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R. Kelly’s sexual abuse trial in New York delayed to July
7 February 2020, 12:07 AM

A federal judge on Thursday delayed R. Kelly’s racketeering, sexual abuse and bribery trial in Brooklyn, New York to July 7, so it would not conflict with the singer’s upcoming trial in a separate Chicago case.

US District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn federal court said the scheduled April 27 trial date in Chicago made the May 18 target to begin the Brooklyn trial “somewhat unrealistic.”

Kelly, who federal authorities have detained in Chicago,attended the Brooklyn hearing by video conference, wearing an orange, V-neck short-sleeve shirt over a white T-shirt.

His lawyer Douglas Anton supported the delay, citing”voluminous” evidence to review and that Kelly’s defense lawyers”don’t even know who two of the alleged victims are.”

Questionnaires will be given to about 400 to 500 prospective jurors in May, from whom lawyers hope to find 200 to question further in July.

Known for such hits as “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Bump N’Grind,” Kelly, 53, has faced sexual abuse allegations dating back more than two decades, including accounts from some accusers in the January 2019 Lifetime documentary “Surviving R.Kelly.”

He has pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges in several cases filed in New York, Illinois, and Minnesota last year.

The Brooklyn prosecutors have accused Kelly of running a criminal scheme in which women and underage girls were recruited to have sexual activity with him.

They also charged Kelly with bribing an Illinois official in August 1994 to obtain a fake identification for the singer Aaliyah so they could get married.

Kelly was then 27 and Aaliyah was 15, but according to published reports their marriage license listed Aaliyah’s age as 18. The marriage was annulled in 1995. Aaliyah died at age 22 in a 2001 plane crash in the Bahamas.

Prosecutors in the Chicago case charged Kelly last July with engaging in sex acts with five minors, recording some of his alleged abuse on video, and using threats to keep victims quiet.

Kelly was also charged last February by Illinois state prosecutors with aggravated sexual abuse, and last August by Minnesota state prosecutors with soliciting sex from a minor.

In 2008, Kelly was acquitted at trial on state child pornography charges in Illinois.

Kenyan, US officials to begin work on new trade deal – Kenyatta
6 February 2020, 11:10 PM

Top US and Kenyan trade officials will work to establish a framework for a US-Kenyan trade and investment agreement, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told US business leaders on Thursday after a meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Kenyatta told a forum at the US Chamber of Commerce that Kenya was keen to attract more US investment and become a hub for US companies doing business in Africa and beyond.

“It was a very clear tone of urgency for these two offices to move with speed to bring this to a conclusion,” he told several hundred executives at the event.

 

Australia receives a bittersweet bush fires reprieve with floods, cyclone
6 February 2020, 4:37 AM

Many Australians were experiencing a bittersweet break from the threat of bush fires on Thursday,with heavy rain deluging many areas and a tropical cyclone forecast to hit the country’s northwest over the weekend.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued severe thunderstorm warnings for the southeast Queensland state, while parts of New South Wales state were inundated during flash floods caused by heavy rainfall that is expected to continue for several days.

“There’s a great feed of easterly warm, moist air feeding into the system and we’re seeing that kick off in the form of rainfall today,” BOM forecaster Mike Funnell told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“We are expecting those larger totals and heavier rainfall to come into the northeast coast of NSW and then sort of track slowly southwards.”

A tropical low off the Kimberley coast in Western Australia state was forecast to develop into a cyclone that could hit land on Saturday.

The cooler and wetter weather has helped douse or slow some of the country’s most damaging and long-running wildfires, which have burned through more than 11.7 million hectares of land since September.

The prolonged bush fire season has killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion native animals.

About 2 500 homes have been destroyed.

Officials, however, have warned the threat was not yet over and that there will likely be weeks more of firefighting ahead.

Around 60 fires were still burning across NSW and Victoria,the country’s most populous states, with around half of those classified as uncontained.

Ten more virus infections on cruise ship in Japan
6 February 2020, 4:12 AM

Ten more people on a quarantined cruise liner in the port of Yokohama south of Tokyo have tested positive for coronavirus, the health ministry said on Thursday.

About 3 700 people are facing at least two weeks quarantine on the Diamond Princess ship after 10 people were initially confirmed with the virus and moved to medical facilities.

The total number of coronavirus patients in Japan is now 45.

Carnival’s Diamond Princess was caught up in the global coronavirus epidemic after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man tested positive for the virus after disembarking late last month.

The ship arrived in Yokohama on Monday after a 14-day round trip.

One passenger said the vessel docked in the port to take on supplies, as food delivery to rooms was slow.

“It’s surprising how the ship that was turning out 5 000 gourmet meals three times a day has found it difficult to deliver sandwiches and one hot meal. Where did they put the Escargot and sushi?,” Gay Courter, a 75-year-old American novel writer told Reuters.

“Of course our biggest worry is that we have been infected at some point,” she said.

“We are hopeful that the US government will be sending transport for the Americans on board it’s better for us to travel while healthy and also if we get sick to be treated in American hospitals.”

Another passenger using the handle @daxa_tw tweeted early Thursday morning that crew members handed out medication refill request forms for those in need of medicines.

The city of Naha in Okinawa Prefecture is on high alert after about 13 passengers left the cruise ship on Saturday when it was docked in the town, Japan Times reported. They did not return to the vessel, according to the newspaper.

Officials and experts in Tokyo have said that the outbreak may impact the 2020 Games starting in July.

Another 73 people on the Chinese mainland died on Wednesday from the coronavirus outbreak, the highest daily increase so far, bringing the total death toll to 563, the country’s health authority said on Thursday.

The National Health Commission said another 3 694 coronavirus cases were reported throughout the country on February 5, bringing the total to 28 018.

Selfies and polite applause greet acquittal vote at Trump Hotel bar in US capital
6 February 2020, 3:17 AM

A smattering of applause briefly interrupted the chatter in the bar of the Trump International Hotel in Washington when the US Senate voted against the first article of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

The outcome had been expected.

Mitt Romney was the lone lawmaker to break with his party as the Senate acquitted Trump on impeachment charges stemming from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the November 3 election.

Robert Whooley and Bonnie McPhillips, who were in Washington for a substance abuse prevention convention, celebrated by taking a selfie in front of televisions mounted behind the bar showing the vote as their backdrop. Whooley donned a Make America Great Again cap.

“I’m very happy because I think the whole thing was a sham to begin with, and it’s good to see closure to it,” said Whooley, 63, of Chicago. “I think we should move on.”

“I wanted to be here and watch it and see history made,” he added.

The vote against the second article brought louder applause and some whoops of delight from patrons, some of whom also took selfies in front of the TVs announcing the historic verdict.

“We’re thrilled. We’re Trump supporters,” said Kathleen Steininger, who was sitting at the bar with her husband Rick when the acquittal votes were taken. “It was all a waste of money.”

The impeachment of one of the most polarizing presidents in modern US history will get a final verdict in November’s presidential election, with the bases of both parties energized.

More than 200 “Reject the Cover-Up” protests are planned around the nation on Wednesday in response to Trump’s acquittal, said Sean Eldridge, a former congressional candidate and the founder of Stand Up America, a liberal activist group that is helping to organize the protests.

HUB FOR TRUMP

At the Trump Hotel bar, many paid scant attention to the television coverage of the Senate votes until the final tallies were shown. After the result, they quickly returned to their conversations or to pecking on their cellphones.

Since opening in September 2016, the Trump International has become Washington’s hub for Trump, from Cabinet secretaries and foreign dignitaries seeking to curry favor with the administration to the president himself, hangers-on and red-hat-wearing tourists. 0

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, was seen briefly walking through the lobby on Wednesday. Britain’s Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was nursing a drink near the lobby bar when Trump was acquitted.

“I mean, the whole country has been through an agonizing process for nothing,” said Farage, who was in Washington to watch Trump deliver his State of the Union speech on Tuesday. “It was always clearly political. It was never, ever going to qualify as a high crime.” “The one word… for this whole impeachment process is grubby.” The Trump Organization said in October it was exploring a sale of the rights to its Washington hotel, partly out of concerns raised by ethics watchdogs and emoluments lawsuits that Donald Trump is profiting off of his presidency.

The hotel took over the historic Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of the capital.

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