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U.N. Alarmed By Reports Of Civilians Killed In Airstrike; Highly Transmissible Delta Variant Spreading In U.S. & E.U.; Taliban Making Gains In Afghanistan As U.S. Troops Withdraw; Hong Kong Newspaper Prints Final Edition; Taiwan's Foreign Minister: We Need To Prepare For Conflict With China; Britney Spears Asks Court To End 'Abusive' Conservatorship. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired June 24, 2021 - 00:00   ET




PAULA NETWON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Paula Newton. Ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, dozens are dead after an airstrike in Ethiopia's Tigray region, a country struggling with war and famine, even as it awaits for election results. More contagious and spreading fast, new warnings about the increasingly dangerous Delta variant. And later, Britney Spears says she wants her life back. The pop star goes to court to try and have her conservatorship thrown out.

The E.U. is calling on the international community to take action in Ethiopia's Tigray region after a deadly airstrike killed as many as 30 people. Witnesses say a market was struck Tuesday in the war-torn region. The U.S. strongly condemned the attack calling it reprehensible.

Sources also tell CNN the Ethiopian military shot at doctors who tried to reach the victims and that ambulances were blocked from reaching the wounded. But the military claims the air strike reports are, in their words, fake and meant to overshadow Ethiopia's peaceful election held on Monday. CNN's Larry Madowo is -- has the latest from Ethiopia's capital.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A chaotic scene at the main hospital in the Tigrayan capital, Mek'ele. The casualties pouring in. After an airstrike on a busy market Tuesday afternoon in Togoga killed at least 30 people, according to eyewitnesses, wounding dozens more. Aid workers and Tigrayan rebel leaders saying the death toll is likely to climb much higher.

Outside the hospital, distraught family members in Mek'ele waits anxiously for information on loved ones, even as medical sources say Ethiopian forces blocked more ambulances from driving to the scene about 20 miles away. Ethiopian military spokesman Colonel Getnet Adane telling CNN reports of an aerial bombardment were fake news and accusing the people in the hospital of acting a drama in an attempt to overshadow a peaceful election.

But the U.N. spokesperson expressing alarm on behalf of Secretary General Antonio Guterres amid growing reports of civilian casualties in the airstrike.


STEPHANE DUJARRIC, SPOKEMANS FOR U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: the situation in the air remains very, very volatile. It's important that everyone engaged in fighting, do their utmost to protect civilians, to obey international humanitarian law. Once again, we want to see an end to all hostilities in the region. We want to see greater access to -- for humanitarian workers. And frankly, from what we've seen here, things are not going in the right direction, to say the least.


MADOWO: This week, amidst the backdrop of an election that will decide the next Ethiopian Prime Minister, the region has seen some of the worst fighting since the conflict began in November. The European Union also condemned the targeting of civilians in Tigray, but the Ethiopian military told CNN it would never target civilians by air or land.

This latest escalation in the north of the country happened just today after what is a generally peaceful election in most parts of the country, though Tigray was excluded because of the ongoing war. Larry Madowo, CNN, Addis Ababa.

NEWTON: David Shinn is a former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and a Professor at George Washington University. He joins me now from Washington for more on this. Thanks for joining us for some perspective here.

You know, we've seen the steady and dramatic intensification of fighting in the Tigray region. You know, reports of gross violations of human rights, I have to say right here at CNN, we have been able to report and verify many of them. Do you see any political way out of this at this point?

DAVID SHINN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ETHIOPIA: Getting out of this politically at this juncture is going to be very difficult. Both sides are dug in very deeply now. That is the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front or the Tigrayan people more generally at this juncture and Tigray Province, and the government of Ethiopia based in Addis Ababa on the other hand, neither side has really shown any particular willingness to compromise. And at the same time, it's very hard to see a military victory by either side.

NEWTON: What do you make of I would say, really, the boldness, the audacity of the Ethiopian government at this point to make certain statements about what is going on in that region really was impunity?

SHINN: Well, I'm not sure it's totally with impunity. Certainly the international community has spoken out fairly loudly about some of the human rights issues that have come up. The issue today with the bombing of the market too recent to have heard much feedback yet.

[00:05:03] But I think there's been a lot of criticism of what's been going on there and particularly the presence of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia. That has not gone down well at all with the international community.

NEWTON: Here's the thing, though, I would argue, and we've seen this now, when you take Ethiopia and certainly all the economic promise and political promise that Ethiopia has seen in the last few years, to see it disintegrate this way, I would say that the international intervention so far has been absolutely impotent. What's possibly going to change that?

SHINN: Well, there are a lot of things going on in the region at the same time that that the international community is taking account of, such as Ethiopian cooperation on peacekeeping in the region, the issues surrounding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the problems that Ethiopia has with Sudan and Egypt, these are being factored in.

But I think that, particularly behind the scenes, there are some very difficult discussions that have gone on. And there have been some modest sanctions applied by the United States, primarily, also the European Union. And you may be seeing more of this as time moves forward.

NEWTON: Certainly, the statements have been stronger in recent weeks, and perhaps there'll be more engagement now. Obviously, they're trying to decide what lever of influence to use. And I take your point that on all sides, they have been digging in, there's a lot at stake now.

Parts of Ethiopia are at risk of famine. It's the kind of famine not seen there since something you and I remember in terms of the famine in the '80s. You know, earlier this month, the U.N. said that 350,000 people are now already facing catastrophic conditions in the Tigray region. You know, they have food insecurity, the worst of its kind in a single country in the last decade. You know, ambassador, this is not about poverty or climate, this is about war.

SHINN: Now, this is clearly man created, this humanitarian crisis, there's no doubt about it. It is serious. It's probably, at its worst, would not be quite as expensive as the mid 1980s, simply because that covered a larger geographical area. And that was a combination of man caused and climate created. This one is strictly created by human beings. And as a result, it's a particularly unfortunate one.

NEWTON: But the issue is you and I remember seems like that and I think the U.N. and other agencies are trying to sound the alarm here, that as the political infighting continues, as the military interventions continue, there is a lot at risk.

SHINN: There is indeed. No one would dispute that in my view, except conceivably the government of Ethiopia. But I think it is finding that this guerrilla war that is going on has no end in sight. And I think the government anticipated it would be over with very quickly. That has not happened. And in my view, you will not see a military victory here by either side. NEWTON: Important, your statement there really as the international community tries to engage the parties on this. David Shinn, former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and a professor at George Washington University. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

SHINN: Thank you.

NEWTON: OK. Not what anyone wants to hear but the highly transmissible Delta variant may trigger a new phase in the Coronavirus pandemic. The European CDC says it's spreading so fast that it's on track to make up 90 percent of new COVID cases in the European Union by the end of August.

Now the variant is also quickly spreading to other parts of the world. In the U.S., it has been detected in all states except South Dakota, and top medical expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says it couldn't become the dominant strain in areas with low vaccination rates in a matter of weeks.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Spreads much more efficiently than the virus that we've been used to over the last several months to a year. And also data from the U.K. indicate that it also is more dangerous and that it makes you more seriously ill. So, the combination of a virus that spreads more rapidly and has the potential to make you more seriously ill is a threat we have to worry about.


NEWTON: Joining me now to discuss this is Dr. Bob Wachter. He is Chair of the University of California, San Francisco's Department of Medicine. Good to see you. I wish we were not discussing variants right now. You know, you warned about this variant. You've warned about it early and often, you know, a thread of yours on social media caught my attention earlier this month. You said if you're not vaccinated, I'd be afraid, maybe even very afraid. Why?


ROBERT WACHTER, CHAIR, UCSF DEPARTMENT OF MEDICINE: Yes, as Dr. Fauci said, this virus is better at its job than the one we've been dealing with for the past year, and the one we've been dealing with for the past year has killed 600,000 people in the United States. So that's a little bit scary.

The Spectacular news is that the vaccines, certainly the ones in the U.S. and the ones in Europe as well, work very well against this variant. So if you are fully vaccinated, you are safe. If you're unvaccinated, then your body is no better at fighting off a virus than it was 18 months ago, but the virus is better, is more infectious, maybe, as Dr. Fauci said, more serious if you get it. So I would be scared if I was not vaccinated.

NEWTON: And there are two categories here, right? There are the people who unfortunately, this is the vast majority of the world that does not have access to vaccines. And then we have a small minority, whether it's in Europe or other parts of North America, who just won't get the vaccine, what is the message that you send, really, to both groups of people at this point?

WACHTER: Well, for people who have -- don't have access to it, I think everyone has to do everything that we can to get them access as quickly as possible, we've all seen around the world what devastation this virus can do. And this was with the old version.

And so there is concern that it can rip through a country, a society, if the rate of vaccination is very low. In the U.S., we really didn't see downward pressure on the virus until we got up to 30, 40, 50 percent of people vaccinated.

In countries like the U.S. and Europe, in the U.K., it's a different story in the U.S., pretty much everybody who wants to have a vaccine has access to it. So if you are not vaccinated, in the vast majority of cases, you have made a decision. And it's a bad decision. And it was a bad decision a month or two ago, but I would have thought maybe you'll get away with it because the amount of virus in many communities is very low.

In San Francisco, where I live, there's very little virus circulating around. I no longer feel that you're likely to get away with it. I think it's more likely than not that when Delta becomes the majority of the virus in all of our communities, the folks that are unvaccinated are really unprotected against that virus, and it can really slam them.

NEWTON: You know, we've heard a lot about, of course, this Delta variant, there's also now a mutant Delta variant that has been detected, again, in India. Are you worried now that some of these variants may actually escape the vaccines?

WACHTER: Well, we've been worried about that ever since November, when we first got an indication that there would be variants that had different properties than the original, at least so far, the news has been good, but -- and, you know, the variants that we've been seeing have been more infectious, perhaps a little bit more serious, although not terribly so. But by and large susceptible to the vaccines that we currently have.

I'm guessing that the new variants will continue to be susceptible. But that is a guess. There's nothing written in the cards that says that a variant can't figure out ways of sidestepping the vaccine. The best protection we have now is for everybody to be vaccinated as quickly as they can to keep the number of viral replications down, that will keep the number of variants down, but we may find ourselves with a need for boosters, or some reconfigured vaccine if, in fact, a variant figures out how to get around the vaccine. So far on that account, so good.

NEWTON: Yes. And to that point, though, this issue of whether or not it escaped vaccines, have you seen evidence or do you expect to see evidence that without those boosters, the elderly, especially, and I'm talking about the elderly that are already vaccinated, you know, could be more at risk here with these new variants.

WACHTER: It makes sense that they might be and there's one indication of it with Delta, and that is that when people are fully vaccinated, they are about as well protected against Delta as they were against the prior viruses. But the first dose of Pfizer, Moderna protected people quite well with the prior variants that's why the U.K. for example, had a strategy of giving people first doses quickly and then holding off on the second dose.

What we're seeing with Delta is the first dose does not work quite as well, which shows that it requires a higher level of immunity. So, it does make me worried that someone who has a relatively weak immune system, for example, an elderly person who got vaccinated, or someone whose immunity is not from vaccination, but from an infection that they maybe had a year ago, I'm wondering whether those will turn out to be somewhat susceptible.

The good news is so far, we haven't seen that. So far, it looks like if you've been fully vaccinated, your chances of getting infected, and certainly chance of you getting very sick is very, very low, but it's something we have to watch very carefully.

NEWTON: Yes, still hanging all of our hopes on those vaccines. Dr. Robert Wachter, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

WACHTER: My pleasure.

NEWTON: Now, Brazil has said new record for most COVID infections in a single day.


The Health Ministry confirms more than 115,000 new cases on Wednesday. The country added another 2,400 deaths as well. Now Brazil has the world's highest COVID-19 death toll outside of the United States, passing half a million over the weekend. Officials have stepped up their efforts, of course, to try and get people vaccinated, but the Health Ministry reports only 12 percent of the population, so far, is fully immunized.

U.S. President Joe Biden is preparing to sit down with his Afghan counterpart on Friday to discuss the U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan as America Of course winds down its longest war. But as foreign troops head out, the Taliban are making territorial gains and taking control of dozens of crucial districts. CNN's Nic Robertson has details.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: In a recently overrun army base in northern Afghanistan, Taliban show off captured heavy weapons and ammunition. CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the videos or the date they were filmed. And Afghan security officials could not confirm or deny Taliban claims in these videos to CNN, but they do admit to losing dozens of towns in the past fortnight.

The Taliban claim 90 such victories in the past month. The U.N. says it's less 50 of 370 gone, but still very concerning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBORAH LYONS, U.N. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR AFGHANISTAN: Most districts that have been taken surround provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn.


ROBERTSON: At times, the Taliban claiming wins without firing a shot. In Takhar Province, a whole column of up-armored American-made Afghan army Humvees are surrendered by government soldiers to the Taliban. The soldiers dumped their guns in a pile, a valuable boost for the Taliban who are fighting hundreds of miles from their heartland in the south and east.

Afghan government officials say they're sending reinforcements to take back control and claim without proof to have killed hundreds of Taliban. The Taliban offensive appears to take advantage of the U.S. and NATO drawdown limiting air support for Afghan troops on the ground and it raises questions about their intent at peace talks in Doha with the Afghan government.

It's also significant that they're attacking the North. They covered the Afghan conflict in the '90s when the Taliban were fighting their way up the country. It took them years to get up to the north. This will send a very chilling message to Afghans.

The Taliban surge also a concern for U.S. forces who agreed their own ceasefire with the Taliban as they exit their longest war, but hoped they might leave the country at peace.


JOHN KIRBY, PRESS SECRETARY, PENTAGON: Every day, the situation in Afghanistan changes as the Taliban continue to conduct these attacks. And to raid district centers, as well as the violence which is still too high.


ROBERTSON: On Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets President Biden with final U.S. forces more than half gone. Hard to see an easy reverse to the Taliban's gains. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

NEWTON: The U.K. is pushing back after one of its warships was accused of entering Russian waters. Now Russia says a British destroyer entered waters that Moscow claims in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea and then had to fire warning shots and drop bombs to make the ship turn back around.


MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): Our country's defense ministry already gave professional evaluation of the dangerous actions of British destroyer. I would like to add that we treated as blatant Britain's provocation that is contrary with international law and Russian legislation. I would also like to say that we will summon the British ambassador to the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of our country.


NEWTON: Now the U.K.'s defense ministry meantime denies this, saying no warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender. The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law." And now Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine after a military intervention in 2014. And relations between Russia and NATO allies have been tense in the area ever since.

OK. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Just ahead for us, if you can't light up the stadium, flood the streets with color. The Rainbow flags fly in Munich for Euro 2020.


We'll explain why. Plus, China has been turning up military pressure on Taiwan. In an exclusive interview, Taiwan's Foreign Minister tells CNN what the island needs to do about it.


NEWTON: Buckingham Palace now admitting the royal household is not diverse enough. It's revealing for the first time in its annual report that 8.5 percent of its employees are from ethnic minority groups and a recent census shows 14 percent of the population of England and Wales is non-white. Report also says the royal household has been working on becoming more diverse even before Prince Harry and his wife Meghan accused some members of the Royal Family of racism. That was during their big interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year.

To Munich, Germany now where Euro 2020 fans rolled out the rainbow for their home teams match against Hungary. Now football's governing body, UEFA, denied a request to light the stadium in rainbow colors to protest Hungary's new anti-LGBTQ law. So, Munich lit up City Hall and other landmarks and handed out about 20,000 flags to spectators. This has turned into quite an issue.

And for more, we're joined by CNN World Sports, Don Riddell. Really good to see you, Don. You know, the answer from so many sporting bodies has always been no political statements. It now seems like they can no longer escape this.

DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Yes, I think you're quite right. I mean, Paul, for so many years, we heard the line that sport and politics shouldn't mix. But I think we're way past that point now. Athletes realize the power of their platforms and they want to better represent their communities. So many athletes have become socially very active. It's the same with teams, leagues, too, to actually and even governing body.

So for example, UEFA, which is European football's governing body, which made the decision, in this case, to deny Munich City Council's request to light the stadium in those rainbow colors. They're also a politically neutral organization. And they found themselves in a position here where something that shouldn't be political, human rights shouldn't be political, right? But they found themselves in a position where they were now playing in that arena.

So their decision actually, in some ways made the situation even worse because the backlash was really bad PR for UEFA, you showed the flags being handed out, we saw other landmarks in Munich, they were lit up with the rainbow colors on Wednesday night. We saw other stadiums across Germany lit up in the rainbow colors and, of course, all of that generated news coverage about this story, which just kind of further made the case for those who are trying to promote more inclusivity.


Fans took those flags into the arena. Some of those flags were seen being held by the fans in the stadium. In fact, one of them, as a protester, even managed to make it onto the field before the game had started. And he stood there in front of the teams during the national anthem, holding the flag aloft. The game itself, remember, of course, this was a sporting occasion, and it was a crucial game, right at the end of group F in this tournament, so teams' starting to get knocked out at this stage.

The goal that ended up being decisive was scored by Germany's Leon Goretzka. And you couldn't make this story up. He is one of the most outspoken players when it comes to LGBTQ rights. He scored a decisive goal and he celebrated by making the heart symbol with his hands right in front of the Hungary fans. Of course, his message love is love.

Love always wins. And it really was quite an extraordinary moment. That's just one of the goals from that game, Paula. I'll show you the rest of the highlights. CNN WORLD SPORT in 20 minutes and tell you what that goal actually meant because it wants significant.

NEWTON: Yes, for the tournament. And thanks so much, though, for going through that for us on, as you say, becoming more and more difficult to separate sports from politics. Don Riddell, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Now after 26 years in print, Hong Kong's Apple Daily Newspaper is closing. And with its last edition goes a trusted pro-democracy voice, as Beijing tightens its grip on the region. We'll have the latest.


NEWTON: And welcome back. You are watching CNN Newsroom. I'm Paul Newton. Hong Kong's largest and loudest pro-democracy anti-Beijing newspaper is no more. With a crowd of supporters gathered outside its headquarters, Apple Daily has printed its last edition. Just two hours -- just, pardon me, just hours after two more of its journalists were arrested by police.

Now after 26 years on newsstands, all it took was a year for Hong Kong's stricter National Security Law to bring Apple Daily down and many fear press freedom, as a whole, may have gone down with it. CNN's Ivan Watson was there when the final issue went to print.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the sprawling newsroom of one of Hong Kong's most popular newspapers, Apple Daily, but it's not likely to be functioning for much longer because the staff here are working to put what management say will be their final edition to bed, and that's because less than a week ago, hundreds of Hong Kong police raided these offices and began going through computers and hard drives. And they arrested at least five of the newspaper's top executives.


And those individuals are now being accused of, essentially, treason. They're -- they have allegedly incited foreign governments to put sanctions on the leadership of Hong Kong and of mainland China through the articles that they had published. The leadership of Hong Kong vehemently denied that this is an effort to stifle Hong Kong's free press.

CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: And don't try to accuse Hong Kong authorities for using the national security law as a tool to suppress the media or to stifle the freedom of expression.

WATSON (on camera): Throughout a sporadically rainy night, several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the offices of "Apple Daily," and in an impromptu show of support, a gathering that has now attracted the attention of the police.

And now the final edition has been printed in these predawn hours. The headline here says, "Hong Kong's painful farewell in the rain."

The management of "Apple Daily" say since the police seized the company's assets, they cannot afford to continue publishing this daily newspaper. Meaning these printing presses will soon go silent for the very last time.

The British foreign secretary and the European Union have denounced this. And it's part of a broader crackdown in Hong Kong, where opposition politicians have been rounded up and face different kinds of charges.

The pro-democracy marches and protests that once were part of the city's culture have not been tolerated for a year, ostensibly on the grounds of public health because of the coronavirus pandemic. It has taken just one week for the authorities in this city to kill this newspaper.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


NEWTON: So as we just heard there from Ivan, China is tightening its grip on Hong Kong. Now Taiwan's foreign minister is issuing a blunt warning. In an exclusive interview with CNN, Jason Wu said Taiwan needs to

prepare for a possible conflict with Beijing. He spoke as China stepped up flexing its military muscle near the island. The foreign minister talked to CNN's Will Ripley, and he joins me now from Taipei.

Well, good to see you and so good to have you on the ground there. You know, this is a position Taiwan has used, too. They've always been in the crosshairs. What's changed now?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the situation in Hong Kong as one thing. The foreign minister, Joseph Wu, pointed to when he talked to me about the importance for Taiwan to defend its democratic system.

In a wide-ranging interview that lasted nearly an hour, we began talking about what Taiwan considers an imminent threat for the mainland: cyber warfare.


JOSEPH WU, TAIWAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Taiwan has some very good capabilities in dealing with cyberattacks, and that is because of our long-experienced dealing with cyber activities initiated by the Chinese toward Taiwan. They used cyber warfare. They used cognitive warfare, disinformation campaign and the military intimidation to create a lot of anxiety among the Taiwanese people.

RIPLEY: Why is Beijing doing this now? Why are they stepping things up now?

WU: They might have a territorial ambition over Taiwan, for sure, because they've been talking about that. But I think they are also trying to expand their sphere of influence over the East China Sea, over the South China Sea, or beyond the first island chain into the wide Pacific.

So this is not just Taiwan's problem, and we certainly hope that the international community will continue to look at the peace and stability in this region with attention and continue to support Taiwan.

RIPLEY: How much do the actions of the United States and western democracies lead to those measures, that intimidation by China?

WU: If you look at the Chinese long-played military actions in Taiwan, it has started before the G-7 meeting. And it started before the senators arriving in Taiwan by a C-17. But sometimes, the Chinese would like to use excuses.

RIPLEY: Do you believe that China has the intent of unification by force or preventing separation by force?

WU: I think the Chinese are trying to unify Taiwan through peaceful means, if possible, but they want to use force, if necessary. So we need to prepare ourselves for a possible conflict.

RIPLEY: What is the likelihood, in your view, of an all-out military confrontation between Beijing and Taipei?


WU: We hope it doesn't happen. A war between Taiwan and China is in nobody's interest. The important thing is that Taiwan is a democracy. And Taiwan is a high symbol of democracy at a time when China is trying to expand its authoritarian influence, Taiwan is on the frontline.

RIPLEY: You have also been a target of the mainland government. They have accused you of being a separatist and threatened to take whatever legal actions they can if they get their hands on you. What is that like to be a target of the mainland government?

WU: I would continue to say what is right, and I will continue to advocate what is good for the people here in Taiwan.

What I said is only the truth. They cannot tolerate truth. And if they continue to say that they want to pursue me for the rest of my life, really, I'm not really concerned about that. So for that, I think it's an honor to be targeted by the Chinese government.


RIPLEY: I'm told it's actually the first time that Foreign Minister Wu spoke publicly, responding to those attacks on him personally by mainland China.

He says the biggest issue here is what the Taiwanese people want, and he says they want to maintain the status quo and economic relationship with China. A friendly relationship with China.

But he says they do not want to be under the rule of China. And that, of course, is a key sticking point, as China does consider this self- ruling island its own territory, even though it's had its own government for more than 70 years, since the end of China's civil war -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, Will, and it's interesting, though, because the foreign minister it's not just what he said, but that he chose to say it to CNN and now certainly indicative of what's at stake, especially with, as you point out, what's going on in Hong Kong.

Will Ripley, nice to see you there in Taipei. Appreciate it.

Coming up here on CNN, Britney Spears is lashing out at her family while she's pleading for a judge to help her regain control of her life.


NEWTON: Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino has died. The man affectionately known as Noynoy was elected in 2010 and served through 2016.

Aquino's father, a Philippine senator who opposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was assassinated in 1983. His mother, Corazon Aquino, went on to win the presidency three years later.

Benigno Aquin III, dead at 61.

Spanish authorities say everything indicates possible suicide in the death of software magnate John McAfee. Now his body was found in his prison cell in Barcelona Wednesday.

The eccentric 75-year-old was awaiting extradition to the United States on tax evasion charges. He also faced allegations of fraud and money laundering.

McAfee founded the antivirus software firm that bears his name, but he was no longer affiliated with the company.


Britney Spears isn't holding back as she breaks her silence over the ongoing battle to regain control of her life and fortune. The popstar pleaded with a court to end the 13-year legal arrangement that puts her father in charge of much of her life, and she called it abusive.

CNN's Stephanie Elam has more on the bombshell testimony.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Britney Spears is angry. She wants her life back, and she wants the world to know it.

Speaking remotely to a Los Angeles County courtroom, the pop singer saying her wish and dream is for the conservatorship to end, a legal arrangement she's been living with for nearly 13 years.

In the status hearing, Spears expressing frustration over the lack of control of her own life, saying, quote, "I'm traumatized. I'm not happy. I can't sleep. I'm so angry, it's insane," even adding she wants to marry and have another child, both major life moments she says the current conservatorship doesn't allow.

Her father's only response to the artist's stinging criticisms was that he loves and misses her.

The trouble for Britney Spears began in 2007. Her girl-next-door image unraveling in front of the paparazzi, who were always chasing her, capturing her every mood, especially the uncomfortable moments in the singer's personal life.

The following year, multiple health and psychiatric issues landed Spears in the hospital in January.

Her father, Jamie Spears, filed a petition with the Los Angeles County superior court that February, to place her under temporary probate conservatorship.

Jamie Spears and attorney Andrew Wallet becoming permanent coconspirators of Britney's estimated $60 million estate in October 2008. Her father getting control of her medical care, something Spears spoke

emotionally about, saying, quote, "I want to be able to get married and have a baby. I was told I can't get married. I have an IUD inside me, but this so-called team won't let me go to the doctor to remove it, because they don't want me to have any more children. This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good."

LISA MACCARLEY, CONSERVATORSHIP ATTORNEY: Usually, most conservatorships in public (ph) court are for the elderly. People that have -- have exhibited memory deficits or judgment deficits that are pervasive and most likely going to endure for the rest of their lives.

ELAM: But through all this, Britney Spears kept working. While under this conservatorship, releasing several albums, two that went platinum.


ELAM: Holding down her "Pieces of Me" Las Vegas residency, reportedly earning her $30 million, and serving as a judge on "The X Factor."

Attorney Andrew Wallet resigned in the spring of 2019, leaving Spears' father in control of just about every aspect of Britney's life.

But last summer, Britney pushed back. In legal documents, her court- appointed lawyer stating Britney is, quote, "strongly opposed" to having her father as conservator and requested that Jamie be removed.

Instead, a judge in November added Bessemer Trust, a private wealth and investment management firm, as a co-conservator to oversee her estate.

Now Spears wants to pick her own lawyer and, as she said in court, quote, "I just want my life back."

(on camera): As this was just a status hearing, up next will be a new court date that will be set where Britney Spears will likely petition the court to end the conservatorship.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.


NEWTON: And thanks for joining me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton. WORLD SPORT starts right after the break.