Judge suspends Britney Spears’ father from conservatorship

By Andrew Dalton | Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — A judge on Wednesday suspended Britney Spears’ father from the conservatorship that has controlled the singer’s life and money for 13 years, saying the arrangement “reflects a toxic environment.”

Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny agreed with a petition from Spears and her attorney, Mathew Rosengart, that James Spears needs to give up his role as conservator. The move is a major victory for the singer, who pleaded in dramatic hearings in June and July that her father needed to be out.

“The current situation is untenable,” Penny said after hearing arguments from both sides. “It reflects a toxic environment which requires the suspension of James Spears.”

James Spears sought the conservatorship in 2008 and had been its primary controller and biggest champion. He reversed course in recent weeks, asking the judge to end the conservatorship.

Britney Spears and Rosengart agreed that the conservatorship should end and said in court documents that James Spears’ removal was a necessary first step.

Spears’ attorney has been aggressively pushing for the ouster of her father since moments after the judge allowed her to hire Rosengart in July.

Hours before the hearing, a major street outside the courthouse was closed to vehicles, allowing about 100 Spears supporters to march and host a rally where they shouted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the conservatorship has got to go!” and other pro-Britney chants. As the crowd grew, fans sang Spears hits “Toxic” and “Baby One More Time,” and speakers described abusive conservatorships that had affected their families.

“We’re making making history right now,” said Martino Odeh, 27, who traveled from Phoenix to be at the courthouse. “And the fact that we could change a pop star’s life, who has been robbed of her rights for 13 years, is crazy. It’s monumental.”

“We’re hoping for a big change today,” Odeh said.

Britney Spears and Rosengart emphasized in court papers the importance of removing her father, calling it a necessary first step toward her freedom and “ending the Kafkaesque nightmare imposed upon her.”

Rosengart said in another filing this week that James Spears “crossed unfathomable lines” by engaging in illegal surveillance of her, including communications with her lawyer, as reported in “Controlling Britney Spears,” a documentary from The New York Times and the FX network, one of two dueling documentaries released on the eve of the hearing.

Britney Spears was also engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Sam Asghari, earlier this month, which means putting together a prenuptial agreement that her father should not be involved in, her court filings said.

James Spears in 2019 stepped aside as the so-called conservator of his daughter’s person, with control over her life decisions, maintaining only his role as conservator of her estate, with control over her finances. He and his attorneys have said that renders many of his daughter’s complaints about his control over her life meaningless.

Jodi Montgomery, a court-appointed professional, now acts as conservator of Britney Spears’ person, and Rosengart said in court documents that Montgomery also consents to ending the conservatorship so long as it can be done safely and smoothly.

James Spears has denied acting in anything but his daughter’s best interest. He has said in court papers that he does not know of “a single medical professional nor the report of a single probate investigator” that concluded that his presence as conservator was harming his daughter or that he should be replaced.

The conservatorship was established in 2008 when Britney Spears’ began to have public mental struggles as hordes of paparazzi aggressively followed her everywhere and she lost custody of her children.

Lawsuit seeks to block Poseidon desalination plant in Huntington Beach

Two environmental groups have sued the Regional Water Quality Control Board over its decision to grant a permit for Poseidon Water’s desalination plant proposed for Huntington Beach, saying the board’s environmental review of the project was inadequate.

Poseidon has been working on the controversial, $1.4 billion project for 22 years. The regional board’s approval on April 29 leaves the company needing one more permit, from the state Coastal Commission, before it can negotiate a final contract with the Orange County Water District and begin construction.

That’s if the regional board’s permit is allowed to stand after the suit filed Monday, Sept. 27, by Orange County Coastkeeper and the California Coastkeeper Alliance.

It’s the third time the regional board has approved a permit for the project, thanks to previous permits expiring and changes in environmental rules. Orange County Coastkeeper has unsuccessfully appealed all three decisions to the state Water Resources Control Board. Additionally, both Coastkeeper groups unsuccessfully sued to block the 2017 state Lands Commission approval of the project on environmental grounds.

“The Regional Water Board failed to listen to our environmental concerns, failed to consider the inequities voiced by environmental justice leaders, and failed to take the local communities’ concerns seriously,” said Sean Bothwell, executive director of the Coastkeeper Alliance. “We had no choice but to take this matter to court.”

A spokesperson for the regional board declined comment on the suit, saying the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Poseidon Vice President Scott Maloni dismissed the latest legal challenge as an “ill-fated legal assault” that will only drive up the cost of the project — and the eventual cost to customers.

Opponents of Poseidon’s ocean-to-tap water project have focused largely on four issues in recent years: the impact on marine life, environmental mitigation for that impact, whether the water is needed, and the projected cost of the water being higher than other sources.

The new lawsuit focuses primarily on how Poseidon would take water from the ocean and alleged shortcomings in the regional board’s environmental studies.

The state’s Ocean Plan established rules for desalination plants in 2015. Among other things, the plan says the preferred method for taking water from the ocean is to draw it into pipes through the sand beneath the ocean floor, which would prevent larvae and other small marine life from dying in the process.

However, regional board staff determined that such subsurface intake was infeasible for the Huntington Beach location because the volume of water drawn would jeopardize fresh water supplies inland.

Instead, Poseidon’s plan calls for the pipes to draw water directly from the ocean. The regional board examined several locations for those intake pipes and determined that those approved were the best feasible options.

The lawsuit challenges the findings that both subsurface intake and alternative direct intake options were adequately studied. It also takes issue with Bolsa Chica inlet dredging being included as part of the mitigation plan, arguing that the Ocean Plan calls for mitigation to result in new, expanded or restored habitat.

“For these reasons … the Santa Ana Regional Water Board abused its discretion…” the lawsuit says.

Texas GOP tries to protect US House seats under new maps


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Facing up to Texas’ booming suburbs turning bluer, Republicans on Monday proposed new U.S. House maps that would fortify their slipping grip and shrink the number of seats where the majority of voters are Hispanic — even as they fuel the state’s blistering growth.

Texas was a big winner in the 2020 Census. Its surging population, driven by nearly 2 million new Hispanic residents, made it the only state awarded two additional congressional seats. Texas will now have 38 House members, and 40 electoral votes.

But Democrats and minority rights groups accused GOP mapmakers of tossing aside those rapidly shifting demographic trends that are threatening decades of Republican dominance. Persons of color accounted for more than nine of every 10 new Texas residents over the last decade, but the proposal reduces the number of Hispanic majority districts from eight to seven.

There would also be no districts with a majority of Black residents under the proposed maps, which are likely to undergo revisions. But outnumbered Democrats in the Texas Capitol have no power to force drastic changes.

“It is not fair, it is not right, it is not Texan or American to do that,” said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, referring to how the maps divide up Hispanic voters.

On the whole, Republicans showed an overarching desire under the proposed maps to protect their nearly two dozen incumbent House members rather than peel away seats from Democrats. One notable exception is along the Texas-Mexico border, where Republicans — encouraged by former President Donald Trump’s strong showing there in 2020 — are taking aim at a longtime Democratic stronghold currently held by Rep. Vicente Gonzalez.

In every decade since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, courts or the Department of Justice have ruled that Texas’ redistricting plans violated federal laws — partly by scattering Democratic-leaning Latino voters among multiple districts dominated by non-Latino white residents who lean Republican.

“It looks like they packed more Democratic voters into fewer districts and sort of spread the Republican voters across more districts,” said Adam Podowitz-Thomas, senior legal strategist at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a nonpartisan research organization.

He said multiple districts seemed to have been drawn to include a safe 60% to 70% majority Republican vote share that would preserve GOP control. But a new congressional district in the state’s liberal capital was a “Democratic vote sink,” said Podowitz-Thomas, one that would insulate surrounding Republicans House members by taking some of their left-leaning voters.

Another proposed new district in Houston is drawn to elect a Republican, meaning both parties would split Texas’ new seats. Republicans currently have 23 House seats in Texas, while Democrats have 13.

Latino advocates and officeholders believed the numbers demanded at least one new Latino-majority congressional seat in Texas, around the Dallas area, but none was included in the Republicans’ first pass. Booming suburban districts in Texas, which include four of the 10 fastest-growing and rapidly diversifying cities in the U.S., would be fortified with more voters pulled from surrounding rural areas.

Brenden Steinhauser, a GOP strategist in Texas, said the maps reflect a motivation to hang onto political power. He pointed to the proposed new district of Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, whose seat would be buffeted by shedding voters in Houston’s fast-changing voters suburbs.

“I think this will stave off some of this purple trending we’ve see for a while,” he said.

The maps are the product of Texas Republicans wielding a freer hand to reengineer political boundaries: For the first time in more than 50 years, Texas is starting the redistricting process without federal oversight. A Supreme Court ruling in 2013 removed mandatory federal approval of new maps for Texas and all or parts of 15 other states with a history of discrimination in voting.

The redrawn districts unveiled by Republican mapmakers are starting points and will likely undergo changes in the coming weeks before being sent to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for his signoff.

Republicans in America’s biggest red state want to expand their political advantage as their typically commanding victories in Texas have become thinner. Last year, Trump carried Ohio by a wider margin than Texas, and Republicans got a scare in 2018 when Democrats flipped a dozen statehouse seats and Beto O’Rourke nearly ousted Sen. Ted Cruz.

But Republicans held their ground in Texas in 2020, emboldening them to mount an aggressive agenda of hot-button conservative policymaking, and gains along the predominately Hispanic southern border have spurred the GOP into trying to expand their reach.

Americans win Ryder Cup in a rout; Morikawa clinches it


SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — The Americans won back the Ryder Cup and perhaps a whole lot more Sunday, sending a strong message to Europe with a powerful performance from their youngest team in history.

Scottie Scheffler, one of six Ryder Cup newcomers for the Americans, took down the No. 1 player in the world with a 4-and-3 victory over Jon Rahm as the scoreboards around Whistling Straits quickly filled with American red.

The final blow came from Collin Morikawa, at 24 the youngest player on the team and already a two-time major champion. He holed a 3-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that assured the Americans at least the 14 1/2 points they needed.

The celebration was on, even as the American were still keeping score.

“I woke up this morning and I was trying to tell the guys, ‘Let’s get to 20 points,’ because this is going to be the next era of Ryder Cup team for the U.S. side,” Patrick Cantlay said, finishing an unbeaten week with a win over Shane Lowry.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys. I think they’re going to be on teams for a long time, and I wanted to send a message.”

With two matches still on the course, the Americans already were assured of their most lopsided victory over Europe.

Tony Finau had said on the eve of these matches that this was “the big one” because Europe had won nine of the last 12, and the Americans had so many fresh faces without any lasting scars from watching Europe celebrate so much over the years.

The big one became one big rout.

The gallery saved one of its loudest cheers for U.S. captain Steve Stricker, the Wisconsin native who has been at the helm of blowouts in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.

“This is a new era for USA golf,” Stricker said. “They are young. They come with a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a lot of game. They are just so good.”

The old guy — Dustin Johnson at 37 — was pretty good, too.

Johnson became the first American since Larry Nelson in 1979 to go 5-0, completing his perfect week by beating Paul Casey.

The Americans were young, yes, and very good, with four of the top five in the world ranking. They finally played like it. Those four players — Johnson, Morikawa, Cantlay and Xander Schauffele — combined for a 14-1-2 record.

Stricker wasn’t the only one in tears.

Rory McIlroy, who failed to win any of his three team matches, led Europe off again and gave Schauffele his first loss of the week. It wasn’t nearly enough. All day along the shores of Lake Michigan, the outcome was inevitable.

McIlroy teared up in his interview when talking about how much the Ryder Cup means to him.

“I’ve never really cried or got emotional over what I’ve done as an individual. I couldn’t give an (expletive),” he said on NBC. “But this team … to see Sergio (Garcia) break records, to see Jon Rahm come into his own this week, to see one of my best friends, Shane Lowry, make his Ryder Cup debut, all that. It’s phenomenal.

“I’m disappointed that I didn’t contribute more this week,” he said. “But in two years’ time, we’ll go again and give it another so. Sorry for swearing, as well.”

As much as this was about a new generation of Americans, this looked to be an aging team of Europeans. They brought winning experience, but not nearly enough form.

Paul Casey, one of four Europeans in his 40s, failed to earn a point in four matches this week. Ian Poulter beat Finau and remains unbeaten in singles in his six Ryder Cups. He crouched on the 16th green after winning his match, wondering if this might be his last one.

His thoughts also turned to Padraig Harrington, the European captain.

“This is going to be hard, because Paddy is going to be questioned, and that’s not fair,” Poulter said.

There was little Europe could have done. This U.S. team was loaded and played like it.

“They had a mission this week,” Stricker said. “You could tell.”

The next step is winning on the road, which the Americans haven’t done since 1993. Europe still has an 11-9-1 advantage since the Ryder Cup was expanded in 1979 to include the continent.

Oleksandr Usyk ends Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight championship reign

LONDON — Oleksandr Usyk ended Anthony Joshua’s second reign as world heavyweight champion Saturday with a unanimous points win in just his third fight since stepping up from the cruiserweight division.

Usyk became the third man, after Evander Holyfield and David Haye, to win world titles at cruiserweight then heavyweight. Six years after Wladimir Klitschko’s long heavyweight reign ended, Ukraine has another champion in boxing’s marquee division.

Joshua could not cope with Usyk’s superior reflexes and punching power, especially off his left, and ended the fight slumped on the ropes after a flurry of fast punches by the mandatory challenger to his WBO belt.

Usyk also took Joshua’s WBA and IBF titles. Joshua has a rematch clause in the deal.

The judges scored the fight 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113, and Joshua appeared to accept the result as he walked over to Usyk’s corner.

Usyk stepped up to heavyweight in 2019 after unifying all the cruiserweight belts, and now has 19 straight wins as a professional.

His energy levels were remarkable as he piled the punches on Joshua in a dominant final round. The champion looked helpless in the last seconds as he leant against the ropes and simply smiled.

As the final bell rang, Usyk dropped to his knees and looked to the London sky as more than 62,000 spectators inside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium appeared to gasp.

Usyk then entertained the crowd with an acrobatic dance inside the ring.

Joshua fell to the second loss of his 25-fight pro career, after a defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. in New York that he immediately avenged in Saudi Arabia.