Britney Spears fans revive #FreeBritney movement over fears for her welfare


IN THE PAPERS - Friday, July 17: We look at the British dailies which are widely reporting on an alleged Russian hack into coronavirus vaccine research. Also, a new study blames climate change for massive forest fires in Siberia. The European Space Agency has captured the closest ever photos of the sun. Finally, find out why Britney Spears fans are reviving a #FreeBritney movement overs concerns for her wellbeing.


We start with a story making the front page of the British press – an alleged Russian coronavirus vaccine hack. It's on the front of nearly all the British dailies. Russian hackers reporting to the Kremlin have been accused of trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research, according to British, US and Canadian security services. The accused group behind the alleged attack is familiar to Western countries, it’s known as Cozy Bear and was implicated in the hacking of Democratic email accounts four years ago during the US presidential election campaign. As the Daily Express reports, Russia has denied the claims and accused the West of lacking evidence. One colmunist for the paper notes that Britain and its allies are most certainly conducting similar cyber warfare in Russia and argues that British defence chiefs are "trying to recruit a new type of warrior who may never carry a gun" – the hacker.

Staying in Russia, authorities are continuing their fight against out of control forest fires in Siberia, which are being blamed on climate change. A June heatwave in Siberia brought on not just forest fires but thawing permafrost and oil spills. The phenomenon was brought on by human-induced climate change, according to a new European report that you can read about on FRANCE 24's website. Scientists say they don't know if it's a one-off phenomenon or an ominous sign for the future. The thawing permafrost is particularly bad because it will release masses of carbon into the atmosphere.

On the topic of the climate, the Guardian today reports of wild weather on Australia's Central Coast. Large swells and high waves have led to massive beach erosion not seen in over 30 years. In one particular town, it's left beachside mansions hanging on the edge of cliff tops and in danger of collapse – the images are quite frightening. The swell may not be directly linked to climate change, but the wild weather that Australia has been experiencing is certainly a sign of things to come.

In other news, a European solar orbiter has captured new images of the sun and they are the closest ever acquired by cameras. These pictures were taken 77 million kilometres from the Sun’s surface, which doesn't sound very close, but it is! This point is halfway between Earth and our parent star. The European Space Agency launched the solar probe this year and we see in these close-up images multiple campfires shooting into the sun's crown-like upper atmosphere where the temperatures are 1 million degrees. That's in the Swiss paper Le Temps.

Finally, a 12-year-old campaign to free Britney Spears has been revived! Most of us will remember Britney Spears' epic meltdown in 2007. It led to her being put under her father's guardianship, or a conservatorship where a third person is in charge of making important decisions on your behalf. Her fans have petitioned the White House, calling for an end to the conservatorship that they say doesn't allow her to drive, monitors her calls and messages and controls her fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars. During the lockdown, they were particularly worried about their beloved popstar, with some believing she was sending coded messages for help through her social media account. That conservatorship is up for renewal next month, which is why her concerned fans have been reviving the #FreeBritney movement online.

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