collapse of Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based virtual currency exchange that declared bankruptcy in 2014 after huge, unexplained losses of Bitcoin.

If cryptocurrency prices do not recover, “a lot of them will have to go back to work again,” Clinton Donnelly, an American tax lawyer specializing in cryptocurrencies, said of some of those gathered at Bam Bam.

Even so, Mr. Donnelly and other bar regulars said their belief in crypto remained unshaken.

Thomas Roessler, wearing a black Bitcoin shirt and drinking a beer “inspired by” the currency, said he had come with his wife and two young children to decide whether to move to Portugal from Germany. He first invested in Bitcoin in 2014 and, more recently, sold a small rental apartment in Germany to invest even more.

Mr. Roessler was concerned about the drop in crypto values but said he was convinced the market would rebound. Moving to Portugal could lower his taxes and give his family the chance to buy affordable property in a warm climate, he said. They had come to the bar to learn from others who had made the move.

“We have not met a lot of people who live this way,” Mr. Roessler said. Then he bought another round of drinks and paid for them with Bitcoin.

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This Year Marks The Fifth Anniversary Of Hurricanes Maria And Irma

By Newsy Staff
September 20, 2022

Five years on, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still rebuilding and repairing after hurricanes Irma and Maria.

This month marks five years since hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  

Both Irma and Maria were Category 5 hurricanes that made their way through the regions within two weeks of each other, killing dozens of people by the official count — although many experts believe the actual tally was far greater. The hurricanes also caused billions of dollars in damage to both those island regions. 

In the U.S. Virgin Islands in particular, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Maria damaged or destroyed 70% of the buildings on St. Croix, the region’s largest island. The hurricanes tore through a lot of the island’s infrastructure, including schools and the island’s only hospital. The power and communications networks in most of the USVI went down, with 80% to 90% of transmission and distribution systems destroyed. It was damage that would take months to repair and restore. 

That’s a daunting task for any region, but especially so for one that’s as small and isolated as the USVI. 

“It’s almost scary at times because you think ‘how do you do an $11 billion repair with 87,000 people and a workforce of only about 42,000?'” said U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. 

Bryan spoke with Newsy about the challenges and successes in their recovery, and where there is still work to be done.  

While acknowledging the intense damage, Bryan said the recovery efforts offer new hope for rebuilding in a way that better prepares the homes and the power grid in the area for future hurricanes or similar natural disasters. 

“But what we’re seeing is better building codes produce more resilient buildings. And then we’re having an opportunity through this storm. We built our our power grid three times in the last 30 years, completely. This time, we’re undergrounding more than 50% of the grid. You have some opportunities for renewables. That’s going to make every Virgin Islander a little more energy independent. And we’re just seeing a way now to because the most debilitating factor in our economy is the price of power,” said Bryan. 

The price of power is no joke. The USVI has some of the highest electricity rates in the U.S. and the world.  

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, midway through 2021, the average price of electricity paid by U.S. Virgin Island residents was about 43 cents per kilowatt hour. To compare, the average for the U.S. was about 14 cents for that same time period.   

Now, that pricing is in part because of petroleum fuel surcharges. The island relies heavily on imported fossil fuels to power its grid. But in rebuilding since the hurricanes, Gov. Bryan says the goal is to rely more on renewables like wind and solar energy. 

“So we depend a lot on the tropical wind making that power shift, the things that we’re able to do, adding new generators to the plant, creating a microgrid, adding a whole lot of solar power will allow us to get our power built a little bit closer to what normal Americans or mainland Americans [experience]. And that alone is going to just strengthen our families so much and, of course, create some resounding effects in our economy,” he said. 

Bryan also mentioned the caveat of climate change. Its growing effects could complicate life on the Virgin Islands further and increase hardships for its residents. Many of those residents are still coming to terms with the toll of Irma and Maria — not just in the physical aspects of their lives, but also in the mental aspects. 

“I think when you see in the Virgin Islands, we look at the mental health wholeness that’s in our faces, the people on the street, whether drug addiction, alcohol, they’re self-medicating themselves. But the real problem is a deeper problem, a deep seated problem, where as people of color, we don’t like to talk about our mental health. And we if there’s such a stigma around it, we’ve come a long way it with that. But we have a lot to go,” said Bryan. 

While the USVI’s rebuilding efforts have seen relative success, many areas of Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover from the massive devastation the hurricanes brought five years ago.  

Puerto Rico is not only a much larger territory, but it is also governed in a different way. It has 78 mayors through whom relief efforts and money needed to be individually funneled and utilized, while the USVI has a unitary executive branch. That means there are no mayors, and governors hold those responsibilities. 

Puerto Rico’s power grid also runs mainly on fossil fuels, but its recovery has not been on par with the USVI. And the company that currently controls its power grid has a problematic record. Newsy has previously reported on the damage from Maria and Irma in Puerto Rico as part of our documentary series, “In Real Life.” We investigated the region’s continuing power failures and how a private sector monopoly over the grid could be what’s keeping Puerto Ricans in the dark. 


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Twitter Whistleblower Testifies Before Congress Over Security Flaws

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
September 13, 2022

Former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko alleges that the social media platform ignored engineers and led them to “prioritize profit over security.”

A former security chief at Twitter told Congress that the social media platform is plagued by weak cyber defenses, privacy threats and the inability to control millions of fake accounts. Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, a respected cybersecurity expert, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to lay out his allegations Tuesday.

“Twitter’s misleading the public, lawmakers” and regulators, Zatko said as he began his sworn testimony.

“They don’t know what data they have, where it lives and where it came from and so, unsurprisingly, they can’t protect it,” Zatko said. “It doesn’t matter who has keys if there are no locks.”

Zatko said “Twitter leadership ignored its engineers,” in part because “their executive incentives led them to prioritize profit over security.”

His message echoed one brought to Congress against another social media giant last year, but unlike that Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, Zatko hasn’t brought troves of internal documents to back up his claims.

Zatko was the head of security for the influential platform until he was fired early this year. He filed a whistleblower complaint in July with Congress, the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Among his most serious accusations is that Twitter violated the terms of a 2011 FTC settlement by falsely claiming that it had put stronger measures in place to protect the security and privacy of its users.

Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who heads the Judiciary Committee, said Zatko has detailed flaws “that may pose a direct threat to Twitter’s hundreds of millions of users as well as to American democracy.”

“Twitter is an immensely powerful platform and can’t afford gaping vulnerabilities,” he said.

Unknown to Twitter users, there’s far more personal information disclosed than they — or sometimes even Twitter itself — realize, Zatko testified. He said “basic systemic failures” that were brought forward by company engineers were not addressed.

The FTC has been “a little over its head,” and far behind European counterparts, in policing the sort of privacy violations that have occurred at Twitter, Zatko said.

Zatko’s claims could also affect Tesla billionaire Elon Musk’s attempt to back out of his $44 billion deal to acquire the social platform. Musk claims that Twitter has long underreported spam bots on its platform and cites that as a reason to nix the deal he struck in April.

Many of Zatko’s claims are uncorroborated and appear to have little documentary support. Twitter has called Zatko’s description of events “a false narrative … riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies” and lacking important context.

Among the assertions from Zatko that drew attention from lawmakers Tuesday was that Twitter knowingly allowed the government of India to place its agents on the company payroll, where they had access to highly sensitive data on users. Twitter’s lack of ability to log how employees accessed user accounts made it hard for the company to detect when employees were abusing their access, Zatko said.

Zatko also accuses the company of deception in its handling of automated “spam bots,” or fake accounts. That allegation is at the core of billionaire tycoon Elon Musk’s attempt to back out of his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. Musk and Twitter are locked in a bitter legal battle, with Twitter having sued Musk to force him to complete the deal. The Delaware judge overseeing the case ruled last week that Musk can include new evidence related to Zatko’s allegations in the high-stakes trial, which is set to start Oct. 17.

Sen. Charles Grassley, the committee’s ranking Republican, said Tuesday that Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal declined to testify at the hearing, citing the ongoing legal proceedings with Musk. But the hearing is “more important than Twitter’s civil litigation in Delaware,” Grassley said. Twitter declined to comment on Grassley’s remarks.

In his complaint, Zatko accused Agrawal as well as other senior executives and board members of numerous violations, including making “false and misleading statements to users and the FTC about the Twitter platform’s security, privacy and integrity.”

Zatko, 51, first gained prominence in the 1990s as a pioneer in the ethical hacking movement and later worked in senior positions at an elite Defense Department research unit and at Google. He joined Twitter in late 2020 at the urging of then-CEO Jack Dorsey.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.


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Exonerees Share How They Cope With Mental Health Challenges

Newsy spoke with two people who lost decades of their life because of crimes they didn’t commit and how they cope with all that stolen time.

Johnny Pinchback spent 27 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.  

“It was hell, right here on Earth,” he said. “Pure hell.”

Pinchback was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 99 years in prison.  

“Man, it is very hurtful, very painful,” he continued. “A whole bunch of guys that were sent there for rape crimes and child molestation, that couldn’t defend themselves — they were raped themselves, beat up and raped themselves, and so many of them killed themselves.”

Thanks to DNA evidence and the Texas Innocence Project, Pinchback has been a free man for 11 years but says his readjustment into society has been its own challenge.   

“After I got out, you know, I was lost, man,” Pinchback said. “When I got out, it was a shock, man. It was a cultural shock.”

Despite how tough his experience has been on his psyche, Pinchback says formal therapy didn’t work for him.  

“They sent a few of us to it,” he said. “We were like, ‘Man, we do counseling and do therapy for each other.’ And that’s what we did.”   

Chantal Fahmy is a professor at the University of Texas San Antonio and has spent her career studying the formerly incarcerated. 

She says reentry into society is its own punishment and takes a toll mentally.  

“Their education really hasn’t changed all that much. So, it’s not like they’re attaining these jobs that they weren’t able to get prior,” she said. “They’re ineligible for a lot of forms of public assistance, like welfare. They’re alienated from mainstream life, period.” 

A study from the University of Chicago compares the mental toll of being wrongfully imprisoned to the anguish suffered by military veterans and torture survivors.  

Researchers say common effects among the exonerated include severe PTSD, persistent personality changes, depression and complex feelings of loss.

Fahmy says the resources specifically for exonerees is very limited, but for anyone leaving prison, family support can have a positive impact.   

“When you have a solid support system in both of those ways, whether it’s from family or whether it’s from friends, your mental health is better,” she said. 

Anna Vasquez spent 13 years behind bars for a crime that never happened.   

She and three other women were charged with gang raping two children, and their story was featured in the documentary “Southwest of Salem.” 

Ultimately, their conviction was thrown out due to inaccurate scientific testimony and an admission by the accuser that her father forced her to make false allegations. 

Vasquez now serves as the director of outreach for the Innocence Project of Texas and says she hopes she can be that resource for people in her position.  

“I think it brings them some comfort,” she said. “You know, when I speak to them, it’s not coming from an attorney, or a paralegal, you know, it is somebody that has actually been there, gone through what they’re going through. … It’s just hard to relate to somebody that has never been in prison.”

As technology has advanced, exonerations have become more common.  

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, more than 3,000 people have been wrongly convicted and ultimately exonerated since 1989, amounting to some 25,000 years lost behind bars.

“I’m still a work in progress, you know?” Vasquez said. “Actually, yesterday, it was my brother’s, I guess, death anniversary. I don’t know how I should say that, but it makes me mad when I think about [the fact] I only had two years with him. It’s anger, frustration. Unbelievable that something like this could happen.”

Those 3,000 people who have now been exonerated are also reintegrating into society, while dealing with unimaginable trauma and potential mental health challenges. 

“Talking about your feelings or your emotions in prison was not to be done, you know?” Vasquez said. “You hid under a cover and you cried. So, the way that I coped with it was, I was hopeful. But I will not tell you that I didn’t have my bad days. And you know, I was depressed, but I always seem to pick myself up.”

Pinchback says the time he spends with other people who have been wrongfully convicted is his own kind of therapy.  

“I’ve got another friend about 10 minutes from here,” he said. “He did 31 years wrongfully convicted and sometimes we’ll joke around and stuff like that about prison we’ll be joking and stuff like, ‘Hey man, I’m going to the commissary today. Would you bring me three soups?’ … Then we’ll say, ‘Hey man, it is a blessing for that to be behind us.'” 

Both Pinchback and Vasquez regularly speak to law students and tell their story with the goal of making that story less common.  

“That’s my job,” Pinchback said. “It’s my job until I die, man, until I can’t do it no more. It’s my job.”

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.


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Ketamine For Psychedelic Mental Health Healing Grows In Popularity

By Maura Sirianni
September 9, 2022

Research shows that when used in a controlled clinical environment, ketamine can have healing benefits.

Over the past 50 years, research on psychedelics has come a long way from a time when psychedelic albums ruled the charts and psychedelic drugs influenced American counterculture.

Today, research shows some of those same drugs are being used to help people escape a dark place.

“I mean, it’s pretty profound,” said Katy Parr, who sought ketamine therapy.

Parr, of Houston, has long struggled with depression, and says for years she’s been prescribed several different anti-depressants. When the pills failed her, she turned to talk therapy as the only treatment that helped; until she saw a documentary on psychedelic healing.

“I couldn’t sit through the episode; I did watch the whole thing, but it took me two hours because I had to pause so often to sob. Watching their stories was very affirming. I thought, ‘OK, I am sick,'” said Parr.

From there, Parr was recommended by her therapist as a candidate for ketamine therapy and says she’s been benefiting from the sessions ever since.

“There were some moments with some emotional trauma that I have, and I was able to let that go during a ketamine session,” said Parr.

Parr receives treatment at Field Trip Health in Houston, a Toronto-based psychedelic therapy company that has expanded in recent years with clinics in cities across the U.S.

“If the goal is to explore trauma, each session has its own value,” said Dr. Michael Muench, who leads the Field Trip Health clinic in Atlanta.

During sessions, Dr. Muench administers the ketamine injections and checks the patient’s vital signs, while a therapist helps ease the experience.

“So much about psychedelic therapy is about creating a container that feels safe. Part of feeling safe is feeling like what you’re doing is legitimate, supported, and a good and healthy thing,” said Dr. Muench.

The guided experience takes patients on a journey or “trip.” In a dimly lit room, patients wear an eye mask and headphones; it’s a comfortable space for them to address trauma and experience somatic release — something Parr says she experienced during her fourth session.

“It can be extreme laughing, extreme crying; it’s a release of energy and feeling from the body,” said Parr.

In 1999, ketamine became a schedule III non-narcotic substance with accepted medical uses. In 2019, the FDA approved a ketamine nasal spray for treatment-resistant depression, and now doctors and therapists use it regularly in a clinical setting. And while the DEA restricts many other psychedelics, researchers have found great benefits of substances like MDMA and psilocybin, or magic mushrooms.

The Johns Hopkins psychedelic research unit found psilocybin is effective in easing anxiety and depression, even treating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Ketamine results may not be the same for everyone who struggles with depression, and while Parr says she will likely fight depressive symptoms for the rest of her life, the ketamine treatments, along with seeing a regular therapist, have given her a new outlook on life.

“It allowed me to find the pathway to such fulfillment in life and enrichment in my life,” said Parr.

Dr. Muench says the benefits of four to six ketamine sessions can last about a month, with patients returning less frequently for maintenance treatments.

Researchers found ketamine is anywhere from 50% to 80% effective in improving a patient’s mental health.


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Sound Designer Ben Burtt Shares How Skywalker Ranch Shaped ‘Star Wars’

The new Disney+ series “Light & Magic” pulls back the curtain on visual effect artists — and legendary sound designers.

Ben Burtt has lived in a galaxy far, far away from the very start. 

“I first came out here with a gang led by George Lucas in 1978,” Burtt said.

He was hired by George Lucas to record sounds for a movie called “Star Wars.” His job was to find the sounds for ships, creatures and lightsabers.

“I was very fortunate to arrive on the scene in sound at a time when a revolution took place,” Burtt said. “From a creative standpoint, there was more of a demand for — especially with special effects movies — demand for new material, not just a recycling of sound libraries from the past.”

Burtt became a legendary sound designer who makes an appearance the new Disney+ documentary series, “Light & Magic.” The six episodes highlight the groundbreaking visual effects in “Star Wars” and many other films.

“Light & Magic” director Larry Kasdan, who also co-wrote “The Empire Strikes Back” and a Han Solo spinoff, says a film just isn’t the same without good sound.

 “That’s always been the easiest experiment you can do in movies is turn off the sound,” Kasdan said. “Suddenly it’s just, ‘Oh that’s an interesting image, but I don’t see what got me so excited.’ Then you start adding back the sound, and you say, ‘Oh, that’s it.'”

Skywalker Ranch is the secluded filmmaker’s retreat George Lucas built near San Francisco after the success of “Star Wars.” There, Burtt and his team found the perfect place to record a huge library of iconic movie sounds. 

“When George Lucas first bought the ranch, this was an empty valley here,” Burtt said while walking the grounds. “We had a shooting range right in this area where we are where we did all the guns for ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.'” There’s a nice redwood forest on that ridge there, and we used to go up in there because of the acoustics were really nice. We even did Luke running through the swamps of Dagobah, jumping, running along with Yoda on his back.”

Burtt says that’s the magic of sound: You can record it anywhere as long as you get the right kind. 

He is now the winner of multiple Academy Awards.

“In a way, whatever [Industrial Light & Magic] does, however spectacular, the illusion is not complete until sound is added,” Burtt said. “You always feel like you’re part of the ILM team, in a sense. You’re part of the filmmaking team, giving a final touch to the illusions.”

Burtt has upheld a legendary career, creating old-school sounds that are still helping shape the future of visual effects.


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Woman Describes Frequent Sex With R. Kelly Before She Was 18

Jane — the pseudonym for the woman central to R. Kelly’s trial — said she was 15 when they first had intercourse. Kelly would have been around 30.

A woman who has been central to R. Kelly’s legal troubles for more than two decades testified Thursday that the R&B singer had sex with her “hundreds” of times before she turned 18 years old, starting when she was 15.

Jane — the pseudonym for the now 37-year-old woman at Kelly’s trial on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges — told jurors that in the late 1990s when she was 13, she asked the Grammy award-winning singer to be her godfather because she saw him as an inspiration and mentor.

She said within weeks, Kelly would call her and say sexual things. She said he first touched her breasts and other parts of her body when she was around 14 at a Chicago recording studio, and that around that time, he “started penetration” at his home at his North Side Chicago home. She told jurors she was 15 when they first had intercourse. Kelly, 55, would have been around 30 years old at the time.

Asked by a prosecutor how she would know what to do sexually, Jane answered, “He would tell me what to do.” Asked how many times they had sex before she turned 18, she answered quietly: “Uncountable times. … Hundreds.”

Kelly, who is serving a 30-year prison sentence for his conviction in a New York this year on federal charges alleging he used his fame to sexually abuse fans, is standing trial in his hometown of Chicago on several other federal charges. Among the most serious is conspiracy to obstruct justice by allegedly rigging a 2008 trial on state child pornography charges stemming from a purported video of him and Jane having sex when she was underage. Among other things, prosecutors say Kelly paid off and threatened Jane to ensure that she didn’t testify at that trial. She didn’t, and he was ultimately acquitted.

Kelly is also standing trial on charges of producing child pornography and enticing minors for sex.

Unlike at the 2008 trial, Jane cooperated with prosecutors leading up to the current trial and is a pivotal witness.

Speaking softly and tentatively when she first took the stand Thursday, Jane described her upbringing in a musical family in a Chicago suburb, including that she was home-schooled because she was in a touring musical group that she joined when she was about 12.

Jane first met Kelly in the late 1990s when she was in junior high school. She had tagged along to Kelly’s Chicago recording studio with her aunt, a professional singer who worked with Kelly. Soon after that meeting, Jane told her parents that Kelly was going to be her godfather.

Prosecutors have said Kelly shot the video of Jane in a log cabin-themed room at his North Side Chicago home between 1998 and 2000. In it, the girl is heard calling the man “daddy.” Federal prosecutors say that she and Kelly had sex hundreds of times over the years in his homes, recording studios and tour buses.

Kelly, who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side to become a star singer, songwriter and producer, knew a conviction in 2008 would effectively end his life as he knew it, and so prosecutors say he conspired to fix that trial.

According to prosecutors, Kelly told the parents and Jane to leave Chicago, paying for them to travel to the Bahamas and Cancun, Mexico. When they returned, prosecutors say Kelly sought to isolate Jane, moving her around to different hotels. When called before a state grand jury looking into the video, Jane, her father and mother denied it was her in it.

Tears streamed down his faced on June 13, 2008, when he was acquitted on all counts of child pornography. Some of the jurors told reporters after the trial that they weren’t convinced that the female in the video was who state prosecutors said she was.

Before the 2008 trial, Kelly carried a duffle bag full of sex tapes everywhere he went for years, but some tapes later went missing, according to court filings. In the 2000s, bootleg copies of some videos appeared on street corners throughout the U.S.

In the early 2000s, the aunt showed the parents a copy of a video she said depicted their daughter having sex with Kelly. When they confronted Kelly, he told them, “You’re with me or against me,” a government filing says.

The parents took it as a threat.

Kelly, who has denied any wrongdoing, has been trailed for decades by complaints and allegations about his sexual behavior. The scrutiny intensified after the #MeToo era and the 2019 six-part documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”

Kelly also faces four counts of enticement of minors for sex — one each for four other accusers. They, too, are expected to testify.

Prosecutors told jurors that the evidence includes at least three videos showing Kelly having sex with underage girls.

Two Kelly associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-defendants. McDavid is accused of helping Kelly fix the 2008 trial, while Brown is charged with receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they also have denied wrongdoing.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.


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R. Kelly Jury To Hear Opening Statements At Trial In Chicago

By Associated Press
August 17, 2022

Kelly is accused of enticing minors for sex, producing child pornography and fixing his 2008 child pornography trial at which he was acquitted.

Opening statements set for Wednesday give prosecutors and R. Kelly’s attorneys their first chance to address jurors directly about charges that accuse the R&B singer of enticing of minors for sex, producing child pornography and rigging his 2008 pornography trial.

Both the prosecution and Kelly’s legal team told the judge earlier in the week that they would like about an hour each to tell jurors about the kind of evidence they can expect to see and hear. The evidentiary stage of the federal trial is expected to last about a month.

Lawyers for two Kelly co-defendants will also address jurors before the government begins calling witnesses later Wednesday. Prosecutors haven’t said who they will call first.

The jury was impaneled Tuesday night with prosecutors and defense attorneys arguing toward the end of the process about whether the government was improperly attempting to keep some Black people off the jury.

Kelly, who is Black, is accused of enticing minors for sex, of producing child pornography and of fixing his 2008 state child pornography trial at which he was acquitted.

As the sides began exercising peremptory challenges — in which they can remove a fixed number of potential jurors from the pool — Kelly attorney Jennifer Bonjean accused prosecutors of seeking to strike Black people from the jury “to deny Mr. Kelly a jury of his peers.”

Prosecutors noted multiple African American people had already made it onto the jury before the defense objected, and they argued their reasons for wanting to strike some had nothing to do with race. In one case, they said an older man appeared to have a hard time staying awake.

Judge Harry Leinenweber partially agreed with the defense, disallowing prosecutors from striking three Black people from the jury, and restoring them. About half the 12 jurors impaneled were identified as Black by the judge, prosecutor and defense attorneys. Six alternates were also selected.

Some of the jurors selected had watched at least part of a six-part documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” about sex abuse allegations against the Grammy award-winning singer. Watching it wasn’t an automatic disqualification as long as a would-be juror could assure Leinenweber they could still be impartial.

Among the 12 jurors selected was a retired real estate agent who had one son who was a prosecutor and another son who was a defense attorney. Another juror was a librarian.

Among those dismissed was a woman who said she had unfavorable views of police and judges and a man who said he didn’t think the IRS should exist.

One central focus of the trial will be on whether Kelly threatened and paid off a girl with whom he allegedly videotaped himself having sex when he was about 30 and she was no older than 14. That’s the allegation underpinning another of the charges against Kelly, conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Jurors in the 2008 child pornography trial acquitted Kelly, with some later explaining that they felt they had no choice because the girl did not testify. The woman, now in her 30s and referred to in court filings only as “Minor 1,” will be the government’s star witness.

When she testifies, prosecutors explained in court Monday that they won’t use her real name and won’t refer to her as Minor 1. Instead, they will call her by a single pseudonym, “Jane.”

Kelly, 55, already has already been sentenced by a New York federal judge to a 30-year prison term for a 2021 conviction on charges that he used his fame to sexually abuse other young fans.

Kelly, who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side to become a star singer, songwriter and producer, will be around 80 before qualifying for early release based on his sentence imposed in New York, which he is appealing.

Kelly faces four counts of enticement of minors for sex — one each for four other accusers. They, too, are expected to testify.

Two Kelly associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-defendants at the Chicago trial. McDavid is accused of helping Kelly fix the 2008 trial, while Brown is charged with receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they also have denied wrongdoing.

Minor 1 is expected to testify that she was on video having sex with Kelly. The recording was at the heart of the monthlong 2008 trial and was played for jurors almost every day. Prosecutors say Kelly threatened and sought to pay off Minor 1 and her parents so they wouldn’t testify in 2008. None of them did.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.


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The Law Behind Presidential Records Belonging To The National Archives

Congress passed the Presidential Records Act after Watergate, preserving documents that otherwise would have been Pres. Nixon’s personal property.

Supporters of former President Trump are reacting to an unprecedented move.

“We think it’s awful what happened yesterday. We think it’s an abuse of power,” Trump supporter Justin Nevarez said.

“I gotta stand. I don’t care if they kill me today,” Trump supporter Ben Pollock said.

The FBI executed a search warrant on property belonging to Trump.

“I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

Unsealed court documents reveal the FBI took 11 sets of classified records from the Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home ranging from ‘top secret’ to ‘sensitive compartmented information.’ Much of the information would harm U.S. interests if it became public.

The FBI also seized potential presidential records, like the order pardoning Trump’s political ally Roger Stone and information about the president of France.  

Trump and some of his allies say the documents were “all declassified” before he left office. But some archivists, like Bob Clark, who are “specially trained in preserving original material and helping people obtain it” are raising the red flag on presidential records.  

“Regardless of the content of the documents — whether they’re classified or not — federal presidential records are the people’s property,” he said. “Once a president transitions out of office — at the moment that that person is no longer president, they become the legal property of the National Archives and their responsibility.”

In fact, the National Archives and Records Administration, which is like the nation’s filing cabinet, has been working to obtain Trump’s presidential records since he left office in January of 2021. 

According to a statement, NARA did receive some of Trump’s presidential records that month, including some paper records torn up by the president himself.  

A year later, in January 2022, NARA arranged to transport 15 boxes of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago to Washington, with understanding that Trump’s representatives would continue looking for any other records to turn over. 

Amid all the back and forth Newsy wondered: Why do presidential records belong to National Archives?  

For starters, it’s the law. 

According to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, “any documentary materials relating to the political activities of the president or members of the president’s staff, but only if such activities relate to or have a direct effect on… duties of the president” are the people’s property.   

Not all materials make the cut, though.

“It could be, you know, massive quantities of mail from the public, requests for birthday greetings, things like that, that are just so vast in number but have so little informational value that they don’t have long term political value,” Clark continued. “But prior approval is required to do that.”

Clark says Congress’ drafting of the Presidential Records Act guaranteed that these records would be accessible to the public for transparency, accountability and historical research. 

Before this law came into play, there were no rules on how to manage presidential records. They were actually considered private property. 

From President Warren G. Harding’s wife claiming to have burned all his records, to President Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, burning all his father’s war letters — anything could go, until FDR took a different approach.

“It was Franklin Roosevelt who set the precedent of giving them, deeding them as a gift to the American people to be in the possession and custody of the National Archives,” Clark said. “FDR created the Presidential Library.”

So why enact the law?  

“The reason why the Presidential Records Act was necessary has one very simple explanation: Richard Nixon,” Clark continued. “Congress was understandably concerned as a result of their investigations into Watergate because the papers and tapes were technically Nixon’s personal property under the way the law was contrived at the time. They were concerned that the papers and tapes would be taken with Nixon, and in fact, Nixon wanted them to go with him to Yorba Linda when he resigned from the office. Congress passed the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act in 1974, that essentially declared this previously personal property of Richard Nixon’s was now federal property. It was just like taking a part of your yard to build a highway … It was the first time the Congress asserted itself over presidential papers and records like that.”

Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were the last presidents whose records were their own. Ronald Reagan’s were the first Presidential Records Act library records. And Barack Obama’s will be the first fully digital presidential library. 

“Up to this point, there has always been this kind of delicate dance that happens and it has to be well-timed and well-practiced and ably-executed, like it has always been up to this point,” Clark said. “But the point that I would make is that the Presidential Records Act depends on the good will of those involved for the successful execution of it.”

That good will has seemingly soured, as what has historically been a run-of-the-mill transfer of records turns into controversy.  

“I think that amidst all of the noise over what is where, it’s important for the American people to know that this is their property,” Clark continued. “Regardless of the content of the documents, whether they’re classified or not, presidential records are the people’s property. And a former president, who is now a private citizen, has absolutely no right to claim those records as his or her personal property. They’re the people’s property.”


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R. Kelly Jury Selection Underway For Trial Fixing Allegations

By Associated Press
August 15, 2022

Jurors acquitted Kelly on all charges in that 2008 trial, some explaining later that they felt they had no choice because the girl did not testify.

Jury selection got underway Monday at R. Kelly’s federal trial in his hometown of Chicago, where the R&B singer faces charges that he rigged his 2008 state child pornography trial by threatening and paying off a girl with whom he allegedly filmed himself having sex when he was around 30 and she was no older than 14.

Jurors acquitted Kelly on all charges in that 2008 trial, some explaining later that they felt they had no choice because the girl did not testify. The woman, now in her 30s and referred to in filings only as “Minor 1,” will be the government’s star witness in the federal trial.

Kelly, 55, was already sentenced by a New York federal judge to a 30-year prison term for a 2021 conviction on charges he used his fame to sexually abuse other young fans.

Kelly, wearing a light gray suit and a tie, sat next to his attorney Jennifer Bonjean as court began Monday. Bonjean introduced herself, Kelly and other attorneys representing him. Kelly wore a mask, as did everyone in court due to coronavirus precautions.

Before at least two dozen potential jurors were brought in, the judge said he hoped to select 12 jurors and six alternates Monday and Tuesday from a pool of 125. Once a jury is chosen, the panel will hear opening statements from prosecutors and the defense before the first witness is called.

Kelly, who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side to become a star singer, songwriter and producer, faces multiple charges at the federal trial. They include four counts of enticement of minors for sex — one each for four other accusers. They, too, are slated to testify.

Before potential jurors were brought in, Bonjean asked the judge to exclude anyone who watched the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” that revisited old allegations against Kelly and spotlighted new ones. An estimated 12.8 million people watched the six-part series that premiered in January 2019.

The judge denied that motion but said the jurors would be questioned about the program.

Convictions in Chicago could add decades to Kelly’s New York sentence, which he is appealing. With the New York sentence alone, Kelly will be around 80 before qualifying for early release.

Two Kelly associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-defendants at the Chicago trial. McDavid is accused of helping Kelly fix the 2008 trial, while Brown is charged with receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they have also denied any wrongdoing.

Two state cases are also pending. One is a multiple count sex-abuse case out of Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago. The other is a solicitation case in Minnesota. No trial dates are set for either.

Minor 1 is expected to testify that she was on video having sex with Kelly. The recording was at the heart of the monthlong 2008 trial and was played for jurors almost every day.

Minor 1 first met Kelly in the late 1990s when she was in junior high school. She had tagged along to Kelly’s Chicago recording studio with her aunt, a professional singer working with Kelly. Soon after, Minor 1 told her parents Kelly was going to become her godfather.

Prosecutors say Kelly later threatened and sought to pay off Minor 1 and her parents so they wouldn’t testify at the 2008 trial. None of them did.

Double jeopardy rules bar the prosecution of someone for the same crimes they were acquitted of earlier. That doesn’t apply to the Chicago federal trial because prosecutors are alleging different crimes related to Minor 1, including obstruction of justice.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.


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