Revellers described the reopening as “like New Year” and said they “missed the buzz” of being out. Footage on social media showed nightclub queues erupt with excitement as the clock struck 12.
From today, there are no limits on how many people can meet up or attend events – and table service will no longer be required in pubs and restaurants.
You are no longer required to wear a face mask by law, though the Government “expects and recommends” using a covering in enclosed spaces.
Outside Egg nightclub in north London clubbers queued for more than an hour and counted down from 10 as midnight neared.
Fundraiser Chloe Waite, 37, who was first in the queue, said the occasion was “something we’re going to remember for a long time.”
“It’s going to be a special night,” she told the PA news agency.
“For me this is a New Year’s-type event and something we’re going to remember for a long, long time and we might not get the opportunity for a while.”
Gabriel Wildsmith, 26, a video producer from London, who joined Ms Waite added: “I’ve been here for an hour, I’m really keen.”
Actor Alex Clarke, 40, told PA: “There’s a bit of apprehension and uncertainty about the protocols.
READ MORE: Brexit warning: 26 EU states ‘lining up’ to take on UK for Ireland
“It’s thoroughly dangerous and I think no one, at least who is a specialist in public health, would be wanting to encourage an attitude by those in authority that suggests somehow the problem is solved.”
The UK is currently experiencing around 50,000 Covid infections a day, but scientists foresee this number reaching 200,000 over the next two months.
Serious illness and death is likely to be much lower than at other peaks in the pandemic due to the successful immunisation campaign, as 68 percent of the population has been vaccinated.
“If we don’t do it now we’ve got to ask ourselves, when will we ever do it?” Boris Johnson said in a video message filmed on Sunday.
“This is the right moment but we’ve got to do it cautiously. We’ve got to remember that this virus is sadly still out there.”
Six state laws allowing college athletes to earn endorsement money will take effect on July 1.
Six Division I conferences, including the SEC, ACC and Pac-12, are urging the NCAA to implement a stopgap measure that would allow college athletes to earn money off their fame before a federal law is passed.
In a letter sent to the head of the Division I Council, the conference commissioners recommended the council refrain from adopting the proposed reforms to the NCAA”s name, image and likeness compensation rules. The council is scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday.
The letter was first reported on by ESPN.
NCAA President Mark Emmert also sent a memo to the association’s member schools Friday, pushing for an NIL solution before the end of the month when six state laws go into effect. In that memo obtained by AP, Emmert said if membership did not act on an NIL proposal, he was prepared to take executive action.
The NCAA has asked Congress for a federal NIL law that would preempt state laws and help provide a uniform standard for its more than 1,100 member schools. But lawmakers in Washington are not close to passing a bill.
The six conferences said the NCAA’s proposal would be vulnerable to legal challenges and would be invalid in states with their own NIL laws. The commissioners for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Sun Belt Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference also signed the letter to Penn athletic director Grace Calhoun, who is the chairwoman of the Division I Council.
They also sent a proposed alternative to the NCAA’s current NIL proposal that would go into effect July 1 if adopted. That proposal was obtained by the AP.
The proposal would allow athletes in states with NIL laws to follow those laws when they go into effect. Schools in states without NIL laws would adopt their own policies that would permit athletes to be paid by third parties — but not by boosters of a school —- for things like endorsement deals, personal appearances and sponsored social media posts.
Those policies would be used until a federal law is passed.
WASPI, known formally as Women Against State Pension Inequality, has argued women born in the 1950s were not given ample notice to prepare for state pension age changes. The state pension age previously stood at 60 for women as an aim of when individuals could retire. However, as a result of two separate Pension Acts in 1995 and 2011 respectively, this underwent change.
“We are in the process of waiting for the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to make a decision about his investigation into those complaints.
“If he does find maladministration, then we would like the Government to acknowledge that we have been victims and to compensate the women appropriately.”
Ms De Spon acknowledged it is highly unlikely 1950s women will ever be repaid the state pension they have effectively lost in full.
However, she has stated there is an absolute need for financial compensation on the matter.
Concessions made to the women who have been impacted by this change, she added, could go a long way.
She has stated many women are in extreme and dire circumstances as a result of the changes to state pension age.
The WASPI campaign was first established in 2015 as a way of highlighting the cause and bringing attention to the matter.
The campaign is not against the idea of female and male state pension age equality.
However, it does not agree with the ways changes were implemented and has called for women affected to receive more support.
The group has said “hundreds of thousands of women are suffering financial hardship” not simply due to an older state pension age, but the fact they were not prepared to budget for the increase.
Understandably, many people are reliant upon state pension payments to provide them with support in retirement.
And with women having to face other issues such as sexism in their working lives, as well as the gender pay gap, many have described facing significant burdens.
The Government has argued letters were sent out to women who were affected by the state pension age increase to inform them of the changes.
However, some have reported receiving no correspondence at all on the issue, hence their dissatisfaction.
Similar issues have been raised in the past by other campaign groups including Backto60, which has a slightly different aim, but represents 1950s women.
“There are still many people, especially the young, those in disadvantaged areas, and those from ethnic minorities that are still unvaccinated.
“I am less concerned about meetings out of doors, as the risks there are low.
“But I will personally continue to avoid indoor meetings, such as restaurants, even though I am fully vaccinated.”
With more than 35 million people having had their first dose of the Covid vaccine, there’s hope that the re-opening of the lockdown will be very different from the back-and-forth restrictions set out last year.
Loyal Coronation Street fans will have recognised Sharon Bentley making a comeback to the soap this week – and she is returning with explosive episodes.
Sharon, played by Tracie Bennett, who was last on the cobbles back in 1999 as the foster daughter of one of the street’s most loved residents Rita Sullivan (Barbara Knox).
And fan favourite Rita has made fans concerned for her welfare that troubled Sharon is back on-screen, the Daily Express reports.
And there is suspicious the devious character could even go as far as killing her foster mother.
Many fans speculated Sharon would be after Rita’s money, but the plot seemingly quashed this at the end of Wednesday’s episode after the returnee unveiled a £10,000 cheque she said was for her foster mum.
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But could this be a cover-up to halt the suspicions of Jenny Connor (Sally Ann Matthews) and Gemma Winter (Dolly-Rose Campbell)?
It would appear Sharon is definitely up to something, as she was known for her scheming and has waltzed back into Weatherfield out of nowhere.
Previously known as Sharon Gaskell, Rita and Len’s (Peter Adamson) foster daughter made her first appearance on screens in 1982.
Years later she returned, hoping to invite Rita to her wedding.
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Her husband-to-be, Ian Bentley (Jonathan Guy Lewis), had cheated on her and she left him at the altar, but she eventually did marry him.
She ended up selling The Kabin back to her foster mother, and the two have been estranged ever since.
Viewers were quick to raise their suspicions following her surprise return on Wednesday, which saw her telling Rita she had reformed since battling cancer.
“She’s had cancer. That could be a lie Rita you are falling into Sharon’s trap.
“Jenny and Gemma are looking out for you with good intention #Corrie,” one concerned person wrote.
Another said: “Don’t trust Sharon one bit, Rita shouldn’t either!#corrie.”
Many others also took to Twitter to talk about what Sharon could be up to, but their concerns lay with Rita.
One said: “Protect Rita at all costs #corrie.”
“We must protect Queen Rita #Corrie,” another person echoed.
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Another sceptical viewer said: “Rita the Gullible #Corrie.”
Others were thinking the same, with one more writing: “We’ve got to protect Rita #corrie @itvcorrie.”
Although she insisted she had changed and presented her foster mother with a generous cheque, it’s possible it could all be part of her plan to gain Rita’s trust.
Gemma said she thought the cheque would bounce as she and Jenny speculated about what she could be up to.
With no contact made with Rita in decades, it’s definitely suspicious she has returned after nominating her for a local award out of the blue.
Is she hoping to win Rita over before betraying her?
A major coalition of Black faith leaders in Georgia, representing more than 1,000 churches in the state, will call on Tuesday for a boycott of Home Depot, arguing that the company has abdicated its responsibility as a good corporate citizen by not pushing back on the state’s new voting law.
The call for a boycott, led by Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees all 534 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia, represents one of the first major steps to put significant economic pressure on businesses to be more vocal in opposing Republican efforts in Georgia and around the country to enact new restrictions on voting.
“We don’t believe this is simply a political matter,” Bishop Jackson said in an interview. “This is a matter that deals with securing the future of this democracy, and the greatest right in this democracy is the right to vote.”
Home Depot, Mr. Jackson said, “demonstrated an indifference, a lack of response to the call, not only from clergy, but a call from other groups to speak out in opposition to this legislation.”
While boycotts can be challenging to carry out in ways that put meaningful financial pressure on large corporations, the call nonetheless represents a new phase in the battle over voting rights in Georgia, where many Democrats and civil rights groups have been reluctant to support boycotts, viewing them as risking unfair collateral damage for the companies’ workers.
But the coalition of faith leaders pointed to the use of boycotts in the civil rights movement, when Black voters’ rights were also threatened, and said their call to action was meant as a “warning shot” for other state legislatures.
“This is not just a Georgia issue; we’re talking about democracy in America that is under threat,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald III, the pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “We’ve got to use whatever leverage and power, spiritual fortitude that we have, including our dollars, to help people to understand that this is a national campaign.”
Home Depot’s headquarters are in Georgia, and it is one of the largest employers in the state. But while other major Georgia corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta have spoken out against the state’s new voting law, Home Depot has not, offering only a statement this month that “the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure.”
While not publicly wading into the fray, one of the company’s founders, Arthur Blank, said in a call with other business executives this month that he supported voting rights. Another founder, Ken Langone, is a vocal supporter of former President Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Jackson said that the faith leaders were calling for four specific actions from Home Depot: speaking out against the Georgia voting law, publicly opposing similar bills in other states, offering support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in Congress, and backing litigation against the Georgia law.
Not all voting rights groups are on board with a boycott.
“I can’t fully support a boycott within Georgia,” said Aunna Dennis, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of Common Cause. “The boycott hurts the working-class person. But corporations do need to be held accountable on where they put their dollars.”
Faith leaders acknowledged concerns from state leaders, both Democratic and Republican, about the impact of boycotts, but felt the stakes were high enough.
“It is unfortunate for those who will be impacted by this, but how many more million will be impacted if they don’t have the right to vote?” said Jamal H. Bryant, the senior pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.
“And so in weighing it out, we understand, tongue in cheek, that this is a necessary evil,” Dr. Bryant said. “But it has to happen in order for the good to happen.”
ANNUAL THREATS HEARINGS RETURN: The House and Senate Intelligence committees will question leaders of five major intelligence and security agencies next week, resuming the annual tradition of a worldwide threats hearing that was abandoned under the Trump administration.
Federal law requires the intelligence community to submit an annual worldwide threats assessment, but agencies failed to do so during Trump’s final two years in office. The last worldwide threats hearings were in January 2019.
BEZOS BACKS CORPORATE TAX HIKE: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced on Tuesday that the company is supportive of raising the corporate tax rate to pay for President Biden’s infrastructure package.
Bezos released a statement that he supports the administration’s focus on infrastructure and that “it’s the right time to work together” to pass a package.
“We recognize this investment will require concessions from all sides — both on the specifics of what’s included as well as how it gets paid for (we’re supportive of a rise in the corporate tax rate),” Bezos said.
UPDATE, PLEASE: Bipartisan leaders of a key Senate panel on Tuesday pressed the Biden administration for more information on its investigation into two recent, massive foreign espionage hacking incidents.
The committee leaders questioned Wales and DeRusha about the progress the administration has made garnering information about the SolarWinds hack, which U.S. intelligence agencies assessed in January was “likely” carried out by Russian hackers, and compromised at least nine federal agencies and 100 private sector groups.
The senators also asked questions about recently discovered vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Exchange Server, which the company said last month was actively exploited by at least one state-sponsored Chinese hacking group to gain access to thousands of organizations around the world.
“There is no easy solution to advanced persistent cyber threats,” the senators wrote.
Krishnamoorthi wrote that YouTube Kids “appears to be serving up inappropriate, low-education, highly commercial content.”
“I believe that may be ascribable to your advertisement-based business model and reliance on free uploads of user-generated videos without adequate quality control. YouTube profits from this disservice of children with more paid ads and more corporate revenue,” he wrote.
FACEBOOK TAKES ACTION: Facebook on Tuesday announced that during March it removed more than 1,100 accounts tied to spreading deceptive content in a variety of countries as part of its effort to root out domestic and international disinformation efforts.
The social media giant reported that it had also removed almost 300 Instagram accounts, over 250 Facebook pages, and 34 Facebook groups tied to 14 coordinated influence operations over the past month.
The over a dozen networks were based around the world, including five in Mexico along with networks in Israel, Comoros, Georgia, and Benin that were targeting domestic audiences within each country.
One network based in Israel was targeting Iranian audiences, while the remaining networks in Spain, El Salvador, Argentina, Albania and Iran were all targeting groups in various other countries.
GOOGLE RESEARCHER STEPS DOWN: A Google researcher who oversaw the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) ethics group resigned on Tuesday following the controversial dismissal of two of his former colleagues on the research team, Bloomberg reported. 
The researcher, Samy Bengio, announced he would be leaving in an email to staff obtained by Bloomberg. Bengio’s last day will be on April 28, the outlet reported.
“While I am looking forward to my next challenge, there’s no doubt that leaving this wonderful team is really difficult,” Bengio reportedly wrote in the email.
In his message, Bengio did not refer to Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, two of his former colleagues leading Google’s work on ethical AI that were ousted in recent months, according to Bloomberg.
BEZOS TOPS BILLIONAIRE LIST, AGAIN: Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has topped Forbes’s annual world’s billionaire list for the fourth consecutive year.
This year’s billionaires are worth a combined $ 13.1 trillion, up from $ 8 trillion last year, according to Forbes. This year’s list has 493 newcomers, including dating app Bumble’s CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd.
A coalition of independent businesses launched Tuesday with the goal of urging federal policy reform to rein in the market power of top tech companies.
The coalition, Small Business Rising, specifically takes aim at Amazon — accusing the e-commerce giant of anti-competitive tactics and harming small firms nationwide.
“Concentrated market power is the single biggest threat facing independent businesses,” Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said in a statement. “Every day, we lose more small businesses because of the abusive and anti-competitive tactics of Amazon and other monopolies. This campaign gives America’s entrepreneurs a platform to stand up and call on policymakers to check monopoly power and reinvigorate the antitrust laws.”
Small Business Rising is a joint campaign of more than 20 independent business organizations representing more than 60,000 independent businesses across the country. Other organizations involved in the campaign include the American Booksellers Association, American Independent Business Alliance, Main Street Alliance and the National Grocers Association.
The coalition is urging lawmakers to help break up and regulate the tech companies it called monopolies.
It’s also urging lawmakers to block dominating corporations from engaging in abusive tactics by strengthening antitrust laws, as well as outlawing “mega-mergers.”
“The pandemic has shed light on just how concentrated our markets are, with companies like Amazon seeing massively increased profits as America’s small businesses fight to survive. ABA believes we are stronger together and is excited to provide our members with this opportunity to connect with other independent businesses as we advocate for breaking up monopoly power,” Allison K. Hill, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, said in a statement.
Amazon pushed back on the coalition’s criticism, saying it has in fact “empowered small and mediums-sized businesses.”
“Self-serving critics are pushing misguided interventions in the free market that would kill off independent retailers and punish consumers by forcing small businesses out of popular online stores, raising prices, and reducing consumer choice and convenience. Amazon and third-party sellers complement each other, and sellers having the opportunity to sell right alongside a retailer’s products is the very competition that most benefits consumers and has made the marketplace model so successful for third-party sellers,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.
The companies have pushed back on the accusations targeting their market power.
Amazon published a blog post after the release of the House report that says “large companies are not dominant by definition.”
“[T]he presumption that success can only be the result of anti-competitive behavior is simply wrong,” the company said at the time. “And yet, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, those fallacies are at the core of this regulatory spit-balling on antitrust.”
Two tech advocacy groups are urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate if Google is promoting apps in its Play Store that they allege violate a children’s privacy law by collecting personal data without parental consent.
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) filed a complaint with the FTC Wednesday alleging Google is certifying apps for children as safe and appropriate that violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
“We urge the FTC to investigate Google’s practices and the truthfulness of its representations and act to protect parents from being misled and children from playing apps that are not appropriate and violate their privacy,” the groups wrote in the complaint.
The complaint cites three recent studies, as well as observations the groups made in preparing the complaint, that found child-directed apps in the Google Play store are “continuing to transmit personal information to third parties without obtaining parental consent.”
A Google spokesperson defended the company’s handling of apps directed to children in response to the complaint.
“Google Play is committed to providing a positive and safe environment for children and families,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Over the last few years, we’ve taken significant steps including updating ourGoogle Play Families and Designed for Families programswith more stringent requirements around ads, content, and personal data and introducing aKids tab in Google Playfilled with ‘Teacher-approved’ apps to help families find quality apps and games for their kids. We will continue to make the protection of children on our platform a priority.”
The groups acknowledged that Google has changed how it treats apps intended for children since they filed a complaint in 2018 over similar concerns. But they said the company has not fixed the alleged violations of COPPA.
“The FTC failed to act when this problem was brought to its attention over two years ago. Because children today are spending even more time using mobile apps, the FTC must hold Google accountable for violating children’s privacy,” Angela Campbell, chair of the board of directors of CCFC, said in a statement.
The concerns are amplified by the coronavirus pandemic, which has increased the use and dependence on apps among children, the complaint states.
The complaint also targets Google’s newly created “Teacher approved” badge, which launched last April in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The badge indicates the app meets a higher quality standard, but apps with the badge were identified in the studies as collecting personal data without consent, according to the complaint.
“For too long, the Commission has allowed Google’s app store, and the data marketing practices that are its foundation, to operate without enforcing the federal law that is designed to protect young people under 13. With children using apps more than ever as a consequence of the pandemic, the FTC should enforce the law and ensure Google engages with kids and families in a responsible manner,” Jeff Chester, executive director of the CDD, said in a statement.
The complaint adds to the growing scrutiny against Google over its content moderation practices, as well as its market power.
A group of 12 state attorneys general sent a letter to Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday urging them to more aggressively enforce platform policies against coronavirus vaccine misinformation.
Led by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D), the group argues that content on the social media sites are increasing vaccine hesitancy, which will “slow economic recovery and, more importantly, ultimately cause even more unnecessary deaths.”
The letter points to a report released by the Center for Countering Digital Hate Wednesday that claims that anti-vaccine accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube have more than 59 million followers.
The study also found that the personal accounts and associated organizations of 12 prominent figures account for upward of 60 percent of anti-vaccine content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
“Social media is enabling anti-vaxxers to recruit millions of Americans and indoctrinate them with fear and doubt,” Imran Ahmed, CEO of the center, said in a statement on the report’s release. “If Big Tech companies don’t act now, the pandemic will be prolonged, and more lives will be lost.”
Facebook spokesperson Kevin McAlister told The Hill that the platform has already updated its coronavirus vaccine misinformation policies and taken action against “some of the groups in this report.”
“Since research shows that the best way to combat vaccine hesitancy is to connect people to reliable information from health experts, we’ve also connected over 2 billion people to resources from health authorities, including through our COVID-19 Information Center,” he added.
Facebook in December said it would begin taking down posts with false claims about the “safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects” of coronavirus vaccines.
A spokesperson for Twitter also highlighted the platform’s previous efforts on coronavirus misinformation removals when asked about the letter and study.
“Making certain that reliable, authoritative health information is easily accessible on Twitter has been a priority long before we were in the midst of a global pandemic,” they told The Hill. “We’ve removed more than 22,400 Tweets and challenged 11.7 million accounts worldwide, in line with our COVID-19 misleading information policy.”
Twitter earlier this month rolled out a policy for labeling vaccine misinformation posts and implemented a strike system for broader coronavirus misinformation that could see accounts suspended or removed for repeated violations.
Despite those efforts from the platforms, some anti-coronavirus vaccine content remains on the platforms. Those failures will likely be scrutinized in a congressional hearing on Thursday where the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google will testify on misinformation.