Guitar Center and Dillard’s to argue that they needed to stay open — and keep their employees coming in — despite the worsening public health crisis. Workers have been at the forefront of disputes around mask mandates and then mask enforcement. Retail chains like REI have been criticized for failing to inform employees about Covid cases in stores. Grocery store workers were not given priority access to vaccines in many states.

Target and Walmart, throughout the pandemic. And while they are still facing rising prices and supply chain strain, executives have indicated recently that pressure on staffing has waned.

“We feel really good about our staffing going into the holiday season,” Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive, told CNBC last week. He added that the company’s retention numbers were “some of the strongest in our history,” which he attributed to perks and safety measures.

Retailers are betting that consumers will be comfortable shopping in stores, where foot traffic is already higher than in 2020, regardless of the industry’s efforts to fight the new vaccination and testing requirements. And for those who are concerned about the lack of vaccinations, the companies have bolstered their e-commerce operations and curbside pickup offerings in the past year, though in-store shopping often leads to more purchases and fewer returns.

When asked what Macy’s would tell concerned customers about shopping in stores, Mr. Gennette said: “What I would say is we encourage every one of our colleagues to be vaccinated and every colleague wears a mask in our stores and warehouses to protect themselves and others.”

imploring companies to move forward with the Labor Department rules.

“The hope was to provide some perspective for business leaders to remind them this is not a political issue,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who was one of the signatories. Dr. Jha said it was important for companies in all industries to follow the rule, noting that retailers play a particular role, given the nature of their employee base. He said those measures should be put in place during the holiday season — not after — especially as that is when case numbers are expected to rise.

“Do they really want to be superspreader places during the holiday season and be responsible for their employees getting sick and for their employees spreading it to customers?” Dr. Jha said.

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Middle East

Nov 21 (Reuters) – The woman who was engaged to marry Jamal Khashoggi has asked singer Justin Bieber to cancel his scheduled Dec. 5 performance in Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city Jeddah, urging him to not perform for the slain Saudi journalist’s “murderers.”

Hatice Cengiz wrote an open letter to the singer published on Saturday in the Washington Post in which she urged Bieber to cancel the performance to “send a powerful message to the world that your name and talent will not be used to restore the reputation of a regime that kills its critics.”

President Joe Biden’s administration released a U.S. intelligence report in February implicating Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s 2018 murder in Istanbul but spared him any direct punishment. The crown prince denies any involvement.

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“Do not sing for the murderers of my beloved Jamal,” Cengiz wrote. “Please speak out and condemn his killer, Mohammed bin Salman. Your voice will be heard by millions.”

Bieber, who is Canadian, is among a group of artists scheduled to perform as Saudi Arabia hosts the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah.

“If you refuse to be a pawn of MBS, your message will be loud and clear: I do not perform for dictators. I choose justice and freedom over money,” Cengiz wrote, using the crown prince’s initials.

Human rights groups have urged the performers to speak out against human rights issues in the kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia has a history of using celebrities and major international events to deflect scrutiny from its pervasive abuses,” Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

The advocacy group urged the performers, who also include rapper A$AP Rocky, DJs David Guetta and Tiesto and singer Jason Derulo, “to speak out publicly on rights issues or, when reputation-laundering is the primary purpose, not participate.”

Khashoggi, a Saudi-born U.S. resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post critical of the Saudi crown prince, was killed and dismembered by a team of operatives linked to the prince in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

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Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Will Dunham

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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How India’s Farmers Got Narendra Modi to Back Down

NEW DELHI — Om Prakash relied on relatives and neighbors to tend his wheat and vegetable fields. He ate food donated by sympathizers at home and abroad. When he felt feverish, he turned to volunteer medical workers huddled, like him, near a noisy overpass for months, through heat and cold and a deadly viral outbreak.

Now, his year away from his farm and his family has finally paid off.

Mr. Prakash was one of thousands of farmers in India who used their organizational skills, broad support network and sheer persistence to force one of the country’s most powerful leaders in modern history into a rare retreat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said lawmakers would repeal new agricultural laws that the protesting farmers feared would leave them vulnerable to rapacious big companies and destroy their way of life.

Their victory won’t help India solve the deep inefficiencies that plague its farming sector, problems that leave people malnourished in some places even as grain in other parts is unused or exported. But it showed how a group desperate to preserve its hold on a middle-class way of life could successfully challenge a government more accustomed to squelching dissent than reckoning with it.

fast-tracked citizenship for some groups but excluded Muslims, were plagued by violence.

The effort isn’t over yet. The farmers have vowed to continue their protests until the government submits to another demand, that it guarantee a minimum price for nearly two dozen crops. Rather than retreat now, they sense an opportunity to push even harder on a prime minister who is nervously watching his party’s poll numbers dip in a string of states with elections next year. The government has said it will form a committee to consider the matter.

India’s farming system still needs to be fixed, a fact that even many of the protesting farmers acknowledge. Initiated during a time of widespread starvation in the 1960s, the system created centralized markets where farmers could sell their crops. Some of the proceeds are funneled back to farming communities though infrastructure projects, pensions and programs providing free technical advice on matters like seed and fertilizer.

in debt. With city and factory jobs hard to find in a country still struggling with poverty, many farm children emigrate to find a better life.

Mr. Modi’s laws were aimed at bringing more private money into agriculture and making it more receptive to market forces. Mr. Singh, the protest leader, said many farmers would prefer subsidies over a wider range of output.

“The root of the agricultural issue in India is that farmers are not getting the proper value of their crops,” said Mr. Singh. “There are two ways to see reforms — giving away land to the corporations, the big people, the capitalists. The other is to help the farmers increase their yields.”

The movement started in Punjab, home to a large community of Sikhs, the religious group, and some of the country’s richest agricultural land. The protest leaders leaned on both to organize and finance their yearlong demonstrations.

farmers rode tractors over police barricades into New Delhi, leading to the death of one protester. Political analysts declared the movement dead. But organizers retreated behind the barricades, and resumed their peaceful protests through the harsh winter, a devastating wave of the coronavirus, a scorching summer and into the fall.

rammed into a group of protesting farmers, resulting in the deaths of four protesters along with four other people, including a local journalist. The son of one of Mr. Modi’s ministers is among those under investigation in connection with the episode.

That incident, which came after the protesters decided to shadow campaigning B.J.P. officials to draw cameras, may have been a turning point. The B.J.P.’s poll numbers soon dropped in Uttar Pradesh, where the deaths took place. Party officials began to worry that they could lose the state in elections set for early next year.

A day after Mr. Modi’s surprise announcement, the mood near Singhu, a village in the state of Haryana that borders the capital, was somber. Religious music and political speeches blared from loudspeakers across the makeshift village of bamboo huts, where people hawked T-shirts and flags that said, “No farmers, no food.”

Outside one of the huts serving free vegetarian lunch, Mr. Prakash, the farmer, described sleeping though cold weather and rain next to a busy road, leaving his farm in the care of his brothers’ children.

Mr. Prakash, who lives off his pension from 20 years in the Indian Air Force, does not need the farm to survive. Instead, holding on to the seven acres he and his siblings inherited from their parents ensures they can maintain a middle class life in a country where the vagaries of the economy often suck people back into poverty.

Mr. Prakash said that the family farm had supported his ambitions, and that he wanted the same for his children.

“To save our motherland,” he said, “we can stay here another two years.”

Hari Kumar contributed reporting.

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