Good morning. We’re covering much-anticipated reopenings in Britain, and Iran’s vows for revenge after a nuclear facility blackout.
A sense of freedom as Britain reopens
Britain has lived under the most strenuous level of government restrictions for the longest period of time in the world — 175 days at “maximum stringency level.” On Monday, those rules started to lift. Our reporters found feelings of relief and joy as people rushed to hairdressers, pubs, gyms and stores. At the Kentish Belle pub in London, crowds counted down the seconds to midnight on Sunday.
The government has said it hopes to lift almost all restrictions by June 21, during one of the most successful vaccine campaigns in the world — nearly half of Britons have received at least one dose — and after long closures that tamped down on the rapid spread of the B.1.1.7 variant.
But much has not bounced back: Theaters, with a few exceptions, cannot come back until May. Many pubs that have made it through plagues and wars could not survive. 2,000 are estimated to have closed, along with 4,000 hair salons. And there is the death toll: 150,000 people whose families will not rejoice in quite the same way.
Economic picture: After its worst recession in 300 years, Britain is projecting optimism about its recovery. The Bank of England predicts that by the end of the year, the size of the economy will be back where it was at the end of 2019. With Britons having saved their money, retailers hope they will be eager to go shopping.
Iran vows revenge for attack
The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, threatened retribution against Israel for what he said was an attack at a uranium enrichment plant over the weekend that caused a power failure at the site.
His comments highlight the risk of escalation in the yearslong shadow battle between Israel and Iran, raising fears that Iran will seek to save face by mounting a stronger military response than usual. Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at energy development. But Israel sees it as an existential threat, since Iranian leaders have often called for Israel’s destruction.
His comments: According to Iranian state television, Mr. Zarif said: “The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions,” adding, “But we will take our revenge from the Zionists.”
The timing: Dignitaries from a host of countries are still working in Vienna to revive a nuclear agreement with Iran. And the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Israel meeting with its prime minister and defense minister.
Ant Group announces overhaul
The fintech sister company of Alibaba, which is owned by Jack Ma, announced on Monday that it would undertake a sweeping, government-ordered overhaul of its business after meeting with regulators, who expressed concerns that it holds too much power in the market.
On Saturday, China’s antitrust authority fined Alibaba $2.8 billion. Ant has tangled with regulators for years; in November, Beijing officials dashed the company’s plans for the biggest I.P.O. in history after Mr. Ma appeared to push the government’s willingness to be criticized too far.
Concerns: The size of Ant’s flagship app, Alipay, an indispensable tool for more than 700 million users monthly, puts Ant at the center of a swirl of concerns for Beijing at a time when its leader, Xi Jinping, is seeking greater control over the economy.
What’s next: Ant will apply to become a financial holding company, putting it under more scrutiny and requiring it to hold onto more money. Ant also said it would “return to its payment origins,” the initial concept for Alipay before it expanded into consumer credit and small-business loans, and strengthen protections for user data.
On Sunday, Hideki Matsuyama won the Masters Tournament. For years, writes our reporter, the shy, methodical golfer has unsettled opponents while avoiding the spotlight, not even revealing he had married and had a baby until months after the fact. “No one really asked me if I was married, or, you know, so I didn’t have to answer that question,” he said later.
ARTS AND IDEAS
How to sign a song
Signed singing typically involves a sign-language interpreter performing a song, often next to the singer. The best renditions don’t convey just the lyrics of a song; they convey its emotion.
A good performance “prioritizes dynamics, phrasing and flow,” Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim writes in The Times. Deaf singers prepare by experiencing a song however they can. Mervin Primeaux-O’Bryant, a deaf actor and dancer, tucked a small speaker into his clothes, so that he could feel the vibrations of “Midnight Train to Georgia” while recording an interpretation for a series of American Sign Language covers of seminal songs by Black women.
“Sometimes interpreters don’t show the emotions that are tied to the music,” Primeaux-O’Bryant said. “And deaf people are like, ‘What is that?’”
See the Mesopotamian marshes, wetlands near Iraq’s southeastern border that have been partially restored after they were drained by Saddam Hussein.
What to Watch
“Rocks,” set in Britain’s working-class immigrant community, and “South Terminal,” ostensibly set in Algeria in the 1990s during a civil war but with jarring markers of a more contemporary era, are among our picks for five international movies to stream right now.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: What saturation intensifies, in a photo (five letters).
And here is today’s Spelling Bee.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Melina
P.S. Opinion announced new members of its video and audio teams, including Kirk Semple, who wraps up a five-year tour as a foreign correspondent in our Mexico City bureau.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on Europe’s vaccination struggle.
Sanam Yar contributed reporting. You can reach Melina and the team at [email protected].