England lifts lockdown restrictions amid rising COVID-19 cases  

COVID-19 lockdown rules ease in England on Monday despite a recent spike in cases due to the delta variant. The mandates will be replaced by a recommendation that people wear masks in crowded places and on public transport, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week. Meanwhile, in the U.S., a doubling of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks suggests the nation has entered a fourth wave of the pandemic. Instead of the virus raging through entire communities, it’s expected to target the unvaccinated, including children, and if rates are high enough, also the most vulnerable of the vaccinated: the elderly and the immunocompromised.

People dancing at Egg London nightclub in the early hours of July 19, 2021 in London, England. As of 12:01 on Monday, July 19, England dropped most of its remaining COVID-19 social restrictions.

Britney Spears’ conservatorship battle continues

The Britney Spears’ conservatorship battle continues Monday with Judge Brenda Penny conducting a conference call with attorneys from both sides. The discussion will cover potential security for the temporary conservator who oversees Spears’ medical care. Last week was a major week for the pop star’s ongoing effort to be freed from the 13-year conservatorship, under which she has little control over her finances or life decisions. Penny granted Spears’ request to hire Mathew Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor, to represent her. In an Instagram post Saturday, Spears vowed not to perform “on any stages anytime soon” as long as her father Jamie Spears remains in control of her conservatorship. “This conservatorship killed my dreams,” Spears wrote.

Flood destruction continues to mount in Europe; more than 180 dead

Western Europe is still reeling in the wake of devastating flooding that has taken more than 180 lives in Belgium and Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday pledged quick financial aid and a renewed focus on curbing climate change in a visit to the hard-hit village of Schuld, which she described as a “surreal, ghostly situation.” Although the rain has stopped in the worst-affected areas of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, downpours have persisted elsewhere in western and central Europe. Scientists can’t say for sure whether climate change caused the flooding, but they insist it exacerbates extreme weather disasters around the world.

Dozens of wildfires rage across dry West

Firefighters on Monday are continuing to battle more than 80 major fires raging across the hot, drought-stricken West, fire officials said. Wildfires burning Sunday in 13 states torched more than 1,800 square miles from Alaska to California and Minnesota to New Mexico. Almost 20,000 firefighters were working to keep the blazes at bay. One of the fires, the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon, consumed more than 476 square miles – and destroyed at least 67 homes, as of Sunday. The blaze, which was 22% contained, forced 2,000 people to evacuate and threatened 5,000 buildings. Meteorologists predicted critically dangerous fire weather with lightning possible in both California and southern Oregon. “With the very dry fuels, any thunderstorm has the potential to ignite new fire starts,” the National Weather Service in Sacramento said on Twitter.

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