We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Jamie Spears says he will step down as Britney’s conservator
Britney Spears’ father, Jamie, now says that he will give up his controversial position as her conservator.
In a legal filing this week, Jamie’s attorney states: “Even as Mr. Spears is the unremitting target of unjustified attacks, he does not believe that a public battle with his daughter over his continuing service as her conservator would be in her best interests… even though he must contest this unjustified Petition for his removal, Mr. Spears intends to work with the Court and his daughter’s new attorney to prepare for an orderly transition to a new conservator.”
Public pressure has been building to end Jamie Spears’ role in the conservatorship after Britney made it clear that she considered his behavior abusive. She has said he has controlled her career and even her reproductive life. Even Congress has weighed in on the situation and the subject of abusive conservatorships in general.
Meanwhile Britney’s attorney, Matthew Rosengart, said in a statement to CNN: ‘It is vindication for Britney… We look forward to continuing our vigorous investigation into the conduct of Mr. Spears, and others, over the past 13 years, while he reaped millions of dollars from his daughter’s estate, and I look forward to taking Mr. Spears’ sworn deposition in the near future.” — Margaret Brady
Prince Andrew is sued for sex crimes related to Epstein’s sex trafficking ring
Sexual assault survivor Virginia Guiffre has filed a lawsuit against Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second (and reportedly, favorite) son. The suit, filed in federal court in New York, accuses Andrew of sexually assaulting Guiffre, as well as others, on multiple occasions while they were underage. According to court documents, Andrew was very friendly with accused sex traffickers Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. He allegedly assaulted Guiffre at Epstein’s Manhattan mansion, Maxwell’s London residence, and on Epstein’s private jet in the U.S. Virgin Islands, all as part of an elaborate sex trafficking scheme.
While both Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace have emphatically denied allegations of sex crimes since they first came to light in 2015, neither have had any response as of yet in regards to this latest lawsuit. According to legal experts, this lack of immediate response could be due to the possibility that, legally speaking, it’s “game over” for the prince.
Guiffre, now a mother of three, issued a brave statement following the news of her lawsuit, telling reporters: "I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me...The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions…As a mother and a wife, my family comes first — and I know that this action will subject me to further attacks by Prince Andrew and his surrogates—but I knew if I did not pursue this action, I would be letting them and victims everywhere down." —Mariel Lindsay
Time’s up for Time’s Up as chairwoman steps down
The Time’s Up organization helped New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo draft a letter attacking sexual harassment victims, the New York Times reported. As a result, leader Roberta Kaplan has quit.
Kaplan, a prominent progressive attorney, counseled the Cuomo administration in December when allegations of sexual misconduct first emerged. An investigation from New York’s attorney general found that she reviewed a letter the Cuomo team had written undermining his accusers’ credibility. With a few minor tweaks, Kaplan gave her approval to the text. Other advisors managed to stop the letter from being disseminated, correctly pointing out it was a terrible idea.
Time’s Up is a charity that raises money to support victims of sexual harassment. It was created in response to Harvey Weinstein’s crimes and the #MeToo movement.
“Unfortunately, recent events have made it clear that even our apparent allies in the fight to advance women can turn out to be abusers,” Kaplan wrote in her letter resigning as chair of the board of directors of Time’s Up. “We have felt the raw, personal and profound pain of that betrayal.”
Cuomo also sought counsel from Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign and the country’s largest LGBTQ political lobbying organization; Chris Cuomo, his brother and CNN anchor; and Tina Tchen, the chief executive of Time’s Up. —Melanie Wilcox
The Taliban is exploiting Clubhouse to plot their next moves
Members of the Taliban are reportedly using Clubhouse, an audio-based social media app, to discuss religion and their plans for Afghanistan’s future, which is falling into their control as American troops withdraw.
“The Taliban called me rude and cut my mic after I spoke the truth about them,” Haanya Saheba Malik, an Afghan Clubhouse user who joined a Taliban room, told Agence France-Presse. “They openly declared those of us calling for human rights infidels and deserving of death.”
Prominent investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Tiger Global Management reportedly allowed the group to operate on the platform for at least two weeks.
A Clubhouse spokesperson denied that terror groups are allowed on the app.
“Clubhouse prohibits terror groups and their members,” the representative told the New York Post. “We work with Tech Against Terrorism as well as other subject matter experts and industry leaders to ensure that users of this nature are permanently removed from the platform.”
It’s difficult to track discussions on the audio-only app because it does not enable users to rewind or listen to previous sessions.
Critics also told Agence France-Presse the Taliban is recording clubhouse sessions to mark dissenters for future retribution.
As the U.S. and NATO leave after decades of war, the Taliban has seized three more Afghan provincial capitals and a local army headquarters this week, giving them control of most of the nation, the Associated Press reported. The U.S. military plans to complete its withdrawal by the end of August. —MW
Obstetric care organizations recommend that pregnant women get the COVID-19 vaccine
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine announced late last month that they’re recommending that pregnant women be vaccinated for COVID-19. According to a press release, this recommendation is based on “evidence demonstrating the safe use of the COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy from tens of thousands of reporting individuals over the last several months, as well as the current low vaccination rates and concerning increase in cases.”
Studies have shown that contracting COVID-19 while pregnant leads to increased pregnancy complications, while data has not shown that getting the vaccine while pregnant leads to adverse outcomes. Despite this, only 22% of pregnant women have received any of the COVID-19 vaccines, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As concerns about the delta variant and low vaccination rates in certain areas rise, medical professionals are advising pregnant women to be cautious. “Pregnant individuals who have decided to wait until after delivery to be vaccinated may be inadvertently exposing themselves to an increased risk of severe illness or death,” say ACOG and SMFM. “Vaccination is safe before, during, or after pregnancy.”
Also this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “bolstered” its recommendation that pregnant women get the vaccine, according to the New York Times, which reported about “new safety data that found no increased risk of miscarriage among those who were immunized during the first 20 weeks of gestation.” —Madeline Fry Schultz
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigns in the wake of sexual misconduct scandal
Last week, the New York attorney general released a report concluding that Governor Andrew Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women during his 10-year tenure as governor of the Empire State. Despite dismissing the allegations, Cuomo announced on Tuesday that he would resign in 14 days. Cuomo called the controversy “politically motivated” and once again denied that the allegations were serious, framing them as misunderstandings due to “generational and cultural” differences.
Cuomo may not have admitted error, but he seems to realize that an impeachment inquiry would not turn out well for him. “Today was all about buying him 14 days to figure out the next phase of his life, as opposed to an impeachment vote which would have triggered his immediate removal from his actual home and the executive chamber,” one Democratic state senator said.
After Cuomo leaves office, the next leader of New York will be Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, the state’s first female governor. “As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th governor,” Hochul said. She will hold the office at least until the state’s next gubernatorial election in November 2022. —MFS
The search for a new Jeopardy! host is finally over
The executive producer of Jeopardy!, Mike Richards, is the new permanent host of the syndicated game show, succeeding the late Alex Trebek, Deadline reported. He will remain the executive producer of both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
Sony Pictures Television also announced The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik will host its primetime and spinoff series, including Jeopardy! National College Championship, which will air on ABC in 2022.
As the deal with Sony Pictures Television was being finalized, Richards was appointed as the host a couple weeks ago.
“We are thrilled to begin the next chapter of America’s Favorite Quiz Show with Mike hosting our daily show and Mayim hosting new versions of Jeopardy!,” said Ravi Ahuja, Chairman of Global Television Studios and Corporate Development for Sony Pictures. “We took this decision incredibly seriously. A tremendous amount of work and deliberation has gone into it, perhaps more than has ever gone into the selection of hosts for a show – deservedly so because it’s Jeopardy! and we are following the incomparable Alex Trebek. A senior group of Sony Pictures Television executives pored over footage from every episode, reviewed research from multiple panels and focus groups, and got valuable input from our key partners and Jeopardy! viewers.”
Ken Jennings, The Greatest of All Time winner, will return as a consulting producer. Richards, Bialik, and Jennings had served as guest hosts after Trebek’s death. —MW
Good News of the Week
The world’s smallest surviving baby has gone home from the hospital
A little girl named Kwek Yu Xuan has gone home with her parents after more than a year in Singapore’s National University Hospital. The baby is believed to be the smallest in history to survive being born prematurely. Weighing in at 7.5 ounces, she was about the size of an apple when she came into the world in June 2020, USA Today reports.
Little Yu Xuan was born via emergency C-section when her mother developed life-threatening preeclampsia, a disease in pregnant women that causes run-away high blood pressure. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby; Yu Xuan’s mother was less than 25 weeks pregnant.
In a statement, the hospital called the baby a “ray of hope amid turmoil” as she slowly grew stronger while the coronavirus pandemic raged outside her hospital room. “We are happy for the little fighter and her family,” they said. We are too! Congratulations to sweet Yu Xuan and all who love her! — MB
Watch of the Week
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s dramatic resignation this week happened after Brittany Commisso, officially known as “Executive Assistant #1,” bravely came forward to CBS News with her story of surviving harassment. Watch the exclusive interview here, a clip of which is below.