First Thing: Britney Spears’ emotional bid to end ‘abusive’ 13-year conservatorship

·7 min read
<span>Photograph: Chris Pizzello/AP</span>
Photograph: Chris Pizzello/AP

Good morning.

Britney Spears has told a court she deserves to “have a life” in an impassioned testimony in which she said she wants to end an “abusive” 13-year conservatorship that she claims has governed her estate, career and even blocked her from getting married or having a baby.

Addressing a court in Los Angeles in a hearing on the unusual legal arrangement that has given her father, Jamie Spears, control of her life since 2008, Spears, 39, said: “This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good.” Sam Levin reports from Los Angeles.

Here are some of the key allegations from Spears’ testimony:

  • The conservatorship has controlled the most intimate details of her life – including her reproductive health and she was made to take medications against her will, she said.

  • She was forced to perform, she said.

  • The arrangement was abusive and unnecessary, she said echoing the claims of #FreeBritney activists.

  • Her father was not governed by her best interest and enjoyed the control he had over her, she said.

  • She is banned from speaking to the media, she said, while her parents are allowed to do interviews.

Singer Britney Spears at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards in New York.
Singer Britney Spears at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards in New York. Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters

The FDA is going to add a warning to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines about rare heart inflammation

US first lady Jill Biden at a Covid-19 vaccination site at Ole Smoky Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee, on Tuesday.
US first lady Jill Biden at a Covid-19 vaccination site at Ole Smoky Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee, on Tuesday. Photograph: Tom Brenner/AFP/Getty Images

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Wednesday that it would add a warning to the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines about rare cases of heart inflammation in young adults and adolescents.

Advisory groups for US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that reported cases of the heart condition is likely to be linked to the vaccines but that the benefits appear to outweigh the risk.

  • Are the vaccines still safe? The government and leading US doctors groups and public health officials put out a statement stating that the vaccines are safe and effective and that heart inflammation is “extremely rare”. They said they “strongly encourage” everyone aged 12 and over and eligible to get vaccinated.

Antivirus entrepreneur John McAfee has been found dead in a Spanish prison

John McAfee, the late antivirus entrepreneur, pictured in 2015.
John McAfee, the late antivirus entrepreneur, pictured in 2015. Photograph: Todd J Van Emst/AP

John McAfee, the antivirus software entrepreneur, was found dead in his prison cell in Spain from an apparent suicide, hours after his extradition to the United States was approved.

Catalan’s regional police force confirmed that McAfee, 75, who was wanted on tax-related criminal charges that carry a prison sentence of up to 30 years, was found in the Brians 2 prison near Barcelona on Wednesday night.

  • Why was he in prison? McAfee was arrested at Barcelona airport in October when he was about to get on a flight to Istanbul a day after authorities had made a US indictment stemming from alleged tax offenses public. Tennessee prosecutors had charged him with evading taxes after failing to report income.

  • Hours before his death, Spain’s highest court had approved his US extradition. However, the decision could have been appealed and it would have to be approved by the Spanish cabinet.

Michigan Republicans have found no evidence of voter fraud in an investigation into the state’s election, branding Trump’s claims ‘ludicrous’

Election challengers yelling at police at the central counting board in Detroit, Michigan, in November.
Election challengers yelling at police at the central counting board in Detroit, Michigan, in November. Photograph: Carlos Osorio/AP

Republican lawmakers in Michigan investigating the state’s election results have found no evidence of widespread fraud and said there is no need for an Arizona-style audit.

A report released on Wednesday, after 28 hours of hearings featuring pro-Trump conspiracy theorists including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, branded many of their claims “ludicrous” and said the state attorney general should investigate those who have profited from making false claims.

  • It comes as Republicans including Donald Trump and state parties push unfounded lies about Joe Biden’s victory, reports Tom Perkins.

  • Meanwhile, in Washington, top House Democrats are investigating whether Trump justice department officials ran an unlawful shadow operation.

  • Plus, the first rioter to be sentenced for the attack on the US Capitol has been sentenced to probation rather than prison time. Anna Morgan-Lloyd, 49, from Indiana, made an emotional apology for participating in “a savage display of violence”.

In other news…

People gather outside a former Indigenous school near Kamloops in British Columbia, where the remains of 215 children were found, earlier this month.
People gather outside a former Indigenous school near Kamloops in British Columbia, where the remains of 215 children were found, earlier this month. Photograph: Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images
  • Hundreds more unmarked graves have been found in Canada at another former residential school for Indigenous children. The Cowessess First Nation and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous First Nations, which represents Saskatchewan’s First Nations, said on Wednesday that “the number of unmarked graves will be the most significantly substantial to date in Canada.” It comes after the remains of 215 children were found buried on the former site of an Indigenous school near Kamloops in British Columbia.

  • Birds across the south and midwestern US are being killed by a mystery illness. Scientists are trying to identify the cause of the illness, which leaves many birds with crusty eyes, swollen faces and unable to fly. Wildlife managers in Washington DC, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia started getting reports of incidents in late May.

  • Drought is causing the water in Sacramento, California, to smell and taste odd. Such is the extent of the problem that the city has issued a statement reassuring residents that it is safe to drink. The issue is caused by the naturally occurring compound geosmin which gives the water a strange taste when water levels are low and temperatures high.

  • Climate activists and customers are urging Microsoft to limit corporate travel to 2020 levels permanently by using its own videoconferencing tools to set a good example to others. The Just Use Teams campaign says that despite the company speaking out about the urgent need to tackle climate change, it is one of the world’s top corporate flyers.

Stat of the day: So far this year hydropower has been the source of only 7% of power generated in California amid the megadrought across the US west

One of the state’s largest hydroelectric power plants is expected to shut down for the first time since 1967 within weeks because of the megadrought hitting Lake Oroville. The water level at California’s second-largest reservoir is already so low that houseboats have been hauled out and in the next few weeks it is expected to drop even lower. The state’s dipping water supply is increasingly forcing it to switch from hydropower to fossil fuels.

Don’t miss this: How to recover from ‘pandemic brain’

The pandemic and lockdown left many of us lacking focus and feeling distracted and overwhelmed. But even as vaccination gives way to a return to some normality, “pandemic brain” lingers. Kelli María Korducki speaks to experts about how to help the brain get back to its pre-pandemic state.

…or this: the Teamsters take on Amazon

With over a million members, one of America’s most powerful unions is going to attempt to unionize Amazon workers across the US. Can they succeed? Steven Greenhouse reports.

Last Thing: how macho culture got in the way of the wheelie suitcase

A couple on a Heinkel Tourist 103 A0 motor scooter, 1955 - 1957, with an unwheeled suitcase on the back.
A couple on a Heinkel Tourist 103 A0 motor scooter, 1955 - 1957, with an unwheeled suitcase on the back. Photograph: INTERFOTO/Alamy

It took around 5,000 years after the wheel had been invented and it didn’t come until after Nasa had sent two men to the moon. The wheelie suitcase is ubiquitous in airports today, but in the scheme of things its official invention, in 1972, is relatively new. Katrine Marçal, author of Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men, argues that if it wasn’t for the dominance of macho culture, the wheelie suitcase is among the inventions that could have come much earlier.

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