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Britney Spears’ father ‘willing to step down’ as conservator but won’t do so immediately

Britney Spears’ father said Thursday he’s “willing to step down” as his daughter’s conservator but argues that there is no justification for him to immediately be replaced or to resign from the position, which he has held for more than 13 years.

In a response to a petition to replace him, James “Jamie” Spears’ legal team argued that he stepped in to his daughter’s life in 2008 through the conservatorship because she was “desperately in need of help.” Britney Spears was suffering emotionally and being “manipulated by predators,” the filing says.

“Mr. Spears continues to serve dutifully, and he should not be suspended or removed, and certainly not based on false allegations,” the filing says. “Mr. Spears is willing to step down when the time is right, but the transition needs to be orderly and include a resolution of matters pending before the Court.”

The filing argues that a petition filed to remove him by Britney Spears’ attorney, Mathew Rosengart, was based on falsehoods and that he has been the “unremitting target of unjustified attacks.”

The filing led to some confusion Thursday as some news organization reported that he had filed his resignation, but Jamie Spears’ legal team confirmed to NBC News that he wasn’t stepping aside at this time.

The filing also mentions that Jamie Spears had been working on a transition with his daughter’s previous attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III.

It’s unclear whom he was trying to hand his power to in the filing. A financial institution, Bessemer Trust, was appointed as co-conservator last year, but the organization resigned from the case last month.

Jamie Spears’ filing instead says several matters pending in the conservatorship must be settled before he could conceivably be removed.

“When these matters are resolved, Mr. Spears will be in a position to step aside,” the filing says. “But there are no urgent circumstances justifying Mr. Spears’ immediate suspension.”

Rosengart, who was appointed to Britney Spears’ case on July 14, filed a petition asking the court to remove Jamie Spears as conservator and replace him with Jason Rubin, a professional accountant. The court is expected to decide at a hearing next month.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny rejected the petition to advance the hearing in a filing Monday.

Rosengart argued that Britney Spears’ mental health was being negatively affected by her father’s control over her life. The filing last month included a declaration from her conservator-of-the person, Jodi Montgomery, that alleged that the current father-daughter dynamic was “not psychologically healthy” for Britney Spears.

Jamie Spears’ response Thursday specifically addressed allegations made by his ex-wife, Lynne Spears, who also provided a declaration that said she didn’t believe he was acting in the best interests of their daughter. She said Jamie Spears’ “absolutely microscopic control” through threats and coercion has reduced his relationship with their daughter to nothing more than “fear and hatred.”

Lynne Spears said she became involved in her daughter’s case during a “time of crisis” that began in 2018 and continued into the next year. She said that in that period, Britney Spears was being treated by a “sports enhancement” doctor hired by Jamie Spears who was “prescribing what I and many others thought to be entirely inappropriate medicine to my daughter, who did not want to take the medicine.”

Jamie Spears rebutted the allegation, saying Lynne Spears “has not accepted the full extent” of the level of care and treatment their daughter needed for her mental health. The filing argues that the doctor was a Harvard-trained psychiatrist whom Britney Spears approved of after an interview.

He also denied having coerced his daughter to “do anything,” including undergo forced inpatient facility treatment.

“If the public knew all the facts of Ms. Spears’ personal life, not only her highs but also her lows, all of the addiction and mental health issues that she has struggled with, and all of the challenges of the Conservatorship, they would praise Mr. Spears for the job he has done, not vilify him,” the filing says.

“But the public does not know all the facts, and they have no right to know, so there will be no public redemption for Mr. Spears,” it says.

Lynne Spears’ is “pleased Jamie has agreed to step down,” her attorney, Gladstone N. Jones III, said in a statement Thursday.

“Lynne entered into this conservatorship to protect her daughter almost 3 years ago,” Jones said. “She has accomplished what she set out to do. She will have no further comment.”

In a statement following the new filing, Rosengart said Thursday that his team was pleased that Jamie Spears “conceded in a filing that he must be removed.”

“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’s sworn deposition in the near future,” Rosengart said.

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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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House passes John Lewis voting rights bill, sends measure to Senate for tougher fight

House Democrats on Tuesday passed a sweeping voting rights bill named after Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the late civil rights icon.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was approved 219-212. All Republicans voted against the legislation.

The bill is part of congressional Democrats’ broader campaign to strengthen voting laws at the federal level to fight restrictive voting laws passed in Republican-led states, such as Texas and Georgia. However, it faces steep opposition in the Senate, where Democrats hold a wafer-thin majority.

The House returned from its recess this week to take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a resolution for Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget package, which includes funding for much of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. The procedural motion used to pass the multitrillion-dollar resolution paved the way for the House to vote on the voting rights bill, which was re-introduced last week by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

The legislation would require states with recent histories of discrimination to get federal “preclearance” to change their voting laws, which directly addresses the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. The ruling gutted the preclearance system in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which civil rights advocates argue was successful in blocking proposed voting restrictions in states and localities with histories of racial discrimination.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement last week that Congress had “not only an ironclad Constitutional mandate, but a moral responsibility” to pass the bill.

Shortly before its passage, Pelosi said on the House floor that the bill would honor Lewis’ legacy.

“We should have the right to vote and shouldn’t be diminished by anyone. It is unpatriotic to undermine the ability of people who have a right to vote, who have access to the polls,” she said. “As John knew, this precious pillar of our democracy is under attack from one of the worst voter suppression campaigns since Jim Crow.”

It isn’t the first time House Democrats have tackled election law. In March, House Democrats passed the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that seeks to change campaign finance, voting and ethics laws.

The bill would expand access to the ballot box by creating automatic voter registration across the country by registering eligible voters whenever they interact with government agencies, restoring the voting rights of the formerly incarcerated, expanding early voting and modernizing the country’s voting systems.

However, Senate Republicans filibustered the voting rights legislation in June, and the vote to advance an amended version of the For the People Act split along party lines 50-50, short of the 60 votes needed. All Democratic-aligned senators voted to begin debate, and Republicans unanimously voted to block the bill.

Passage of the voting measure was the final vote of the week for the House, whose members are leaving Washington and won’t return until Sept. 20.

Haley Talbot contributed.

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