my lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action,” he said.

The combative response after days of pressure on Prime Minister Modi to act on the issue prompted stinging criticism, with the leading daily newspaper The Hindu saying Akbar’s position was “untenable” in an editorial published Monday morning.

The paper also questioned the suggestion by Akbar — who is a member of the indirectly elected upper house of the Indian parliament, not the directly elected lower house — that the allegations might somehow be linked to the coming elections.

“Mr Akbar’s conspiracy theory that the #MeToo charges have settled upon him because elections are now looming is weak and totally unconvincing,” the Hindu said in its main editorial piece Monday.

“He has no political heft and a conspiracy to tarnish him and secure his speedy exit from the Narendra Modi government would have left it none the weaker.”

Without a resignation, the paper said, the focus now “cannot but shift to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Why wasn’t his resignation demanded and secured on his return to the capital?”

Journalist accused

Attention first fell on Akbar after journalist Priya Ramani identified him last week as the subject of an article she had written for Vouge India in 2017, describing an experience of workplace harassment during a job interview with an unnamed editor in a Mumbai hotel room.

Taking to Twitter early last week, she said the piece was about her experience with Akbar.

“Turns out you were as talented a predator as you were a writer. It was more date, less interview,” Ramani wrote in her piece, which she said took place when “I was 23, you were 43.”

“Come sit here, you said at one point, gesturing to a tiny space near you. I’m fine, I replied with a strained smile. I escaped that night, you hired me, I worked for you for many months even though I swore I would never be in a room alone with you again,” she added in the piece.

Since Ramani’s revelation, several other women have come out with their accounts of Akbar’s behavior.

India’s #MeToo movement appears to have been spurred by allegations late last month by former Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta, who spoke publicly about being a victim of assault allegedly at the hands of Nana Patekar, her co-star in a 2008 film.

In subsequent weeks, accounts of sexual misconduct shook the wider media and entertainment industry. In one high profile case, a Bollywood production house has been dissolved following sexual harassment allegations against one of its co-founders.

A leading comedy outfit popular with Indian millennials was also shaken when a comedian it worked with faced harassment allegations, while in the media industry, allegations of inappropriate behavior saw a prominent Delhi-based political journalist lose his position pending an internal investigation, according to reports.





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50 Cent offers Nurmagomedov $2 million to leave UFC

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Rapper 50 Cent offered to pay Khabib Nurmagomedov $2 million in cash to leave the UFC and join rival Bellator in an Instagram post on Friday.

Russia’s Khabib Nurmagomedov, UFC lightweight champion who defeated Conor McGregor of Ireland in the main event of UFC 229, speaks during the ceremony of honouring him at Anzhi Arena in Kaspiysk, a city in the republic of Dagestan, Russia October 8, 2018. Picture taken October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Said Tsarnayev

Nurmagomedov’s $2 million fight purse was withheld after chaos broke out following his fourth-round submission of returning UFC star Conor McGregor.

“I think it’s wrong what the UFC is doing to Khabib, they didn’t do the same thing to McGregor,” 50 Cent, whose given name is Curtis Jackson, wrote in a tweet. “I’ll pay 2 million cash tonight if he will fight for me at Bellator.”

“I’ll deal with Dana and your contract later,” 50 Cent commented on his own Instagram post, and referring to UFC president Dana White. “The UFC is not the only game in town. Zubaira (Nurmagomedov’s teammate) is welcome also.”

Nurmagomedov isn’t likely to jump to Bellator, where 50 Cent is a brand ambassador, but he did respond to the rapper’s offer.

“Just send me location,” he replied on Instagram, before inviting the rapper to come to Dagestan, the region in Russia where he lives.

McGregor, who received his $3 million purse, and Nurmagomedov will be tentatively suspended for at least 10 days on Monday for their part in a brawl that occurred inside and outside the Octagon in their Saturday fight, Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett announced Thursday.

FILE PHOTO – 71st Cannes Film Festival – Screening of the film “Solo: A Star Wars Story” out of competition – Red Carpet Arrivals – Cannes, France May 15, 2018. 50 Cent poses. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Nurmagomedov went into the crowd in an attempt to fight members of McGregor’s team after the bout. McGregor also left the cage and threw a punch at a person affiliated with Nurmagomedov.

A hearing is slated for Oct. 24. The commission will vote at that time whether the two should be indefinitely suspended pending results of the investigation.

“You can keep my money that you are withholding,” Nurmagomedov posted on his Instagram account. .”.. I hope it won’t get stuck in your throat.”

Nurmagomedov (27-0) could be in danger of losing his lightweight title after beating McGregor (21-4). White has indicated the UFC could strip Nurmagomedov of the belt.

Meanwhile, the next fight of Nurmagomedov’s teammate, Zubaira Tukhugov, reportedly was canceled following his role in the brawl that ensued after the Nurmagomedov-McGregor fight.

That didn’t sit well with Nurmagomedov, who vowed to leave the UFC if it were to fire Tukhugov.

“If you decide to fire him, you should know that you’ll lose me too,” Nurmagomedov wrote on Instagram. “We never give up on our brothers in Russia and I will go to the end for my Brother. If you still decide to fire him, don’t forget to send me my broken contract, otherwise I’ll break it myself.”

Tukhugov (18-4), a featherweight, was set to fight McGregor teammate Artem Lobov later this month. Tukhugov and McGregor had a brief exchange in the ring during the fracas that ensued after UFC 229.

—Field Level Media



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Unapproved Ingredients in Many Supplements

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“Supplements are handled completely different than either prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs,” Cohen explained. “Those two categories are carefully vetted by the FDA. Supplements are not vetted by the FDA, and do not require that any evidence of safety or efficacy is presented to the agency before they are sold to consumers.”

The FDA’s Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 essentially places the burden for evaluating supplement safety, content and labeling primarily on the shoulders of the manufacturers, he said.

Experts point out that this arrangement means that, while the FDA has the authority to remove from the market any supplement reported as causing harm, as a practical matter it does so only after the fact. This raises the risk for a wide range of “serious adverse events” involving tainted supplements — including stroke, kidney failure, liver injuries, blood clots and even death — critics of the arrangement contend.

The study team said prior estimates suggest that such events result in roughly 23,000 emergency department visits and 2,000 hospitalizations in the United States every year.

The new analysis reviewed a decade’s worth of information contained in an FDA database titled “Tainted Products Marketed as Dietary Supplements.”

Almost 800 tainted warnings were issued during the review period for supplements manufactured by 147 different companies, though some involved multiple warnings about the same supplement, the study authors said.

About 20 percent of the warnings identified products containing more than one unapproved ingredient, the investigators found. Sildenafil (commonly known as Viagra) was the ingredient in nearly half of the warnings concerning sexual enhancement supplements.

Sibutramine — an appetite suppressant taken off the market in 2010 due to cardiovascular risks — was cited in nearly 85 percent of weight-loss supplements, according to the report.

And among muscle-building supplements, synthetic steroids or steroid-like ingredients were the cause for concern nearly 90 percent of the time, the researchers said.

Cohen said any meaningful solution will require a change in the laws that govern the way the FDA monitors supplements. Barring that, you should “ask your doctor if you need to take supplements,” he advised.

“If your doctor doesn’t advise supplements for your health, then they will likely not help you,” Cohen stressed. “However, for my patients who still want to use supplements, I advise them to purchase supplements that list only one ingredient on the label and to avoid any supplement that has a health claim on the label, such as improving immunity or strengthening muscles.”





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The business behind Michelin stars

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Gordon Ramsay gave out the new Michelin Stars for 2019Image copyright
Michelin

Image caption

Gordon Ramsay gave out the new Michelin Stars for 2019

Michelin is probably best known as the company that bestows stars on restaurants to signify their excellence.

Gordon Ramsay, awarding the Michelin stars for UK & Ireland 2019, described the event last week as the “Oscars of the restaurant industry”.

Receiving a star isn’t only an industry accolade – it can also be a boost to the business.

The late Joël Robuchon, the world’s most Michelin star-decorated chef, claimed the stars were financially transformative.

“With one Michelin star, you get about 20% more business. Two stars, you do about 40% more business, and with three stars, you’ll do about 100% more business,” he told Food & Wine magazine last year.

But according to the founders of Ellory in east London, their mark-up on receiving a first star was even higher.

“Business went up by over a third,” says Ed Thaw, who received the award just 11 months after opening.

And yet, in a testament to how tough the restaurant industry can be, Ellory closed after only two and half years – despite having retained the star a year later.

The restaurant only turned a profit in three months – and those were “random” months.

Image copyright
Ed Thaw

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Ed Thaw outside his newly Michelin-starred restaurant, Leroy

Ed says it isn’t enough just to be serving great food, the location is also key.

“[At Ellory], we were opposite a drug rehab centre and workman’s cafe.”

With business partner Jack Lewens, he has now set up Leroy in Shoreditch.

The trick, he says, is to stay true to what you enjoy rather than straining for recognition.

It’s not about “getting a pinky finger out and explaining the food”.

Perhaps backing up Ed’s approach, Leroy received its own star at the 2019 awards.

‘Don’t change’

Gordon Ramsay, holder of three stars for his self-titled restaurant in Chelsea, gave out the 2019 awards at a closely choreographed ceremony in the BFI Imax in London – and with them, his top piece of advice.

“Don’t change, don’t start putting your prices up.”

One first-time star recipient, Paul Foster, agrees.

Owner of Salt in Stratford-upon-Avon, Paul says he hopes the award will “get more customers through the door” – but that he “wouldn’t change anything” about the restaurant.

Salt has unusual beginnings for a restaurant – it got off the ground thanks to a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

“I wanted the controlling share, as I think investors aren’t always the best route,” Paul explains.

And it worked. Having quit his job, he raised just over £100,000. Salt was duly set up.

Explaining that he simply “told the truth” about what he wanted to do, he says “the British public love the underdog in a story”.

Fellow chef Tom Parker trained at Michelin-starred Northcote, before setting up shop close to home at The White Swan in Burnley. He also received a first star for 2019.

He is adamant that nothing will change about his restaurant after getting the award.

“We put our prices up from £28 to £32 for three courses last week, we can’t put them up any more.”

“If anything the star could kill the whole thing off,” he laughs.

“People in Burnley might be like, ‘They look down their noses at you there.'”

Star pressure

A few weeks before the awards, one restaurant in Wales took the unusual step of giving their star back.

Stephane Borie, Sarah Francis and Kathryn Francis of The Checkers in Powys said they were “putting family first”.

It ended a seven-year streak for the restaurant, which first appeared in the guide in 2011.

Image copyright
The Checkers

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Sarah and Kathryn Francis and Stephane Borie gave up their Michelin star

The chief inspector

In a back room on the floor below the ceremony, Rebecca Burr is cooped up in a kind of cubicle, watching the proceedings on Facebook Live.

As Michelin UK & Ireland’s editor – chief inspector, if you like – she keeps a low profile.

She says Michelin employs about 130 inspectors around the world, who go out on the road acting on reviews, reader tips and word-of-mouth recommendations.

They visit a tipped restaurant for lunch and dinner and at least one further meal – to check consistency.

Rebecca acknowledges how a Michelin star “puts [restaurants] on a stage”.

“[But] we’re not sprinkling Michelin fairy dust on places. The mission is to point people in the direction of good places to eat.”

Perhaps in illustration of that, no-one received a third star at the 2019 ceremony.

Then there’s the business of taking stars away.

“It’s not a nice part of the work,” she says, acknowledging such a decision can hurt businesses as well as the people employed and supported by them.

“It’s a major responsibility I take very seriously.”

Tyre company

Michelin started out as a tyre company. Indeed, the Michelin Man was seen mingling among attendees and plates of ornate hors d’oeuvres after the ceremony.

Image caption

Michelin Man mingles with the guests

The company was set up in Clermont-Ferrand, France in 1889, by brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin, who wanted a piece of the burgeoning tyre market.

The guide was initially given out for free, to encourage motorists to take to the road, and buy more tyres.

Little did Andre and Edouard know it would become central not only to their business, but to that of many of the best restaurants in the world.



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Mexican couple arrested with body parts in stroller may have killed 20

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A couple arrested in Mexico while pushing a baby stroller filled with human body parts may have killed up to 20 women, according to the chief investigator on the case.



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Championship tandem Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus to split

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If Jimmie Johnson wins a record eighth NASCAR Cup Series championship, it won’t be with Chad Knaus as his crew chief.

Kevin Meendering, crew chief for Elliott Sadler in the Xfinity Series, will take over the No. 48 team starting in 2019, while Knaus will become crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, according to a team news release.



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Director Steve McQueen: Why I chose to remake 1980s TV hit Widows

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Widows, the 1980s Lynda La Plante TV hit, has been remade for the big screen by 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen.



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Global stocks slide to three-month low on tech stocks plunge, rising U.S. interest rates

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stocks on major world markets slid to a three-month low on Wednesday, with the benchmark S&P500 stock index falling more than 3.0 percent, its biggest one-day fall since February.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Technology shares tumbled on fears of slowing demand, while bond yields ended lower after seeing multi-year highs earlier this week.

Major equity indexes in Europe fell more than 1.0 percent, also pulled down by technology shares, and gold prices inched up as some investors sought refuge in the metal.

“The S&P 500 is looking very weak and negative and that is putting fear into investors,” said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors. “With the markets going down people are increasing their allocation towards gold.”

On Wall Street, the Philadelphia Semiconductor index tumbled 4.46 percent after Swiss vacuum valve maker VAT Group said demand was softening from chip equipment makers.

Among the tech sector’s worst performers in Europe, Austrian chipmaker AMS fell 5.9 percent and STMicroelectronics closed down 5.8 percent.

Benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury notes rose late in the day, pushing yields down to 3.1931 percent. Yields on 3-year notes have recently traded just above 3.0 percent, providing long-absent competition for investment returns with equities.

The rise in U.S. Treasury yields has been bolstered by good U.S. economic data that has reinforced expectations of multiple rate hikes over the next 12 months by the Federal Reserve.

Stocks and bonds traditionally have been in a tug of war for capital, but for the past 10 years bonds have had one arm tied behind their back, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer and founding partner at Cresset Wealth Advisors in Chicago.

“Short-term bonds are getting to be a compelling place to hang out,” he said. “This orphan status that equity markets have enjoyed for the last 10 years is disappearing and finally getting some competition from the bond market.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 831.83 points, or 2.2 percent, to 25,598.74. The S&P 500 lost 94.66 points, or 3.29 percent, to 2,785.68 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 315.97 points, or 4.08 percent, to 7,422.05.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe fell percent, its biggest single-day fall since February. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading regional shares closed down 1.57 percent.

The euro and sterling rose, underpinned by optimism for a Brexit deal, while the U.S. dollar lost ground against a basket of currencies even as U.S. yields hovered near multiyear peaks.

European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier signaled progress on a deal with the UK over its withdrawal from the bloc.

“There is more optimism that they will find some agreement between Britain and the European Union before Brexit,” said Steve Englander, global head of G10 FX research at Standard Chartered Bank in New York.

The dollar index fell 0.17 percent, with the euro up 0.25 percent to $1.1518. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.53 percent versus the greenback at 112.36.

Oil prices fell more than 2 percent as U.S. stocks plunged, even though energy traders worried about shrinking supply from Iran due to U.S. sanctions and kept an eye on Hurricane Michael, which closed nearly 40 percent of U.S. Gulf of Mexico output.

U.S. crude settled down $1.79 at $73.17 per barrel and Brent fell $1.91 to settle at $83.09.

U.S. gold futures settled up $1.9, or 0.16 percent, at $1,193.4.

Reporting by Herbert Lash in New York; Editing by Clive McKeef



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U.S. immigrants pay more for health insurance than they get in benefits

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(Reuters Health) – The roughly 50 percent of immigrants in the U.S. who have private health insurance coverage contribute more to the risk pool than they receive in benefits, a new study suggests.

As U.S. lawmakers continue to tackle immigration reform, knowing whether immigrants burden or subsidize the nation’s healthcare system could be helpful, researchers write in Health Affairs.

“If we’re talking about reform, we need to understand the consequences of policies put in place and the repercussions on many parts of our country,” said study leader Dr. Leah Zallman, director of research at the Institute for Community Health in Malden, Massachusetts.

Recent narratives about immigrants and the healthcare system paint a picture of packed emergency rooms and patients who can’t pay their bills. But many U.S. immigrants are young, healthy and able to get employer-provided insurance, and when these people are taken into account, the insurance premiums they’re paying might actually bolster the healthcare system, Zallman said in a phone interview.

Zallman and colleagues analyzed national data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to understand private insurers’ expenditures on behalf of enrollees and the premiums paid. They linked that data with National Health Interview Surveys to determine citizenship and immigrant status. They also assessed employer contributions to private insurance by analyzing data collected by the Census Bureau.

The researchers specifically looked at private insurance outside of the Affordable Care Act Marketplace.

They found that immigrants accounted for 12.6 percent of premiums paid to private insurers in 2014 but made up 9.1 percent of the insurers’ expenditures on beneficiaries. Within this group, undocumented immigrants accounted for 2.4 percent of premiums paid and 1.3 percent of expenditures. In contrast, people born in the U.S. accounted for 87.4 percent of premiums paid to insurers and 90.9 percent of expenditures.

Similarly, immigrants’ annual premiums exceeded their expenses by $1,123 per enrollee, or a total of $24.7 billion. In contrast, U.S.-born beneficiaries’ expenses exceeded their premiums by about $24 billion. The immigrants’ contributions therefore offset a deficit of $163 per U.S.-born enrollee, the study authors write. Overall, this subsidy persisted even after immigrants had been in the U.S. for 10 years.

“We live in a political time that is questioning the costs and benefits of immigration, and it’s a question that’s been analyzed for many decades now,” said Arturo Vargas Bustamante of the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“To have a functional health insurance system, we need the rich to subsidize the poor, the healthy to subsidize the unhealthy and the young to subsidize the old,” he said in a phone interview. “The basic question is, ‘Who is subsidizing who?’”

Future research should look at what would happen if immigration reform influenced the health insurance risk pool, particularly if policies curtailed immigration and reduced the number of people with private insurance who boost it, Vargas Bustamante said.

“There are many different steps that must be taken next, including whether these findings hold up for different populations of immigrants, such as country of origin, and a more detailed examination of state immigration and healthcare policies,” said James Stimpson of the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health in Philadelphia, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Immigrants may be a net financial benefit to the health care system and efforts to reduce the number of immigrants could have a negative impact on health insurance premiums for U.S. natives,” he said by email.

SOURCE: bit.ly/2C6PRfC Health Affairs, online October 1, 2018.



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