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Covid booster shots significantly strengthen immunity, trial finds

Jabs offer far higher protection than that needed to prevent hospitalisation and death, Cov-Boost trial lead says

Covid booster shots can dramatically strengthen the bodyas immune defences, according to a study that raises hopes of preventing another wave of severe disease driven by the Omicron variant.

In a study published in the Lancet, researchers on the UK-based Cov-Boost trial measured immune responses in nearly 3,000 people who received one of seven Covid-19 boosters or a control jab two to three months after their second dose of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine.

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Tory peer Michelle Mone accused of sending racist and abusive message

Exclusive: Mone is alleged to have called man of Indian heritage aa waste of a manas white skina in WhatsApp exchange

The Conservative peer Michelle Mone has been accused of sending a racist message to a man of Indian heritage who alleged in an official complaint that she told him he was aa waste of a manas white skina.

The phrase was allegedly used in a WhatsApp message sent by the Tory member of the House of Lords in June 2019 during a disagreement following a fatal yacht crash off the coast of Monaco.

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Labouras main union backer says it will cut political funding

Exclusive: Sharon Graham, Uniteas boss, believes money would be better spent on union campaigns

Labouras biggest funder, Unite, will cut political donations to the party and divert the money to union campaigns, its new general secretary, Sharon Graham, has warned.

In a move that could blow a hole in Keir Starmeras general election war chest, Graham said that while Unite would still pay APS1m in affiliation fees to Labour, athereas a lot of other money that we use from our political fund where, actually, Iam not sure weare getting the best value for ita.

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Bexley byelection: Tories confident they will hold seat as polls close

Party canvassers would be surprised if constituency that has voted Conservative since 1950 changed hands

Tory campaigners are confident that the party will hold Old Bexley and Sidcup a the first in a series of closely watched parliamentary byelections a as polling stations close in the suburban south London seat.

Canvassers who spent the day trying to aget out the votea said they expected the seat that has voted Conservative since 1950 to stay blue, though admitted some voters had expressed dissatisfaction with Boris Johnson.

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Veteran Labour MP and Corbyn critic Margaret Hodge to stand down

Member for Barking since 1994 also chaired the public accounts committee and criticised ex-leader over antisemitism in the party

Margaret Hodge, the veteran Labour MP and former chair of the public accounts committee, has announced she will not stand again for parliament at the next election.

Following a career in the Commons that spanned 27 years, Hodge told local party members in her east London seat of Barking she had made the atough decisiona not to contest the constituency again.

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Shell pulls out of Cambo oilfield project

Green campaigners welcome oil giantas decision not to go ahead with controversial project off Shetland

Shell has pulled out of a controversial new oilfield off the Shetland Islands, plunging the future of oil exploration in the area into doubt.

Shell, which was planning to exploit the field along with the private equity-backed fossil fuel explorer Siccar Point, cited a weak economic case as its reason for deciding not to go ahead with the project.

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Ghislaine Maxwell warned Epsteinas house manager not to alook at his eyesa, court hears

Juan Alessi was told he should speak to his boss only when spoken to and should look away when addressing him

The former house manager of Jeffrey Epsteinas Palm Beach home said Thursday that Ghislaine Maxwell warned that he should anever looka his boss in the eyes.

Juan Alessi, who worked at Epsteinas Florida residence fromabout 1990 to 2002, made the startling statement during his testimony at Maxwellas child sex-trafficking trial in Manhattan federal court.

Information and support for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse issues is available from the following organisations. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673. In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 802 9999. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at

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Staff absences having amassive impacta on pupils in England say head teachers

More than half of 1,000 senior teachers surveyed say they have insufficient staff due to absences caused by Covid and illnesses

Teacher absences are the biggest barrier to children recovering the learning lost during the pandemic, according to head teachers in England, as new data showed that shortages in key subjects such as physics are becoming worse.

More than half of the 1,000 senior teachers in England surveyed by The Key a a support service for school leaders a said they had insufficient staff due to absences, caused by Covid and illnesses, to help pupils fill the gaps arising from school closures.

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UK governmentas risk planning is weak and secretive, says Lords report

Chair of committee points out unpreparedness for Covid shows better anticipation of future threats is needed

Assessment and planning by the government relating to risks facing the UK are deficient and aveiled in secrecya, a report has found.

The 129-page report, entitled Preparing for Extreme Risks: Building a Resilient Society, was produced by the House of Lords select committee on risk assessment and risk planning a a group appointed in October 2020.

The establishment of an Office for Preparedness and Resilience by the government, headed by a newly created post of government chief risk officer.

A presumption of publication by the government, and the publication of the content of the Official-Sensitive National Security Risk Assessment except where there is a direct national security risk.

The publication, every two years, by the government of a brochure on risk preparedness to inform the public on topics including what to do in an emergency.

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Trump talk with Nigel Farage plumped up ratings for GB News

First airing of interview at Florida resort watched by only 1.3% of British viewers at that hour, but numbers surpassed those for BBC and Sky news

Nigel Farageas interview with Donald Trump on Wednesday substantially boosted the audience figures for GB News, the rightwing news channel that is increasingly reliant on fans of the former Ukip leader to bring in viewers.

Approximately 190,000 people tuned in during the evening to watch the former US president repeat baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and to criticise the Duchess of Sussex. The audience was double the number normally watching Farageas show at that time.

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Dining across the divide: aThe national lottery is a tax on the poorest people in societya

Brexit, gambling and green living: can two strangers find common ground over dinner?

Mark, 63, Milton Keynes

Occupation Retired IT and quality manager
Voting record The original floating voter: last time Mark voted Green; on social issues he says heas centre or left of centre; on economic issues centre or centre-right
Amuse bouche Won a national motor racing championship a few years ago

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The world owes Yoko an apology! 10 things we learned from The Beatles: Get Back

Peter Jacksonas eight-hour documentary on the Fab Four reveals Ringo is an amazing drummer, McCartney was a joy and their entourage were coolest of all

The concept for Let It Be was: no concept. The Beatles arrived in an empty studio and wondered where the equipment was. (And revealed that they knew very little about setting up PA systems.) What were they rehearsing for? A show on the QE2? A concert on Primrose Hill? A TV special in Libya? A film? What would the set look like? Would it be made of plastic? Why, George Harrison wondered, were they being recorded? Get Back makes clear that the Beatles didnat have a clue what to expect from Let It Be.

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Meghanas all-out war may have taken Mail on Sunday by surprise

Analysis: Duchessas case did not change privacy law, but it was a departure from royals tending to settle out of court

The Mail on Sundayas failed appeal over its publication of a letter written by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, to her estranged father is a sign that public figures now hold many more cards when it comes to taking on the British media.

While the case did not change the law, it was emblematic of the changing balance of power between news organisations and celebrities since a statutory right to privacy was introduced in England and Wales in 2000.

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Peng Shuai needs more than aquiet diplomacya. If she can be silenced, no Chinese athletes are safe | Jessica Shuran Yu

As an athlete who spoke up about abuse, I am tired of seeing reputation being prioritised over safety

When I first experienced abuse as an athlete, I made a vow to myself to never tell anyone. Ever. I was worried that I wouldnat be believed, but also the thought that anyone would know me as a avictima mortified me. On top of that, I knew that even if I told anyone, nothing would change. I was both right and wrong. Years later, after I stopped competing in figure skating, I broke my own silence on the physical abuse inflicted on me in China, and it freed me. I talked about it to my close friends, to reporters, and to my therapist a extensively. It never got easier to talk about but each time I did, I began to heal a little more.

The most powerful perpetrator of abuse is silence. It allows for abusers to continue to harm athletes, for athletes to continue believing that such treatment is OK, and for authority figures to continue to turn a blind eye without guilt. Every allegation of abuse that is aired needs to be investigated properly for there to be any hope of justice.

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Life of Pi review a the animals are the stars in this puppet-powered show

Wyndhamas theatre, London
This stage version of Yann Martelas novel is exquisitely designed but the wonder leaks away in flat-footed storytelling

Life of Pi had a first life as a Booker prize-winning novel by Yann Martel and a second as an Oscar-winning film by Ang Lee. Both were utterly captivating. Now comes playwright Lolita Chakrabartias stage spectacular (first presented in Sheffield in 2019) about Piscine aPia Patel, the zookeeperas son from Pondicherry who claims to have survived a shipwreck in a life-raft with a Bengal tiger in tow.

The magic here lies firmly in aesthetics, from the teeming menagerie of large-scale puppets, exquisitely designed by Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, to visual effects that surge, dazzle and undulate like ocean waves (stage design by Tim Hatley with video design by Andrzej Goulding and lighting by Tim Lutkin).

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Angela Merkel bows out to the sound of Beethoven and an East German pop hit

Military band in Berlin honours departing chancellor of 16 years, who hands over to Olaf Scholz next week

The end of Angela Merkelas reign as German chancellor was marked with Beethoven, a romantic chanson and an East German pop hit, all played with clockwork precision by the Bundeswehr military band.

After 16 years in office, Angela Merkel is handing over to Olaf Scholz next week, and was awarded a military tattoo in her honour, the highest tribute to a civilian. Dressed in a simple black coat and black gloves, Europeas most powerful politician looked sombre, betraying little emotion, as she watched torch-carrying soldiers in full regalia parade through the courtyard of Berlinas defence ministry.

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Virgil Abloh obituary

Artistic director at Vuitton whose own label, Off-White, challenged the fashion establishment

Virgil Abloh looms tall on the far end of a famous picture of Kanye Westas creative crew snapped in Paris during menas fashion week in 2009. West had led them there despite a lack of invitations, very much wanting their exquisitely considered dapperness acknowledged by, and in, luxury fashion.

Marc Jacobs, then artistic director at Louis Vuitton, had just signed West to collaborate on a sneaker line, but he desired more. The picture shows the group to be sartorially worthy of inclusion and protests against their exclusion from the high fashion narrative; it poses questions about gatekeeping, about who gets top-level access and exposure. Ablohas style is different from the other dandies, though; he looks more like an enthusiastic professor in red glasses, blue Moncler vest and yellow sneakers. aStreetweara does not cover it a what Abloh is wearing ought to be described as lifewear or thoughtwear.

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Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: injuries suggested treatment aamounting to torturea

Questions remain over how stepmother and fatheras extreme child abuse evaded detection

The misery and abuse suffered by six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in the weeks leading up to his violent death in June 2020 is difficult to comprehend.

At the hands of his father and stepmother, Arthur was physically assaulted, poisoned and dehumanised over a number of months during lockdown. By the time he died, with more than 130 injuries on his body, experts said his condition met the medical definition of child torture.

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Covid: Javid says snog who you like under mistletoe, contradicting Coffey

As Home Office staff are told to curtail Christmas parties, ministers are accused of mixed messaging

Ministers have clashed repeatedly over advice on festivities and mistletoe, with Home Office staff being urged to limit numbers attending Christmas parties in the office and the health secretary contradicting a cabinet colleague to insist apeople can snog who they wisha.

Amid concerns over the new Covid variant, Omicron, the government was accused of sending mixed messages about whether people should change their behaviour in the festive period despite no laws prohibiting social contact between healthy people.

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Covid live: 10 more Omicron cases in UK amid 53,945 new infections; German alockdowna for unvaccinated

Germany is seeking to break a surge in coronavirus infections; Biden announces plan for boosters for 100 million Americans

Some Covid numbers from Germany are now in.

The European nation reported another 73,209 new Covid cases for Wednesday and 388 deaths, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute.

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Biden announces plan to get booster shots to 100m Americans amid Omicron arrival in US

President lays out pandemic battle plan for the winter months, including expanded pharmacy availability for vaccines

Joe Biden announced new actions to combat the coronavirus in the US, including a nationwide campaign encouraging vaccine boosters, an expansion of at-home tests and tighter restrictions on international travel.

Buffeted by the emergence of the Omicron variant and a political backlash from Republicans, the US president visited the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on Thursday and laid out a pandemic battle plan for the winter months.

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Germany: mandatory Covid jabs a step closer as unvaccinated face lockdown

Merkel backs compulsory jabs and says aact of national solidaritya required

Vaccination could become mandatory in Germany from February, Angela Merkel has said, as she announced what her successor as chancellor, Olaf Scholz, described as aa lockdown of the unvaccinateda.

As more EU countries confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, which the blocas health agency said could make up more than half of all infections on the continent within months, Merkel described the situation as avery seriousa.

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The most unsafe passage to Europe has claimed 18,000 victims. Who speaks for them? | Lorenzo Tondo

As Europe outsources its border policing to Libya, rescue operations by NGOs are hampered by criminal inquiries in Italy

Earlier this year, in June, somewhere in the vast expanse of the central Mediterranean, a MA(c)decins Sans FrontiA"res team on board a rescue vessel received a distress call. The motor of a small boat carrying asylum seekers from Libya had broken down, and the vessel was taking in water.

These are the first dramatic scenes in Unsafe Passage a a Guardian Documentaries film by Ed Ou for the Outlaw Ocean Project, released today a but they are also the first moments in a race against time that repeats itself again and again in the stretch of sea separating Europe from Africa.

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We all have a stake in Meghanas court win over the Mail on Sunday | Jane Martinson

The Duchess of Sussex has made it clear that this is not the end of her fight against tabloid culture

After years of being accused of not playing the media game a cheating royal correspondents by not telling them when she went into labour, for example, and then having the temerity to avoid photographers when she came out a it was unsurprising, perhaps, that Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, victorious in the latest battle of her fight with the Mail on Sunday, denounced it as a game played with ano rulesa.

Today, three court of appeal judges applied some when they ruled that letters written to family members counted as apersonal, private and not matters of legitimate public interesta. Whatas more, and in a point that few media lawyers have argued with, the copyright of such letters always belongs to the author.

Jane Martinson is a Guardian columnist

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Party pooper George Freeman pours cold water on Boris Johnsonas Christmas

Science minister makes schoolboy error of giving honest answer on unknown threat of Omicron

Spare a thought for George Freeman. For reasons best known to himself, the decent if decidedly forgettable Tory MP had been desperate to return to Boris Johnsonas ministerial team after being sacked from a minor position in the transport department in February last year. He had even been overheard talking nonsense about the prime ministeras integrity and competence that everyone knew he didnat believe for a second.

And his desperation paid off in September, when Johnson made him parliamentary undersecretary of state for science, research and innovation. Some might have thought an appointment to one of the most junior roles in the business department as, at best, a damning with faint praise and at worst a snub for an MP whose own assessment of his capabilities was out of line with that of his boss. But beggars canat be choosers, so Freeman happily accepted what was on offer and since then has applied himself to his job unnoticed by everyone. Including himself.

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Martin Rowson on Boris Johnsonas lockdown hoedown a cartoon

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Any Omicron restrictions will deepen prejudice against unvaccinated people | Gaby Hinsliff

Frustration that the virus still hasnat gone away is increasingly being aimed at those who remain stubbornly unvaccinated

Weare not back into lockdown, of course, or anything even vaguely resembling it yet. Instead we are tumbling once again down the rabbit hole of uncertainty, into that wearily familiar world where every plan feels made to be potentially broken.

Itas back to the constant pinging of WhatsApp groups, just wondering if everyoneas still comfortable with the plan for getting together at the weekend; back to the Covid-era maths of counting backwards from whichever social highlight you really donat want to miss this Christmas and then strategically cancelling anything in the run-up that might risk you getting infected, which explains why some firms are now scrapping the office party. Who wants to end up sadly self-isolating on Christmas Day, just for the sake of a night making awkward small talk with the boss?

Gaby Hinsliff is a Guardian columnist

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The supreme court is signalling that itas ready to end Roe v Wade | Moira Donegan

Predictions that the court would keep abortion as a constitutional right are starting to look incredibly optimistic

It went worse than had been expected, and expectations were already low. As the supreme court prepared to hear oral arguments in Dobbs v Jackson Womenas Health Organization, a lawsuit over a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi that constitutes the most serious challenge to Roe v Wade in a generation, many court watchers predicted a massive rollback of abortion rights. But the line among reasonable pundits was that the court, fearing censure from a largely pro-choice American public, would attempt to have its cake and eat it too a allowing states to impose abortion bans earlier in pregnancy, but keeping abortion as a constitutional right intact.

The most convincing version of this argument came from Slateas Mark Joseph Stern, who predicted that the court, like it did in 1992as Planned Parenthood v Casey, might weaken the abortion right without abandoning it entirely. In Casey, the supreme court lessened the standard of scrutiny applied to state abortion restrictions a from a robust astrict scrutinya standard to a more malleable aundue burdena standard a and affirmed that states could ban abortions outright after fetal viability, the point of gestation at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, usually at about 24 weeks.

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Regardless of the official rules, Omicron is hurting hospitality | Larry Elliott

Omicronas arrival highlights how each wave of Covid-19 embeds structural changes in the way the economy works

Christmas parties are being cancelled. Restaurants are reporting an increase in the number of dinersa no-shows. The first tentative signs of the impact of the Omicron variant on the economy are starting to emerge.

True, the relatively modest drop in the number of diners in the week up to 29 November might have had as much to do with the storm Arwen as with consumers taking fright at the possibility of a new wave of the pandemic.

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The British film board's racism rule change smacks of paternalism | Simran Hans

It is troubling that the British Board of Film Classification believes its role includes judging art on the alessonsa it imparts

In a dusty basement in Soho Square, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has been poring over a new report. The regulatory body that decides the UK age ratings for film and TV is making adjustments, based on the findings of a study it commissioned about on-screen depictions of racist language and behaviour. Certain tropes will in future warrant higher age ratings. Specifically, films containing the N-word will automatically receive a 12 rating unless there are significant mitigating circumstances; where, for example, ahistorical racist languagea is deemed to be appropriately contextualised. Older films that contain racism wonat be cancelled, or worse, edited to remove it a but there are still concerning glimmers of the BBFCas history as the official, paternalistic censor that shine through in its new rules.

The BBFC is attempting to reckon with the identity politics of the current moment, and with good reason. The explosion into the mainstream of the Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle for Black liberation has meant that many organisations are under pressure to present tangible action plans for tackling racism. Yet in this case, change is largely cosmetic. The BBFC study was conducted by a marketing agency called We Are Family, which asked a sample of the public to consider their own age ratings for films containing depictions of racism. Itas worth noting that the number of people surveyed was just 70.

Simran Hans is a film critic for the Observer

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