Under a controversial legal guardianship since 2008, US pop singer Britney Spears is scheduled to address a Los Angeles court on Wednesday in the battle over her father's control of her affairs.
The 39-year-old star's finances and personal life have been largely managed by Jamie Spears since her highly public breakdown more than a decade ago, leading some adoring fans to launch a "FreeBritney" online campaign in recent years.
Spears has rarely spoken directly about the issue herself in that time, but will get her chance to address the judge remotely via an internet link on Wednesday.
"Britney wants to address the court directly," her lawyer Samuel Ingham said in April, without specifying exactly why the singer wanted to be heard in person by Judge Brenda Penny.
But it is widely expected that Spears wants to tackle the terms of her guardianship, and specifically the commanding role of her father, with whom she has long had a difficult relationship.
Spears filed last year to remove him from the conservatorship and give sole power over her estate to a financial institution. Her court-appointed lawyer said she was "afraid" of her father.
- 'Too, too much!' -
Devoted Spears fans have long scoured her social media accounts for hints about her well-being, and any signs that she may be eager to throw off the guardianship.
Confidential records published Tuesday by the New York Times say Spears told a court investigator that the conservatorship had "become an oppressive and controlling tool against her" as far back as 2016.
Spears reportedly said the guardianship system had "too much control... Too, too much!" and was prevented from making her own decisions on friendships, dating, spending and even the color of her kitchen cabinets.
According to the report, Spears told the investigator that she wanted the conservatorship terminated as soon as possible, and that she is "sick of being taken advantage of."
Spears is currently responsible for footing the legal bills for both sides -- including the hefty fees charged by the attorneys opposing her in the case.
- 'Embarrassed' -
The controversy surrounding Spears' legal case exploded following the February release of the documentary "Framing Britney Spears", which chronicled her initial breakdown and her father's ensuing appointment as her guardian.
Following her 2006 divorce from Kevin Federline, and the loss of custody of her children the following year, Spears was snapped by paparazzi barefoot at a gas station, and notoriously shaved her head.
Under her father's guardianship, Spears swiftly returned to performing. She released three albums, appeared on various television shows and even took up a Las Vegas residency.
But in January 2019 she abruptly announced she was suspending her performances until further notice.
Spears said she was "embarrassed" by her portrayal in the documentary, in which fans say she is essentially being held prisoner and claim she has been sending coded pleas for help.
Jamie Spears' lawyers say he has done an excellent job of managing his daughter's finances.
But a judge ruled in February that both Spears' father and Bessemer Trust would oversee the pop star's finances, denying Jamie Spears' bid to keep sole power to delegate investments.
© 2021 AFP
A panel of experts convened by the top US health agency will hold a meeting Wednesday to review data surrounding more than 300 confirmed cases of heart muscle inflammation among adolescents and young adults after receiving mRNA Covid vaccines.
The committee, hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will hear a risk-benefit analysis as researchers explore whether the shots can cause myocarditis, as well as cases of inflammation of the heart lining, pericarditis.
Israel first was the first country to identify a possible link.
"These cases are rare, and the vast majority have fully resolved with rest and supportive care," said CDC director Rochelle Walensky last week ahead of the meeting, which was initially scheduled for last Friday but postponed because of a new public holiday.
The cases that have been confirmed were investigated following initial reports to vaccine safety monitoring systems, and come from more than 20 million adolescents and young adults that have been vaccinated, added Walensky.
While 300 out of 20 million is a small number, it is still likely higher than what would otherwise be expected for the age group.
A previous meeting on the issue convened on June 10 by the Food and Drug Administration heard that most of the cases were among young men and occurred within a week of the second dose.
The new CDC hearing will dive deeper into updated data that has been independently verified, rather than being self-reported.
- Mostly mild cases -
Lorry Rubin, director of pediatric infectious diseases at Cohen Children's Medical Center told AFP: "I'm concerned, but I'd emphasize that cause and effect has not yet been established."
He said that his own hospital had seen a few cases of adolescent males developing chest pain a day or two after the second dose of an mRNA vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only shot authorized in adolescents aged 12 and up.
"On the other hand, the cases have been relatively mild," added Rubin, with the patients returning to normal within a few days after treatment with medicine like ibuprofen.
Myocarditis is known to be seasonal, with higher incidence in summer months potentially linked to enteroviruses, and is estimated to affect one per 100,000 children per year.
Even if a causal link to the vaccines is established, Rubin said it should be weighed against the risks to children from Covid.
While children are less affected than adults, the virus has still hospitalized more than 3,000 children in the United States over the course of the pandemic, and led to more than 300 deaths, according to official data. Some 2,700 people under-30 have died from Covid.
"We've actually had more kids infected with Covid that we know who have had long term impacts, some of whom have been quite ill with cardiac symptoms in the hospital," stressed Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Other experts have adopted a more cautious line.
Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases and public health expert at the University of California San Francisco, said that the United States had gone beyond some other countries' recommendations on vaccinating teens.
These include Germany and Israel, which only recommend vaccinating adolescents who are at high risk, while Britain is still examining the data and hasn't yet reached a decision.
"It's a new vaccine, it's been increasingly elevated as a concern, and all other countries except for us have done something that errs on the side of safety," she told AFP, adding she was holding off having her 13-year-old child receive a second dose until she learns more.
© 2021 AFP
US law enforcement seized the websites of two Iranian state-controlled news groups, Press TV and Al-Alam, and of the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen's Huthis, statements posted on the websites showed Tuesday.
Each site displayed a single page with a statement that it "has been seized by the United States Government" and making reference to US sanctions laws, accompanied by the seal of the FBI and the US Department of Commerce.
Press TV is Iran's main English language broadcaster, and Al-Alam its main Arabic-language newscaster.
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the parent of Al-Alam, reported that other web domains, including Palestine-Al Youm, a Palestinian-directed broadcaster, and an Arabic-language religious and cultural channel were also seized.
Domains tied to Iran-backed groups in Iraq and to Hezbollah, the Lebanese military-political faction, were also frozen with the US Justice Department message.
IRIB accused the United States of repressing freedom of expression and joining forces with Israel and Saudi Arabia "to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of US allies in the region."
Asked during a US State Department briefing about the Press TV seizure, spokesman Ned Price declined to comment, but referred reporters to the Justice Department which he said was expected to provide information soon.
Bahrain's LuaLua TV, a channel run by opposition groups with offices in London and Beirut, was also closed, according to an AFP correspondent in the region.
In Yemen the Huthi said on the website of their political wing that they condemned "this American piracy and copyright confiscation."
"The government of the United States of America is banning the Al-Masirah website without any justification or even prior notice," they said.
A-Masirah quickly established a new website, using its name but swapping the .net domain for .com.
Meanwhil LuaLua and Al-Masirah continued to broadcast new programs, AFP journalists said.
The United States maintains strict sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear weapons programs and alleged support for terror.
Hundreds of Iranian organizations and individuals have been placed on the US sanctions blacklist.
The sanctions forbid Americans and businesses and organizations with US operations from doing any business with Iran.
The US action came as Washington seeks to restore the 2015 agreement between Tehran and six major countries to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.
In 2018 then-president Donald Trump ordered the United States to withdraw from the agreement, alleging that Iran was not adhering to its commitments, though independent nuclear inspectors said it was.
Upon taking office this year, President Joe Biden committed to rejoining the agreement and talks with Iran on what both sides would do to resume the pact have gone on for weeks.
EU negotiator Enrique Mora said on Sunday that those involved in the talks were "closer" to saving the Iran nuclear deal but that sticking points remain.
The US action also came just after Iranians elected ultraconservative cleric Ibrahim Raisi as president.
© 2021 AFP
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